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Council of Europe dignitary promises help with elections

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, January 18
Swiss Foreign Minister and Federal Councillor Micheline Calmy-Rey arrived in Tbilisi in her capacity as President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on January 16. On that day she met President Mikheil Saakashvili, Parliament Speaker Davit Bakradze, Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze and other Government members. She also held meetings with Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary opposition representatives and NGO members on January 17, discussing security issues, human rights, the political situation in the country and other important issues during these meetings.

The Council of Europe has expressed a readiness to observe the local elections in Georgia, Calmy-Rey told Foreign Minister of Georgia Grigol Vashadze at their meeting. "We are ready to send a monitoring group to Georgia,” she said, underlining that the Council will assist Georgia with conflict regulation issues and democratic reforms. "Contact with the breakaway regions should be restored and negotiations should start, as only after this will the conflicts be regulated. The Council has representation in this country and we will help Georgia in this and in carrying out democratic reforms and creating democratic institutions,” said Calmy-Rey.

Vashadze described the meeting as very important, especially as Minister of Reintegration Temur Iakobashvili is due to present Georgia’s new strategy on the occupied regions to the Council of Europe in February. "This new strategy can play a significant role in conflict regulation and I hope the European Council will help Georgia successfully implement it,” Vashadze said. Parliament member Akaki Minashvili also said after the meeting, "We will once again ask Switzerland, as the Committee Chair country, to take effective steps to ensure Georgia’s de-occupation, reverse the outcomes of ethnic cleansing and return Georgian citizens to their homes,” Minashvili mentioned.

The various opposition parties were more interested in other subjects at their meeting with Calmy-Rey. They talked about the elections and the worsening economic, political and social situation in the country. Nino Burjanadze, leader of the Democratic Movement – United Georgia, said that Micheline Calmy-Rey had highlighted that the reality described by the opposition was very different to that presented by the Government. "I hope our Western friends will adequately assess the existing situation in Georgia. It is very clear that democratic indicators have worsened in Georgia, not only over the last few years but even in the last six months,” Burjanadze suggested.

The Republican Party demanded that the Georgian media be investigated by members of the European media. Davit Usupashvili, leader of the Republican Party, said "This investigation is needed so that the owners and controllers of the Georgian media can be identified. We have explained to the Committee President that the Government is simply painting and decorating a building which faces collapse as it is build on incorrect foundations. International organisations must work more effectively here. Recommendations are not enough, monitoring is also necessary,” Usupashvili said.

The Parliamentary minority's main demand was about the elections. Magda Anikashvili from the Christian Democrats stated that a monitoring group from the Council of Europe should be sent to Georgia. "We asked for the monitoring group to be sent to Georgia not only on election day but in the whole election period, to observe whether the process is proceeding democratically or not,” Anikashvili said.

NGO representatives also described the meeting with Calmy-Rey as important. Tamar Khidasheli, from the Georgian Young Lawyers Association, said that they discussed the political situation in the country, media issues and the lawsuits NGOs have sent to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe left Georgia on January 17.