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President Zurabishvili Delivers Annual Parliamentary Address

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Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili delivered her second annual state of the nation address in the Parliament chamber in Tbilisi on March 4.

President Zurabishvili opened her 34-minute speech by focusing on the main challenges that Georgia faces today, including the recent spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), “which has already moved beyond the health sector and is already measured by its economic and financial impact.”

Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia and government members were present in the legislature along with Tbilisi Mayor and Head of Tbilisi City Council, officials from the Autonomous Republics of Abkhazia (in exile) and Adjara, as well as members of the Georgian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod and foreign diplomats. However, the opposition lawmakers remain on boycott.

Russian occupation

In her today’s address, the Georgian President spoke of the Russian occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, as one of the “very serious” challenges for the country.

She said, Russian occupation violates human rights on both sides of the dividing line on a daily basis. President Zurabishvili further added that “the  policy of Russia, which as in the past fails to accept our independence and prevents the establishment of normal neighborly relations.”

According to the Georgian President, “in dealing with occupation and occupied territories,” Georgia has taken “meaningful steps for a peaceful solution.” But, she said, “beyond these steps we have to think wider, to forge a new vision, that we can offer to Abkhazians and Ossetians.”

We have to show them a perspective on the future that we offer in a reunified state. A perspective that does not represent a threat to them, but opens a new path towards Europe and towards well-being. A path that will salvage their language and identity, and reinvigorate autonomy. We should at all times remember that such a new perspective is necessarily interlinked with de-occupation,” President Zurabishvili stated.

The Georgian President stated that “if Russia wants to use occupation to divert Georgia from its chosen path and make Georgia renounce its aspirations, this result will not be achieved.”

However, she said “if Russia’s aim were to establish with Georgia and the rest of the region neighborly relations, that would be in everybody’s interest.” “But such a new relationship rests on the respect for the sovereignty and the free choice of the nation, it rests on de-escalation. It rests on de-occupation,” Zurabishvili noted.

We, on our part, might want to think about new steps to be taken and new positions to present with our partners or with Russia. But it must be underlined and mustn’t be misunderstood: such steps do not mean unilateral concessions, surrendering, nor accepting shadow deals. Any issue that cannot and will not be solved by resorting to the use of force requires, while having drawn clear red lines, the right mixture of rationality, audacity, forward movement and, what is essential, unity of will in society,” Zurabishvili said.

Relations with EU, NATO, U.S.

President Zurabishvili said in her address that after recovering its independence less than 30 years ago, Georgia now stands “at the door of the EU as one of the frontrunner associate members,” and is also among NATO’s “most trusted and appreciated partners.”

“Together with membership, our aim is to become, already today, a more active player in the EU as in NATO,” said Salome Zurabishvili. She added that “we have to bring our part to the EU and NATO not only by contributing and participating to existing programs and policies, but by offering new ideas.”

“Cybersecurity, a secure Black Sea and its transformation in a space of communication and connectivity are some of the actual issues where we can say our word,” reckoned Zurabishvili.

Speaking of  the U.S.-Georgia relations, President Zurabishvili said that the bipartisan Georgia Support Act adopted by the U.S. Congress last year, is yet another demonstration of “the progress and trust achieved” between the two countries.

Upcoming parliamentary polls 

Salome Zurabishvili spoke of the upcoming parliamentary elections and the ongoing political confrontation over the electoral system reform as well. 

Stressing that she would not share her personal views on this sensitive issue as a “non-partisan, independent, above parties President,” Zurabishvili said, as a President she has offered “to all political forces the presidential platform to allow the dialogue to continue.”

If such necessity appears in the future, the proposal stands. Today, I am hopeful since these last days have shown steps being taken in the right direction. But the final result is not yet achieved. At this stage, we should all remember that dialogue has no alternative,” Zurabishvili said, referring to the recent foreign-mediated consultations between the ruling Georgian Dream party and opposition over the electoral reform.

According to Zurabishvili, “we all have a responsibility to peacefully arrive to the elections and to see to it that free and fair elections are held,” and “to preserve fair rules of the game, which in turn imply respect for the institutions and mutual respect.” “My responsibility is to make all efforts and ensure that the confrontation does not hurt our country’s interests and does not endanger our stability,” she stated.

“Differences of views between the opposition and the ruling party, including sometimes fierce opposition, is quite natural, especially in electoral times; but for us, a country located in a complex geopolitical environment, with 20% of our territory occupied, we need to be careful not to let such political struggles threaten the stability,” the Georgian President said.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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