President: We are Tired of Threats & Destabilization Instead of Dialogue

“We are tired of running in the same circle! Tired of attempts to direct the processes from the street, of threats and destabilization instead of dialogue! Today the country has different needs," President Salome Zurabishvili said at the opening of the first plenary session of the Parliament of the 10th convocation.

In her assessment, the country's running in the same circle should end.

“We are tired” of the continued battle between the two political poles: Zvidists and anti-Zviadists, those for Shevardnadze and those against Shevardnadze, and it keeps going to this day, at a time when depolarization, solidarity and unity are what the country needs.

“We are tired” of continuous swearing, insults and disregard of Caucasian politiness! Hatred leaves the country divided, unprotected and weakened at a time when it needs mobilization of national energies to tackle challenges the most," she noted. 

"The society’s patience is exhausted inasmuch as almost 100 years have passed since Russia’s 11th Army occupied the independent Georgia. It’s been almost 30 years since the restoration of our independence and the end of the Soviet empire, of us building a state. 30 years is the age of maturity both for a human and a state. The time has come to break the cycle!

"Georgia is at a crossroads. The country was freed from visible shackles, but invisible shackles turned out to be more solid. Today we are independent, we are free, but we still need to free our consciousness and strengthen our institutions. For this we need to get rid of what hinders us:

-         Fear of telling the truth, fear of taking initiative and fear of responsibility! Fear that obstructs everything and deprives us of ourselves.

-         Lies and manipulating people through fake slogans and populist promises. The time of ideologies has come to an end: communism has ended, ultraliberalism did not work either, ultra-patriotism is the opposite of real national patriotism. Fanaticism dissolves society and destroys a person.

-         This sort of colonial complex that impedes the full-fledged perception of independence. We believe less in ourselves, in words and thoughts emanating from our entrails. It deprives us of self-confidence, without which it is impossible to have faith in ourselves and govern the country effectively. It is our weakness that forces us to prove constantly our Europeanness, when Europeanness is the essence of our history and culture. 

-         Nepotism, which blocks the way to professionalism. Negligence of experience and knowledge, which justifies the expulsion of older generations from the labor market and impoverishes us, must end. Underestimation of talent and education is inadmissible; the fear of a free man is destructive. It deprives us of valuable human resources and hampers their attraction to the service of country and society.

-         This mercantile approach, expressed in these simple words – "what’s in it for me?" Selflessness and devotion are perceived as nonsense, which, from the very beginning, kills the desire to work in state service. We view service and work as the same! Mercantilism pushes us to get a quick material result and not achieve the long-term objective. It also prevents us from properly appreciating philanthropists.

-         Using terms like ‘enemy’ and ‘traitor’, which has been the first characteristic of every totalitarian regime. The excuse of searching for internal and external enemies justified the enslavement of people, the closure of society, and the destruction of individuals. Once and for all, we must leave behind these terminologies, this language, such attitude toward society and people. The creation of our new, modern, strong Georgia depends on breaking these shackles.

"A state is strong when it has strong institutions. Today's attack on all institutions, which is the axis of our identity, democracy, security, stability and the cornerstone of the future of the country, is destructive for the state.

  • The Patriarch who is the source of spiritual energy and national vigor; on our Church that has for centuries saved the identity and unity of the Georgian nation, has opened the way to democracy. Their discrediting is aimed at weakening our spiritual strength!
  • The Army that is the foundation of our state, an embodiment of our national spirit. Georgia’s tomorrow stands precisely on a noble, modern and strong army. Thus, politically dividing the army contradicts our strategic goals, specifically Euro-Atlantic integration. With a purposeful campaign, distorted and words placed out-of-context, sowing distrust between the Army and the Supreme Commander-in-Chief is directed at the demoralization of the army.
  • The Police that protects the safety of our citizens, stability, and peace in our country. We know how important and difficult its role at the occupation line is and we must understand how destructive insults, moral pressure are for the country!
  • The Parliament, which, in a parliamentary republic, represents the main branch of the State. Insulting it, whether by giving a seat to Gavrilov or playing the Soviet anthem or transforming it into a scene of hand-to-hand combat, is an insult to our history, to the place where lie the cadets, where proud patriots were murdered on April 9th.  When, because of failing to win and without any real evidence of fraud, you demand a new election and reject a multi-party parliament, it denies the very essence of democracy and elections!
  • The Courts that are the cornerstone of a judicial state. It is true that our court does not meet all the strands yet. For instance, I believe that our country was not yet ready for the appointment of judges for life and a lot remains unsatisfactory today. At the same time, we must acknowledge the walked path: four stages of reforms were implemented. Cases of citizens winning against the state have increased. As a result, addresses to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg have diminished. Despite existing faults in the system and the need for a continuation of reforms, the purposeful discreditation of the court is erroneous.
  • The President. Insults and abuses, even on a daily basis, do not affect me. I do not respond to them and it will not force me to reject the promise I made on Inauguration Day, to be everyone’s president.

