Lack of Transparency, Staff Reshuffles in the Army Concern NATO
|Defense Minister Okruashvili, State Minister
Baramidze, Foreign Minister Zourabichvili and
NATO Secretary General Scheffer at a news
conferense in Brussels. NATO photo
The Georgian Foreign, Defense and State Ministers traveled to Brussels on May 18 to review the implementation of Georgia’s Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) with the NATO member states. Georgia hopes IPAP will pave the way for Georgia’s accession to the NATO.
At a joint news conference held in Brussels on May 18, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the three Georgian Ministers spoke about the details of the progress achieved so far in implementation of the IPAP. The NATO Secretary General noted that “a lot of progress” has been made by the Georgian authorities, but there is still much to be done.
Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili said that NATO officials raised three concerns: the frequent staff reshuffles in the Defense Ministry and General Staff; military spending and acquisitions; and lack of strong civilian control over military institutions.
“It is a great pleasure to see three Georgian Ministers coming to NATO to discuss the way Georgia is implementing this so called Individual Partnership Action Plan,” the NATO Secretary General said at a joint news conference.
He said that Georgia shows “a real ambition for Euro-Atlantic integration.”
“We have seen that a lot of progress has been made in the framework of IPAP… Implementation of the course is not always easy. Progress has been made; a lot has to be done. But it is always important to have these regular discussions with our Georgian friends,” he added.
“Implementation of IPAP is what matters. But I am convinced in a commitment of our Georgian friends in doing this and NATO is ready wherever to assist and to help,” he added.
Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili said that this visit of these three Georgian Ministers to NATO Headquarters demonstrates “the importance we give to the implementation of our IPAP.”
“We are encouraged by the support we have received from all the [NATO] member states on this road of IPAP which we take very seriously. We know that it will take some more efforts and we are ready for that,” she added.
Defense Minister Okruashvili described the NATO discussions as “very interesting” and outlined those concerns which were expressed by the NATO officials over the implementation of IPAP.
“Some remarks were made [by NATO]. Mainly these [remarks] concerned frequent staff reshuffles in the Defense Ministry and the General Staff. Our response was that these staff changes were caused by certain [unspecified] reasons and no radical [staff] changes are not anticipated any more in the near future,” Okruashvili said.
He also said that concerns were also expressed regarding the military acquisitions which are currently underway. Okruashvili explained that NATO officials are cautious over these acquisitions because Georgia has not elaborated their defense planning system yet.
“And the third remark was concerning the issue of civilian control of military institutions,” Okruashvili said.
“We have accepted some of these remarks, but also disagreed with some of them. But we acknowledge that much is still to be done to fully implement IPAP commitments. But I want to say, and this is my personal opinion, by the end of this year we will witness huge progress in implementation of the IPAP,” Okruashvili said.
During the talks with NATO Secretary General, these top Georgian officials also discussed, as Jaap de Hoop Scheffer put it, “the general political situation” in Georgia - including Russian bases and the peaceful resolution of the conflicts in Georgia.
“It is crystal clear that NATO respects the territorial integrity of Georgia… We hope peaceful solutions can be found for the problems in South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” the NATO Secretary General said.
He also commented on the Russian military bases stationed in Georgia, saying “these bases should go” and added that this issue “is the matter of talks between Georgia and Russia.”