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Ivanishvili says Georgia will focus on integration into EU, NATO

13 November 2012 20:57 (UTC+04:00)
Ivanishvili says Georgia will focus on integration into EU, NATO

By Sabina Idayatova

Georgia's new Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili who started his three-day first official visit to Brussels on Monday said Tbilisi would focus in its foreign policy course on integration into the European Union and NATO.

"The priority for the Georgian government is European integration, and integration into NATO, the Euro-Atlantic space. We will do everything to speed up this process," Ivanishvili said after a meeting in Brussels with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

The Georgia-EU Association Agreement, establishing a free trade regime, as well as facilitating the visa regime for Georgian citizens traveling to the EU, topped the agenda of the discussions.

The head of the European Commission, for his part, confirmed that the EU is committed to closer ties with Georgia. "This is the goal, which the European Union and Georgia want to achieve together," Barroso said.

"We analyzed the dynamics and defined goals to develop our relations soon," Ivanishvili said, noting that Georgia will do everything possible to fulfill the goals and requirements of the European Union's Eastern Partnership program action plan before the 2013 summit.

The Eastern Partnership is a Polish-Swedish initiative under the European Neighborhood Policy aimed at improving EU relations with six former Soviet countries -- Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine and Armenia. The program envisages the allocation of 600 million euros to these countries until 2013 to strengthen state institutions, control borders and help small companies. The Eastern Partnership does not provide opportunities for EU membership, but involves political and economic rapprochement with this regional organization, including visa facilitation and cooperation in the energy sector. The founding summit of the Eastern Partnership was held on May 7, 2009 in Prague.

During the meeting Ivanishvili also touched upon normalization of Russian-Georgian relations, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.

"We hope that Russia will take adequate measures to prevent escalation of the situation...The current situation is unfavorable for both countries. We will do whatever is necessary to deepen and improve our historical relations," Ivanishvili said.

The appointment of political scientist and diplomat Zurab Abashidze as the Georgian prime minister's special representative on settling the relations with Moscow was appreciated by Barroso.

The European Commission head pointed out the importance of good relations with Russia for EC partner countries, and at the same time reaffirmed support to the independence and territorial integrity of Georgia.

"There should be no selective justice in Georgia, because it may harm the image of the country," Barroso said at a press conference after his meeting with Ivanishvili.

He appealed to all the players of the Georgian politics to work to maintain a constructive and responsible environment and said this was in the interests of Georgia and all Georgians.

According to Barroso, the elections in Georgia were successful, but democracy does not end on election day.

Ivanishvili's opposition coalition Georgian Dream won the October 1 parliamentary election, after which a new cabinet was formed. Ivanishvili has vowed to maintain incumbent President Mikheil Saakashvili's pro-Western foreign policy and continue the ex-Soviet state's bid to join NATO and ultimately the European Union.

"The development of the democratic process and respect for the rule of law are its principles. Democracy is a rule of the majority, and at the same time, democracy means respect for minorities. Democracy is beyond elections. It is a culture of political relations in a democratic environment," Barroso said.

Ivanishvili also met with President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy on Monday as part of his visit to Brussels.

Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze and State Minister for European Integration Alexi Petriashvili attended the meeting.

The sides discussed issues related to the European integration of Georgia.

After the meeting, Ivanishvili and Van Rompuy made ​​a statement for the press.

Ivanishvili noted that Georgia's foreign policy will not change.

Meanwhile, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili attended the 58th annual session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly held in Prague on Monday.

At the NATO assembly, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressed concern over the politicization of judicial processes in Georgia.

Ivanishvili, in his interview to Channel 9 in Brussels, suggested that NATO send a working group to review the actual state of affairs in the army.

Ivanishvili said he will raise this issue, as well as the situation around the former chief of the Georgian Joint Staff of the Armed Forces Giorgi Kalandadze in a meeting with the NATO secretary general on Wednesday.

He said that what he believed to be selective justice in Georgia will not exist as before. "Everything will be done in compliance with the law, as never before," Ivanishvili noted.

Ivanishvili strongly criticized the detention of the Georgian armed forces chief of staff by the Prosecutor's Office, saying it was outrageous. He believes it is a reflection of what was the reality in Georgia.

Former chief of staff Giorgi Kalandadze, as well as former Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia and a former military commander, Zurab Shamatava, are charged with abuse of soldiers. A jail setence of five to eight years could be handed down.

Akhalaia was also charged with illegal suppression of freedoms, which envisions up to twelve years imprisonment.

All three detainees deny the charges.

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