'Georgia's place in European society is under threat' – Western politicians
Georgia’s place as a free member of the European family is not in doubt but under threat, Western politicians claim in a joint statement released on February 26.
The statement was published in reaction to the arrest of opposition United National Movement chair Nika Melia on February 23 by special forces units.
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Foreign Affairs Committee of the Lithuanian Seimas Zhigimantas Pavilenis took lead on the statement: “The events have demonstrated the fragility of democracy and freedom in Georgia,” he said.
“Violence is incompatible with the European aspirations declared by the Georgian government…The destabilization and anti-democratic steps that were taken after the parliamentary elections and are still observed, oblige everyone in power to bear personal responsibility and exercise restraint,” the statement further reads. It has the following signatures:
- Marek Kuczynski from the Polish Sejm,
- Pavel Fischer from the Czech Senate,
- Zhigimantas Pavilionis from the Seimas of Lithuania,
- Marko Mihkelson from the Estonian Senate,
- Rihards Kols from the Latvian Seim.
- Robert Menendez of the US Senate,
- Tom Tugendhat of the UK House of Commons,
- Norbert Rotgen from the German Bundestag.
- Influential Western deputies called on the political forces of Georgia to unite and jointly find a solution to the problems.
International pressure on the Georgian government began after the arrest UNM chair Nika Melia.
The crisis dates back to the parliamentary elections on October 31, 2020, which the opposition considers rigged and has been boycotting parliament ever since.
51 opposition MPs in Georgia have refused to take up their mandates. There are 150 seats in parliament.
Only six opposition MPs are present at parliament meetings, while the rest of the MPs in the body are members of the ruling party.
The political crisis escalated with renewed vigor on February 17 after the court sentenced the leader of the United National Movement, Nika Melia, to pre-trial detention: Melia stands accused of ‘incitement to violence’, prompted by the visit to Georgia by Russian MP Sergei Gavrilov.
The prosecution insists Melia remain in jail until he has posted bail. On February 17, the court granted the prosecutor’s motion. Melia had previously refused to post bail in exchange for his release, as he believes that his case is politically motivated.
On February 18 – also in connection with the Melia case – Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia resigned.
He named the reason for his departure ‘disagreements’ with the ruling Georgian Dream party, which demanded the arrest of the opposition leader, and Gakharia believed that this step would only aggravate the political crisis in the country.
The arrest of the opposition leader had initially been postponed until a new prime minister was elected, the Interior Ministry said in a statement immediately following Gakharia’s resignation.
On February 22, parliament approved Irakli Garibashvili, who had previously served as prime minister, to serve another term as the head of state; his first decision as the new PM was to have Melia arrested.