Swedish Foreign Minister impressed with Batumi
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, May 25Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt met President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili in Batumi on May 23 and discussed Georgia’s integration into Euro-Atlantic structures and the situation in the occupied regions.
President Saakashvili himself made no formal statement after the meeting but his Press Service said, "The sides discussed the European integration of Georgia and Sweden’s assistance in this direction, the current situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the role of EU observers in preserving stability in the region.” After the meeting Saakashvili showed Bildt round Batumi, leading the Minister to say, "I am very impressed with what I saw. Batumi is a beautiful city. This is not my first visit here, but many positives changes have been made in Batumi since last time I was here. Your country has been able to achieve much in recent years and that is very important,” Bildt stated.
Bildt had arrived in Georgia on May 21 and held meetings with the Georgian Foreign Minister and other Government members, stating that a Swedish Embassy would soon be opened in Georgia. On May 24 he left for Poland, together with three Georgian Ministers, to attend a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of EU Eastern Partnership countries. While Bildt will discuss future co-operation between Eastern Partnership countries and financial assistance for various initiatives, Georgian Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze will hold meetings with Spanish, German, Belarus and French officials.
Europe will be actively involved in Georgia’s local government elections as well, said Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze on May 24. "The European Council’s 25 observers will arrive in Georgia on May 26 to monitor the pre- and post-election situation and leave the country on May 31. Our aim is to hold free and democratic elections and thus foreign monitors active involvement in this process is very significant for us,” Kalandadze stated. The EU representation in Georgia says that the monitors will meet Georgian officials on May 27-28, among them Parliament Speaker Davit Bakradze and Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure Davit Tkeshelashvili. Meetings will also be held with opposition parties, media representatives and local NGOs. The results of the election monitoring will be presented on May 31 at the Hotel Ambassador.
Analyst Giorgi Khutsishvili told The Messenger, "It is common for foreign monitors to come to Georgia during election periods. This can be considered a positive thing, however this will not significantly affect whether free and democratic elections are held, as their aim is to monitor what occurs at the elections, not conduct them,” Khutsishvili said. He added that "I think Sweden opening an Embassy in Georgia is a very profitable and extremely positive move for us. Despite Sweden being a small country it is one of the most influential in Europe and the European Union. I can see only positive things, in a number of directions, emerging from deepening relations with Sweden,” Khutsishvili said.