The Messenger recorded an exclusive interview with former Defense Minister, current leader of the opposition Free Democrats Irakli Alasania, who made grave accusations towards former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili and told us about his party plans for the 2016 parliamentary elections. He also responded to our questions concerning the notorious Cable-Case, when several employees of the Defense Ministry under his leadership were detained for embezzlement of budget funds. Alasania is sure that the case is practically won by the defense side and stresses that he will set the issue of responsibility of the Prosecutorís Office leadership when his former employees are found not guilty.
Alasania: I was telling Gharibashvili to be more principled
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, June 15
When your employees were detained you said that Georgiaís European choice was at risk. Do you think the same now?
Yes, I have not changed my mind. The activities of the Prosecutorís Office, developments with regards to the purchase of defence weapons, the delay in the visa liberation scheme and similar facts make me think that our Western course is at risk, I have never stated that we deviated from the course. The illegal running of the country by Bidzina Ivanishvili is also one of the most essential factors that distances us from Europe. The current government members, specifically the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, claim that our course is unchanged and we are striving to the EU and NATO. However, processes are delayed in terms of visa liberation and the purchase of defence weapons. The new Defence Minister promised me that she will sign an agreement with the French side regarding the weapons, but here is the question whether it will be the agreement of the same scale that I achieved or not.
The Ambassador of France to Georgia stated that you achieved no official agreement with the French side over the purchase of the defence weapons. How would you explain his statement?
When it comes to international documents, firstly a memorandum is signed that is followed by an official agreement. When I was the Defence Minister, we signed the memorandum with the French side that should have been followed by the agreement. Thus the ambassador is right when he says that no official, obligatory document was signed. However, we signed the memorandum that was the precondition of the official document.
Do you detect any similarities among the Cable-case, when your staff members were arrested, and the case of the Ministry of Agriculture, when several employees were arrested and then freed as they were found not guilty? However, then Minister of Agriculture Davit Kirvalidze quit his post.
The Ministry of Agriculture case took place when Ivanishvili was Prime Minister. The two cases have the same actors.
Some analysts state that the main aim of the two cases was the dismissal of Kirvalizde and you. Do you share the view?
Yes, the cases were targeted personally against us, but there were different individuals who ordered the attack. In my case it was Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Why should he have done it?
There were several reasons. One of the reasons was that I stated that I wanted to strengthen my own party, the Free Democrats. I did not intend to quit the coalition, but he saw an opponent in my party. The second reason was that I practically finalized the talks on the purchase of the defence weapons with the French side. He was also irritated by intense positive moves to the NATO and the substantial package obtained at the Wales Summit.
You say that Ivanishvili is against the NATO-Georgian partnership?
He is against of fast integration of Georgia to the NATO.
He has his own calculations. He thinks that it will worsen relations with Russia. Ivanishvili has always been against of strengthening our defense capacities.
How do you believe, why he was against of providing defense capacities?
You should ask him about it. I believe that he had negotiations with Russia and the coalition members did not know about it. He still continues the talks and gets instructions from that country.
You state that Ivanishvili negotiates with Russia and runs the country from the backstage. Why did not you speak it out when you were in the government?
I spoke about it and very often. I directly told Gharibashvili to show more principled behaviour. Why should I have spoken about the problems outside when I had an opportunity to discuss and touch problems inside the team, when I had such a chance?
What was your opinion, what kind of relations and policy should we have with Russia?
We should avoid escalating tensions with Russia. However, the policy should be pragmatic. We must decide ourselves with whom to cooperate, where to participate and such issues should not be the talking topics with Russia. That is why I had a very strong, negative position when the deploying of the NATO training centre was discussed in the frame of the Abashidze-Karasin format.
You always state that Georgia will become the NATO member state. How is it possible when we have occupied regions?
When West Germany became the NATO member state the East Germanys was occupied. Thus, such a precedent exists. Much is dependent on cooperation, collaboration and well-planned talks.
Do you see the current Minister of Defense capable enough to cope with the task?
She has never worked in this field. Time will show. I wish her success.
You are in the opposition now. Do you exclude joining with the former UNM members, with the former members of the party you defeated within the Georgian Dream coalition in 2012?
Do you exclude that one of them might become a journalist? We should not exclude such things. However, we do not plan this; we do not even discuss it.
Your party has a quite low ratingÖ What do you plan for the 2016 elections?
We have big plans. We are the third party now through the NDI polls and according to the surveys our supporters are increasing. We are reinforcing our party, we are campaigning in the regions and we plan to take part in the elections alone and win.
What would you tell to our readers?
Continue supporting our country as we have a big potential to become a leader in the region, fasten giving visa liberalization to us for the people to feel the benefits of the EU.
There are some politicians and analysts who say that the visa liberalization might cause mass outflow of people from Georgia. Whatís your opinion?
There might be outflow from the beginning but in the end everything will be absolutely controlled, there is an example of the Baltic States for that. There are some rules and time frames that should be met, and the individuals will have to take them into account. Finally, it will have only a positive effect.