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Georgian Govít Withdraws Draft on Security and Intelligence Services Merger

By Tea Mariamidze
Wednesday, December 6
(TBILISI) -- Georgiaís State Security Service (SSG) and the Foreign Intelligence Service will not be merged after the government reversed its decision following further consultations with government officials.

Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze confirmed the move, adding that the government had withdrawn 12 of the original 112 projects put forward by the ruling Georgian Dream party as part of an initiative to radically overhaul the structure of key state agencies.

David Rakviashvili, Secretary of the National Security Council, which is a body subordinated to the Georgian president, welcomed the decision of the government after which the SSG and the Intelligence Service will no longer be united.

"From the very beginning we thought this was a very bad idea. Iím glad that this will not take place," Rakviashvili told journalists.

The issue of unification of SSG and the Intelligence Service was raised by Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili in mid-November when he announced that 18 ministries will be cut to 14 through mergers, closures and transfers to other departments.

Georgiaís opposition parties and Non-Governmental Organizations harshly criticized the governmentís plan to merge the SSG with Foreign Intelligence agencies, saying the changes would, in essence, revive the functions and structure of the feared Soviet-era KGB.

According to the proposed amendments to the State Security Service Law, employees of the SSG would be able to work in parallel with civilian state institutions and carry out surveillance of their co-workers and places of employment.

Critics of the move stressed that the amendments would give the SSG unchecked power over society. The countryís main opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM), said a merger of the two spy agencies would become a tool of the government to persecute political opponents both at home and abroad.

Security experts urged Georgia to follow the Western model where spy agencies are strictly separated from each other, with one handling domestic law enforcement activities and the other foreign intelligence and counter-intelligence missions.