Thursday, 23 July 2009

Report urges new international strategy on Georgia

The Foreign Policy Centre has published a pamphlet entitled ‘Spotlight on Georgia’, timed to coincide with Vice President Biden’s visit to Tbilisi, this week. It is a substantial document and I have yet to plough through all of it. What is clear from my reading so far is that the influential British think tank’s investigations have charted a decline in standards of democracy and human rights under President Saakashvili, despite Western support which is often ‘almost reflexive’.

From the 2003 Rose Revolution, and promising beginnings, degeneration in standards has been discerned in recent years, particularly since 2007. Saakashvili’s autocratic style has precipitated a pool of disgruntled politicians prepared to challenge his regime. Opposition has been suppressed, often by violent methods and press freedoms have been curtailed. In its ‘Nations in Transition’ report Freedom House adjudged Georgia to be ‘less democratic’ today than it has been at any point in the last ten years.

The FPC recommends a tougher response to Saakashvili from the international community. Support for Georgia should be unequivocally dependent on its progress as regards democracy and human rights. It suggests that the new EU Eastern Partnership and its benefits should be linked to clear benchmarks ensuring good governance. In particular, any debate on Georgia being offered a NATO MAP should “focus on the need to meet political criteria rather than primarily on improving military capability”.

“If a MAP is offered, it should be on the basis of significant progress on human rights issues and recognition of the need for a new approach to the territorial disputes. Eventual membership must be conditional on delivering and sustaining improvements in human rights that put it on a par with other new members of the Alliance and on achieving a permanent peaceful resolution to the conflicts over South Ossetia and Abkhazia.”

The FPC pamphlet draws from a broad range of sources and can’t be dismissed lightly. I’m sure I will post on it in greater detail, having digested its contents more thoroughly.

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