Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili answered questions sent to him by opposition MPs in the manner of interpellation in Parliament on 18 November.
Eight opposition MPs addressed the Prime Minister with three questions:
- What did the government do to get EU candidate status and what is the government’s expectation? What are you doing now and how are the European Commission’s 12 recommendations being fulfilled?
- What is the government’s position on the anti-Western statements made by the deputies who left the Georgian Dream, and does the government see in them the signs of disinformation and psychological terror of citizens typical of Russian hybrid warfare?
- What did the Georgian Dream do during its time in power to make Georgia less dependent on the Russian Federation in terms of economic, food, and energy security, and for Russia to have fewer levers of influence on Georgia as an independent, sovereign state?
European Commission’s 12 Recommendations
Prime Minister Garibashvili started by talking about the implementation of the European Commission’s 12 recommendations in order to obtain EU candidate status by criticizing the opposition. He also stated that considering the fact that a large part of the opposition is not participating in the working groups created for this purpose, asking such a question on their part is “real hypocrisy.”
In the same context, PM Garibashvili once again reiterated that, unlike Georgia, Ukraine was given candidate status because of the ongoing war, and Moldova was given the status as an “advance” as a kind of “encouragement” because it “is in a state equal to the war.”
He once again called the European Council’s decision to grant Georgia a European perspective “historic” while emphasizing that “no one could have dreamed of this.” “It was clearly, unambiguously stated that Georgia will become a member of the European family,” he added.
“So I think that unless a person is really hostile to his own country, he shouldn’t be asking such a question. Everyone knows what the main motivation was, why Georgia was not given candidate status as an advance,” he said.
Underscoring that “Georgian Dream did everything to get candidate status,” PM Garibashvili told the opposition that “you did everything to prevent us from getting candidate status.” “It was a conspiracy and it is sabotage against one’s own country. You are all complicit in this,” he added.
In this context, he also recalled the “anti-state, anti-Georgian, shameful, and unfair” resolution adopted by the European Parliament before the announcement of the decision on candidacy, adding that the opposition alongside their lobbyists did everything for a “decision to be made against the country.”
Noting that Georgian Dream MPs are working 24 hours a day, so that “all these recommendations are carried out thoroughly and nobody’s questions remain unanswered,” the PM asked opposition MPs – “What are you doing?”
“I encourage you to engage in these 12 recommendations and do the first point – depolarize. We will be the example for this,” he said and addressing the opposition, noted that the Georgian Dream team and he personally are ready to “take care of the country together.”
Evaluation of ex-GD Members’ Statements
According to the Prime Minister, the positions of Georgian Dream are clearly separate from the positions of former GD members, and there are a “number of differences” between them. “They remain in the majority because [otherwise] the Georgian Dream will lose the majority, and we will have problems passing laws,” he explained.
He stressed, however, that every citizen of Georgia has the constitutional right to free speech, and “even more so the deputies, how can someone restrict this constitutional right.” “It is their choice. We do not interfere in anyone’s business, and I cannot make additional comments about it,” he said.
PM Garibashvili also explained that his obligation as the Prime Minister and one of the leaders of the Georgian Dream is to “maximally” maintain and strengthen the existing strategic relations with the U.S. and the EU. “Not only with them, but we also have very good relations with everyone in the region,” he added.
“My position is simple and unequivocal – we have a strategic partnership with the USA, this is a relationship started after the country gained independence,” the PM stated, and expressed the wish for “more moderate statements to be made towards the U.S. Ambassador.”
“I think so, this is my opinion. If there are questions, let’s ask questions, but of course, we can’t violate moderation,” he said and added, “Let’s talk, and hold debates, but we can’t make such insults, it’s unacceptable. Our main task should be to establish peace.”
“We are a small state, but with very strong people. We are an ancient nation with more than 3,000 years of history, our culture, civilization, language, faith, and we need a very pragmatic, reasonable, and moderate action and policy making, this is my position,” he emphasized.
Reducing Dependence on Russia
Asked about reducing the country’s energy and economic dependence on Russia, PM Garibashvili started by criticizing the former government, saying that after the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war, it was they who introduced a visa-free regime for Russian citizens and “transferred a number of strategic energy companies, facilities, and infrastructure to Russian state companies.”
“After that, what right do these people have to talk to us about energy independence, or about national interests, or joining the [international] sanctions imposed on Russia,” the PM said while addressing the opposition.
He also accused the opposition of trying to damage the country’s economy and national interests and said that before the 2021 local self-government elections, the former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, was brought to Georgia for the very purpose of sparking a “revolution here.”
