Enguri on the agenda again
By Temuri Kiguradze
Friday, March 13
The Enguri Hydro Power Plant (HPP) is at the centre of media attention again as the Georgian Parliamentary opposition has stated that the deal with Russia for joint management of the station is “spoiled.”
Representative of the Parliamentary minority Paata Davitaia, speaking on March 11, stated that the agreement with Russian energy company Inter RAO has passed its deadline for adoption. “According to the contract, if the deal is not signed within the defined period it will be annulled. The deadline for signing the agreement has passed and furthermore work on the deal has not even begun yet,” announced Davitaia.
News of this agreement, which was supposed to be the basis for the contract for the joint management of Enguri, Georgia’s biggest HPP, broke in early January this year. Both the Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary opposition criticized this project, evaluating it as a “deal done behind the people’s back” which would give Russia the possibility of gaining control of Georgian energy resources. The Enguri plant is located on the administrative border of Georgian breakaway region Abkhazia. Part of the station, including the power generators, is on the other side of the administrative border in the area not controlled by the Georgian Government. Both Georgian and Abkhazian technicians work at the station, one of the last examples of cooperation between Georgia and separatist Abkhazia.
Paata Davitaia stated that the “frustration” of the agreement is a “success” of the Parliamentary opposition, who had demanded that independent experts monitor the deal, as due to its pressure the sides had not managed to come to an acceptable compromise.
The Russian side hasn’t confirmed the lapsing of the deal. According to the PR Director of Inter RAO, the Russian side is “actively undertaking negotiations with the Georgian and Abkhazian sides,” and has no information about missing any deadlines. However the situation has been clarified by Georgian Minister of Economic Development Lasha Zhvania, who has confirmed that negotiations have been “paused.” “I can’t confirm the lapsing or fulfillment of the agreement because the process of talks has been paused. We haven’t started work on signing the deal. As soon as the Ministry resumes work at that issue in any form we will provide information,” stated the Minister in Tbilisi on March 12. He also noted that the memorandum signed at the beginning of the year between Inter RAO and Georgia “doesn’t oblige either side to do anything,” including setting a deadline for the negotiations.
Paata Zakareishvili, a political analyst from the opposition Republican Party, has stated that the negotiations have been unsuccessful due to the Abkhazian side’s request to be treated as a full juridical partner to the deal, something obviously unacceptable for Tbilisi. Other analysts have given several reasons for the suspension of the negotiations, among them being the strong protest of the opposition, which also demands the publication of the document itself, which is not accessible yet.
Answering questions on why the deal was being kept secret, Georgian Prime Minister Nika Gilauri stated that the memorandum signed on January was just a preparatory document which provided a base for possible future contract with Inter RAO. “In any country it is recommended that, before the actual signing of a contract, details of the negotiations are not revealed. The fact that the existence of the memorandum had already become known to several people, including the opposition, is one of the reasons for the problems in the negotiation process with the Russian side,” Gilauri told students of the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs on March 11.
Georgian independent political commentator Gia Khukhashvili welcomed the stalling of the Enguri negotiations but criticized the Government for “hiding” information about it. “Unfortunately we hear about this (the pause) only when the Prime Minister meets students, as if students and the Parliamentary opposition are the only people who deserve to hear this. It’s good to have electricity at home, but we can’t allow reintegration into the Soviet Union to be the price we have to pay for that electricity. If that is what we want why did we leave it in the first place?” Khukhashvili said on March 12.