TBILISI, DFWatch – Georgia has agreed to a proposal from Swiss intermediaries which if adopted will lead to Russia becoming member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Russian position is not yet known.
Russia joining WTO has become more of a pressing issue during the last few years. What stood in the way was the fact that Russia refused to fulfill the Georgian government’s main request, which involves the opening of customs checkpoints between Russia and Georgia, the lifting of Russia’s embargo on Georgian goods as well as issues connected to the war in August 2008.
But still Russia has not lost sight of the WTO membership up till today. It is not surprising, considering how it will make things easier for the country in its relations with the members.
Besides, USA and Europe both had been involved in this process in the recent times. The Georgian government was still not going to give up its positions. But yesterday, Foreign Affairs Ministry officially confirmed that Georgia agreed on the proposal prepared by Swiss intermediaries.
“Swiss intermediaries presented those proposals. It implies to set up special mechanism, which in turn, will control freight movement and circulation in the corridors located on the borders of territory which connects Russia and Georgian,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergy Kapanadze says.
According to him, this mechanism contains two components. “International monitoring and electronic freight monitoring, to be handled by international personnel. The agreement is a result of a long-term effort. Now, the ball is in the Russian playing field and now it’s their turn,” Kapanadze adds.
The Russian response is still unknown, but according to Russian media, the country will think things over and only then declare its position.
Tornike Gordadze, Foreign Ministry Deputy stated during yesterday’s special briefing that ‘it is a compromise proposal. It lays down a basis for international monitoring of all freight imported through the internationally recognized Russia-Georgian border; which had not been happening before.’
He explains that the monitoring will be conducted by special monitoring personnel. Agreement is also reached on the use of special technology which will provide information exchange.
“This agreement does away with all the attempts at politicizing the issue and transform it into a discussion about status [for the breakaway regions]. Agreement has been reached that it won’t be a double or triple regime to monitor the freight; but there will be only one regime for occupied and non-occupied Georgia,” Gordadze states.
Further details are unclear, but experts DFWatch has spoken to think it will mean the implementation of a dedicated monitoring mission, which in the end cannot bring any real results to Georgia.
“Russia has been suggesting to supply Georgia with electronic information for a long time; but Georgian authorities were saying it made no sense. Then let them say that they will accept Russian proposal without any conditions,” legal expert Gia Khukhashvili says.
He focuses on the fact that Official Georgia should have asked for such preconditions, that would be really possible to implement and would be beneficial for the country. Among such preconditions, he mentions lifting the Russian embargo on Georgian goods.
But legal expert Gia Nodia notes that the Russian embargo is not official, and therefore Georgia could not bring up this issue during negotiations.
Khukhashvili thinks that this issue should have been solved before both sides sat down around the negotiation table.
“It was necessary for Georgia that Russia had agreed on international monitoring of the borders; because the Georgian side could not have controlled this. We could be stubborn till the end so that the monitoring would have been conducted by Georgia itself; but then we would become confrontational to Europe and USA. So we had to go along with some kind of compromise. And in comparison to today’s situation, while there is no international control, it is still some kind of achievement,” Gia Nodia explains.
But in this case, it is important what benefits all these will have for Georgia. The majority of experts fear that ‘the Georgian side has announced a capitulation.’