TBILISI, DFWatch–The Georgian government plans to reopen the Ergneti market on the border with South Ossetia. In recent days, it has said reopening the market would not contradict a free trade agreement Georgia recently signed with the EU.
Ergneti market was an important place for contact between people from Georgia and South Ossetia, but it was closed by Mikheil Saakashvili’s government in 2004 to tackle smuggling.
Now, Ergneti has become a place where the conflicting parties regularly meet to speak about problems caused by the Russia-Georgia war in 2008.
A few days ago, Reconciliation Minister Paata Zakareishvili said after a government session that the concept for a reopened Ergneti market will be the same, but it will be located at some other place.
“It is a subject for experts to work out where it will be effective to reopen the same type of market,” he said.
Diplomat Zurab Abashidze later said that this issue is has not been discussed in talks he has held with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin in regular bilateral negotiations with Russia which the Georgian Dream government has been conducting since the end of 2013.
But he says if the new Ergneti market is well-organized and run by modern standards, it can become attractive for the population in the region for Georgians, Ossetians and everyone interested in trade.
Zakareishvili explained on Wednesday that the possibility to reopen Ergneti market doesn’t contradict Georgia’s Association Agreement with the EU, which according to him requires more contact with the population in the breakaway regions.
The government is considering reopening the market, but no decision has been made.
“There is a discussion about how reasonable it is, where and in what form it can be done.”
During the election campaign for the parliamentary election in 2012, Georgian Dream said closing the Ergneti market was a mistake and that it should be reopened.