State Ministry for Reintegration renamed
By Ana Robakidze
Monday, January 6The State Ministry for Reintegration is now renamed the State Ministry for Reconciliation and Civic Equality. The name was officially changed January 1st 2014.
This is not the first time the name of the state ministry is changed. From the beginning the ministry was called the State Ministry for Conflict Resolution Issues. It was renamed the Ministry of Reintegration in 2008. The new name of the ministry caused protests among the representatives of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. They refused to negotiate with the state institution, which tries to “reintegrate” the breakaway regions with Georgia.
Renaming the state ministry was highly welcomed by the European Union. However, representatives of the break-away regions say it will not have a better impact on their relations with Georgia. In the official statement of the EU it is said that the “delegation welcomes from 1 January 2014 the office of State Minister, Paata Zakareishvili, will become the Ministry for Reconciliation and Civic Equality. The EU Delegation encourages the Georgian government as a whole to continue steps towards pragmatic engagement with Abkhazians and South Ossetians.” The EU expresses its gratitude to the efforts and commitment of the Office of the State Minister towards peace and reconciliation on all sides. The delegation promises to continue its own efforts to engage with the people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“The EU delegation notes the opinion of the Venice Commission, which welcomed the recent amendments to the ‘Law on the Occupied Territories’ but suggested further potential improvements to the law. The EU delegation urges the Georgian government to consider these recommendations.”
Unlike the EU, head of the de-facto Presidential Administration of South Ossetia, Boris Chochiev, South Ossetia had never been a part of Georgia. Therefore, it will never be “returned” to Georgia. In his interview with the Ossetian news agency RES, Chochiev said that Tbilisi can try to change its rhetoric, but Georgians will never see South Ossetia as a part of their country.
“For us it does not matter who is in power in Georgia, who is the president, minister, and moreover what is the official name of the state ministry. Georgia wants to occupy South Ossetian territories and either destroy or exile S. Ossetians from their homeland,” Chochiev said. He advises the State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality, Paata Zakareishvili, whom he considers to be a more realistic politician, to focus on recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and restore diplomatic relations between the two “independent” countries.
“Our only strategic interest and goal is to restore the Republic of South Ossetia, ruined by the vandalism and military aggression from the Georgian side.” Chochiev said.
In his latest interview with Russian BBC, State Minister Zakareishvili said that Tbilisi is simply going to stay close to the Abkhazian and Ossetian people. “Abkhazians and Ossetians do not have much choice, it is either Russia or Georgia, and they have to choose. However, we can offer them an alternative choice, which will not be between Russia and Georgia. Instead, they will have to choose between Russia and Europe. It is not the European Union that helps to promote the conflict resolution process. Instead, it is Georgia’s aspiration to join Europe,” Zakareishvili said. The state minister said conflict resolution is a long process and the government clearly acknowledges it. However, Georgia is now capable to offer break-away regions with a whole package of democratic institutions, including an independent judicial system, as well as the protection of human rights.
“Everything in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is Russian or in Russian at the moment: they have Russian language, culture, broadcasting and the Russian army as well. We can offer them not Georgian, but their own values. We have to give them freedom of choice- choice of the values that suit them the most,” the state minister told the BBC. He once gain confirmed that Georgia is ready to launch direct negotiations with the break-away regions and will not set any preconditions for it.