President Zurabishvili Interviewed by Bloomberg

As part of her ongoing visit to the US, on March 9 President Zurabishvili gave an interview to Bloomberg. She spoke about events in Georgia and Georgia’s EU aspirations.

Asked about the recent developments in relation to the controversial so-called foreign agent law, including the public protests, condemnation by Georgia’s partners and eventual rescinding of the law, and why this was important, the President said it is very important because Georgia is awaiting the European Union decision on a candidate status. She noted that Georgia has been granted a European perspective and now has to deliver to move forward. She added, in this context, that the mentioned law “comes completely out of the blue and it goes against everything that the EU recommends us to do, which is to involve more of civil society, to be more transparent, to allow for more insertion of the civil society in the political discussions about the European future.” She stressed that the reaction of Georgian society and of Georgia’s Western partners was unanimous regarding the law and that she herself had declared that she would veto as soon as it was introduced. She noted that the authorities eventually relented and decided to withdraw the law.

Zurabishvili stressed that “this is not the end of the road that we are going to join the EU to get the candidate status, so it is a very important time for Georgia.”

Asked whether the fact that the law had gotten this far had damaged Georgia’s position with the EU, the President noted that she thinks that on the contrary, people’s reaction to this unilateral decision by the Georgian Dream majority-parliament showed that “when the society is united they can defeat even the majority that is in the Parliament, and that’s what is important.” She added: “I think that it has increased our chances because it has shown very effectively where does the Georgian population stand” adding that multiple previous polls show that around 80% of the population supports European integration “so it’s very clear where the population stands.”

She went on to say that it is not clear and “less and less [so] in the recent time “what the position of authorities is”, because in spite of the declared goal of European integration “they suddenly take steps that are going in the other direction. So their position is not clear. Georgia’s position is very clear.”

Asked about the link between the initiative to pass the law, and Russia and its influence, the President said that the law is close to the Russian law. She said she has no idea why the authorities and parliament “decided to go in that direction.”

She added: “We cannot second guess why political leaders take certain decisions, whether it’s for electoral aims in the future, whether they have some connections with Russia, whether we think that Russia is an easier partner when you are less democratic than the European Union, that’s for you to guess and [for] me to find out.”

In response to the question about the Russian influx into Georgia and whether this was a cause for concern, given Russia’s occupation of Georgian territory, the President said that “Georgians’ know very well what it [occupation] means” and “that is why the Georgian population is in total solidarity with Ukraine and myself personally, I have expressed my solidarity as many times as could, because we are in the same boat.”

She noted that most of Russians came “because they were fearing mobilization or were not in agreement with the way their President is carrying out this aggression against Ukraine” but added that “it is difficult to know.” She added: “we must keep control of this process. We cannot close our borders, as that would not right and not in conformity with Georgian traditions of hospitality and receiving foreigners, but we have to control what’s happening, who is coming in, how long they are staying, and what kind of jobs they are taking -all of that.” She also added that over the past year there haven’t been any incidents between neither Georgians and Russians, nor between [Russians and] Ukrainians refugees, but “we have to know what’s happening.”

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