Foreign Ministers of Poland and Sweden, who are visiting Tbilisi, expressed “firm hope”, that upcoming parliamentary elections would be “significant improvement” over previous polls held in Georgia in recent years.
Speaking at a joint news conference alongside his Swedish and Georgian counterparts Carl Bildt and Grigol Vashadze, respectively, Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski said that the EU was following Georgia’s election campaign “very closely.”
He said that his and his Swedish counterpart’s message to both the government and the opposition was “that the Europe and the world are watching you and you have a chance to establish a standard of a transparent election.”
“This, I think, is Georgia’s strategic asset – the perception of the world that you are a free country and you have to guard that asset,” Sikorski added.
Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, said that there had been improvements in the conduct of elections in Georgia in recent years, but there was still room for improvement.
“I would expect that this election will be a further significant improvement in terms of quality and standards [over] the elections that you had lately in 2008 [presidential and parliamentary elections] and 2010 [local elections],” the Swedish Foreign Minister said.
He said that it would be primarily up to the international observers, not parties involved in the electoral process, to judge about the conduct of elections.
“They [political parties] should concentrate on the issues of substance and then will come the judgment of the large number of observers on the quality of election and our firm hope and expectation is that there will be further significant improvement in the electoral standards of Georgia,” Bildt said.
Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze, said: “We have stated to our guests with confidence that it is desire of the Georgian government and the Georgian people to hold upcoming elections with highest European standards.”
The Polish and Swedish Foreign Ministers, who arrived in Tbilisi late on September 4, met with some opposition representatives, including leader of Georgian Dream coalition Bidzina Ivanishvili.
“What they were interested in most of all was what’s our, as the real and the most powerful opposition force’s, strategy,” Ivanishvili said, adding that he expressed gratitude to Sweden and Poland for their support to Georgia.
“They pledged support in holding genuinely democratic elections in Georgia,” Ivanishvili said.
Before meetings in Tbilisi, Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, wrote on his blog on September 4 that upcoming parliamentary election was the primary reason of his and the Polish Foreign Minister’s visit to Georgia.
He said they would convey a message to the Georgian government that it had to do its best to ensure that the October 1 parliamentary elections were held in accordance to the European standards.
“And our message to the opposition is that it has to accept the election results even if [the results] are not in its favor,” Bildt wrote on his blog.
On Ivanishvili, the Swedish Foreign Minister wrote that “strange signals are coming from” the Georgian Dream leader, who “occasionally sounds like” if it is the post-election street protests rather than ballot on the election day that has to decide who shall rule the country.
Among other issues discussed with the Georgian authorities were relations with the European Union.
The Polish Foreign Minister said that Georgia “is making huge political strides on its way to closer relationship with the EU.”
The Swedish Foreign Minister said that timetable for conclusion of talks on deep and comprehensive free trade agreement was “very ambitious”, but expressed hope that the process would be concluded by the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius next autumn.
Bildt said that as initiators of the Eastern Partnership, Sweden and Poland felt responsibility “to push this process forward.”
In Tbilisi the Polish and Swedish Foreign Ministers also met with PM Vano Merabishvili and visited headquarters of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia.