09TBILISI91, CODEL SCHWARTZ (HDAC) VISITS GEORGIA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI91 2009-01-20 04:55 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO1043
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSK RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHSI #0091/01 0200455
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 200455Z JAN 09 ZDK CITE NUMEROUS SVCS
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0788
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TBILISI 000091 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
H FOR CODEL SCHWARTZ, DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: CODEL SCHWARTZ (HDAC) VISITS GEORGIA 
 
REF: A) 08 TBILISI 0346 
 
TBILISI 00000091  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
1. (U) Summary and Comment: In support of its ongoing partnership 
with Georgia's Parliament on democratic and institutional reform 
(reftel), CODEL Schwartz and the House Democracy Assistance 
Commission (HDAC) visited the Republic of Georgia from December 
17-19, 2008.  CODEL Schwartz met with Parliamentary Speaker David 
Bakradze and multiple Parliamentary Committees, the Ministers of 
Foreign Affairs and Finance, and President Saakashvili.  Wide 
ranging meetings covered Georgia's security, economic recovery 
efforts, IDP situation, domestic political events, and European 
cooperation.  CODEL Schwartz also visited the town of Gori, a focal 
point of Russia's August invasion, where they were updated on events 
in the area by the governor and the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) 
field office commander.  The overarching theme of the visit was that 
Georgia's security needs to be assured and the GOG must continue to 
implement democratic and good governance reforms.  Pursuing further 
democratic and economic reforms will provide for continuing economic 
growth and enhanced security.  Georgian officials expressed thanks 
for USG assistance and hope for continued cooperation with HDAC. 
End Summary and Comment. 
 
HDAC RETURNS TO GEORGIA 
 
2. (U) The House Democracy Assistance Commission (HDAC) -- 
represented by HDAC Chair Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Rep. David 
Dreier (R-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), 
and Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) -- returned to Georgia on December 17, 
2008. (Note: HDAC's last visit took place in February 2008 (reftel) 
End note).  HDAC continues to help the Georgian Parliament become 
institutionally stronger and become a more independent branch of the 
Georgian Government.  In conjunction with the CODEL, two 
staff-to-staff meetings were held between Parliamentary and HDAC 
staffers.  Prior to meetings with Georgian officials, the Embassy 
Country Team and USAID Democracy and Governance office briefed the 
CODEL on current events.  During their visit, HDAC presented a new 
server and computer equipment to Parliament (worth 60,000 USD), to 
improve Parliament's computer network and information processing 
capabilities. 
 
PARLIAMENT'S INVESTIGATORY COMMISSION 
 
3. (SBU) CODEL Schwartz spent December 18 in Parliament meeting with 
individual members and committees.  Parliament's Ad-hoc Committee to 
Investigate the August Events, including Chairman Paata Davitaia, 
briefed the CODEL on the Committee's findings.  Davitaia explained 
that he and others had used Congress' 9/11 Commission as an example 
when formulating the Committee and its makeup.  They noted the 
committee questioned 22 senior Georgian Government officials, 
including President Saakashvili.  Davitaia focused on the 
committee's finding that the GOG needs to make institutional changes 
to create a more systematic approach for both dealing with the 
Russians and their role in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Davitaia, 
himself an opposition MP, explained how unprecedented such a 
committee was in the countries of the post-Soviet space.  The CODEL 
agreed and commended the committee for their professionalism and 
work. 
 
PARLIAMENT'S FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE 
 
4. (SBU) A smaller group which included Reps. Payne, Dreier, and 
Schiff met with the Foreign Affairs Committee.  The Georgian MPs 
explained that Georgia's success as a small, increasingly democratic 
state threatens Russia by demonstrating a viable alternative to its 
autocratic government.  They explained their goal of further 
integrating Georgia into the west, specifically into the EU and 
Qintegrating Georgia into the west, specifically into the EU and 
NATO.  The members acknowledged that further reforms are needed to 
achieve these goals, namely in the judicial system.  They explained 
their desire to use assistance money strategically for 
infrastructure projects, notably a southern route for vehicle 
traffic from Batumi to Tbilisi which would strengthen Georgian 
security and provide closer commercial links with Armenia. 
 
