Swedish and Bulgarian Foreign Ministers, Carl Bildt and Nickolay Mladenov, as well as head of the Polish president’s chancellery Jacek Michalowski met in Tbilisi with the Georgian leadership on December 12-13.
The delegation, which visited Georgia as part of its South Caucasus trip, met on Wednesday evening President Saakashvili; on Thursday the delegation met UNM leadership, including its secretary general Vano Merabishvili. Meetings were also held with government members, including Defense Minister Irakli Alasania; Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze; State Minister for Reintegration Paata Zakareishvili; State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Alexi Petriashvili, as well as Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili. Later on December 13 the delegation met with PM Bidzina Ivanishvili.
The Swedish Foreign Minister, together with his Polish counterpart Radosław Sikorski, visited Georgia about three weeks before the October 1 parliamentary elections and the Bulgarian Foreign Minister, together with the Czech, Latvian, Lithuanian and Romanian counterparts, was in Tbilisi about two weeks before the elections.
The delegation said that the main purpose of the visit was to learn about the plans of the new government and to reiterate strong support to Georgia and its European integration.
During the visit the Swedish Foreign Minister expressed hope that by the time of Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in November, 2013 Georgia and Moldova would be able to sign Association Agreement and deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU.
Before meeting with PM Ivanishvili on December 13, the three officials spoke at a panel discussion organized by Georgian Institute for Strategic Studies (GISS), a newly established think-tank co-founded by former state minister for reintegration Eka Tkeshelashvili.
During this discussion Nodar Kharshiladze, Georgia’s former deputy defense minister who is now with a newly established think-tank Georgia's Reforms Associates (GRASS) said that the new government’s actions were a combination of “lack of competence and ill intent” and asked the Swedish and Bulgarian Foreign Ministers what would be their message to, as he put it, “former Russian oligarch” PM Ivanishvili.
Swedish Foreign Minister Bildt responded: “Messages that we are conveying are the messages what we had been conveying to you.”
“No difference in that particular respect,” Bildt said and added that these messages were “strong support for Georgia, further consolidation of democracy, rule of law, economic reforms, European integration.”
During the same discussions a chairperson of the Tbilisi-based legal advocacy and watchdog group Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), Tamar Chugoshvili, asked what should be done in order to investigate crimes possibly committed in the past, but at the same time not to create perception of politically motivated prosecutions and selective justice.
“I find it easier to say what you should not do – don’t do Ukraine,” Swedish Foreign Minister Bildt responded.
He was specifically referring to imprisonment of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was sentenced to seven years in jail for, as Bildt put it, “allegedly violating sort of completely bizarre old Soviet administrative routine thing.”
Bildt said he hoped Georgia would learn from mistakes of Ukraine and would rule out selective application of justice and political revenge, which, he said, would endanger the country’s European perspective.
“There will be an extensive scrutiny. I am quite certain that when we approach, for example, the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, we’ll have reports from Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, we’ll have an assessment by the European Parliament, we might have other assessments from other international bodies and what they have to say, based on detailed studies of what’s going on [in Georgia], will have implications on decisions taken by the European governments,” Bildt said and added that “prejudging” would be wrong now.
“Ukraine should not be Belarus and Georgia should not be Ukraine,” Bulgarian Foreign Minister Mladenov said while responding to the same question. “I think there are plenty of guarantees that Georgia has the strength, institutional capacity to defend and consolidate its democratic institutions. I am optimist about it and I hope I won’t be proven wrong.”