What is happening in Georgia?

May 23rd, 2013   Georgia |

The two arrested politicians from the the main opposition party, United National Movement (UNM), is the General Secretary Ivane Merabishvili, who served as Prime Minister in the former government and Zurab Chiaberashvili, former Health and Social Security Minister, and today the Presidential representative in the Kakheti region. They are accused of having employed political activists in government programs prior to the parliamentary elections in October last year.

Wilfred Martens

Wilfred Martens, President of the EPP

Wilfred Martens, President of the European People’s Party (EPP) argues that “these arrests are a very serious setback for Georgian democracy since former PM Merabishvili, as Secretary General of the UNM and leader of the main opposition party is a potential candidate for the upcoming presidential elections which will take place in October. ”

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (UNM), whose term will end later this year, compares the situation with the developments in Ukraine, where Viktor Yanukovych after winning the presidential election in 2011 imprisoned his main political opponent Yulia Tymoshenko. Saakashvili argues that the arrests will threaten Georgia’s ambition for membership in NATO and the EU.

“That these charges are politically-motivated are as clear as day,” says UNM’s leader in the Parliament David Bakradze in a comment. The arrests take place in a tense political climate where the new Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili from the coalition Georgian Dream has stated that more arrests of UNM’s politicians are to be expected, most recent in an interview with Le Monde.

During his time as Minister of the Interior 2006-2012 Ivane Merabishvili conducted comprehensive reform of the country’s police forces, which resulted in a major reduction of crime and corruption in Georgia. In 2012 he was Prime Minister.

Zurab Chiaberashvili, with a background as a diplomat, most recently as Ambassador to the Council of Europe and Switzerland, served in 2012 as Health and Social Affairs Minister.

The EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton’s spokesperson states that they follow the developments closely and expect a fair and independent process.

The International Democrat Union (IDU) made the following statement May 27: “The remarkable democratic progress that Georgia made under UNM government now looks to be in danger of reversal. The IDU calls on Prime Mininster Ivanishvili to stop targeting opposition leaders with politically motivated arrests.”

Politicians from UNM have during the last months been exposed to a variety of attacks, including the violent protests on February 8 against a number of the party’s MPs, an attack that the Georgian Dream is suspected to be behind. Moreover, a number of regional party offices have been attacked. So far, no one has been arrested for these acts.

Other groups have been affected by the increased uncertainty as well. On May 17, LGBT activists were attacked by religious extremists. “Freedom of expression is a fundamental democratic value that must be respected, irrespective of personal convictions,” sais Martens in a comment, surprised at the lack of a strong reaction from the government in connection to these attacks.

Read EPP’s statement

Read the Statement from the EU External Action Service

Wilfred Martens

Wilfred Martens, President of the EPP

Wilfried Martens, President of the European People’s Party (EPP) sharply criticizes the Georgian government after the arrests of two leading opposition politicians, the former Prime Minister Ivane Merabishvili and the former Health and Social Affairs Minister Zurab Chiaberashvili. “If these arrests prove to be politically motivated, it may result in the freezing of Georgia’s Association Agreement process,” says Martens in a statement and demands the international community to establish a monitoring mechanism to assess the entire proceedings before the presidential election this fall. (more…)

The Georgian Prosecutor’s Office announced Tuesday that they have arrested two leading politicians from the opposition, UNM’s General Secretary Ivane Merabishvili, who in 2012 was the country’s Prime Minister, and before that Minister of Interior Affairs and Zurab Chiaberashvili, former Minister for Health and Social Affairs and the President’s representative in the Kakheti region. (more…)

May 3-6, the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation arranged this year’s Spring School, a conference on ideology with young politicians from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus and Sweden. The conference was held in Nynashamn, south of Stockholm, and topics such as democracy, market economy and human rights were discussed, as well as more practical issues about further EU enlargement and the situation in the Eastern Partnership countries. (more…)

April 4-6, the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation organised three conferences in Baku, in cooperation with the National Independence Party of Azerbaijan (NIPA). The country’s authoritarian regime seems to continue holding a tight grip of the country, prior to the presidential election in October this year. (more…)

The European Stability Initiative (ESI) reports, in its latest newsletter, about the political prisoners in Azerbaijan and how the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe handles the question.

 Read the newsletter

The President of the European People’s Party (EPP), Wilfried Martens, and the Vice President of the EPP and Chairman of the EPP Group in Euronest, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, made a critical statement regarding the recent violent acts in Georgia against parliamentarians of the United National Movement (UNM). (more…)

A series of protests have taken place in Azerbaijan since the beginning of this year, by various social groups in different parts of the country. What these protests had in common was their resistance to the government’s abuse of power and corruption, according to the Polish Centre for Eastern Studies.

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January 12, a demonstration was held at the Fountain Square in Baku against violence in the military. The protest was organised by five young activists, using Facebook and it was the first significant demonstration in Baku since 2011, writes Aleksandra Jarosiewicz at the Centre for Eastern Studies.

Read the analysis

Round Table Discussions in Istanbul with Ambassador Olof Ehrenkrona and Gerald Knaus, founder of the European Stability Initiative, among others

Thursday, December 13, the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation together with the Turkish think-tank Association for Liberal Thinking and the Azeri opposition party National Independence Party of Azerbaijan, organized a round table conference in Istanbul on the condition of strengthening open societies in the region. (more…)