But Georgia still has the chance to receive EU candidate status, the President said, appealing Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to recognize the interests of the Georgian people when delivering the opinion on the country’s EU bid. President Zurabishvili also called for pro-EU rally on June 16, that some critics perceived as an attempt to downplay June 20 pro-Europe rally organized by the civil society actors.
Below is the full transcript of President’s speech, originally delivered in Georgian and translated by the Presidential administration:
“As you recall, I’ve returned to Georgia following quite contrastful visits:
On the one hand, Italy, where I had an extraordinary reception and unusual support for Georgia from Italy, where a state visit took place for the first time in 25 years, in the country where the Treaty of Rome was signed 65 years ago – on 25 March 1957 – the country where Europe was born and where, centuries ago, European civilization originated, where the first [European] legislation was written and became the inspirer of the idea of Europe. This was, therefore, a crucial visit at this crucial stage of our European journey.
On the other hand, I went to Brussels, met with the head of the European Council, Charles Michel, where I came across a rather weighty picture. Given the situation, I was also planning to visit France and Poland. I will not go into details on procedural issues, there was no written request or answer … The logic of “don’t fly out or don’t fly in” prevailed over what I thought would be in the best interest of the country at that time.
I met in Brussels what is called “spoiled work.”
On 19 July of last year, the Batumi Declaration of the Associated Trio, signed at our initiative, was a very important step. It was clear then that Georgia was in the lead. Spoiled work is when, a year later, Georgia moved from leading country to last place.
Spoiled work was clearly revealed from different aspects:
In the resolution of the European Parliament – it appeared most clearly in the part that calls for the sanctioning of Bidzina Ivanishvili. Such a text, with its factual inaccuracies and unsubstantiated allegations, is indicative of only one thing: that no proper work has been done with the parties in the European Parliament that took part in drafting this resolution, and this applies to all parties in the European Parliament. The opposition, for its part, has worked to achieve its own goals, while the government has not done the job it owed itself or the party, choosing sometimes silence and sometimes insulting answers to serious questions. And it got its result! We must understand that this resolution is more an expression of mood than an announcement of something for which there is no factual basis at present.
The society should not be misled, this resolution is nothing but an expression of irritation at this stage, it is the result of the consistent work of some radical opposition and the silence and inaction of the government. It represents neither a decision nor a willingness on the part of the EU to take such measures. Nor is it true that so-called “indirect” sanctions have already been imposed. This ambiguity only serves to cover up the wrongdoings of those who were responsible for this work and who did not try their best to avoid this injustice for the country and the former head of its government.
The answer to this wrongdoing with conspiracy theories, with anti-European statements, is merely an attempt to cover up one’s own negligence. And by “own negligence,” I am talking about the ruling party’s; it is an attempt to cover up to blame me as if I put equal signs and not when you, the ruling party, did nothing to prevent Bidzina Ivanishvili from being included in that line. You’re the ones that have to look after this case.
On the candidacy consideration:
First of all, it must be said that this accelerated process, the chance to get a candidate status with an accelerated step is not our merit, and it is only and exclusively the result of the sacrifice of Ukraine and Ukrainians, their struggle for freedom. The signing of the candidacy application on March 3 is just the result of that and we have to express our gratitude for that.
The fall-back from our place in the issue of candidacy is the result of our (or our government and partly also of the opposition) actions – political steps or unrealized steps. I can list a number of steps taken by the government from the day we met in Petra, Batumi and adopted the declaration – Zelenskyy here, Maia Sandu and Charles Michel there, a very big step for us in the [Associated] trio format. After that, various decisions started and did not stop:
- First, the annulation of the “Charles Michel document.” The man arrived on July 19 and on July 28, we announced the annulation.
- Then, ineffective decisions in the July 5 case, failure to make effective decisions.
- Refusing a €75 million loan, as if “we don’t need it, what do we need it.”
- Refusing the new rules on the election of the Prosecutor General, which was linked to the Charles Michel document.
- Surveillance tapes released in September; the appointment of members of the High Council of Justice; change of the rules for electing and extending the mandate of the CEC chairperson.
- The appointment of four judges to the Supreme Court in an expedited manner when, on the contrary, we were asked to temporarily suspend that process.
- The abolition of the State Inspector’s Service carelessly and this too at an accelerated pace.
