TBILISI, DFWatch – As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is visiting Georgia, Speaker of Parliament Davit Bakradze would like to see the visit `end with a specific decision’. But he doesn’t say exactly what this decision this would be, nor does he want to express any view on what Clinton will be discussing here.
DB: Of course, we don’t need to mention that this visit is a very important political event. So it’s especially important what specific meaning and content the Secretary of State’s visit will have.
As you know, she will hold bilateral meetings and in addition she will attend a session of the working group of the strategic partnership, which means that all issues which are important for Georgia and for the U.S. will be reviewed during this visit.
We assume that the main range of issues will be related to Georgia’s security, cooperation between Georgia and the U.S., including economic relations, current reforms in Georgia, current democratic processes in the country and international projects and international challenges, where Georgia and the U.S. act as allies.
Possibly, there won’t be any off-limits topics and many issues will be discussed. But I repeat, hese are important issues, which are related to Georgia’s security, as the U.S. is our one of primary partners in regards of dialog on security issues. Further deepening of our relations is very important, including in the direction of free trade, which was discussed at a meeting of the presidents [Barack Obama and Mikheil Saakashvili, ed.], and U.S. involvement is very important in Georgia’s current democratic processes.
So possibly this will be the three main areas which we will focus on.
DFW: Do you consider democratic reforms, especially before the elections, the main topic, and do you think the U.S. Secretary of State will be especially interested in this issue?
DB: I consider it absolutely incorrect to separate issues, as there will be something primary and secondary. How can we tell on the one hand, that Georgia’s security will be secondary and the reforms will be primary? If Georgia’s independence and freedom isn’t protected, then no reforms will be conducted.
At the same time, I can say the contrary, because our reforms are part of our security. So separating them that something is primary and some secondary, I think is incorrect.
I can tell you that the main issues, which will be discussed consists of course issues of security and how Georgia’s security should be protected and provided, Georgia’s defense capabilities, how can we achieve progress on the way of de-occupation and start real political work to reclaim the occupied territories.
Clearly, there will be a discussion on democracy, elections, upcoming reforms and all these are very important elements for the development of the Georgian state.
There will be a discussion on economy, economic cooperation. I hope there will also be positive […] on free trade. So all these topics are very important, and it’s not right to rank issues and say that something is less important or something is more important.
I hope there will be content review on all these topics and I hope this visit will end with specific decisions, because this is not a visit implemented out of courtesy or a political gesture. In this case, our working relations are on such a level that I hope specific results will follow this visit and all these directions are very important for Georgia’s future.
DFW: The U.S.’ Ambassador to Georgia has recently made a number of critical statements about latest legislative amendments as well as the election environment. Do you think this topic will still be subject for discussion?
DB: Amendments on political parties went through a very detailed analysis. We had consultations with our partners on this issue, including with the U.S.’ friends. It also went through a very detailed analysis in the Venice Commission. There was a discussion in the Council of Europe and OSCE.
So the laws which we adopt and which are related to reforms and the democratization process in Georgia is not unilaterally adopted laws. All such laws went through consultations and some of them with our international partners and friends.
So I don’t expect anything principally new in this regards and to be honest, those laws cannot even be discussed. This is my mood, because I repeat, we had detailed consultations on all these laws with the diplomatic corps here, in capitals and with international organizations. Our partners have detailed information on all these laws. In any case, if they have any questions there are no problems.
DFW: The civic campaign This Affects You Too, which consists of non-governmental organizations and media, recently appealed personally to you and to the president to implement certain changes to create an equal election environment. Especially it is about forcing cable networks to transit all channels, which is the practice in the U.S. But the government still doesn’t agree with this initiative. They also sent a letter to Hillary Clinton appealing for support. What is your answer?
DB: I cannot answer instead of Hillary Clinton, whether she will respond or how respond to this letter. We should acknowledge that the State Department receives thousands of such types of appeals from civic groups from various countries or political parties. So, I really cannot say on her behalf whether it will get a response at all.
As for us, there would be open discussions on each issue and we are ready that there would have been open discussion on these issues in parliament and we had discussion on this in parliament’s bureau. The appropriate committee is instructed, and as far as I know they met with those NGOs and in any case there is no other procedural way, except for parliament to discuss legislative proposals; to be meetings and then decisions were made as usual, as it happens in parliament.
This way is open and especially for the last months we have had a very good and positive precedent, when legislation was changed through cooperation with NGOs and we had several cases when as a result of long consultations with NGOs parliament changed legislation.
I think it was a good precedent and clearly, we are ready to continue working in this form by this procedure on this or other laws, if NGOs have remarks. But of course we can’t guarantee that each initiated proposal in parliament will be adopted. But in the extreme case, we are ready that everything was open in procedures and transparent and everyone had an opportunity to express their opinion and defend it.