“Of course, they failed, everyone will fail. Everyone will be given the harshest response. No one should have any illusions…,” he said, recalling the encouragement of a second front by Ukrainian “colleagues” of the opposition.
“Their ideological partners, employees, and friends are representatives of the Ukrainian government… They openly said that we wanted to open a second front in Georgia… these people are their allies,” said Prime Minister Garibashvili.
Addressing the opposition, he asked, “if these people were in power today, do you have any doubt that there would really be a second front here…?”
“They are not in power and they were doing everything to open a second front here. If they were in power, they would destroy the country in the end. They would hand it over to Russia and the country would lose its sovereignty,” he said.
In conclusion, he urged the opposition to work “together with our dear colleagues,” if they wish to receive candidacy. “If not, indulge in this fakeness, [and] the enmity of the country…,” he added.
- Georgian Dream
MPs also evaluated the Prime Minister’s speech during the Parliament session. According to the Georgian Dream’s chairperson, Irakli Kobakhidze, despite the fact that opposition MPs’ questions were in reference to the Parliament’s competencies, and not the Prime Minister’s, the PM “gave an appropriate answer” to them.
Noting that during the last 10 years, the Georgian Dream government managed to maintain peace in a very difficult environment, MP Kobakhidze said that this path “should be continued.” “We need to maintain peace, maintain calm, maintain double-digit economic growth, and I am sure that this is how the processes will continue under the leadership of the Prime Minister,” he underscored.
David Matikashvili, the Deputy Chairperson of the Legal Issues Committee, remarked that “the Prime Minister gave very accurate assessments of the hypocritical […] statements that we heard from provocative forces with distorted ideas.”
“[The Prime Minister] made [the opposition] look in the mirror and clearly showed the public who is walking a treacherous path. Who does not want to see Georgia in the European Union, and who wants to spark the fire of the second front in Georgia. This is the United National Movement, this is [Giorgi] Vashadze, the so-called Troika, who find everything related to the progress of our country to be unacceptable…,” he emphasized.
“Today has once again confirmed that real democratic reforms in this country in the last 20 years were carried out by the Georgian Dream government together with the public,” Archil Talakvadze asserted.
The MP also noted that PM Garibashvili and his government were able to “prepare answers to serious challenges under very difficult conditions” and “carry out very serious reforms.” “We have very important tasks ahead of us, which I am sure Prime Minister Garibashvili and his cabinet will fulfill successfully,” he added.
- The Opposition
Roman Gotsiridze, a United National Movement MP, told Prime Minister Garibashvili that the legislative changes proposed by Georgian Dream for attaining candidate status are a facade, underscoring, “don’t blame the opposition, don’t blame someone else.” “You won’t fulfill any recommendations… every change means a diminution of your power.”
“If you want to show that you can really do something, you have the majority… you’re the ones who have to do it. Therefore, if Georgia does not receive [candidate] status, it will be a direct result of the oligarchic rule created by Georgian Dream, [and] Bidzina Ivanishvili,” he added.
According to Mikheil Daushvili, an MP of the For Georgia party, “the problem is” that “[Georgian] Dream is not busy with the implementation of the recommendations and 12 points, but is busy with creating alibis to transfer the responsibility for all this to the opposition.”
“If Georgia gets candidate status, with the reforms that you are carrying out, this will only make us happy, but you should also know that if we do not get this status, you will be responsible for it,” he said, addressing the Prime Minister.
Ana Natsvlishvili, a deputy of the Lelo for Georgia party, noted that “the Prime Minister’s speech did not reflect the “tens of thousands of people who stood on Rustaveli Avenue on 3 June with the sole purpose being for Georgia to become a European state.”
“History will judge both those who helped Georgia on its European path and those who hindered Georgia’s European integration,” she added.
According to Khatuna Samnidze, a Republicans party MP, instead of the Prime Minister talking about the European future, he chose to talk about the path and point fingers at the opposition.
“Your team knows very well that the European future is our main choice and the whole country is on this side. Nobody here, in this country and especially in the Parliament, is on the other side, we all want to get the status together, and the main burden of responsibility in this process is on the government,” she told PM Garibashvili.
Citizens Party MP Aleka Elisashvili asked the Prime Minister whether he is worried about the fact that the killers of Giga Otkhozoria and Archil Tatunashvili remain unpunished. He also asked the Prime Minister what the government is doing to secure the release of Georgian citizens Irakli Bebua and Kristine Takalandze, both currently detained in occupied Abkhazia.
“What are you doing in general to strengthen defense and security, so that no one dares to do anything to us,” he asked the Prime Minister.
Note: This article was updated on 19 November at 17:45 to reflect Deputies’ statements.