- Even [Mtavari Arkhi TV chief Nika] Gvaramia was arrested untimely and in the most severe form of punishment, when we already knew that these issues would be raised in the resolution of the European Parliament. I was even told that the timeliness of the court is not characteristic, but the politics is and we, if we want effective politics, must think about everything in time.
- And finally, now, in an expedited manner, changes to the law on surveillance.
How is all of this seen from the outside. It is seen that these steps are taken in a way that we do not attach much importance to the reactions of the European Union, we do not show our political will to go in this direction and we may be interested in something else.
Inaction was also present next to these actions: high-level post-election and post-COVID visits to any of the leading European countries (Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Poland, or even the United Kingdom) have not been made by the government (nor in the U.S. or Canada). We also have a noticeable decrease in the number of high-level European visitors. This is also an indicator of something and we should think about it.
At the same time we quarreled with everyone and annoyed everyone with insulting statements: all three Baltic countries (these were traditionally our allies on the road to Europe and NATO), Poland, which is so involved and helps Ukraine, and Ukraine obviously. Even Charles Michel himself, who came to this country three times and came to us as one of our institutional supporters: we no longer let him stand by us because they will come back at him and say that “your own document has not been fulfilled, how do you still support it.” We also annoyed MEPs and the strongest party (Meaning European People’s Party -Civil.ge note) in the European Parliament which is also the party of the President of the European Parliament. That is, all the institutions of Europe. Today we are even threatening in a way: “If you do not accept us… I will pull the curtain!” (Referring to PM Garibashvili’s recent remarks – Civil.ge). I do not know what curtain we can pull and how we can pull it, but I think we should worry about our curtain being slowly lifted.
We also raised new questions. We raised these questions by expressing:
A completely inappropriate attitude for Georgia towards our friend Ukraine and its government. We generally know in Georgian traditions that when a person or a country is at war, we should tolerate everything from it and not enter into meaningless controversy. It seems that we have forgotten this tradition as well.
In particular, the approach and rhetoric towards sanctions is also incomprehensible to our partners and at least to some of the population: we’ve both joined them (and we know that we’ve joined the most important financial sanctions) and we’ve said that we won’t say, all the while we criticize others for whom the cost of sanctions is quite hard on their population (and I’m talking about the EU) and we judge negatively by saying they will be “ineffective.” We can imagine what will the reaction be. Meanwhile, the Association Agreement asks us directly to join foreign decisions as much as possible.
Also followed by the emergence of these questions is the fictional theme of the “second front”: None of our partners, and I say this with full responsibility as the only one who has been to both America and Europe and held high-level meetings and open meetings in the sense that I was told things that maybe were not told to others. Nowhere, not once, has there never been any call that “Well, where are you, why is there not a second front, what are you doing, go ahead and take part.” This does not exist, it is invented, it is a lie and I say this with full responsibility. The idea of a second front is heard only from some circles of the Ukrainian government, where there are, we know that too, some connections [alluding to connections to the United National Movement party – Civil.ge note], but that does not matter, because at some point a Ukraine at war may demand to open another front elsewhere and shout about it. We should neither answer this nor get into polemic.
We know and I myself made a statement that there is no second front for us, because we are not going to go back to our occupied territories, to our people there and try and decide by war what we want to happen through reconciliation, and unity in the future. This scenario is not possible for us. However, this does not mean that we should develop this topic in the country itself and intimidate the population with this topic. And we tell people who look on the screens what is happening in Ukraine everyday that it is their choice or the same will happen to them, or even that they need to accept this government and not ask for anything. This is the form in which the government sometimes tries to put some pressure on its population. There is no risk or threat of this second front. GORBI’s* questions in this are absurd. And I will also add that if asked the same question in any country – be it in Europe or America – everyone will answer “No, I do not want war.” Who wants war? Did the Ukrainians want it?!
It is intended for domestic consumption, for people to switch from evaluating the mistakes of the government and think about their own destiny, security, which is completely human! Or there is another explanation for this, but I prefer not to follow these thoughts. Is this to please others? I do not answer this question and we should not answer it.
Another question has arisen – “what else should we have done” and that also irritates all our partners, because it is easy to answer: at least, what Moldova has done… it has not adopted more sanctions than we have and has not been asked for any more sanctions, neither it nor us. Neither Moldova nor us were asked to join the war. But Moldova managed what seems to be our difficulty – to remain silent and work in all European capitals. What we did not do, we could not or did not do.
All of this obviously raises questions about our political will and readiness.
