InterviewRussie Caucase Ukraine

[Entretien] (archives 2009) Un entretien avec Irakli Alasania, un homme à suivre

(BRUXELLES2) C’est sans doute un des nouveaux hommes forts du régime géorgien. Ancien représentant permanent de son pays à l’ONU, Irakli Alasania, va occuper le poste de ministre de la Défense et vice-Premier ministre du gouvernement géorgien dirigé par le milliardaire Bidzina Ivanichvili qui a emporté les législatives le 1er octobre dernier.

En juin 2009, nous voulions organiser une interview (j”étais alors à Europolitique) avec un opposant politique. Avec une collègue et amie qui était à Tbilissi, Tamar Kikacheishvili, nous avions porté notre choix sur Alasania qui paraissait emblématique de la relève à venir. Nous voulions alors évoquer ses divergences avec le président géorgien (fortes), son analyse de la situation, les moyens de sortir du conflit avec la Russie et de régler les questions abkhazes et ossètes. Et bien entendu, les relations avec l’Europe, son intégration future, etc. On était tout proche de l’intervention russe dans ces deux régions, et l’atmosphère était encore tendue. (Nb: exceptionnellement l’article est en anglais)

Agé de 38 ans (il est né le 21 décembre 1973), Alasania a d’abord servi dans l’administration du président géorgien Saakashvili, au ministère de la Sécurité nationale et aux Affaires étrangères. Il a été ministre adjoint de la sécurité nationale (2002-2004), puis ministre adjoint de la Défense, avant d’être nommé chef du gouvernement de la région d’Abkhzazie en exil. Une région qu’il connaît personnellement, son père le général Mamia Alassania, fut tué en 1993 lors du conflit d’indépendance de l’Abkhazie. Après avoir été ambassadeur de son pays à l’ONU, Alasania est passé dans l’opposition à la tête du mouvement « Alliance pour la Géorgie ».

• You left the position of the permanent representative to UN, on December 2008. Why ?

Main difference, fundamental difference between my position and president’s position were when we initiate the direct talks with Abkhaz and when we initiate to work on the document of non resumption of the force and returning IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons], Georgian president lacked political courage to support this document. If this document had been signed in May 2008, I believe that there would be less chances from Russian Federation side to provoke Georgia and to engage Georgia in the war. So I believe that this was main difference I’d say my main criticism was on this issue. On the other side of course there were other issues related to the democracy, related to the media freedom. I felt that the country was going with the wrong direction and that’s why I made the decision to leave my position.

• You were the advisor of the president of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili on Abkhazian conflict resolution issues. How did you see the ways of resolution Abkhazian and South Ossetian conflicts?

I think, I do believe that the approach that we wanted to implement toward the Abkhaz to get the peace settlement was the right one in terms of getting the direct dialogue with the Abkhaz side facilitated. This was one of the I think main issue for Georgian and Abkhaz for really getting in direct touch without any interfering from Russian Federation or even international community and to built the relationship I’d say to rebuilt the relationship between the societies.

This was one of the major goals that we were setting for that time and at the same time we were trying to use international community, European Union, and their donorship to help facilitate and implement the processes in economics, cultural and other relations which would also help the Georgian and Abkhaz societies to get closer and only after that we’d begin the status related issues.

Unfortunately Georgian president was not really supporting approach this goal and I think that increased military forces, then and then escalation actually damaged the possibility of regaining the trust between two sides in the Georgian Abkhaz conflict.

At the same time we can’t ignore that Russian Federation was doing all possible initiates to provoke Georgian or  Abkhaz side to confront each other. We all remember the provocations in Kodori Gorge and other places where we almost got very close to armed confrontation between our soldiers.

In that regard I think that the agreement that was trying to be prepared and signed about none use of armed forces and returning IDPs would have to been the crucial document to avoid the confrontation. Unfortunately there was no political will from a both sides at that time to sign this agreement and this opportunity was missed.

• How can be solved now the conflicts after August 2008 ?

We all remember this tragic war when Russian federation attacked Georgia and occupied our land [August 2008], since then of course the resolution of this conflict is much more difficult but I do believe that there is a chance in future to start rebuilding again the relationship with the Abkhaz and Ossetian population.

First no matter Russian Federation will be to legalize it’s own presence in country in our country, it’s not gonna happen as the recognition policy would be sustained from the international community. On the other hand what’s happening now in Abkhazia isn’t really in interests of Abkhaz nation. Increase military presence of Russian federation, increase dependence on the decisions of Moscow.

