The State of the Nation Address
Honorable members of parliament, dear guests!
It is great honor for me to present my Annual State of the Nation Address to you and our society.
Before starting my address, I should express my position about the recent developments in Ukraine, considering the graveness of the situation in our fraternal nation.
I believe that each of us is equally concerned by the facts we see on TV, by the reality we are observing. The situation is extremely difficult – dozens were killed and hundreds were wounded in clashes.
It is also very hard for us because of the death of two Georgian citizens. I’d like to ask you to observe a moment of silence in memory of those who died in this tragedy.
Authorities in Ukraine have used force against their citizens and crossed the line that should not be stepped over by any authority.
This protest emerged after Ukrainian authorities abandoned signing the EU Association Agreement.
Unfortunately, instead of intensifying political dialogue, the government used force.
Government of Ukraine ought to have done utmost for unifying the society and not to confront them.
I call on President Yanukovych yesterday that he still had an opportunity for taking decisive political and not violent steps in order to protect the fundamentals that have to be protected by the supreme authorities simultaneously – the life of each individual human, and the unity and integrity of the country.
I think that this opportunity is still available; that the intensive engagement of European leaders in this process gives a possibility to reach a political consensus and thanks to the processes, initiated by European leaders, to lead the people of Ukraine to the peaceful solution of this problem.
I would like to return to my country and once again reiterate that it is great honor for me to address you and the society. It is a noticeable coincidence that this address is taking place on February 21st – the day of adoption of Georgia’s First Constitution and the very day, when Bidzina Ivanishvili presented “Georgian Dream Coalition” to the society.
Primarily, I would like to reiterate my respect to this parliament, to thank Head of the Parliament and each MP for the work they have performed during the past year.
From November 2013, the new Constitution of Georgia that changed the authority of the President has been empowered. Therefore, my address and content of it is changed correspondingly.
The President elected in presidential elections 2013, is no longer a main ruler; the President carries out absolutely determined, new responsibilities.
While establishment of the new Constitution, its implementation in real life, it is important to remember that we are setting up a new practice, new traditions, all that will influence the leadership in the future.
Therefore, I wish we could be exceptionally principle in this process, be careful in creating a new constitutional balance and a right system of checks and balances.
The new president, due to the rule of the election and the circle of issues in president’s competence, takes a very significant responsibility.
First of all, it is conditioned by the fact that the President is the senior person in power elected on the basis of the universal suffrage.
The source of the power – people – grant the President a mandate to be a Head of the State, guarantor of country’s unity and national independence, institution for ensuring normal functioning of state offices, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the representative of the country in foreign relations.
Correspondingly, the Constitution also determines the relation of the presidential institute to other branches of power.
In relation with the Parliament, the President has an authority to sign and publish laws and to veto them.
In relation with the executive branch, that the President has been already diverged with by this Constitution, the Head of the State has a right to demand discussion of separate issues at the sessions of the Government and to participate in these sessions together with the Secretary of the National Security Council.
With regards to the judiciary power, the president appoints one third of the members of the Constitutional Court, presents the candidate for the Chairman of the Supreme Court of Georgia and all judges to the Parliament and participates in the process of staffing the High Council of Justice of Georgia.
The President has also significant obligations and authority in maintenance of the state defense and security.
The President chairs the National Security Council - a constitutional office – and appoints its Secretary.
In agreement with the Government, President appoints and dismisses the Chief of General Staff of Georgian Armed Forces, other commanders and determines the structure of the military forces.
The President announces and cancels the state of emergency and the state of war that implies his particular competence in regards with military forces not only in crisis, but also in the period of peace.
If we sum up the foresaid, we can say that by the current model of the Constitution, President possesses the means for keeping balance between the branches of the power in stable, non-crisis situation and in critical conditions, the President, on one hand has the authority to discharge tension in case of disagreement between the Government and the Parliament, and on the other hand, performs the ruling functions in the state of emergency or war.
I emphasized this fact intentionally, because we know that the Constitutional Commission is working to improve the current model of the Constitution.
