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New Ministers start work

By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, December 11
Integration with European institutions, securing peace in the country and the development of the armed forces are the main goals which were set for the new Cabinet by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on December 10.

Saakashvili opened the session of the reshuffled Government and announced that the recent changes of Ministers were needed to add “new blood.” He said the new Government would be more equipped to fight the global economic crisis and create new jobs in Georgia. The President noted that he has set certain criteria for how the Government should do its work, these being “coordinated work, in-depth knowledge of the issues and constant interaction with people and society.”

“Significant challenges are ahead of us, but we are sure that operating under these criteria, we will fulfill these new tasks in an appropriate way. New Cabinet appointments mean that we should get closer to European institutions and to Europe; secure peace in our country and carry out the construction and reformation of our armed forces in the right way,” Saakashvili said.

Earlier on December 10 Georgian Prime Minister Grigol Mgaloblishvili presented the new Ministers to their Ministries. Presenting Grigol Vashadze as Georgia’s new Foreign Minister, Mgaloblishvili thanked ex-Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili for her hard work during the “difficult period.” He noted that during and after the August war Georgian diplomats often had to conduct “impossible tasks to give the truth to the world.” Tkeshelashvili stated that she already has several prospects for future work, but she hasn’t specified her preferred option yet. New Minister Grigol Vashadze appealed to his staff to be ready for “24 hour work” because “the war is not over” yet. It was also announced on December 10 that Giga Bokeria, an old and influential figure in President Saakashvili’s administration, will remain as Deputy Foreign Minister.

The Ministry of Economics also met its new head on the same day. Lasha Zhvania stated that the priorities of the country’s economy will remain unchanged – the creation of new jobs and the attraction of new investments. “The creation of new jobs is the prevention of the danger of an economic stagnation caused by the international crisis,” he said. Davit Sikharulidze, Georgia’s newly-appointed Defence Minister, promised to continue reforms in this sphere to raise the quality of military defence and correspond with NATO standards. Speaking to journalists after the Cabinet’s first session he said that he is not going to make “fundamental” changes in the Defence Ministry.

Another presentation was held in the Ministry of Culture, where Prime Minister Mgaloblishvili presented Nika Rurua as the new Minister, replacing Grigol Vashadze. “Georgian culture is a treasure we can share with the world to show that Georgia is not a country that needs only help and financial support but has a lot more to present,” stated Mgaloblishvili. Nika Rurua promised to conduct the “export of Georgian culture abroad.”

The position of Secretary of the National Security Council (NSC) is still to be filled. Prime Minister Mgaloblishvili said that it had already been decided that the Acting Secretary of NSC, Alexandre Lomaia, would continue his tenure in diplomatic service as an Ambassador. However it has not been decided where. The UN or the United States are the most likely destinations, according to Georgian media reports. Georgia’s UN envoy, Irakli Alasania, has resigned and the Ambassador to the United States, Davit Sikharulidze, has been appointed the new Defence Minister.

The new Government appointments have aroused different reactions in political circles. While representatives of the majority party talk about the professionalism of the new Ministers, the opposition strongly criticizes the appointments. Leader of opposition movement For Fair Georgia Zurab Nogaideli describes the new appointments as “hysterical” and “inadequate,” and as showing that the current Government is in “agony.”

Georgian political expert Ramaz Sakvarelidze criticised the new Cabinet changes and added that Government crises continue in Georgia.