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EU Commissioner voices concern over current pre- election political climate in Georgia

By Ernest Petrosyan
Friday, June 29
Recent political tension in Georgia has become a subject of international concern. The EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, Stefan Fule said, after meeting Georgian President Saakashvili in Brussels on June 28, that the European Union is “increasingly concerned about growing political tension and polarization in the run-up to the parliamentary elections,” set for October.

“The parliamentary election in October and presidential elections in 2013 will be important test cases for Georgian democracy and we encourage all political forces to respect the electoral process and make sure that the voting is free and fair,” Commissioner Fule said.

"The EU is increasingly concerned about the growing political tension and the polarization in the run-up to the parliamentary elections and I have expressed the conviction that the elections will be first of all about political programs and ideas," he continued, also adding that the EU is watching developments in the media landscape with particular attention.

He also hailed Georgia’s progress in terms of its modernization and reforms, and reiterated that the EU supports and will continue to support these efforts within the instrument of the Eastern Partnership. "It is also clear that Georgia needs to take further steps and continue this path of modernization and to consolidate democracy,” the commissioner said.

Commissioner Fule and President Saakashvili also discussed the shared strong interest in the resolution of the conflicts regarding the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Mr Fule reiterated the European Union’s commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity.

President Saakashvili also held a meeting with the EU High Representative of Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger; European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs and President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz.

Ashton also stressed the importance of Georgia’s parliamentary elections in October, and the need for the electoral process to meet international democratic standards and be conducted in an environment of media freedom, fair competition and transparency. “With a solid democratic foundation, Georgia can continue to accelerate the process of EU integration, which offers stability, prosperity and continuity,” Ashton said.

According to Ashton's spokesperson’s statement, she had congratulated President Saakashvili on the good progress of negotiations on an Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, between the EU and Georgia: "this agreement would establish a new contractual relationship based on the sharing of values and comprehensive approximation with EU standards and norms."

In Brussels, President Saakashvili participated in a summit of the European People’s Party, in which his United National Movement Party is an observer member.

In televised remarks Saakashvili said that developments having “decisive” and “historic” importance for Georgia were taking place in relation with the EU.

“I am sure that during the following 16-18 months, we will get a free-trade regime [established] with Europe,” Saakashvili said, referring to the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU. He also predicted the same period for visa-free regime achievement.

Saakashvili also referred to Georgia’s internal politics and said that there were “cheap attempts to buy the votes of our people with money coming from one country.

“That demonstrates complete disrespect of the choices of our people, which is not only unacceptable, but also uncivilized,” he remarked.

He also noted that the government would announce a new program in the next few days and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration priority would take an important part in this program, as well as the issues related to Georgia’s domestic priorities.