We underline that this very model is an entirely sufficient basis for establishing the legal system of balance.
We also stress that neither of the branches of power are unequally overloaded with responsibilities to overweigh the others.
Through some corrections to the current model, it is possible to draft a perfectly balanced model of the Constitution.
I am emphasizing this because the sustainability of the supreme law is a precondition for political sustainability and we believe that the Constitution should not be amended continuously. With this standpoint, my priority has been and maintains: to follow only the Constitution, take very careful but principle steps in relation with other branches of the power.
We should remember that today, our challenge is to build a model of the checks and balances system that will ensure the stable development of the country.
Hence, considering the historic moment we have today and the obligations that I personally have, let me present my vision of where we are and how we should develop.
First of all, today our goal is to build the State of Georgia for Georgian citizens.
This is the Georgia that I view as a country based on the traditions of freedom, unity of diversity, tolerance, opportunities, creativity, labor, mutual consent and solidarity.
When I say traditions, I do not mean only formal customs – I mean the spirit of the traditions which was always following the history of our country.
I view these traditions as the aspiration towards progress, renovation, and talent of revival.
That’s how, when empires were built and destroyed around us, our small nation survived and formed its self-cognition precisely due to this talent of revival, aspiration to progress.
With this aspiration the Georgian alphabet was created, Christianity was spread in our country; with this aspiration Georgian renaissance was developed; this aspiration was common for the Georgian “Tergdaleulebi” and also the people, who created the Constitution of 1921 that was one of the most progressive documents of that period Europe.
Indeed, we are focused on future and at the same time we are learning from others, however, building the State of Georgia, should be primarily based on our vital self-cognition kept in our culture and individually in our citizens.
A Georgian is European with its individual cognition, is an organic part of the western civilization with its character, but unfortunately, till present, we were deprived of opportunity to build a state based on this very individualism and transform the Georgian traditions in the state context and state institutions.
This, what I deem as the main challenge of present.
I deeply believe that we are standing on this path today and this process is irreversible.
This belief is based on the processes that have been launched in Georgia since the “Georgian Dream Coalition” came into power.
In this sense, I emphasize that since the “Georgian Dream” came into power, a human has become the central idea of the government.
This is the main value, on which the building of any state should be based.
And a human being first of all needs freedom.
For centuries, the key point of our best rulers, poets, philosophers, politicians, religious or public figures was the state and an individual freedom.
Today, this means the full protection of rights of each citizen, political organizations, media, and minorities; implementation of modern standards of these rights protection that is stated by our Constitution, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and other fundamental documents.
The realization of the aspiration of these documents should be the goal of our authorities, society and political spectrum.
The year 2013 was successful from this standpoint.
In 2013, we successfully achieved the de-politicization of administrative-state structures.
The attitude towards the prisoners at the penitentiary facilities, towards their rights and dignity has been essentially changed.
Approach towards the freedom of speech and expression has been also changed.
Significant steps were taken towards the liberation of mass, electronic or printed media.
Attitude of state authorities towards the minorities is clearly directed to Europe.
And the most important – in 2013, we held really free elections conformable to European standards, and it was recognized not only by Georgian society, which is naturally the main meter in this regard, but also by our western partners and monitors.
I do not mean that we must be satisfied by achieved.
We can never be satisfied by the level of protection of human rights and say that we have already reached the goal.
Any political power, as well as any citizen, should be alerted for the protection of human rights and protect not only their own, but also the rights of others.
From this point of view, I consider the judiciary reform as very important.
The first phase of the reform was implemented last year by the Ministry of Justice. The new democratic regulations for the election of the members of the High Council of Justice of Georgia were approved that were second and recognized by the Venice Commission.
The second phase of the judiciary reform is intended that will make an ordinary judge more independent from their supervisors in accordance of the draft amendments of the legislation.
In accordance of the Constitution, I have already appointed one member of the High Council of Justice of Georgia. Within my competence, I cooperate with the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court of Georgia.
