Five EU foreign ministers headed by GAERC President and Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel (with the foreign ministers of Sweden, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia) are meeting in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, today to familiarise themselves with recent developments in the country and the region. They met with the new Georgian Foreign Minister, Eka Tkeshelashvili, President Mikheil Saakashvili, and Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze, as well as with the Head of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), Jean Arnault.
The main purpose of the visit was for the ministers to acquaint themselves with the latest developments, which were already discussed at the GAERC session on 29 April in Luxembourg. Already on 18 April, the EU had expressed its concern about the recent events in Georgia and confirmed its support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country. On this occasion, they stated that “the European Union condemns all activities that increase the tension in the region and supports all international initiatives to resolve frozen conflicts”. At the Luxembourg session, the Council of the EU agreed to the proposal that the Presidency should visit Georgia as soon as possible, perhaps in the form of the EU troika. Minister Rupel spoke about this issue at his meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on 29 April. On 7 May, on the margins of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, he met with Georgian Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze, and the EU Troika has been visiting Georgia on the subministerial level for the past few days.
Today’s talks focused mainly on two issues: the preparations for the parliamentary elections in the country to take place on 21 May and recent incidents involving Abkhazia.
As regards the parliamentary elections, the EU emphasises primarily the need that the Georgian authorities provide for fair and free elections, thus ensuring public trust in the election process and preventing a recurrence of the trouble that erupted following the recent presidential elections, said Minister Rupel. He also stressed the role of free and independent media. The Slovenian Foreign Minister guaranteed support to Georgian representatives in the implementation of reforms and the development of democracy in the country.
As regards the issue of the frozen conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, he assured the authorities that the European Union was closely following all developments. As recent events show, relations between Georgia and Russia are a cause for concern.
While confirming that the European Union supported the UN’s mission in Abkhazia and the OSCE’s endeavours in South Ossetia, Minister Rupel assessed that Russia and Georgia should do their best to prevent any destabilisation or an increase in tensions, emphasising, however, that Russia was an important strategic partner for the EU. “The European Union confirms its full commitment to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia and will continue to strive for a peaceful resolution of the conflicts,” added Minister Rupel.