Government explains Enguri deal
By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, January 15The Georgian Government has stated that the deal on the joint management of Enguri power plant by Georgia and Russia don’t threaten national security. Lasha Zhvania, the Georgian Economy Minister, said that the statements of several Georgian opposition parties that Georgia might lose control over the Enguri hydropower plant [HPP] were “groundless”.
Speaking at a news conference on January 13, Zhvania said that Georgia is not going to sell the HPP to Russia. “Inter RAO is a company from the country which is now an occupier of our territory and which is in full control of Abkhazia. You know that part of Enguri hydro power plant is located on the territory of Abkhazia,” Zhvania said. “I want to draw your attention to the names on the memorandum – it is between Inter RAO and the Georgian Energy Ministry. By this agreement the Russian state company recognizes Georgia’s jurisdiction over Enguri HPP, as well as the need to take licenses and permits to conduct economic activities in Abkhazia from Tbilisi and not the separatist authorities [of Abkhazia],” he added.
The Economy Minister again spoke about the benefits of the deal, which will bring Georgia GEL 15 million each year through selling electricity to the Russian company which will then transfer it to Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia. The Minister said part of the electricity generated by the Enguri HPP – about 25% of its total generation – was consumed by Abkhazia but no one was paying for this electricity. He also denied that the deal would violate the law ‘On the Occupied Territories”, which restricts economic activities in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “The law clearly states that if economic activity [in the breakaway regions] is in the interests of Georgia, such activity is permitted upon the consent of the Georgian authorities,” he said.
Georgian Parliamentary and non-Parliamentary opposition parties have accused the Government of signing this deal “behind the people’s back.” The agreement was signed on December 28, but the Energy Ministry only made an official announcement on January 12. “No one has seen the full text of the agreement yet,” said Levan Berdzenishvili, leader of the opposition Republican Party, speaking to The Messenger on January 13. He and other opposition politicians claim that by signing this deal Georgia loses control of the whole country’s electricity system.
Energy Minister Alexandre Khetaguri said that Georgia had no levers to fully control the Enguri hydropower plant anyway and the deal with Russia’s Inter RAO couldn’t worsen the situation. “Even if, let’s say, today the Russians switch off the generators, there is nothing we can do about it, but with this deal we gain additional guarantees that this will not happen, because the Russians themselves will be interested in the full functioning of the plant. The Russian company also guarantees its commitment through its serious assets in Georgia,” stated Khetaguri on January 13.
Speaking at the press conference in Tbilisi on January 12, Khetaguri said that the new agreement would also give Russia the possibility of exporting electricity to Turkey via Georgia. “This will bring Georgia additional income and will raise the technical capacity of the electrical systems,” stated Khetaguri. He also said it would increase the security of the plant personnel. The HPP is located on the administrative border of Georgia and its separatist region Abkhazia. The Enguri Dam which produces the power is located on the side of the river controlled by the central Government, but the generators of the power plant are on the separatist-controlled side.
The Enguri River area has seen constant incidents and provocations. The latest occurred on January 14 when the Georgian Interior Ministry announced that Georgian police posts had been attacked by unknown armed personnel from the Abkhazian side. Firing took place for about 20 minutes, fortunately causing no casualties or injuries. The Ministry stated that the Georgian police did not respond to the gunfire.