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EU troika visits Georgia

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, July 20
An EU delegation conducted several meetings with Georgia’s officers of state and opposition politicians during its visit to Georgia on July 16-19. The delegation, a “troika”, was led by Carl Bildt, the Foreign Minister of Sweden, which currently holds the rotating EU Presidency.

The “Troika” represents the EU in external relations that fall within the scope of the common foreign and security policy of the Union. Peter Semneby, the EU’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus, also participated in the “Troika’s” Georgian visit.

“The sides focused on priority areas which would serve to further deepen EU-Georgia cooperation in security matters, including issues such as the conclusion of visa facilitation and readmission agreements, the possible establishment of a deep and comprehensive Free Trade Area, the possible conclusion of an Association Agreement and the Eastern Partnership,” stated the Georgian Foreign Ministry after the Troika’s meeting with First Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia Giga Bokeria.

Carl Bildt underlined that the Troika’s visit is connected with the issue of the prolongation of the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia, whose mandate expires in September. After the Russian veto on the prolongation of the UN and OSCE missions in Georgia, EUMM has become the last international observer team operating in the country in the areas close to the administrative borders with breakaway Georgian regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Troika visited the EUMM office in the Western Georgian town of Zugdidi. “We are observing this [EUMM] activity because we are the organ that takes decisions on the working of the missions. The decision on the continuation of the mission’s activity will be taken in several weeks at an EU Ministerial. We have to obtain all information and data on this issue,” Bildt told Georgian journalists on Friday.

The Georgian Government also noted that after the withdrawal of other observer missions the mandate of the EUMM should be expanded and it should be given the possibility of monitoring what is happening on the territory of the Georgian breakaway regions. “We can’t say if there will be any major changes in [EUMM] performance for now,” stated Semneby, commenting on this. However Georgian officials note that the prolongation of the EUMM mandate will not meet any resistance within the EU. “We think that our main task is to continue making democratic and market reforms to bring us into line with the European Union and continue the process of integration with NATO. After this visit, we can presume that their [EUMM] mandate will be extended and we are grateful for this support” Georgian Deputy PM Giorgi Baramidze said on July 18. “I can say for sure that the mandate of the EU mission will be prolonged from September,” Parliament Chair Davit Bakradze said on the same day.

The Troika’s visit to Georgia began on the day that the EU published an official statement on the recent visit of Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev to South Ossetia, where he met the separatist authorities and reiterated Russia’s support for the breakaway region. Georgia has declared this visit “shameful,” “provocative” and “immoral”. The EU statement said that the visit was “incompatible with the principle of territorial integrity,” noting that the union “is concerned about its effects on the international efforts to stabilise the region.”

“Our Troika reiterates the EU’s position that Europe supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Our main purpose is to achieve stability in Georgia. We are watching the current processes and helping Georgia implement democratic reforms. This is the main task of the EU-Georgia relationship”, Carl Bildt said after the meeting with Georgian officials.

The Troika’s visit to Georgia is part of a South Caucasus tour. It is now due to meet officials in the Republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan.