Georgia has sworn in a new president, Giorgi Margvelashvili, who has pledged to strengthen the former Soviet republic's ties with the West while maintaining its commitment to NATO.
The inaugration of 44-year-old Margvelashvili, a philosopher and former university rector, as president on Sunday marked the end of the decade-long presidency of Mikheil Saakashvili who put the country on the path toward integration with the European Union.
|Outgoing Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's legacy
Margvelashvili, who won last month's presidential election with 62 percent of the vote, expressed his commitment to democracy, EU integration and the strategic partnership with the US, in his inaugral address.
He said Georgians would continue to do their part in the international fight against terrorism, despite the losses sustained in Afghanistan, where Georgia is the largest non-NATO contributor of troops to the NATO-led mission.
The new president has little political experience and is seen as beholden to Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose coalition drove Saakashvili's party from power in last year's parliamentary election.
Weakened presidential role
Margvelashvili assumes a weakened role because constitutional changes that come into force with his inauguration, transfer a raft of key powers from the president to the prime minister.
The former president Saakashvili, who has been in Brussels for more than a week, refused to attend Sunday's inauguration, citing the criminal prosecution of several of his former ministers and members of his party.
But the prime minister said that Saakashvili may also face questioning over the 2008 war with Russia, which ended with Russian troops in full control of two breakaway Georgian republics. His opponents accuse him of needlessly antagonizing Russia and giving Moscow a pretext to invade.
However, he transformed the Caucasus nation by laying the foundation for a democratic state and brought the economy out of the shadows, resulting Georgia's GDP to quadruple during his terms in office.