I also believe that this system is still facing more significant challenges.
On one hand, this is the rising the level of trust to the judiciary power, and on the other hand, to ensure the principle of equality of parties in the investigation process.
Being protected from political pressure is not sufficient for full realization of the fundamental human value – the freedom.
The freedom is achieved when each citizen is engaged and participates in the process of state governance.
The self-government is particularly important in this regard.
The local self-governance is the first stop, where each individual personally touches democratic processes, democratic system and benefits from them.
I welcome the adoption of the self-governance code by the Parliament and the fact that this reform has been formed as the Code.
But, you know that adoption of statute is only the start of reform, therefore, in 2014 we are facing another serious task – we should not only conduct self-government elections, but we have to really make the self-governance system work.
I welcome the election of mayors and governors by a direct vote.
I would like to emphasize that the 2014 self-government elections must be essentially better and no worse than the Presidential Elections 2013.
This is a significant political challenge, as a result of which we will actually accomplish the democracy consolidation process that started in our country in 2012.
I also would like to inform you that to avoid making it sudden news for political forces, monitoring missions and society, and to provide them with an opportunity of timely preparation, my decision is to hold the self-governance elections on June 15 of the current year.
I will sign the corresponding decree when you, the Parliament of Georgia adopt the Election Code.
The self-governance is very important for the country like Georgia with ethnic and religious diversity, because the effective involvement of ethnic, religious and social groups in state governance, increased sense of complicity, feeling that we all together rule and develop our country, is the precondition for actual development and prosperity of our homeland.
In our history, while building the most successful Georgia, it was always focused on the unity in diversity.
This is how the greatest Georgian King, Davit Aghmashenebeli [the Builder] was creating the powerful Georgia.
Our culture was carried out and developed on these traditions.
Therefore, the people of diverse confessions, religious beliefs and ethnicity have lived and peacefully co-existed in our country for many centuries.
This was happening in a Christian country.
Indeed, the tolerance is primarily a Christian value.
The role of the Orthodox Church that is highlighted in our Constitution is important in our spiritual and social life.
This role thrives and develops precisely in the frames of Georgian traditions and tolerance.
The position of the leader of Georgian Orthodox Church regarding the oppression of ethnic or religious minorities is thrilling for me.
I would like to recall the words of the Patriarch following the fact of oppression of one of the groups of Muslim Georgians: “In case of any kind of obstruction, they can conduct Muslim prayer at the Patriarchate in Tbilisi”.
This is the position that is truly the continuation of Georgian tradition of tolerance.
Naturally, in diversity and tolerance, I mean not only ethnic and religious issues, but also the diversity of political views.
We are and we should continue forming of a society of people with diverse political views, the society where political forces and parties compete to gain the stance and support of people.
I know that there is a serious criticism from the minority, but we have succeeded last year to meet on one hand – the domestic demand of the country, and on the other hand – to stand the pressure from outside and we managed not to tend to political persecution or vice versa, towards tolerance due to political sympathies.
The legal processes conducted in Georgia are the basis for building a legal state.
Freedom and involvement in state governance and development forms our society into one national body, just because of having free citizens on the one hand, while they are involved in the governance and development of the country, on the other.
However, this process cannot be completely implemented, unless we reduce the level of misbalance in the distribution of revenues and welfare, that unfortunately, still exists in our society.
Social responsibility of the authorities is also our historic tradition.
Even in 12th century, Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli describes the best ruler as it follows:
“Give beggars the property, free the slaves
Make each orphan, each poor rich”.
Social equality is the path that will further unite our society.
I see two most real ways for solving this problem – the first is that we should change those factors, which provoke the aforementioned inequality and provide the high level of competitiveness. It will result in more businesses, more jobs.
The second – it is also possible to overcome the inequality by more reasonable determination of budgetary expenditures
Therefore, I appreciate the huge work done in this direction.
The most vivid indicators of this are the budgets of 2013 and 2014 years, that are socially oriented and focused on social protection of Georgian citizens.
