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Civil Society Seeks Greater Dialogue with Government

By Ernest Petrosyan
Friday, September 16
The EU Delegation to Georgia held a working meeting entitled “Civil Society and the Eastern Partnership – possibilities and challenges” with representatives of Georgian civil society, consisting mainly of NGO members, and government officials. The event took place at the Radisson Blue Iveria Hotel on September 15. The meeting was opened by the EU Ambassador to Georgia Phillip Dimitrov and the Ambassador of Poland to Georgia Ursula Doroshevska representing the state currently holding the EU chair. The meeting was dedicated to the Eastern Partnership Warsaw summit scheduled for the end of September. The sides discussed dialogue between civil society and the Georgian government and the various obstacles to this.

“The Eastern Partnership summit will be accompanied by a civil society conference. It is on the one hand an opportunity to discuss particular issues in this forum, and on the other hand to enhance the dialogue between the governmental and nongovernmental sectors. Any country has certain problems in this regard. Civil society is a wide concept. An NGO is not a labor union to organize strikes neither is it a political party to arrange street rallies. Their power consists in their ability to engage in dialogue. Dialogue cannot be conducted by force, thus, mature people should express their communicative ability, and that concerns both the government and the NGO sector,” stated Ambassador Dimitrov.

“It is normal for any government to want to do everything alone, and for civil society to try to prove that the government is wrong, however, experience and intelligence says that opinion exchange and dialogue are necessary,” Dimitrov told The Messenger. He also emphasized that Georgia is one of the most successful members of the Eastern Partnership saying that it once again proves Georgia’s aspirations towards the EU.

The Deputy Foreign Minister Tornike Gordadze, who also attended the meeting, said that there is a consensus amongst the government in this respect. “For the EU the ideal democracy is a democracy which actively involves civil society, and now we should find efficient methods for dialogue,” Gordadze told journalists.

As for the Warsaw summit, Gordadze stated that no particular decision will be made in Warsaw. According to Gordadze the Georgian side expect an endorsement of their reforms. He also stated that the government is expecting a positive EU assessment of Georgia as one of the leaders of the Eastern Partnership. He believes that some particular results may be expected regarding the beginning of negotiations with the EU regarding the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement.

At the meeting, the issue of cooperation among EU representatives, government, and a civil integration national platform was discussed. NGO representatives expressed their concern regarding the various obstacles in communication between the government and the NGO sector.

“Few ministries are open to meet NGOs, various ministries refuse to communicate at all, and some of them have their own favorites in the NGO sector with whom they usually have a dialogue with and cooperate. I am grateful to the EU delegation for providing a platform to access government officials. It has been a long time since I last saw both representatives together,” Arnold Stepanyan, the Head of the Public Movement Multinational Georgia, said.

“I would positively assess today’s meeting. The government representatives were pretty constructive and expressed their openness for dialogue with us. I hope that this time this openness will not be a facade as it used to be before, since previously the government also agreed to dialogue, however, they disregarded our recommendations,” stated Tamar Khidasheli, the Head of the National Civil Society Platform for the Eastern Partnership.