TBILISI, DFWatch – The first forum organized by the EU’s Eastern Partnership is being held in Tbilisi’s Radisson Hotel.

It is jointly hosted by the office of State Minister of Georgia on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration and the Institute for Eastern Studies, Poland.

The minister hosting the conference, Giorgi Baramidze, said the biggest obstacle to Georgia’s development is the conflict with Russia, and went through a list of charges against Russia: He said Russia keeps occupying 20 percent of Georgia’s territory in violation of all norms of international law; and that Moscow doesn’t fulfill the ceasefire agreement of August 2008 and tries to legitimize ethnic cleansing of Georgian villages.

“We want to see a democratic, stable and responsible Russia, which respects fundamental principles of the international law, but unfortunately it’s hard to imagine such a Russia in the hands of its current government,” Baramidze said. „But we keep hoping“, he added. „Georgia tries its best to act constructively, not to harm relations between Georgian and Ruassian peoples,» Baramidze claimed, and pointed to the recent lifting of visa requirements for all Russians.

„Our attitude is very clear – we welcome Russian tourists on our soil, not Russian tanks,“ he said.

He called for the international community to put more pressure on Russia to respect principles of international law and fulfill the ceasefire agreement signed in the wake of the war and mediated by French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

On the topic of this October’s parliamentary election, Baramidze said he believed his country would pass the exam, holding forth a set of controversial campaign finance rules as a positive achievement while EU Ambassador to Georgia Philip Dimitrovsaid democracy isn’t achieved in 24 hours.

Giorgi Baramidze reminded the audience about legislative amendments aiming to improve the election environment in Georgia. He says changes serve to conduct fair elections in the country and provides equal rights for all participating subjects.

The Eastern Partnership is a forum which covers the countries Georgia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia and Ukraine and deals with visa regime liberalization and modernization of education, among other things.