"However, it is clear to what end serve such systemic attacks on the Presidential persona, such words, actions and goals of targeting the vested authority in her – that of Supreme Commander-in-Chief, of being representative in foreign affairs, and of having the right to pardon.

"The goal is to weaken the authority and image of the state abroad, and symbol of unity domestically. This does not harm me, but it weakens all of us.

"Those, whose role in our stability and development is no less important, were also brought into the aggression of this destructive campaign.

  • Doctors and Medical Staff, whose dedication in the toughest days of fighting the pandemic deserves only gratitude. Insults on them are insults on us. The goal of this destructive campaign is also clear: trust, which drove the success of the fight against the pandemic’s first wave, must be shaken and altered with skepticism that will only aggravate the already-exacerbated situation.
  • Shameful statements voiced toward members of the Diplomatic Corps are rude and incomprehensible, while we are asking them to engage in our domestic processes as mediators. This is inadmissible at a time when the country is waiting for more cooperation and solidarity from the international community.
  • The Media, without the independence of which democracy is unimaginable, harms itself by not taking a stand against polarization, becoming involved in political battles and being used as a political weapon. By discrediting itself, it might lose its informative function and the people’s trust. Fake news pose as big a challenge to it. It is the duty of the media to tackle these challenges with continuously advancing professionalism and unbiasness, which is an essential condition for society’s development.

"This listing shows vividly that the target of the discreditation campaign is not one particular institution, but rather everything that has brought this country to these days and on what it and its future stand. If we do not resist it, we will get society on the verge of demoralization, filled with nihilism and lost trust. This type of society is the goal of every enemy. Therefore, protecting these institutions is nothing short of protecting the State. It is the duty of each and every one of us.

"We must start a new phase now and Georgia needs:

  1. Reassessing its recent history

30 years ago, Georgia successfully passed the democracy test and expressed its will through elections and a referendum. Zviad Gamsakhurdia and national forces won with a vast majority. That government accomplished a lot: most importantly, it gave us back the feeling of 'being our own masters', and sparked national pride and energy. Georgia would probably not have been able to go through that period without mistakes, but it did not justify the path of streets, guns and coup! Today, time has come to reevaluate this history. As the head of state, I consider it my duty to make a first step and let us all acknowledge this truth together. It is time to return our history to a legal and just path. It is time to condemn publicly the unconstitutional path and restore the rightful place of the legitimate government and the former Supreme Council in our history.

  1. New Approaches

"Country and society need orientation of the future – a perspective, a vision.

"We need new approaches for rapprochement with the Abkhaz and Ossetian populations living in our occupied regions. Only constant appeal to the occupation is not enough, if at the same time we do not look for ways to reduce the physical and moral distance with Abkhazians and Ossetians and to restore unity. If at the same time we fail to protect the rights and security of the Georgian population in our occupied regions; we do not accept occupation as definitive, we should use every opportunity, only stopping can end us.

"To overcome frozen conflicts and occupation, we need a new approach and a way out of self-isolation: We might not believe that dialogue can bring anything. It is understandable that we do not trust the country that has occupied our territories. However, unlike the rest of the world and our closest partners, we cannot be the only country that refuses diplomacy.

"It must be said as well, and in this case, I agree to some extent with the opposition that using only parallel diplomacy with Russia does not work, as it lacks the openness, transparency, and accountability that accompany formal negotiations. We need a new approach, and we should know that dialogue does not mean acknowledgment of something, negotiation does not mean concession, but rejecting diplomacy means losing all leverages and freezing. Dialogue has its format and for us support of our partners is crucial in this direction as well.

"We need a new approach in the Caucasus – Taking into consideration our neighbors and the new situation, Georgia needs to reclaim its historic role as the engine and unifier of the Caucasus. To this end, we can think about the idea of a "Caucasian Peace Platform", which will bring together countries of the Caucasus, external actors and international organizations. Such platform will facilitate the presentation and implementation of joint infrastructure, economic or cultural projects. It will strengthen the potential of this region to play the role of a transport, communication and energy hub. Tbilisi should claim back its place, as the center of Caucasian identity and Caucasology. If we do not start this, many other candidates will appear for the same role...