I’d like to say if we are successful in our efforts to integrate into European structures, European security structures, if we have real democratic institutions. And we’ll have support from the European Union as a really one of the democratic states in this region, I think Abkhaz and Ossetian people will think weather they want to be part of Europe with Georgia or weather they want to stay under the pressure of Russian military presence.  All of these in coming years I think will prove and give us the opportunity to start settlement of this conflict to the  peaceful needs.

• And the relations with Russia ?

Russian federation stays a factor and I really think that we need to do the everything possible to make a relationship with Russia more workable more operational and of course we cannot start talking about the political relationship when our country is still occupied by Russian Federation forces. We have to come on some kind of solution with international actors like EU or other structures to start finding the commonalities in Georgian and Russian Federation’s policies. One thing is clear that the future and stability in the Caucasus can’t be achieved, long-term stability without talking to each other. So I believe that in future there will be the opportunities to restart the relationship but again the main issue and concern of this relationship will be de-occupation of Georgia from the Russian Federation Forces.

• You’ve mentioned also that Georgia doesn’t have the economics strategy, how is Georgia now with the economics crisis?

The same way, unfortunately we never had any tangible and concrete projects on the Georgian government’s side to help economy, to help investor confidence because direct foreign investors is dropping and is very low. This is not because of the protest on April 9. Of course there is an issue of global economics crisis that also contributed in this, but mainly I think that the environment,  the economics environment, financial environment that is existing in the country doesn’t give the real chance for the foreign investors to feel secure and protected. Here is a lack of the transparency, there is no independent judiciary system that would protect their rights. Property rights are ignored, the tax policies actually conduct themselves in legal limits. So all of these are contributing to worsening the economics situation in Georgia and the government doesn’t have the real strategy.


• According to you, the democracy level is not perfect in Georgia?

Yes. Unfortunately Georgia was on 129 as I remember in the media freedom scale. It already shows the democracy level in this country. Also should be mentioned how are treated the people participated in the protest rallies after 9 April and how the un-uniformed masked people are insulting the population in the streets. This all shows that we are far from being democracy but at the same time we can say that the process that is developing in Georgia at this point, the opposition that is trying to mobilize and consolidate the society to make the change in government with the peaceful and constitutional way. I think it’s helping to understand the world and international community that the things are changing here in Georgia.

• What should be done to achieve the democracy in Georgia?

I do strongly believe that Georgia after this crisis will be more stronger and more solid path to the democratization. We need to build institutions together, jointly and there should be not only free media but also the independent court system, independent judiciary and we gonna have the elections that will really elect those political forces who have trust of Georgian population at least majority of Georgian population. But also should be mentioned that we are in transition. We have to understand that there were lots of things that started really rightly after the Rose Revolution. I think that international community really stands ready to be helpful on that. So we need to work. We need to work hard together with the society, we need really unity at this point.

• Is NATO accession still purpose of Georgian policy?

It’s a priority and it’s actually will of Georgian people. They demonstrated this will in the plebiscite year and half ago. But at the same time exactly the August reality brought us way back to this process but nevertheless this priority still remains nevertheless the international processes are still working. Since then we have created the Georgia NATO Commission and this commission helps Georgia and Georgian security structures to be more fitted and compatible to NATO standards.

• Does Georgia plan to get closer to accession in the European Union?

Sure, the affords should be more focused on integration Georgia into the European structures into the EU structures. The partnership that was signed not long ago is one of the steps getting closer to EU. Of course the neighborhood policy which is working between us and EU is exactly I’d say the good factor for Georgia to integrate in EU.

I can say that Georgian government is doing much less that it can, to help the integration process to be more structured. Georgian government is not focused on real issues. Their aspiration of integration which we hear all the time from PR and the media side doesn’t have concrete steps undertaking to this aspiration. The main priority should be implementing those agreements and the standards of the European Neighborhood policy.

I hope that when this political crisis that we are now will be somehow resolved in the nearest future. We’ll continue building jointly our country because our future is to build the liberal western democracy in this country. I think that this won’t take long.

(propos recueillis par Tamar Kikacheishvili à Tbilissi, juin 2009)

Nicolas Gros-Verheyde

Rédacteur en chef du site B2. Diplômé en droit européen de l'université Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne et auditeur 65e session IHEDN (Institut des hautes études de la défense nationale. Journaliste depuis 1989, fonde B2 - Bruxelles2 en 2008. Correspondant UE/OTAN à Bruxelles pour Sud-Ouest (auparavant Ouest-France et France-Soir).