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EU Special Representative in South Caucasus ends term

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, February 23
EU Special Representative for South Caucasus, Peter Semneby met with Georgian journalists during his last visit to Georgia in his current capacity. Semneby who has held the position since 2006, will end his activities as the EU Special Representative in the region on February 28, 2011. The envoy outlined the events that have taken place in Georgia during his term in office, paying special attention to political developments within the country, as well as Russian-Georgian relations and the situation in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Georgia is a “better place” now than in 2006, Semneby said on Tuesday, adding that a new stage of EU-Georgia relations which started with the negotiations on Association Agreement played one of the key roles in making Georgia “better”. “I hope that Georgia will take these negotiations seriously and will approach the negotiations with the diligence they deserve,” Semneby commented.

He spoke about the political tensions in Georgia in 2007-2009, saying that opposition protest rallies had “a healthy influence” on Georgia’s political life, commenting. “I think Georgia is a much healthier place after those events were successfully dealt with.” The outgoing EU envoy also touched upon the issue of “overwhelming domination” of the ruling National Movement party, saying that “we have quite an extraordinary situation” in Georgia today in this respect. He noted that this puts “a large degree of responsibility” on the political force which holds such dominance.

Speaking about Russian-Georgian relations, Semneby noted that it will take time to address all the conflict-related issues, but stressed the necessity to “maintain and restore contact” between the two countries. He also noted there are many practical issues to be dealt with, along with “personal level” issues. “If there is development of Georgian-Russian relations in a broader sense it may, I say may, also improve conditions for resolving the very difficult issues that still remain between the two countries,” Semneby said.

As for Georgia’s approach towards its breakaway regions, Semneby noted that Tbilisi’s position is in many ways similar to that of the EU. “We have welcomed many of the initiatives taken by the Georgian government, in particular the Action Plan for Engagement,” he noted, adding that the EU is ready to contribute to supporting “those parts of the Georgian plan that are in line with our own policies and convictions.” In response to why he was avoiding using term “occupied territories” when speaking about Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Semneby said, “labeling here is not the most important issue.”

To The Messenger’s questions about his future plans and who will replace him in the position of the EU Special Representative for South Caucasus, Semneby said he was not in a position to comment on whether the position will be maintained or who will be his successor, saying that the issue is under discussion. “As for my own plans, time will tell what will happen,” Semneby noted.