European pilgrimage to Georgia

Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili (R) and Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski meet in Batumi on July 13, 2010 (AFP Photo / Pool / Irakli Gedenidze)
This week Georgia has become a venue for EU politicians’ visits, including a delegation of the European Parliament that will study the situation on the borders with South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"We intend to study the situation on the confrontation line, because the EU does not recognize this as border," a member of the delegation, Christoph Lieseke, said as quoted by Trend News Agency. He added that the EU does not recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, confirming the stance the union has been pursuing.

It is planned that the group, which includes members of the security and defense subcommittee, will meet with the heads of the Georgian Foreign Ministry and Interior Ministry, and hold talks at the National Security Council and the parliament.

The European parliamentarians will also visit the Georgian town of Gori, not far from the border with South Osetia to examine the situation there and to watch the work of EU monitors who have been stationed in the conflict area since October 2008.

The findings of the delegation are yet to be announced, but this week Georgia has already enjoyed some positive results of its efforts in strengthening relations with the EU.

“Signal to Russia”

On the eve of the first round of the EU negotiations of association agreements with Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Tbilisi is busy hosting top-rank officials.

Top level guests – including Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and EU foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton – are expected to arrive later. According to Georgian broadcaster Rustavi 2, the Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Luxemburg, Jean Asseborn and an official delegation of the Foreign Ministry of the Netherlands are also expected to turn up.

Georgian parliamentary speaker David Bakradze, believes such a high number of visits indicates that Georgia and its fate are important to European partners, writes Newsgeorgia. He said it is “a clear signal” that Tbilisi occupies “an important place in the international policies both of Europe and the US.”

He underlined that “it is a signal for Russia” and shows that “Georgia is not a small forgotten country under [Russia’s] influence where the latter can do whatever it wants.”

Poland pledges support for Georgia

On Tuesday, Georgia’s President Saakashvili met with the Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski in the Black Sea town of Batumi.

Referring to Sikorski as to “a young, but long-time friend” and “good advisor” Saakashvili said they “always exchange opinions about important issues.”

Despite the global economic crisis, Poland was the “only country in Europe” whose economy was developing, the Georgian President stated, as quoted by “And Georgia is the only state in the region, which has achieved real economic success,” he noted.

In addition to meeting the country’s leader, Sikorski held talks with the Georgian foreign minister Grigol Vashadze. He reiterated Poland’s support to Georgia’s territorial integrity and assured that Warsaw would not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Rosy expectations

On Thursday, Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is due to arrive in the country to take part in negotiations with Georgia on its association with the EU.

Tbilisi is excited over the prospective of the association agreement. After the document is inked, Georgia will move onto a completely different level of relations with the EU, believes Vice-Prime Minister and State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Giorgi Baramidze.

“It will be followed by concrete steps: more investment into the country’s economy, creation of new jobs, simplified – probably visa-free in the future – travel between Georgia and the EU,” he said, Itar-Tass wrote.

The negotiating directives for future association agreements were adopted on May 10. That “is a clear sign of our strong commitment to further deepen the relationship between the EU and the countries of the South Caucasus, on the basis of shared values and principles, including democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights,” Catherine Ashton said in a statement back then.

Rights watchdog informs PACE of political prisoners

Human rights protection in the country is among the issues in focus of Kastriot Islami and Michael Jensen, co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of Georgia. The two arrived in Tbilisi on a fact-finding mission on Monday.

On Tuesday, the PACE delegation held a meeting with Eka Beselia, the leader of the non-governmental organization Solidarity with Illegal Prisoners.

"I handed over a list containing the names of 60 political prisoners to the European members of parliament in charge of monitoring the situation in Georgia,” she said, writes Interfax. “I also told them about the circumstances surrounding the prosecution of Georgian authorities’ opponents for political reasons." She expressed hope he rapporteurs would inform PACE of the actual political situation in Georgia.

According to Solidarity with Illegal Prisoners, there are several hundred political prisoners in Georgia who were sentenced in breach of the law, RIA Novosti writes.

Natalia Makarova, RT