Former UNM members, who split from the party and are now using the previously nominal European Georgia party as their new political platform, applied for observer membership to the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), which has the largest group in the European Parliament.
“David Bakradze, Giga Bokeria, Gigi Ugulava and Gigi Tsereteli came today to present me their new political project, European Georgia,” President of the European People’s Party Joseph Daul wrote in his Facebook post on January 23 following the meeting with former UNM leaders.
“Formal procedures for our new party’s EPP membership have already been launched and we hope to be fully represented [in EPP] as soon as possible,” Gigi Ugulava, who was recently released from prison, stated after meeting.
Speaking on the matter, Davit Bakradze, former leader of UNM’s parliamentary minority group and chairman of the party’s political council, stated that the new political party has “numerous supporters” in EPP. “It is of utmost importance for us, that our political force continues partnership with the European People’s Party, so that we become members of this family and through that, manage to offer a better tomorrow for our citizens and our country,” Bakradze added.
If accepted, the European Georgia will be the second EPP observer member from Georgia; UNM was incorporated as observer member in September, 2008.
Joseph Daul also noted that he was “particularly pleased” to see Gigi Ugulava, whose sentencing Daul has regarded as “politically motivated.” “My thoughts go to the other political prisoners still detained in Georgia and I call on PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili for their immediate release,” he added.
Kvirikashvili’s office responded to Daul’s appeal with a statement on January 24 saying that the Government “cannot engage in the process of releasing sentenced individuals, only on the grounds of their political belonging” and “cannot contribute to the syndrome of impunity.”
“These are not the values of a Western, democratic and constitutional state. Georgian Government’s adherence to these values cannot be compromised in response to politically motivated statements,” according to the statement.
“In democratic systems, offenders are held accountable for their crimes, including criminal acts committed with violence, resulting in deaths, torture, dishonor and humiliation,” the statement adds.
Ugulava’s release featured at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly session as well. In his opening remarks on January 23, Assembly President Pedro Agramunt welcomed the release of Gigi Ugulava, stating that he “pushed” former mayor’s release.
“Upon my election as President, I decided to concentrate specifically on this issue [of political prisoners] ... These initiatives, which I was not alone in undertaking, brought results. In Russia and in Georgia, Ms Savchenko and Mr Ugulava were released and in Azerbaijan a considerable number of civil society activists and journalists were also released and I welcomed this development,” Agramunt, who was re-elected as PACE President for the second a second one-year term, said.