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PM Unveils Priorities amid Opposition Criticism
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 21 Dec.'17 / 18:45

Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, whose new cabinet composition is to face the parliamentary vote of confidence today, presented the Government’s priorities to the parliamentary majority and three opposition factions on December 20.

Prime Minister Kvirikashvili, whose meetings with the political groups followed ministerial appearances at thematic committee hearings, spoke on the Government’s four-point reform plan in his presentations, focusing on his education, infrastructure development, economic and governance reform plans.

On promoting good governance, the Prime Minister mentioned the Business House idea, a one-stop-shop for private enterprises, modeled after the already existing Public Service Halls, where citizens can get multiple public services from various state agencies.

He also announced the Government’s in intention to carry on with the self-governance reform, saying the central government would delegate more powers and increase budgetary funding to local bodies. “It is our strategic line,” Kvirikashvili said.

Prime Minister spoke on the Russian occupation as well, calling it “one of the country’s major challenges,” and adding that the Government had “a very bold package” on reintegration, that would be presented to the Parliament in coming days.

On defense, Kvirikashvili said the ongoing reforms at the Ministry of Defense, including the pending introduction of the new reserve system, would “engage the population in defending the country.”

Speaking on the country’s EU integration, PM Kvirikashvili said the Government’s new EU integration roadmap initiative was “an important and ambitious plan.” “The ambitions of this plan go far beyond our association agenda and imply more approximation and integration,” Kvirikashvili said, adding that, “together with partners,” the country would “manage to implement this plan successfully and prepare for the moment, when the window of opportunity opens for Georgia.”

Kvirikashvili emphasized the country’s transit potential as well, stressing the importance of the Anaklia Deep-Sea Port project and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway projects.

Q&A with Parliamentary Opposition

Opposition lawmakers criticized the Prime Minister over a range of issues, including on economy, poverty, currency depreciation, corruption and crime rates.

The European Georgia lawmakers also slammed the Government over the case of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, who went missing from Tbilisi on May 29 and appeared in a detention facility in Baku a day later. “This is a very difficult issue and we acknowledge that it was a very serious failure,” PM Kvirikashvili told the European Georgia MPs. “It should not have happened, but the final truth has yet to be established,” he added.

Kvirikashvili also noted that the government’s reaction to the case was “adequate” that, in his words, resulted in the dismissal of the heads of the Counter Intelligence Service and the Border Police. He, however, stressed that their guilt “has not been proved yet,” and that they “assumed political responsibility for the case.”

European Georgia MPs also criticized PM Kvirikashvili on Ahmed Chataev, a terrorist killed during the November 21-22 anti-terrorist operation in Tbilisi, laying responsibility on the Government for releasing him from jail in 2012, and for failing to prevent his infiltration into Georgia.

The Prime Minister said in response that the State Security Service “deserved to be thanked” for avoiding civilian casualties during the operation, and added that Chataev was released due to the lack of evidence against him. “Under the United National Movement’s rule, there was not enough evidence compiled to have kept this person in prison,” Kvirikashvili said.

Lawmakers from all the three opposition groups spoke on the country’s relations with the Russian Federation, with European Georgia MPs criticizing the Government for its soft stance on Russia, and with UNM representatives slamming the Government for the recently-signed contract on Georgia-Russia trade monitoring. The Alliance of Patriots, on their part, criticized the Government for failing to “launch dialogue” with Moscow, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali.

Kvirikashvili’s Q&A with the United National Movement’s parliamentary faction ended with a verbal confrontation between the Prime Minister and UNM MP Nika Melia.

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