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First bitter pill for European diplomats in Georgia2009-04-27 13:30
Europe is applying its best efforts to stabilize internal political situation in Georgia. However Europeans see for themselves: the Caucasus is a delicate matter. By the third week of endless protest actions European diplomats have found themselves between two fires.
As early as on April 16 Peter Semneby, EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus held meetings with Georgian leaders, opposition and public members when everyone agreed on necessity of the dialogue. A week later the sides were as distant from the compromise towards dialogue as before.
Due to the increase of opposition activity and its intention to continue protests till May 8 the parliamentarians had to settle down in fashionable Sheraton Metekhi Palace as the entrance to the parliament was blocked by the cells of the opposition who spend days and nights there. This is a staged example of civil disobedience.
On April 24 the Heads of Missions of the European Union countries, European Commission Delegation and EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby promulgated a joint statement. This is the quotation from civil.ge: "They (diplomats) reaffirm freedom of peaceful assembly as one of the key rights of the citizen in all democratic countries. They commend both the opposition and the authorities for ensuring the free exercise of this right in a peaceful and secure way". In conclusion the diplomats reiterated their appeal to all sides to engage into serious and constructive talks. Everything seems to be in the best traditions of diplomacy - no inclination toward any side. But already the next day the European diplomats were severely criticized by the opposition.
This is how it began. The head of Spain's parliamentary delegation Jorgi Chukla on termination of the meeting with Chairman of Parliament David Bakradze he met at the hotel and not in parliament stated that "the protest is good but it would be better for political parties to solve issues in parliament". The same day the Speaker of Parliament held another hotel meeting on the situation in the country with the diplomatic corps. Ambassador of France to Georgia Eric Fournier did not conceal his discontent over the place of meeting. "The fact that a few people decided to violate law forcing us to have a meeting with the chairman of parliament at a hotel, is unacceptable to us", - Eric Fournier is quoted by GHN. By the way the same day the leaders of oppositional Alliance for Georgia met with American diplomats there. The subject was the same - how to find a way out of the political crisis. No meeting results have been reported.
As for Speaker of Parliament David Bakradze according to the meeting results the foreign diplomats support the country leaders' policy toward protest actions. He specified that the Georgian authorities had "gained full support of the policy the Georgian authorities are pursuing in regard to the current events".
This was a perfect pretext for the scandal. Opposition leaders called on the European diplomats not to interfere in the country's internal affairs. Party of Women leader Guguli Magradze made the following comment on French Ambassador to Georgia Eric Fournier's words: "He is very well aware of the way protest actions are held in France with French people smashing and destroying everything around them. Against this background they are welcome to come and see the constitutional limits our actions are held within. As for blockading the parliament - all parliament entrances are open, and they can hold their meetings in Parliament. It is their problem if they have moral discomfort".
Freedom party leader Konstantin Gamsakhurdia advised Eric Fournier to make statements only after he understands the situation in Georgia.