Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili scolded the ruling Georgian Dream party for their anti-Western rhetoric and the “unimaginable… endless attacks on MEPs” at a time when the country should be working towards fulfilling the European Commission’s 12 recommendations for EU candidate status.
In a July 21 interview with the Georgian Public Broadcaster, the President referenced the key visit by a delegation of MEPs to Georgia over the last two days and emphasized, “At this time an unimaginable thing happens, press speakers from Brussels and Washington tell us that we need to learn how to behave.”
“I don’t know how long we will continue playing this two-faced game, where we pretend that we want to keep going towards the EU, that we want candidate status, [but] at this time not only are we not doing what we must… we are actually taking contrary steps,” she said.
“Starting with leaving the Charles Michel agreement, annulling the document, and every step that has been taken in the last year. Saying no to credit in a particularly harsh manner, there were a series of steps on these issues where they expected us to make different decisions,” President Zurabishvili emphasized, “with judicial appointments through a fast-tracked process, abolishing the state inspectors office, any step that was taken in the last year was a step that was assessed negatively by the European Union.”
President Zurabishvili underscored that these steps coincided with ruling party statements from GD Chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze and MP Mamuka Mdinaradze, among others, which accused and blamed our American and European partners of being “protectors of criminals” and forcing Georgia to join the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict by opening up a second front.
President Zurabishvili stressed that such statements are “not a critique, this is an accusation.”
Referencing recent concerns over occupied Abkhazia planning to transfer the resort town of Bichvinta to Russia for several decades, the President added, “anti-Western rhetoric is voiced at a time when there is silence towards Russia. Today when we see what is happening in Abkhazia when there is concern over Bichvinta, does this not affect Georgia?”
“We are wary of Russia like never before, let’s not say anything, and let’s not offend them,” she added.
Asked about the basis for the ruling party’s accusations that the West is trying to open a second front and drag Georgia into a war, the President underlined, “If anyone traveled and met with Europeans on a high level it was me. If anyone traveled to the U.S. for high-level meetings, this was me and I never heard any sort of demand for us to join the war. This is entirely fabricated and interesting that it coincides with Russian rhetoric.”
President Zurabishvili also criticized Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and noted that “I have never seen a Prime Minister write to the [President] of the Commission to distance herself from the European Parliament.”
Speaking on anti-Western rhetoric, President Zurabishvili also drew attention to the MPs and members of local councils who left the ruling party and emphasized that they “don’t look like independent people” with their “message box” remaining aligned with the Georgian Dream.
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“We cannot be the only country in the world which argues in this tone with the European Parliament, with the American Ambassador… But we prefer to [shift] the blame sometimes to one and sometimes o the other, that we are right, and that doesn’t get the job done…,” she underscored.
The President criticized the ruling party for refusing to participate in the special parliamentary session she convoked and noted that it would have been a “very good gesture” before the MEPs arrived for their visit.
“The main question is this – do we want candidate status? [If we want it] we should all be willing to take some steps,” President Zurabishvili said and underscored the importance of the reforms process including the ruling team and the opposition.
Noting that there are less than 6 months left to fulfill the recommendations, the President criticized the ruling party for insufficient work and said, “the country cannot accept 12 points and have no wish to start talking [with partners.]”
The President also assessed the European Parliament’s critical resolution on Georgia to be a result of the GD’s inaction and proof that “the opposition worked better than the majority.” “It’s not my fault that they don’t work and don’t know how to work,” she added.
The President denoted that no one from the ruling party talks to her except the Foreign Affairs Minister Ilia Darchiashvili. “If they are not talking to me because I criticized them, then they will never talk to me again,” she said.
While discussing depolarization, President Zurabishvili explained that she will not pardon imprisoned Mtavari Arkhi TV chief Nika Gvaramia with this motive. “I already took my share of the responsibility to depolarize when I pardoned 3 people and that’s it,” she added.
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Referring to the ruling party’s Constitutional lawsuit against her, President Zurabishvili said that GD officials are violating the constitution themselves through their statements. “If you do everything to prevent [moving the country forward on the path to European integration], this is a violation of the Constitution,” she emphasized.
Regarding the ruling party’s statements on the President’s refusal to approve Ambassadorial appointments, she stated that she had approved all 36 applications that she received.
The only exception according to the President is Davit Bakradze which she received on July 15 and has not signed yet although she emphasized that she does not believe a person who “did nothing” during his time as Ambassador to the U.S. should be appointed as Ambassador to the United Nations.
Georgian Dream Chairperson Responds
Georgian Dream Chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze addressed the President’s statements in a July 21 interview with pro-government Imedi TV, stating that he would not call the current state of affairs between the President and the ruling party a “confrontation.”
MP Kobakhidze emphasized that since the President does not have any special competencies with which to create problems for the nation because it is a Parliamentary Republic, “we have no interest in entering into a polemic with her and having this confrontation and so on.”
The GD Chair said the ruling party tried “several times to explain things to her… but even here she had a hard time evaluating and analyzing things, which is unfortunate.”
Reiterating that the President lacks any significant power, the MP said, “she will not be able to shake the country, although such statements are naturally harmful to the country and for us, the ruling party.”
Note: This article was updated on July 22 at 16:45 to reflect more of the President’s interview and GD Chairperson Irakli Kobakhidze’s response.