"A new approach to Euro-Atlantic integration, because just talking about Europe and NATO becoming closer and having an open door for membership is not enough! We want more! There is no time left to wait. The time has come to get active, to think of new steps and to take steps forward.

"We need an active bilateral process with the EU, in which we will approach it in behavior and thinking and more quickly adopt European standards (such as labor safety, ecology, food safety, etc.). The time has come for us to become co-authors of the integration process, to take more initiatives, to show our priorities to our partners, and to work with them to define the specific steps for the next stage.

"We need the same approach with NATO and our American strategic partner: new initiatives on Black Sea security in a bilateral or multilateral format. We need to think of new forms of cooperation with NATO, and this requires more activity, more flexibility and a vision for the future!

"A New Approach to Global Challenges: The pandemic has created a new realm of international relations in which only large countries constitute the main actors of today. In this context, mechanisms for activating small countries need to take shape. It is possible that Georgia will come up with such an initiative. In any case, it is necessary to become an active player both in the region and in the international arena, to formulate our own vision and initiatives based on global issues.

"The pandemic within the country, along with many tragedies, has created a new reality and shown us the need for a development strategy that is reflected in these clear priorities:

"Professionalism, i.e. the combination of education, experience and knowledge. The pandemic has shown us that the country has high-level specialists, which has once again highlighted the crucial role of professionalism in times of extreme need. At the same time, it showed us the need to train new staff, to support the talents of our young people and their scientific and creative potential. We need to master new technologies, which is the right direction for a country of our size and location and the most reliable way to attract investment. This does not happen without high qualifications. From this point of view, it is unfortunate that the importance of the new Kutaisi International University is not yet properly understood.

"Strengthening the region means giving local governments more responsibility, giving them more initiative and more material, human and professional resources. Political cadres have to start working in the regions and gain trust there. In this regard, next year’s local elections will have a very large importance. The return to the countryside followed naturally the pandemic. It is now necessary to thoroughly prepare this process and facilitate the establishment of professional staff in rural areas. A strong region should be one of the main axes of our future economy.

"Healthcare: The need to make healthcare a priority in the light of the current pandemic is clear to everyone! In spite of the pandemic, this field has shown resilience in overcoming the crisis! Priority must be given to the whole field of medicine, which has the potential to become one of the leading sectors of our economy tomorrow. To do this, all the possibilities and experiences must be included in one whole strategy, be it traditional folk medicine or modern competencies acquired in the fight against new diseases, or even our great balneological, rehabilitation and healing potential. Medea should be the brand of this strategy that will allow us to return to a natural, historical niche in the region and the world.

"I also include oncology in these priorities, as we need to restore our role as a regional center and save our children without them needing to leave the country!

"Culture: It's time to think of it not as leisure, but as one of the leading sectors of our economy. Most of the cultural sphere was harmed during the pandemic. This harmed, in turn, Georgia as we are known outside of our borders through our culture, and as culture is, inside of our borders, our main life force! It must also be said that this field showed itself to be quite inactive during this difficult period. Many abroad have tried to figure out how to create a culture in such an unusual and difficult situation. For us, less was obvious. Culture in Georgia needs more attention from the state, but the old funding system needs to be revised to encourage initiative and stimulate competitiveness. This field needs more innovation, more creative energy, more freedom and courage. It needs strong management, to see its place and establish itself in the world market.

"A new paradigm for the economy. The pandemic has shown that an economy built solely on market principles cannot meet global challenges. The main responsibility for the provision of health care, education and welfare still rests with the state and should be borne by the state. But a new balance needs to be struck in which the free action of the private sector is not restricted and is, on the contrary, it made more secure, while the role and effectiveness of the public sector is made more important and substantial. As we have seen, the plan to eradicate the public sector turned out to be absurd. However, in this area, the efficiency, flexibility and accountability inherent in the private sector must be established for every lari spent.

"We need new policies based on our values, our real resources. New policies that will bring back the desire to serve the country in young people, that will return home those abroad - our diaspora, that will make us confident in that we have overcome the past and are building the future.

"The new policy cannot be one of confrontation, division and disintegration, as it was in the past, in the most difficult periods. Today, we must use the old principle of "unity and support overcomes the enemy" as our unifying and driving goal. For the construction of a new Georgia begins here and now! This responsibility is largely on you, members of the Tenth Convocation Parliament, I wish you good luck for the well-being of our country!," the President stated. 

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11 December 2020 12:38