PARLIAMENT'S DEFENSE AND SECURITY COMMITTEE 
 
5. (SBU) Concurrently, Reps. Schwartz and Shuster met with the 
Defense and Security Committee, chaired by MP Givi Targamadze. 
Schwartz said the CODEL was in Georgia not just to ask questions, 
but to "work together and create a dialogue."  Both Representatives 
wanted to know how the Parliamentary Committee would use the 
information from the Investigative Committee to strengthen Georgia's 
defense and improve its security.  Targamadze replied that the 
Government does not have much time and must quickly address these 
issues.  He said that Georgia's strategic documents are being 
rewritten to account for the experiences of August, and that 
ineffective personnel had been dismissed from the Ministry of 
Defense, including  the Chief Officer of Def
ense (CHOD), and former 
Defense Minister Kezerashvili himself.  MP Akaki Minashvili (now the 
new Chairman of Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee) added that a 
 
TBILISI 00000091  002 OF 003 
 
 
"Trust Group" of five MPs exists, which has access to all MOD 
documents and information.  Targamadze said Georgia needs to develop 
its Officer Corps and purchase new equipment to assure Georgia's 
defense, but that both require funding.  Unless Georgia's security 
needs are met, he said that "it is impossible for Georgia's economy 
to develop." 
 
THE ANTI-CRISIS COUNCIL... 
 
6. (SBU) The CODEL next met with the Anti-Crisis Council (ACC).  The 
ACC was established in the aftermath of the August invasion.  The 
Council consists of MPs and several non-Parliamentary opposition 
figures.  Chaired by opposition MP Gia Tortladze, the Council 
briefed the CODEL on its recent initiatives, including increasing 
political programming and media freedom, an reforming the election 
code.  Tortladze said the opposition's overarching goal is to 
restore checks and balances in the government, as well as the rule 
of law. 
 
...AND THE OPPOSITION 
 
7. (SBU) CODEL Schwartz followed the ACC by meeting the larger 
Parliamentary opposition.  Leader of the Christian-Democratic 
Movement faction, Giorgi Targamadze (no relation to Givi), echoed 
Tortladze's goals.  Furthermore, he said the country needs stronger 
regional political parties, and not new elections.  Elections now, 
without substantial reform of the election code, would produce the 
same results.  Davitaia, also leader of the Powerful Georgia 
faction, noted that the opposition in Parliament is cooperating on 
multiple initiatives, and not just via the ACC (which includes 
majority members).  Davitaia said the opposition will soon introduce 
bills on tax breaks for IDPs, improving the criminal code, and 
restoring political party financing.  The opposition members agreed 
that they have much work remaining.  One example is Parliament's 
Chamber of Control (similar to the GAO), which they said must be 
made independent from executive branch influence.  Vice Speaker 
Levan Vepkhvadze concluded that Georgia is far from a perfect 
democracy, but it is not a classic authoritarian state.  Most of the 
opposition MPs agreed that they had joined Parliament to improve 
Georgian democracy constitutionally.  They are encouraged by the 
constructive engagement they have experienced in Parliament, and 
duly credited Speaker Bakradze for this engagement. 
 
SPEAKER BAKRADZE AND VICE SPEAKERS 
 
8. (SBU) Speaker Bakradze and five Vice Speakers met with the full 
CODEL.  Bakradze gave the group an overview of his assessment of the 
current situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia saying that Russia 
is trying to use its diplomatic levers to legitimize its recognition 
of both breakaway regions.  Bakradze stressed the importance of 
allowing access for international observers in the breakaway regions 
as the only way to reduce tension.  Bakradze expressed his desire to 
have more working level committee-to-committee parliamentary 
exchanges with HDAC.  The Speaker outlined his commitment to 
pursuing further democratic reforms and creating an inclusive 
political environment.  He praised the work of the Ad-hoc 
Investigatory Committee, noting that it has set a new democratic 
precedent that will be hard to change.  Bakradze told the group 
about plans to launch a new political channel (similar to C-SPAN) in 
Georgia in the near future.  . 
 
