US-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission Holds Productive Democracy and Governance Discussion in Tbilisi, Emphasizing Importance of Elections, Free

O00000027n June 21 in Tbilisi, US and Georgian officials held a Democracy and Governance Working Group meeting.  Falling under the framework of the US-Georgia Strategic Partnership Commission, the purpose of the annual strategic partnership meeting is to review and explore ways to further support democratic reforms and strengthen Georgia’s democratic institutions.  Commenting on this year’s meeting, Georgia’s First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Davit Zalkaliani told the media, “Both we and the American side want the next elections [in Georgia] to be exemplary, which will be another step forward in terms of our country’s democratic progress and Euro-Atlantic integration.  We discussed Georgia’s democratic reforms, including strengthening of democratic institutions, political pluralism, media freedom and independence of judiciary.  [Our] American colleagues noted we registered significant progress in this direction. They also had some recommendations for the next stage of reforms.”  When speaking to the media, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Bridget Brink stated,  “Our [the US] message was clear:  we support Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration aspirations.  As long-time friends of Georgia, we note the importance of a pre-electoral period that is free from violence and intimidation, and the government’s primary responsibility to ensure this outcome.”  Thomas Melia, Assistant Administrator of USAID for Europe and Eurasia, stated to the media,  “We are glad that Prime Minister Kvirikashvili called on state officials yesterday to avoid involvement in politics in the election period.”  He also said the meeting discussed the importance of the Central Election Commission establishing “an early warning system to uncover and avert incidents of violence and to work with the law enforcement to make sure that the campaign season, rallies and meetings remain peaceful.”  Bridget Brink also noted continuing [US] concerns with the Rustavi 2 case, underscoring that “Georgians’ Euro-Atlantic trajectory depends on maintaining a diversity of viewpoints in the media.”