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Georgian opposition protests against Enguri deal

By Temuri Kiguradze
Wednesday, January 14
Representatives of both Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary opposition parties have declared their negative attitude to the deal concerning the Enguri Hydropower Plant signed in December 2008, which places this Georgian facility under the united control of Russia and Georgia.

“It’s unimaginable for Georgia to have any kind of deal with a country which is fighting a war against us, especially when the deal concerns such a strategic facility as the Enguri plant. This agreement was signed behind the people’s backs and those who did it should be made to bear responsibility for that,” stated Manana Nachkebia, representative of opposition party New Rights, speaking to The Messenger on Tuesday.

Levan Berdzenishvili, leader of another opposition party, the Republicans, believes this deal could be part of a “conspiracy” between the Georgian and Russian authorities. “I can’t understand why the Government has signed deal with Russia, the country it has declared is ‘occupying’ Georgia. This deal makes me doubt that the August war was only a military and political defeat. The Enguri agreement looks like the losing side paying a bonus to the winner,” stated Berdzenishvili, adding that for GEL 15 million Georgia has lost its last link with its breakaway region – Abkhazia.

Salome Zourabichvili, a former Foreign Minister and leader of Georgia’s Way, said that the authorities had committed “a huge crime” by striking a deal over the Enguri HPP. “This Government is a traitor, which says, on the one hand, that Russia is an occupier and then makes a deal with the same country. This is a huge crime against Abkhazia. If we still plan to restore the relationship with the Abkhazians we can’t take their electricity from them and hand it to the Russians, as if saying “if you want power go and deal with Russia.” Enguri is the common heritage of Abkhazians and Georgians,” Zourabichvili said at a press conference on January 13. “These authorities should go as soon as possible,” she concluded, referring to the current Tbilisi regime.

The Parliamentary opposition did not react so harshly but still criticized the decision. “We will summon the Energy Minister to explain the details of the deal,” Levan Vephkhvadze of the Christian Democratic Party said on January 12. “We will have a tough conversation.” Vephkhvadze also said that the deal was not consistent with Georgia’s law “On The Occupied Territories”, which restricts economic activities in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Georgian political and economic analyst Gia Khukhashvili concurs with the opposition viewpoint, saying that by signing this deal Tbilisi finally “loses control” of its energy system, as all the main power plants are now under the management of Russia. Khukhashvili also maintains that the deal looks like a bonus to the winner. “After this deal Russia has acquired almost everything it needs to control the state [Georgia]. The last thing will be the control of Georgian Railway, and that doesn’t seem to be far away. After that it will be only a half step to full political control, which means going back to the Soviet Union,” said the analyst, speaking to The Messenger on January 13.

The Enguri Hydropower Plant (HPP) is the biggest HPP in the Caucasus region and is located on the administrative border with the separatist region. The plant provides about 45% of the total electricity consumed by Georgia. The HPP staff are of both Abkhazian and Georgian ethnicity. Until now Abkhazia has received electricity from Enguri free of charge.