Three Georgian pro-Western ministers left the government by claiming that Georgia’s European aspirations are under threat. Minister of Foreign Affairs Maia Panjikidze together with her deputies and the State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Aleksi Petriashvili quit after Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili fired his defense minister Irakli Alasania on Tuesday. Garibashvili negatively assessed this act of solidarity and urged everyone to avoid political speculations about Georgia’s European Way.
Irakli Alasania’s dismissal has long been discussed behind the scenes. In January 2013, he was fired from the post of Vice Prime Minister by Bidzina Ivanishvili, former Prime Minister who came into power in 2012 with the ruling coalition “Bidzina Ivanishvili – Georgian Dream”. Ivanishvili justified his decision by the fact that Alasania acted irresponsibly and spread voices about his candidate for the Presidential election. At that time Alasania apologized and continued his work as a minister, which saw a growing political rating.
In July 2014, Irakli Garibashvili replaced seven ministers in Georgian government reshuffle, the ministers for agriculture, prisons, refugees, environment, infrastructure, culture and diaspora. It became evident that Garibashvili did not trust former ministers and tried to replace them with his trusted ones. Garibashvili said that after Alasania criticized the arrests of several officials in his ministry as politically motivated, he did not have any option other than to fire him.
Soon after he sacked Alasania, Prime Minister of Georgia presented new minister of Defense Mindia Janelidze, who is a former assistant of Garibashvili for security affairs. Several candidates are being discussed on the position of foreign minister and the minister of integration with Europe.
On Wednesday, the Ambassador of Georgia to NATO, Levan Dolidze also quit on his position. But political analysts in Georgia do not see current changes as a threat to Georgia’s European integration. They claim that Georgia’s European aspirations are the will of Georgian people and it does not depend on any individual.
Both Irakli Gharibashvili and the President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili tried to explain to the public on Wednesday, that Georgia continues on its European way and no one can change this course. Garibashvili added that Alasania’s statements were politically motivated and his colleagues made choice on behalf of individual.
Current political crisis risks destabilising Georgia at a crucial time, when the European Parliament is proceeding with the ratification of the Association Agreement between Georgia and the EU.
The European People’s Party (EPP) published a statement on November 5 about its concern over the recent developments in Georgia regarding the departure from the government of all pro-European Ministers and politically motivated arrests. The EPP calls on the Georgian authorities to avoid any form of political prosecution and to respect the values contained in the Association Agreement recently signed with the European Union (EU).
According to the statement, the dismissal of the Minister of Defence, Irakli Alasania, and the subsequent resignation of almost all the leaders in charge of Georgian foreign policy, followed by their statements accusing the government of abandoning the policy of Euro-Atlantic integration, are also reasons for concern.
All of this is also aggravated by the statement of the President of Georgia underlining that the country is governed outside of any form of institutional framework by a person who has no official function.
EPP Vice President Jacek Saryusz-Wolski claimed that “the policy of association with the European Union is based on a respect for European principles, democracy and the rule of law.”
“We urge the Georgian authorities to refrain from any form of political prosecution. Moreover, we denounce once again the systematic use of selective justice and pre-trial detentions against opposition leaders and express the hope that all pro-democracy parties in Georgia can work together to preserve the European and Euro-Atlantic path of the country,” the EPP Vice President concluded.
Richard Norland, US ambassador to Tbilisi, said on Wednesday there was “legitimate concern that the judicial system is being used in a politicised way, or for political purposes”.
“At a time of regional turmoil and domestic economic challenge, what Georgia needs the most is stability, unity, demonstrated commitment to due process and the rule of law, and public confidence in democratic institutions,” he added.