At the spontaneous initiative of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, the deadlocked dialogue between the Georgian government and the opposition was resumed and moved to a higher level. Progress in Brussels should be assessed in two weeks, but on the second day of negotiations – the ruling party is still crossing the “red lines”, while the opposition continues noisy protests.
Result: Nothing specific
After a three-month break in the dialogue and the arrest of hundreds of police officers by the leader of the largest opposition party, Nika Melia, at a meeting at the Presidential Palace on March 1, the parties once again heard each other’s positions and crisis resolution versions.
It was decided that the EU would adapt to the role of mediator in the process – to become a full-fledged participant in the dialogue, to assess the positions of the parties and, most likely, to offer them ideas to break the deadlock and reduce polarization. Until now, the ambassadors of Georgia’s Western partners have simply acted as facilitators – taking responsibility only for the technical issues of the negotiations. This format was discontinued in December.
President Michel also presented to the parties a framework for negotiations, six issues to be discussed:
- Ambitious electoral reform;
- Rule of law and judicial reform, in particular the appointment of Supreme Court judges, election to the High Council of Justice and the strengthening of the fight against corruption;
- Political justice, in particular, resolving the issue of prisoners;
- Redistribution of power in parliament, which includes a fair redistribution of the commission of inquiry and responsibilities and roles in parliament;
- Potential early elections and preparations for local elections;
- Facilitation Continuation of mediation and verification of progress made on 15 March at the EU-Georgia Association Council meeting.
As Charles Michel said after the meeting, the primary goal was to listen to each other, “to make sure that more trust is possible in the coming days.” The issues raised have not been discussed yet.
Salome Samadashvili from the “National Movement” is optimistic and says that the light appeared at the end of the tunnel.
“For example, discussing early elections. This topic is already, so to speak, firmly on the agenda, as well as the topic of political prisoners and not only political prisoners, but also political justice in general … so I am hopeful that some light has appeared at the end of the tunnel that we can really get out of this crisis through negotiations. “, – he said in the” Morning Talks “of Radio Liberty
Mamuka Khazaradze, the leader of the Lelo party, said that only the presence of Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili at the meeting – who was taking part in the talks for the first time – was “like starting all over again”.
The events of March 2 threaten many to try to resume dialogue.
Leaders of the ruling party continue to say that the key issue for the opposition, the snap elections – which is on the table in the form of paragraph 5 – is a “red line” for the government. Rhetoric changed by Prime Minister Gharibashvili several times:
- 22 February — We categorically reject any negotiations related to the early elections;
- March 1 — We have never refused dialogue … We must start a dialogue without any conditions. Otherwise there is no constructive dialogue;
- 2 March — Our principled position on early elections is unchanged. This is the “red line”. This is an issue that is not being addressed.
At the March 1 meeting, Gharibashvili, who had previously called the opposition “traitors” or “terrorists” from the parliamentary rostrum, listened to each oppositionist and answered questions. According to him, the next steps will be formed after consultation with the political council of the Georgian Dream. Information about the session has not been made public so far.
On March 2, Gharibashvili returned to his harsh rhetoric, saying that the opposition had continued its destructive actions for 12 hours. The reason for this was a picketing rally in front of the parliament, at which the Georgian Dream MPs were called slaves, and which the opposition did not cancel after the meeting.
“Both sides are full of war rhetoric, looking at the muscles and looking for allies,” political commentator Gia Khukhashvili told RFE / RL. “The government will try to reach out to the opposition again. When you know that you have such power, you should not allow him to even say something. “I think it would make sense to declare a 24-hour silence after yesterday and give the government this time to send a message, a step towards negotiations.”
At the same time, the opposition discussed the forms of rallies. According to Khatia Dekanoidze, the leader of the United National Movement, “Although we have the right to protest, we will not allow them to offer us any other rhetoric and propaganda. We also talked about stock modification. We will also discuss the forms. There was no picketing today and there will not be. “
The President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili, also criticizes the parties and says that what happened yesterday at the Orbeliani Palace is not well understood.
“The European Union, by engaging in the crisis of a country of the highest political figure and easing it, has shown us that Europe is not just out of this region and out of this country, but on the contrary, Georgia’s democracy, stability and development are as important as ever for Europe. Against this background, today’s reactions are directly surprising, starting with reading – where was the president, ending – with picketing or new arrests. “Do we really not understand the scale of the statement made yesterday, the level of support shown, and that this attitude requires us to respond, that is, to take responsibility,” the president said.
Progress around the talks will be discussed at a meeting of the Association Council with Georgia in Brussels in two weeks. No one expects the political crisis to be resolved in two weeks, although steps must be taken during this period to lay the groundwork for continued dialogue.