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NATO continues to carefully monitor the democratic process in Georgia

By Ana Robakidze
Friday, June 28
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and representatives of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) continued to hold bilateral meetings in Tbilisi on June 27th.

At a joint press conference with President Mikheil Saakashvili, Rasmussen once again spoke about the current political changes taking place in Georgia. He expressed his concern over the recent arrests of several high ranking officials and said that NATO is carefully following the investigation process. Rasmussen wants to make sure that similar cases are never politically motivated and the process will be free from any political influence.

The Secretary General once again thanked the Georgian president and the Georgian people for the country's contribution to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. He congratulated Saakashvili over participating in the first democratic transition of power in the country and hoped that the upcoming presidential election will be as democratic as last autumn's parliamentary elections.

"Georgia will become a member of this alliance…you will take your rightful place in the North Atlantic family." Rasmussen stated, adding that it is essential for Georgia to meet all necessary requirements.

President Saakashvili asked everyone to stop being skeptical and ensure that Georgia will join NATO as soon as possible. He said that many people have become pessimistic recently, thinking that Georgia is not getting closer to NATO. Saakashvili said every single visit of the NAC and the Secretary General to Georgia is proof of the country’s progress on the way to integration.

Rasmussen called on the current government to intensify the process of reforming the country and developing democratic values. He said the democratic process will be beneficial for the Georgian people and will help the country to join NATO.

The NATO Secretary General emphasized the importance of the presidential election during the NATO-Georgia commission session he opened on June 27th. In his speech he addressed Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and called on him to maintain the process of cohabitation. “I hope you’ll maintain the process of cohabitation, protection of fundamental freedoms, rule of law-we’ll help Georgia in carrying out reforms. We expect a free presidential election this year and we’ll continue to protect Georgian territorial integrity and sovereignty in internationally recognized borders." Rasmussen said.

The Secretary General once again reminded the Georgian government that NATO will carefully monitor the level of democracy in the country, especially the protection of human rights and rule of law. Rasmussen assured participants of the session that Georgia’s full Euro-Atlantic integration is a joint target of NATO and Georgia, but the country will have to fulfill membership requirements.

At a meeting with Parliamentary Chairman David Usupashvili, Rasmussen said that the role of Parliament and its chairman is very important in the country’s political life, especially in the process of cohabitation. The meeting was attended by leaders of both the Georgian Dream coalition and the United National Movement opposition.

"As a former member of parliament, I understand how important your role is. Political cohabitation is not simple, but it is important to ensure Georgian democracy." the Secretary General stated at the meeting.

Rasmussen is confident that all Georgian parliamentary parties share the same values as NATO, which are the rule of law, democracy and freedom, but he also reminded Georgian MPs that the upcoming presidential election will be a new test the country will have to pass to prove it is approaching NATO standards. "Free and fair elections will strengthen democratic achievements and Euro-Atlantic aspirations." Rasmussen said.

The NATO Secretary General delivered a speech for students at the National Library, met with civil society representatives from NGOs, the media, minority communities and international organizations, and attended a military ceremony for Georgian military personnel about to be deployed in Afghanistan.

Military expert and journalist Koba Liklikadze, who attended a meeting with the NATO ambassadors, says he was assured there is no reason for being pessimistic about future NATO membership. Liklikadze thinks that Russia is the strongest power hampering Georgia’s integration process and that NATO is hesitant to accept Georgia as a member because it fears provoking Russia. When he expressed his fears to NATO ambassadors they assured him that he should be optimistic about Georgia joining NATO.