Thorbjørn Jagland, the Council of Europe's Secretary General, who holds this post since October, 2009, started two-day visit to Georgia on July 2.
He is accompanied Macedonia's Foreign Minister Antonio Milošoski in a capacity of chairman of Committee of Ministers, CoE’s decision-making body,
"The purpose of the visit is to discuss possibilities of an expanded Council of Europe action for the protection of human rights in the areas affected by the August 2008 conflict," CoE said in a press release.
In a statement released in run-up to the visit, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said that Tbilisi "expects that the consultations [with CoE Secretary General] will shed more light on some outstanding issues related to the reporting system of the Secretary General."
The statement does not give further details, but as a Georgian official familiar with the matter said Tbilisi is concerned with signs of the Secretary General trying to paper over some of the differences with Moscow over Russia's unfulfilled obligations before the CoE, including some having relations to Russia's neighbors.
Starting from February 2009, then CoE Secretary General, Terry Davis, upon decision of organization's decision-making body, Committee of Ministers, was reporting once in three months to the Committee about human rights situation in areas affected by the August war, as well as state of fulfillment of obligations undertaken by Georgia and Russia towards the CoE.
The Georgian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the internal report prepared by the new Secretary General, although lists some of the Russia's unfulfilled commitments, it misses the one through which Russia committed itself back in 1996, when it joined CoE, to reject the concept of “near abroad", whereby countries are treated by Moscow as a zone of its special influence.
The same official said that during his visit, the CoE Secretary General may seek Tbilisi's consent on scrapping this mechanism of post-August war reporting to the Committee of Minister.
After meeting with Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze, on July 2, CoE Secretary General said that all the monitoring instruments at CoE’s disposal were applying to Russia.
“All the commitments are valid and we are looking into them and we use the instruments that we have to make the Russian Federation to enforce and implement these commitments,” Thorbjørn Jagland said.
Tbilisi seems to be also unhappy that Thorbjørn Jagland did not visit Tbilisi, immediately after traveling to Moscow in late December, 2009. "That's a bad signal too," official said and added that during the talks in Tbilisi the Georgian side will insist that the new Secretary General's attempts to engage with Russia should in no way come at the expense of "values".
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said in the statement that during the talks it would discuss "concrete activities", which CoE could undertake in the process of implementation of Georgia's State Strategy on Occupied Territories: Engagement through Cooperation.
Thorbjørn Jagland said after meeting with the Georgian Foreign Minister, that CoE welcomes Georgia’s strategy as “a forward-looking approach”, but added that CoE “can not be part” of the action plan – the Georgian government’s document laying out concrete steps on how to implement the strategy. Jagland, however, also said that CoE “can help implementing some of the proposals in this action plan.”
Macedonia’s Foreign Minister, Antonio Milošoski, said that under his chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, “we will keep the issue of Georgia with a due and high attention.”
“We will have to show pragmatism and help each other to achieve our common goal. In that sense we appreciate efforts of the Georgian authorities and pro-active attitude towards the issues related to the regions that are not under the control of the central government,” he said after the meeting with the Georgian Foreign Minister.
Jagland also said that CoE was “pleased to see that the Georgian authorities are implementing commitments” undertaken upon joining the organization in 1999. “Some more work remains to be done of course,” he said.