- ‘Constitution is most challenging reform for now’;
- ‘U.S. supports Venice Commission recommendations’;
- ‘Exceed international standards in 2012, 2013 elections’
U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, reiterated Washington’s unwavering support to Georgia’s territorial integrity, NATO aspiration and democratic reforms and called on Tbilisi to showcase in its next elections that it not only meets, but exceeds international standards.
She was speaking during her opening remarks at the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission meeting in Washington in presence of Georgian PM Nika Gilauri and other Georgian senior officials.
The charter on strategic partnership, signed between Georgia and the United States in January, 2009 set a framework of cooperation between the two countries, covering four priority areas, involving defense and security; trade and economy; democracy and people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges.
In her opening remarks the U.S. Secretary of State, who visited Tbilisi in July, 2010, reiterated Washington’s commitment “to advance Georgia’s security and democracy.”
“The United States will not waver in its support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” she said, adding that support was “core principle” of bilateral partnership.
She also reiterated U.S. support for Georgia’s NATO aspiration and in this context she said Washington was committed to helping Georgia in improving its defense capabilities, including in terms of NATO interoperability and Georgia’s contribution to coalition forces in Afghanistan. She expressed condolences over death of five Georgian soldiers, killed in combat in two separate incidents in the province of Helmand in early and late September.
“We call on Russia to end its occupation of Georgian territories,” Clinton said and added that Russia should follow its commitments under the August 12, 2008 six-point ceasefire agreement.
“Georgia has taken a constructive approach in our common efforts to address this challenge to the talks in Geneva,” she said and expressed support to Georgia’s state strategy on occupied territories, saying that Washington was ready to contribute to “important objectives” laid out in the strategy and in its action plan.
In her opening remarks, Clinton also reiterated the U.S. commitment to continue supporting Georgia’s democracy, saying that fair elections, solid institutions and vibrant civil society “are prerequisites for long-term stability.”
She said that the May 30, 2010 local elections showed “a real tangible progress”, but lot remained to be done to address issues of political competition, fundraising, accountability, including investigation of any alleged irregularities in the elections.
Clinton said that parliamentary elections of 2012 and then president elections of 2013 “should showcase, that the Georgian democracy not only meets, but exceeds international standards”.
“It will be important for Georgia’s people and for the international community,” she said and added that success made by Georgia in fight against corruption already serves as “a role model” for other countries.
Clinton said that ongoing constitutional reform was “the most important reform challenge facing Georgia today.”
“It represents the opportunity for Georgians to build on everything you have accomplished since the Rose Revolution and I hope the Parliament will recognize that opportunity as it concludes its consideration of the constitutional reform package,” she said.
“The United States supports the recommendations of the Venice Commission as put forward for strengthening Georgia’s system of checks and balances and we stand ready to assist in this process,” Clinton said.
The Venice Commission, which is Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs, laid out its preliminary recommendations over Georgia’s constitutional reform in late July; it said in September, that it would produce its final opinion in mid-October.
The Georgian Parliament passed constitutional amendments with it second reading on October 1. The draft still requires Parliament’s approval with third and final reading before it becomes law; but this final stage will be more a technical formality and no significant changes will be made in the draft.