EU delegation has welcomed planned renaming of the Georgian State Ministry for Reintegration into the State Ministry for Reconciliation and Civic Equality starting from January and called on the authorities to “continue steps towards pragmatic engagement with Abkhazians and South Ossetians.”
EU delegation in Tbilisi released a statement on December 20 in agreement with the heads of missions of EU-member states in Georgia.
“The EU Delegation acknowledges the efforts, pragmatism and commitment of the Office of the State Minister and all those working towards peace and reconciliation on all sides, and wishes them courage and vigour for the new year,” it reads.
Paata Zakareishvili, the state minister whose portfolio includes issues related with the breakaway regions and integration process of ethnic and religious minorities, said on November 29 that change of the name will ease direct contacts with de facto authorities in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
In January 2008, when the State Ministry for Conflict Resolution Issues was renamed as the State Ministry for Reintegration, the new name angered both Sokhumi and Tskhinvali. At the time officials from both breakaway regions even warned that they would not have engaged in talks with Georgian state minister in charge of “reintegration.” In July, 2008 then President Saakashvili gave status of his special envoy for conflict resolution issues to then state minister for reintegration Temur Yakobashvili.
In its statement the EU delegation also noted opinion of the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs, Venice Commission, which welcomes proposed amendments to the law on occupied territories; in its recommendation earlier this month the Venice Commission also suggested that further potential improvements to the law. The EU delegation called on the Georgian government to consider these recommendations.
Amendments in question involves package of bills on partial decriminalization of and easing sanctions for illegal entry to breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This bill, which is strongly opposed by the UNM parliamentary minority group, was passed with its first reading in May, 2013, but after that the Parliament suspended its discussion with its second and final third readings.
The EU delegation reiterated in its statement that EU ambassadors “will continue their own efforts to engage with the people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”
“The EU Delegation recognises that direct contact between those affected by the conflict can make an important contribution to reconciliation,” reads the statement.