When the government cares about the health and well-being of its citizens, this indicates to the high political cognition.
So, I welcome the large-scale project of the nation-wide universal insurance that has become a kind of a symbol of this policy.
Creating a better system of pensions, labor rights protection, particular attention to IDPs, veterans and the persons with disabilities – this is the exact path we should continue following.
Alongside with the general tendency of economic growth, this eventually will bring the tangible results for sure.
I would like to continue discussion in the same context when speaking about the agriculture development project.
I welcome this project, as it has made significant difference in the life of the people living in villages – in life of hundreds of thousands of people.
This project has helped many families to improve their social conditions and created new opportunities for starting or promoting small and medium business in the country regions.
This project is supported by the majority of the population.
This project really allows us to overcome the fear that existed towards the future and to gain the optimism that is needed to continue building the future of our country.
Naturally, this optimism is based on using our knowledge and skills.
The talent of our people is one of the main assets, on which our culture was rising and developing from since the ancient times.
Education and science have always been one of our main visit cards, while presenting our country on the world map.
The Gelati and Ikalto Academies are among the ancient educational hubs of the world, which we are so proud of.
Therefore, I appreciate the reforms in the educational system aiming to provide the high quality and universally available education.
I welcome the continuation of the reforms for creation of Georgian education system that meets western standards.
In addition, people in Georgia and around the world are free only if they have an opportunity for self-realization. And this is possible only in an economically sustainable state. We know that the year 2013 was difficult for Georgian economics, as it was a kind of a transitional period.
This process included liberation of business from pressure and beginning of actual protection of the property rights.
There was, of course, a hesitation for making investments that is characteristic for the transitional period, which actually slowed country’s economic progress.
I should also underline that the economic team of the government worked hard to overcome this problem.
Amid the political stability, we see that in the second half of 2013 the economic processes have started to progress and improve in the country.
It is natural that those problems were reflected on budget as well, but we hope that amid the 6% economic growth, which is predicted by the World Bank, these problems will be overcome and our economics will continue to improve in the future as well.
In developed countries, the healthy economics implies the significant share of small and medium business in the economic processes.
Unfortunately, this index is still very low here. Therefore, it is important to continue activities for enhancing competitiveness on the legislative base and to carry out relevant reforms in order to provide growth of the small and medium business share in our economics.
I consider the diversification of export markets, attraction of investments and implementation of modern technologies as a very important factor.
These two directions will be entirely feasible and tangible after we sign the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreement with the European Union.
Under the terms of this agreement, we will be able to create new opportunities for making solid investments in Georgia, as it guarantees the stable and strong European markets.
It should also be noted that participation in international projects is another significant tendency for economic development.
Historically and geopolitically, Georgia was one of the main Silk-Road countries. We are eventually regaining this status and taking the role of a reliable partner for cooperation, dialogue and mutual consent between Europe and Asia.
Cooperation between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea Regions is very important at this standpoint, as well as involvement of these economics into joint transnational energy and transport projects.
Implementation of these projects will bring economic profit first of all from transit. It will also enable promotion of concomitant small and medium production, provide employment of local population and enlarge the taxation base.
Furthermore, similar projects make our region more safe and secure and create great possibilities for making the region as the space for cooperation and better economic opportunities.
We have recently discussed these issued at the meetings with the Presidents of Republics of Turkey and Azerbaijan.
We were convinced that we have absolutely common visions in regards with the region and the role of each of us.
We have determined the perspectives of joint regional cooperation.
It is also substantial that we see the potential not only in developing new infrastructure projects, but in growing the regional capabilities as well.
Our goal is to connect dozens of countries and tens of millions of people in Europe and Asia to one another as a result of these infrastructure projects and thus become a subject of their welfare, development and interest.
Naturally, this will grow the level of safety and the opportunities for the progress of democracy and prosperity of our country.
On its turn, democracy and prosperity requires permanent progress in economics and stable high speed of this growth. For this we need to take courageous steps and, what is important, to have coordinated economic visions.