All this, in a very short few months, has led us to the present situation, when we have neither a friend nor an ally who will share and defend our position to the end. We did not make any arguments to defend ourselves, and those who were ready to defend us were hurt and offended the most, for example our great friend Poland, who always stood by us in all these matters, even during the war.
Thus, the danger of isolation arises. The isolation that we have created, and what is a much bigger and more real danger than the myth created by the so-called “second front”!
The opposition, and more precisely, its radical wing, has obviously played a very damaging role, although it must be said here that we also have a constructive and pro-European opposition. And in this matter, no matter how sharp, unjust and destructive the actions of the opposition may have been, first and foremost in Brussels, the responsibility for the current situation lies with the government and no one can redistribute it, because the government is one.
This is a pretty difficult picture and despite all this there remains a small but real chance:
First of all, I would like to say that the resolution, on which so much criticism, sharp criticism has been written, also ends with a very positive appeal: “expresses its belief that the legitimate aspirations of the people of Georgia deserve to be fulfilled.” That is, it is not a negative conclusion.
At this time we are waiting for the recommendation of the Commission day by day, which should be known by the end of this week, on which basis, but not only, at the end of the month on 23-24 June the EU Council, the 27 heads of state will decide, if this date remains the same. That is, there are several steps and thus the chances are still there.
At the same time, we are receiving messages from the European Parliament and the European Union that everything is not lost, we can keep hope.
But at this crucial moment, what should we do and what do I offer:
First of all, what I offer from the first day — unity. We have no other choice and therefore, I offer you all to gather on 16 June not at the Hippodrome (Referencing to October 20, 2005 rally in her support at Hippodrome after she was dismissed as Foreign Minister – Civil.ge’s note), but at Europe Square in Rike Park. But by all, I mean all. Let us show each other and Europe our face, our unity, our will. It will be the community, the population standing together. Where everyone will be an ordinary citizen – me, you and members of any political party or government, but everyone will come as an ordinary citizen. There will be no speeches, no announcements, no posters. If anyone wants a song, they can sing it. The rest will be just to stand up for what we want for our children, for this next generation in Europe. We do not want to “go to Europe,” we do not want to go there, we do not want to send more of our emigrants there, we want here the values and the part of Europe that we need and that is acceptable to us.
When we all come to Europe Square on 16 June, at 19:00, for one hour (no more is needed and I won’t bother you much), I want to call on the EU Ambassador and the ambassadors of EU member states to join us.
I ask all parties and authorities, all those who have declared Europeanism, to come and put aside all other slogans and all other tensions. Let’s stand together without microphones.
I appeal to law enforcement to take all security measures to avoid issues.
I also appeal to the organizers of the June 20 demonstration that if they think about it, it can be postponed as in my opinion it is associated with many dangers and it is not the time to show political ambitions and divide society. At the same time, I warn the authorities, after some statements were made, that if it is held and it is not my decision, I can only ask — if this protest is held, the government will be held responsible for any excess, because the right to demonstrate must be protected and secured. Now is the time for our unity and only unity! If we understand this it will be very important.
I appeal today to Ursula von der Leyen, who has a crucial role to play in completing the Commission’s recommendation, and call on her to recognize the will of the Georgian people, the people whose soldiers stood with German soldiers in Afghanistan when she was Minister of Defense, to recognize the path that this people has earned on its 30-year-and-more road. And that day is coming now.
Tomorrow, I will also personally write a letter to the leaders of each of the 27 member states, presenting all the political, moral and strategic arguments as to why Georgia deserves this historic decision and why leaving it off the road can be a fatal mistake.
I appeal to the government, which many of what I have said here do not like, to take into account the unshakable aspirations of the population for 30 years (if not 30 centuries) and to refrain from anti-European rhetoric as unnecessary steps. This rhetoric only serves to maintain power through populism and fails to produce results.
I appeal to the opposition to stop providing destructive information at this crucial moment in order to destabilize the government and bring itself to power.
Today, the question is different – whoever will be responsible for taking Georgia to this new stage will deserve the gratitude of the people and the strengthening of its political future. I have high hopes that we will all understand this and will stand together on that crucial path.
I came to Georgia for this path, my ancestors left for this path and the goal is not for more and more Georgians to go to Europe, or as some dream that I will resign and go to Paris. The goal is to live here together in the Georgia of our dreams, which will be European and very Georgian!
Thank you very much.”