On October 13, the Atlantic Council Task Force on Georgia, co-chaired by Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Lindsey Graham, released a major new report on Georgia at an event held on Capitol Hill, arguing for intensified domestic reform and a new sense of common purpose and clarity from the United States and Europe to work toward a democratic Georgia embedded in the institutions of the West.
Georgia faces critical tests at home–parliamentary elections in 2012 and a presidential contest in 2013—and mounting external pressure as Russia occupies Abkhazia and South Ossetia and seeks to destabilize Georgia. Against this background, Georgia must demonstrate its commitment to further its democracy, and the United States and Europe must redouble their efforts to support Georgia, including at the May 2012 Chicago NATO summit. The task force report, Georgia in the West: A Policy Road Map to Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic Future, lays out a series of recommendations to support those ends.
“We should embrace the vision of a united, democratic Georgia embedded in the institutions of a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace,” stated Senator Lindsey Graham, co-chair of the task force. “As Georgia deepens its reforms to consolidate free-market democracy, the West must provide a credible road map to Euro-Atlantic integration.”
“Georgia’s future will depend, first and foremost, on its determination to proceed with domestic reforms that build a strong and vibrant market economy and a pluralist democracy. By unequivocally embracing the vision of a Georgia that is integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community, the United States and Europe can be demanding when it comes to Georgia’s domestic performance, holding Georgia to the high expectations it sets for itself,” stated Senator Jeanne Shaheen, co-chair of the task force.
The report makes recommendations for policymakers in Washington and key European capitals to strengthen Georgia’s ongoing integration into NATO and the European Union (EU), by offering a clear vision and concrete intermediate benefits to reward Georgia’s progress. It offers recommendations for the Georgian government and all sectors of Georgian society to undertake important internal reforms that advance Georgian democracy and in turn secure Georgia’s place in the West. It also lays out strategies to counter Russia’s creeping annexation of the occupied territories and to solidify an international commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity over the long-term.
The report advocates that the United States, Europe, and Georgia take the following measures:
- Maintain democracy support at the core of US and European assistance: US and European assistance to Georgia should target electoral reform, support for civil society and free media, political party development, and parliamentary strengthening.
- Hold Russia accountable for its occupation and protect Georgia’s territorial integrity: The United States should institutionalize declared policy denying Abkhazia and South Ossetia recognition as independent states. US and European officials should hold Russia to account for its legal obligations, while pushing for the internationalization of ethnic Georgian-populated areas in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and propose a neutral international security presence in the occupied territories. The EU should push Russia to allow the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) to fulfill its mandate across the occupation line and invite US participation in the EUMM.
- Advance Georgia’s NATO aspirations: Transatlantic allies should agree that the NATO-Georgia Commission is Georgia’s path to membership and adopt a package of intensified cooperation at a first-ever NATO-Georgia summit in Chicago next May. NATO allies should respond to Georgia’s nonuse-of-force pledge by helping Georgia develop defense plans and purchase defensive arms.
- Support Georgia at the World Trade Organization (WTO): US and European officials should facilitate an agreement, which could include international customs monitors on Russia’s border with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, to allow Georgian support for Russia’s WTO membership.
- Deliver on the Eastern Partnership (EaP): The EU should reinforce its stated EaP policy of “more for more,” by proposing to Georgia a road map for visa-free travel, and opening negotiations with Georgia on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement this year.
- Strengthen democratic measures: The Georgian government and civil society should work together to undertake measures to empower the parliament, strengthen judicial independence, and ensure that the electoral reform process apportions electoral districts on the basis of one person, one vote. The government should deter interference in opposition financing and introduce direct mayoral elections nationwide.
- Facilitate investments and job creation: Georgia’s government should avail itself of international assistance, including the next Millennium Challenge Corporation compact, to strengthen its human resources and tackle unemployment and underemployment. It should make investments that reinforce its role as an energy-transit country, strengthen its investment climate by resolving tax disputes quickly, and facilitate commerce and people-to-people ties across the lines of occupation.
In the 1990s, most were skeptical that the Baltic countries would one day be members of NATO and the EU. Yet their performance, and clear US leadership, transformed the idea of their membership from a radical notion to a natural outcome. Clarity in Western policy provided the incentives for painful reforms, while neutralizing Russian objections. Today we can draw from these lessons.
To request an interview with the task force co-chairs, directors, or members, or to request a copy of the report, please contact [email protected].
For more information on the task force, and its activities, please visit /tags/georgia-task-force.