Mr. MEEKS. Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in favor of H. Res. 526.
The House consideration of H. Res. 526 this week coincides with the final weeks of preparation for the October 1st Parliamentary elections in Georgia. The international community is watching the election closely, and I would like to commend the Georgian government for facilitating both long and short term international election observers to ensure that both the pre-election environment and the election itself is conducted in accordance with international standards.
It is critical that all political parties in Georgia participate constructively in the election process, and that campaign and election laws are followed and applied fairly and transparently. I call on all political forces to accept the election results as legitimate, if deemed so by credible, international election observers.
I believe more must be done to ensure that smaller political parties have access to the main televised media platforms of both the ruling party and opposition. The `must offer, must carry' provisions passed by the Georgian Parliament are a step in the right direction, and I urge the Parliament to consider making these provisions permanent.
I would like to commend the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and the OSCE for their work with both the Georgian government and opposition to ensure that peaceful, credible elections take place. It is crucial that the Georgian electorate and the international community has confidence in this process, in order for Georgia to continue on its path towards democratic and economic reforms, and continued Euro-Atlantic integration.
Georgia remains a critical ally, and one of the strongest pro-western countries which has proven itself immensely capable in Afghanistan and other conflict zones, currently as the largest non-NATO troop contributing nation to ISAF.
NATO allies agreed at the recent summit in Chicago to enhance Georgia's connectivity with the Alliance. Georgia's ability to build on reforms made to date to foster greater political competition, labor rights and judicial independence will be an opportunity for Georgia to prove itself when measured by international standards. Georgia's NATO aspirations will be facilitated by the ability to meet those standards and conduct free, fair and inclusive elections in 2012 and 2013.
I commend the Georgian government's progress on transparency and the fight against corruption, as well as political, economic and judicial reforms, and encourage Georgia to continue this modernization process regardless of the election results.
I encourage my colleagues to support H. Res. 526 in order to strengthen U.S. engagement with the Republic of Georgia by helping Georgia to enhance its security and restore its territorial integrity through peaceful means, and supporting the Government of Georgia's commitment to a policy of peaceful and constructive engagement with the authorities in control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.