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Wine Row Renews CIS Debates in Georgia
/ 11 Apr.'06 / 16:34
Civil Georgia

Parliamentary Chair Nino Burjanadze hinted on April 11 that Georgia may consider withdrawing from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) amid the deterioration of economic ties between Georgia and Russia due to Moscow’s ban on imports of Georgian wine and spirits. But Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli, whose planned visit to Moscow this week was once again postponed by Russia, said on the same day that leaving the CIS is not yet on the agenda.

Russia first banned imports of Georgian wines on March 27, citing that their quality does not correspond to that indicated by their producers. Georgia exported over 36 million liters of wine to Russia in 2005, the total value of which is USD 63 million, according to the Georgian Department of Statistics.

Speaking at the parliamentary session on April 11 Parliamentary Chair Nino Burjanadze said that Russia’s decisions might lead Georgia to reconsider its position over membership in the CIS.

“We have spoken many times about whether we should be members of the CIS or not, and economic aspects have always been major arguments in favor of our CIS membership. We still adhere to this position, but at the same time we ask one very serious question: if we are the only CIS country with whom Russia has visa requirements; if we are the only country from whence imports of wine, citruses, tea and maybe tomorrow Borjomi [mineral water] as well are banned, then why should we remain in this organization?” Burjanadze said.

She also complained about the lack of solidarity among CIS member states and cited Tajikistan’s recent statement about its readiness to replace Georgian wines with its own on the Russian market.

“I understand that every state is trying to advance its own interests, but I think it is improper to do so at the expense of others’ interests. I am not a good specialist of wines, so I have heard nothing about the merits of Tajik wine… I want to call on our partners in the CIS: if you really think that this organization should continue functioning, you should take interest in the situation regarding Georgian wine,” Burjanadze said.

Meanwhile, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli said on April 11 that Georgia does not intend to quit the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Georgian Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze said at the Parliament’s plenary session today that Russia’s decisions might lead Georgia to reconsider its position over membership in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
“Not only parliamentarians, but also we [the executive government] are criticizing the CIS for lack of efficiency. However, currently the issue of quitting the CIS is not on the agenda. However, I do absolutely understand the position of the parliamentarians and the parliamentary chair,” the Prime Minister said.

Debates about the expediency of the country’s membership in the CIS are a routine phenomenon in Georgia. Recent debates, in December, ended with the parliamentarians’ decision to instruct the Economy Ministry and Foreign Ministry to inform MPs about the possible economic and political consequences of the Georgia’s withdrawal from the organization.

On March 30 Georgian State Minister for Economic Reforms Kakha Bendukidze told parliamentarians that although “there is nothing attractive in the CIS from a political point of view,” Georgia might experience serious economic problems if it withdraws from the alliance. He explained that if Georgia pulls out, it will also have to nullify agreements on free trade with 11 CIS-members states and on free movement of citizens with 9 CIS-members states.

“We will be able to replace these favorable regimes only if we reach bilateral agreements on free trade with all other 11 CIS-member states and bilateral agreements on free movement with the other 9 CIS-member states,” Bendukidze said.

The opposition has long been demanding the country’s withdrawal from the CIS. But the parliamentary majority, composed of lawmakers from the ruling National Movement party, has always been cautious about the issue. The debate is sensitive for the authorities because advocating CIS membership does not seem very attractive to voters. The parliamentary majority says that “pragmatism should take over emotions and populism” while discussing the issue. Lawmakers from the ruling party also say that the opposition, together with the parliamentary majority and the authorities, should stand equally responsible while making a decision about possible withdrawal from the CIS.

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