Western partners are warning the Georgian government to refrain from destabilizing the situation, which could have a devastating impact on the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration process. At the same time, they call on the opposition to find ways of dialogue in order to de-escalate the situation.
On February 22, Hans van Baalen, Chairman of the European Liberal and Democrat Alliance (ALDE) faction in the European Parliament, wrote an open letter to Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili calling for “free, fair and transparent” snap elections in Georgia. He said that “as never before”, it is necessary to resolve the post-election crisis through dialogue, and “not by taking further punitive steps against members of the opposition.”
A similar statement was issued by ALDE on February 23, after the arrest of Nika Melia. “Raising political tensions and suppressing the voices of the opposition is not at all the solution that the citizens of Georgia deserve,” reads the statement of the party chairman.
Earlier, the People’s Party (EPP), one of the largest factions in the European Parliament, responded to the escalation of the situation between the opposition and the government. MEPs are concerned that the Georgian government, instead of seeking a solution and a compromise, has decided to deepen the political crisis with the decision to arrest Nika Melia.
“Early elections and the resumption of dialogue between the government and the opposition should be seen as a way out of the current situation,” the European People’s Party said in a statement.
Other European politicians are also responding to the current events in Georgia. Czech politician Marketa Gregorova, a member of the European Alliance of Greens and Free Europeans (Greens / EFA), called the current events in Georgia an “absolute disappointment.” At the same time, in an interview with Radio Liberty, he called on both sides to engage in dialogue so that the current situation does not have a long-term negative impact on Georgia’s integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures.
Radio Liberty: You write on Twitter that “what is happening in Georgia causes absolute disappointment.” If possible, tell us in more detail how you, as an MEP, see the current events in Georgia.
Market Gregorova: I am disappointed, because I have contacts with both sides, the opposition and the Georgian Dream, and we are discussing different ways or directions on how to resolve the situation. [საქართველოში] Everyone always assures me that everyone is trying to ease the situation so that it does not get worse. The escalation is therefore frustrating, as it undoubtedly exacerbates the situation – not only because people are taking to the streets for demonstrations (which is obviously problematic in terms of the current pandemic in terms of health), but also in terms of the reversal of democracy. Measures send bad signals and contribute to the escalation of the situation rather than de-escalation.
Radio Liberty: You said that this situation reminds us of the tip of the iceberg. What do you think is under this beard?
Market Gregorova: I compared the situation to the tip of the iceberg, since this situation did not arise suddenly, this problem lasts for several months … [2020 წლის] The March 8 agreement promised to solve the problem of political prisoners, but even on the one anniversary of this agreement, the situation remains unchanged and may even get worse. By what is under the tip of the iceberg, I mean the problems that have accumulated over the past months. I know that there are attempts by the EU to mediate between the parties. I know the EU Ambassador has tried this several times. But I think that ideally the European Parliament should also send a team of mediators, which might be better to include experts rather than politicians and officials. Whereas problems are needed, not statements and declarations. On the other hand, the EU must use all the tools at its disposal to help resolve the situation. I also hope that a resolution will be adopted at the next plenary session of the European Union in March, which will include a call for concrete measures … I can not promise anything, it is still in the stage of negotiations and discussions.
Radio Liberty: We have heard several responses from Western politicians on current events in Georgia. How do you see how visible Georgia’s problems are in Brussels?
Market Gregorova: Obviously, the people who are following the developments within the Eastern Partnership, and in particular in Georgia, are well informed, and most of us have been negotiating with both sides, or all sides, for at least the last few weeks. We are observing Georgia, there are no two opinions on this. But it is quite difficult to assess what is happening and what can be done to help. Personally, in my conversations with the opposition, I advised them to enter the parliament and help to ease the situation. That is, I do not unilaterally criticize the government for the steps it is taking. Obviously, I criticize him, but at the same time I see collaboration in the second half [მნიშვნელობას]. And, although I understand why [გაკეთდა ასე] And while I was in favor of it, I do not think so [ოპოზიციას] That’s how it should be done … I want to hope that both sides will find common ground, even though I personally see how difficult it is and maybe even impossible without outside help.
Radio Liberty: In your opinion, in the long run, what are the possible consequences of the current events in Georgia?
Market Gregorova: In the long run it is [მოვლენები] Hinders [ნატოსა და ევროკავშირში ინტეგრაციის] Hopes and efforts. So my advice would be to resolve the situation as quickly as possible with the help of those with whom you want to integrate. Whereas, it is obvious that we approach problems differently and we do [საქართველოს მხარეს და დასავლეთს]”Of course we can help each other.”
Radio Liberty: Russia’s involvement, which is often not directly visible, raises fears. In your opinion, what is the possible role of Russia in the current events in Georgia?
Market Gregorova: In the long run, I am a strong supporter of Georgia’s membership in NATO. In the near future, it is very important that we, the outsiders, but also the citizens of Georgia, receive transparent information about what is happening. [ადმინისტრაციულ] At the borders. Whereas one of the main tools of Russian propaganda and manipulation is disinformation. They will not back down in the face of anything. In order to confront misinformation, it is necessary to present your assessment of the situation, transparently and reasonably … The government must be proactive in this. The first reaction should come from him, or rather, they should say something even before Russia is given the opportunity to resort to manipulation.