The second round of European Union-mediated talks between Georgia’s ruling party and the opposition failed Wednesday (31 March) to resolve a political impasse sparked by elections last year, an EU mediator said.
The EU-aspirant nation in Europe’s extreme southeast has been gripped by a political crisis following October’s parliamentary elections which the opposition has denounced as rigged, staging mass protests to demand snap polls.
The stalemate worsened last month after police arrested the opposition leader in a violent raid on the headquarters of his United National Movement (UNM), the Caucasus country’s main opposition force, leading the prime minister to resign. The UNM leader is former President Mikheil Saakashvili (2004-2013).
The escalation prompted concerns in the West over Georgia’s backsliding on commitments to democracy and European Council President Charles Michel initiated inter-party talks during a visit to the capital Tbilisi this month.
Swedish diplomat Christian Danielsson, who was appointed to mediate the negotiations, told a press conference in the early hours of Wednesday that the political parties have failed to agree on a way out of the crisis.
“Fulfilling European aspiration requires compromise, especially by the party in power to lead the country out of the crisis,” he said at the late-night briefing following seven hours of tense talks.
“Sadly… there was not this willingness today around the table.”
The talks are focused on electoral and judicial reforms, the liberation of jailed opposition politicians, and prospects for snap polls.
The first, week-long, round of negotiations also proved fruitless on 19 March.
Danielsson said that Michel “will decide on the next steps and the timing of such steps.”
The ruling Georgian Dream party leaders have rejected the opposition’s accusations of torpedoing the negotiations and of undermining Georgia’s bid to forge closer ties with the European Union.
The Georgian government has announced plans to apply for EU membership in 2024.
Opposition parties have refused to enter the new parliament, tarnishing the legitimacy of the Georgian Dream party’s government.