Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili today scolded the Government as well as the ruling Georgian Dream and opposition parties during her annual address to the parliament.
In the lengthy speech, she called for unity on all sides amid Georgia’s EU membership bid and Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Governing Party, Opposition “Sinning Against the Country”
In her speech, the President stressed that the GD and opposition parties are “sinning against the country.”
“I do not understand, and I cannot tolerate that at this turning point, instead of ending quarreling, bickering, enmity, destructive confrontation, and polarization, you, gathered here, forget what our coat of arms displays: Strength is in Unity,” the President addressed the lawmakers and the cabinet in attendance.
“The public is much more vigilant, conscious, brave, and most importantly, united than you are,” she said, “Do you not understand the responsibility you all have together before your people?!”
“The [parliamentary] majority, instead of seeking consensus, portrays anyone who disagrees with it as either a traitor or as the party of war,” President Zurabishvili referred to Georgian parties’ exchange of pro-Russia accusations.
“The opposition, instead of seeking consensus, dubs without appeal any statement or decision by the government as pro-Russian,” the President added.
“Both approaches, besides being completely unacceptable and reminiscent of the methods of Soviet history, are damaging and somewhat pose a risk for the country both domestically and abroad.”
“The government commits a sin when it cannot dare to express what our past and dignity dictate,” she continued, slamming the governing party’s rhetoric about Russia.
She also lambasted the government for “unilaterally signing” the EU membership application instead of submitting a document backed by all sides as a “sign of complete consolidation of the state and the first step toward a national accord.”
“The government commits a sin when the party precedes over state institutions in making or disclosing decisions,” she asserted.
She also slammed the GD government over the “incomprehensible” restriction of her international working trips amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. MORE HERE
Meanwhile, she lambasted the opposition for attempting to portray Georgia “as having preferred fear over dignity, as if we are not worthy of either joining the European Union or partnering with NATO and the United States.”
Even worse, she said, is when the opposition puts claims that “the Government, and therefore the country, has altered its pro-Western course.” Such a claim is an insult to the country and the people, she said.
The President further stressed the opposition also “commits a sin when it calls for radical measures and thus seeks to make the government shudder… to use the current international situation to achieve its own political agenda.”
But in the end, the President said she agrees with both – “with the government in that we need certain caution and with the opposition, in that we can afford certain boldness.”
Calls for Unity, Proposes EU Integration Ministry
President Zurabishvili called for unity, arguing the EU membership bid and issues related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine “force us to act together.”
She said her recent trip to Brussels convinced her that there is a “real and tangible chance to join the EU, a real willingness on the part of our partners.”
Against this backdrop, she stressed that all sides – the President, Prime Minister, Government, Parliament, civil society, ordinary citizens – “must all unite and act around one plan and one goal, [to] work on a package of reforms that have to be implemented if we are to take the future in Europe seriously.”
“No divisions and running separately to our partners! It is necessary to prepare and submit a unified, agreed plan, which will not be subject to cancellation afterward,” President Zurabishvili said, alluding to the GD’s withdrawal from the EU-brokered April 19 Agreement.
She also proposed to set up the state ministry for EU integration and possibly offer the position to an opposition politician. This body would oversee the fulfillment of the EU membership requirements, according to the President.
As for the country’s stance on Ukraine, she stressed that the approach must be “principled, though prudent, neither provoking confrontation nor [conducting] the vague policy of yielding in advance and being overly cautious.”
She stressed that along this line it would be easier to discuss “all the sensitive topics,” including the issue of sanctions against Russia.
The President maintained that given the Russian occupation, regional challenges, and the economic hardships in Georgia, caution is necessary, but on the other hand, the country has to support Ukraine among the international community.
She stressed that another sensitive issue is the reports of Russian influx into the country.
“In this regard, the official statements that focus on the threat of ethnic discrimination in Georgia are damaging,” the President noted, adding that instead “the government is obliged to provide accurate and timely information to the public and to assure that civic order is properly enforced, both at the border and in the country.”
Zurabishvili Expresses Solidarity to Ukraine
In her remarks, President Zurabishvili stressed that Georgia and Ukraine share a history of struggle against Russia.
As examples, she listed “liberation from the Russian Empire, gaining independence, conquest by Soviet Russia – with its uprisings, repressions and Holodomor, restoration of independence, Russian-provoked separatist conflicts, again war and again occupation.”
“Despite all these, no one and nothing could force us to reject freedom and independence,” she asserted, adding “no one and nothing could force us to turn our backs on the historical European path we have chosen.”
“The history of Georgia, as well as the history of Ukraine, is a history of pride and devotion, of trials and tribulations, of examples of relentless, heroic, selfless struggle with the invaders,” the President argued.
“The miracle of the centuries-old history of the Georgian nation was and is in its perseverance, defiance, tenacity, pride,” President Zurabishvili added. “We see such a miraculous attitude in Ukraine, which I believe can only end in victory.”
“Ukraine’s struggle – if not victorious yet – is already a success! Successful, because these events opened the eyes of the world [to Russia] and woke them up.”
“Undoubtedly, the unprecedented unanimity and firmness of the European Union, the joint actions of the United States and Europe is thanks to Ukraine. It is thanks to Ukraine that Russia is already isolated today and will be weakened tomorrow.”
During her address, the President also appealed to her Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelesnkyy to return the Ambassador recalled from Georgia back to Tbilisi.
During the session, President Zurabishvili walked into the plenary hall alongside Ukrainian Chargé d’Affaires Andrii Kasianov and began her speech with a minute of silence for the victims of the war.
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