GORI: SECURITY SITUATION STILL TENSE 
 
9. (SBU) On December 19, the CODEL traveled to Gori, which lies 60km 
west of Tbilisi and just 15km south of South Ossetia.  Gori was 
bombed by Russian planes and missiles during the August invasion, 
and was invaded and temporarily held by Russian and South Ossetian 
Qand was invaded and temporarily held by Russian and South Ossetian 
forces.  The CODEL met with the commander of the field office of the 
European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM).  The commander said that 
the situation is mostly calm in his sector, although he detailed 
numerous shooting incidents and attacks over the previous two 
months.  He lamented that the EUMM still does not have access into 
South Ossetia, nor cooperation from South Ossetian or Russian 
military officials. 
 
10. (SBU) The CODEL then met Lado Vardzelashvili, Governor of Shida 
Kartli region and lead government official in recovery and IDP 
assistance efforts.  Vardzelashvili recounted the August invasion 
for the CODEL, and his efforts to evacuate the city and surrounding 
villages.  He regretted that the government was not fully prepared 
for the conflict, but was grateful that the Parliament's Ad-Hoc 
Investigatory Committee allowed the public to judge the government's 
actions for themselves.  Now, Vardzelashvili said improving the 
security situation is the number one problem facing his region and 
constituents.  Meanwhile, he continues to work on providing 
humanitarian assistance to IDPs.  After leaving Gori, the CODEL met 
with several English teachers, themselves IDPs from the recent war. 
The CODEL then visited one of the 5,000-plus homes the Government 
has built for the war's IDP families. 
 
TBILISI 00000091  003 OF 003 
 
 
 
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS 
 
11. (SBU) The CODEL met Foreign Minister Vashadze on December 19. 
Vashadze hailed the Ad-hoc Investigatory Committee as a watershed 
moment and that the MFA was looking to implement some of its 
recommendations, namely having better coordination between Georgian 
embassies abroad to be able to present more cohesive diplomatic 
responses in times of crisis.  Vashadze warned that Russia would 
block any attempts for monitoring missions to enter Abkhazia and 
South Ossetia in the near future.  Vashadze opined that Russia's 
position was ultimately untenable as it needs western capital, 
expertise, and its own wave of democratic reforms if it wants to 
secure its own economic prosperity. 
 
MINISTRY OF FINANCE 
 
12. (SBU) First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Nick 
Gilauri gave the CODEL an overview of the economic situation in 
Georgia before and after the conflict.  Gilauri stressed that the 
GOG's priority is to ensure the care of the most vulnerable section 
of its population.  As such, he detailed the GOG's plan to increase 
social spending and dramatically decrease defense spending.  He 
indicated his desire to move forward on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) 
with the United States, which resulted in a lively discussion on all 
sides about the possibility of such an accord.  Concluding the 
meeting, all sides agreed to continue discussions on a Georgia-U.S. 
FTA. 
 
PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI 
 
13. (SBU) In their final meeting, CODEL Schwartz met with President 
Saakashvili over dinner.  The discussion focused on the economy, 
democratic reforms, parliamentary development, and the August 
conflict.  Saa
kashvili stressed that, while Georgia has not faced a 
banking collapse like some of its neighbors, the economic situation 
is difficult.  Congressman Dreier mentioned his interest in 
advocating for an FTA.  Saakashvili thanked him, and stressed the 
importance of such an agreement for the Georgian economy, as well as 
for the message it would send to the larger region.  Saakashvili 
noted that he is moving ahead on democratic reforms, which is 
something the Russians can't understand or counter.  The CODEL 
congratulated him on the recent investigatory commission as 
unprecedented in the FSU.  Regarding the opposition, Saakasvili 
pointed out that those who chose to take their seats in parliament 
are gaining in popularity, while those who refused their mandates 
have seen their poll numbers plummet.  Saakashvili shared his belief 
that only President Bush's speech in the Rose Garden stopped the 
Russian invasion.  He added that the Russians' current strategy is 
to keep Georgia off balance by creating instability in and around 
the separatist regions.  In a move that was pure Saakashvili, the 
president had the restaurant bring a television set to the table to 
illustrate to the CODEL that press freedom is alive and well in 
Georgia. 
 
14. (U) Representative Schwartz has cleared this cable. 
 
TEFFT

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