MEPs ask Charles Michel to mediate in Georgia

File photo. European Council President Charles Michel addresses European lawmakers during a plenary session on the inauguration of the new President of the United States at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, 20 January 2021. [EPA-EFE/FRANCISCO SECO]

A group of MEPs on Tuesday (23 February) have asked European Council President Charles Michel to use his upcoming visit to Georgia to mediate between the government and the opposition, in a bid to appease the “rapidly deteriorating political situation” in the country.

Michel is due to visit Georgia on 3 March. The country is in a deep political crisis after police stormed the party offices of Georgian opposition leader Nika Melia and detained him on Tuesday, deepening a political crisis that prompted the prime minister to resign last week.

Melia, the United National Movement (UNM) party’s chairman in the South Caucasus country of 3.7 million people, has been accused of inciting violence at street protests in June 2019, a charge he dismisses as politically motivated.

Zygimantas Pavilionis, a special envoy from the Lithuanian parliament who returned on Monday from a mediating mission to Georgia, said the authorities had been seeking support from Western diplomats for a crackdown.

“They were asking for green light from me, from the EU ambassador, from the American ambassador. I said, no way,” he said. “Now democracy is dying there.”

Georgian police arrest top opposition leader, use tear gas in party HQ raid

Georgian police on Tuesday (23 February) arrested a top opposition leader and used tear gas in a violent raid on his party headquarters, further deepening a political crisis sparked by last year’s disputed parliamentary elections.

In their letter, the MEPs also seem to indicate that the EU position is shifting away from support to the government to calls for dialogue with the opposition and early elections.

The missive, initiated by Lithuanian MEP Pterras Austrevicius (Renew) and signed by MEPs from different political groups, denounces electoral fraud during the 31 October – 21 November elections and use of force by the government against the opposition.

“The EU cannot overlook the current situation when the use of force, revanchism and brinkmanship have become the predominant trends,” they write.

“We urge you to use your visit to urge the Georgian political forces to seek an immediate renewal of the cross-party dialogue, which must lead to a concrete memorandum of understanding focused on nurturing a cooperative and inclusive political environment in Georgia,” the MEPs write further.

Western powers have supported the ruling party Georgian Dream in the past years and have dismissed UNM criticism accusing the government of secretly supporting Russia.

Both the ruling party and the opposition say they are pro-Western.

Georgian government dismisses pro-Russia bias claims

A leading opposition politician has accused the Georgian government of pro-Russian bias, tacitly condoned by the EU, but representatives of the ruling party, as well as diplomats, insist there is a consensus on big geopolitical matters and the entire country is pro-Western.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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