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EC President praises Georgian reforms, encourages their continuation

By Ernest Petrosyan
Friday, July 6
Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, called on Georgian officials to carry out more reforms. The more Georgia works on reforms, the more the European Union can do to help support Georgia, he said after his meeting with President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi on July 4

Van Rompuy noted that Georgia had made remarkable progress in terms of its modernization and reform efforts, also adding Georgia “serves as an example for many in the region and elsewhere.”

Referring to the forthcoming parliamentary elections in October and the following presidential elections next year, he said: “[These] will be crucial indicators of the progress Georgia has made on its path to reform.

“I encourage all political actors in Georgia to support a tolerant political culture and issues based debates. Fair competition and genuine participation in the elections will be fundamental,” he said.

“I have pointed to the responsibility that lies with the president and the government to ensure the legitimacy of the elections. In this regard, I welcome President Saakashvili’s aim to keep the electoral process open to election observers,” he said, adding that he made the same point to opposition representative when he met them prior to the meeting with the president.

President Saakashvili said that Georgia was willing to see the EU involved in monitoring all of the stages of the electoral process in Georgia, as well as to conduct research and public surveys.

“The electoral process should be transparent, open and free from any kind of manipulation, free from bribery and free from monetary influence coming from abroad, in order to allow people to express their free will and in order to further continue our European integration,” Saakashvili said, referring van Rompuys remarks.

Saakashvili also emphasized to progress achieved in terms of European integration stressing on the issues of visa liberalization and the launch of negotiations on the free trade agreement with the EU.

In response, van Rompuy hailed Georgia, naming it as “one of the front runners in the Eastern Partnership” and noted that the relationship between the EU and Georgia “is rapidly developing.”

President Saakashvili thanked the EC president for his statement made after the EU-Russia summit in St. Petersburg on June 4, reiterating the EU’s support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and for calling Russia to “fully implement” its commitments under the 2008 ceasefire agreement with Georgia.

Van Rompuy held talks in Tbilisi on July 4 as part of his trip to the South Caucasus countries. He arrived in Georgia from Armenia and traveled to Baku on July 5.

The international community puts great pressure on the Georgian government to ensure the existence of a free and fair pre-election environment, as well as conduct free and fair elections itself. However, how will the international community react in the case that international monitors detect violations? Will it render the elections illegitimate?

Analyst Soso Tsintsadze believes that under the watchful eye the unprecedented number of international monitors, it will be extremely difficult to falsify elections to such a high level.

“Too many sides, as well as those from the international community are involved in the election monitoring process, so it will be much more difficult to falsify the elections,” said Tsintsadze.

It is noteworthy however, that not much emphasis is placed on Georgian political parties regarding Georgian consulates. Up to 1 million Georgian citizens, according to unofficial estimates, are living abroad, from which a relatively large percentage live illegally.

“Indeed the issue of consulates should be considered, as there is quite large Georgian Diaspora in Greece, Spain, Austria, Germany, Ukraine and the Russian Federation, some of them will indeed attend elections. However, there are many whose presence is illegal, and these people will refrain from being registered in consulates and voting,” said Tsintsadze.