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Council of Europe monitors Georgia

By Salome Modebadze
Tuesday, March 23
Members of the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Matyas Eorsi and Kastriot Islami paid a working visit to Georgia on March 22. They held meetings with the Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary opposition, NGO’s and the media and discussed a variety of issues such as constitutional reform, the local elections, ethnic minorities, the media etc.

“I think the local government elections this year will be even better that in previous times. This is my first visit to Georgia in which we have discussed problems not connected with the situation created in your country by the Russian aggression. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has its own rules which exclude sending observers for the upcoming elections but the OSCE will definitely monitor the whole process along with Georgian observers to ensure the transparency of the elections according to international standards so I hope the elections will be held in an absolutely democratic environment,” Matyas Eorsi told the media after a meeting with Borys Wodz, the Special Representative of the Council of Europe Secretary General in Georgia.

Matyas Eorsi and Kastriot Islami held a number of meetings with NGOs, opposition representatives and the Georgian authorities on the same day. “We have all listened to sharp comments addressed to both the Georgian Government and opposition concerning the freedom of the media, the transparency of the local elections and the reforms aimed at developing civil society,“ said Luis Navarro, Director of the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Journalist Ia Antadze, the initiator of the Charter of Journalistic Ethics, spoke of importance of implementing this charter as a precondition for freedom of the media in our country.

The Georgian opposition received a promise from the European authorities that the Council of Europe will be actively involved in the monitoring of the upcoming elections even though they can’t send observers. “Our discussions concerned the election campaign. An opposition victory in the given electoral environment is impossible. The elections have already been falsified so I haven’t decided how or whether to participate in the local elections yet. There are still a lot of problems, such as the accuracy of the voters’ lists, control of TV stations, political violence, partiality of the courts etc, which must be resolved,” Levan Gachechiladze, the leader of Defend Georgia told the media after the meeting.

Irakli Alasania, the leader of the Alliance for Georgia, called the meeting fruitful and interesting but said that everything must be done to assure people that the ballot will be secret. “The Government of Georgia continually claims that the upcoming local elections should be fair and transparent. The international community is also interested in this issue so they will be provided with detailed information about the Government’s steps in this direction, especially after the fake Imedi report of March 13,” Alasania stated.

Matyas Eorsi and Kastriot Islami also met with the Central Election Commission (CEC) and discussed the process of raising voter confidence and ensuring the absolute transparency of the elections outlined in the CEC Strategy for 2010-2011. “The visitors approved the CEC Strategy for 2010-2011, saying that it fully meets international democratic election standards. Ensuring the transparency of the elections should become the most important part of the whole election process in order to raise the trust and interest of the people and improve the quality of the elections,” Zurab Kharatishvili, the Head of the CEC, stated.

“We have become acquainted with the CEC strategic plan and think it is an absolutely right approach to the issue and aimed at enhancing people’s engagement with the election process. I think CEC activities have a democratic basis and thus deserve proper support from PACE,” Matyas Eorsi added.

Nino Kalandadze, Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, said that the visit of the PACE members was very important as they were monitoring Georgia's fulfillment of the obligations it took at the Council of Europe. “The Monitoring Committee will be provided with the most truthful information. Georgia has made significant progress and almost all our obligations are being properly fulfilled, although there are some very minor gaps left to be filled,” Kalandadze stated.

Eorsi and Islami's monitoring report on Georgia will be discussed at the next Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly session in April 2010.