We know that the Government’s economic team has already published the first version of its economic visions. I appreciate the detailed analysis and the improvement of this project. By the final document, the country will be able to develop and overcome the difficulties we are facing today.
This is how we will succeed to create more new places of employment and solve one of our main problems – the repatriation of tens of thousands of people from abroad to their homes.
The violated territorial and social integrity of Georgia still remains the main obstacle for stable development and national security.
In March, 2013, acting Parliament adopted the resolution, which determined that the most painful problem of our territorial integrity should be solved only in a peaceful way.
The approach of peaceful and diplomatic solution of this problem is very significant and immutable course of the country that is based on the principles of state sovereignty, inviolability of borders, continuation of non-recognition policy and the de-occupation of our territories.
Through this process one of the most important issues that we have to solve, is the unconditional, secure and dignified repatriation of IDPs.
It is very important to increase the role of the UN, OSCE and other international organizations in this process and to ensure the return of our citizens to their homes.
I also would like to emphasize that the non-recognition policy does not mean isolationism.
Our citizens, who reside in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region, should be given an opportunity to get direct benefits from Georgia’s European course.
Amid the restoration of our relations, with the support of Georgian Government, the residents of occupied territories should be involved in those joint economic, trade, educational and humanitarian projects with EU, determined by the state strategy – “Engagement via Cooperation”.
I would like to address our Abkhazian and Ossetian compatriots with the words I pronounced presenting my pre-election program:
We offer you to live in the European, free, developed, democratic and peaceful state, which will be the guarantee of well-being, protection of ethnic, religious and cultural identity of its each citizen and the immunity of their political rights.
I also want to address the leaders of the de-facto regimes on our occupied territories: do not act against the vital interests of your people and do not try to create new obstacles between the peoples, who are linked with common statehood for many centuries.
Our unity was violated due to many mistakes and by rough interference of other parties that costed for us the blood of our peoples. The identity and self-cognition of Abkhazian and Ossetian people is in jeopardy today. The strongest warrant for the protection of these principles is in our unity and co-habitation. Therefore, if the future of Abkhazians, Ossetians and all the peoples living on these territories is the least precious for you, don’t leave them in isolation!
Now, I would like to return to what I view the development of our country in the future.
It will be an economically stable, sustainable and politically free state.
Economically and politically stable, integrated and developed Georgia is the guarantee of peace and cooperation development in the region; it is the precondition for the development of economic and cultural projects; it is the basis for kind neighborly relations.
This is understood by our neighbors, this is understood by the progressive part of the mankind. Alongside with our partners we try our best to convince Russian Federation leadership in this.
We try to show them that by creating obstacles to Georgia none of the problems of Russia will be solved. And even may be, on the contrary…
We try to show them that secure, economically strong, stable Georgia, which has made its European and Euro-Atlantic choice, does not mean an Alliance against any other country.
We are building a peaceful and democratic country that aims kind neighborly relations based only on the protection of our sovereignty and territorial integrity – only by respect to these values.
With such rational approach, we have changed the aggressive rhetoric of the previous government that had not brought to any positive effect.
We have built our western visions not on confrontation with others, but on our own European identity.
Last year, we opened a new format of dialogue with Russia, within which we have started discussions on economic, trade, cultural and humanitarian issues.
We think that there was some progress in this process, but the construction of barbwires and expansion of the 11 kilometers so-called border line in the depth of our territory, has seriously and harmfully affected this progress.
At the same time, we still declare our readiness to enhance dialogue with Russia together with our partners, along with Georgia’s integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures, by full respect towards Georgia’s national interests – principles of internationally recognized borders, territorial integrity and sovereignty. On the basis of these principles we are going to solve these most complicated problems.
This is a very difficult path, but this is the only way!
Georgia - our country was often conquered by various empires.
Our history often was progressing against our identity.
Right after we gained independence, our society connected its future to European and Euro-Atlantic space.
I should stress that our Europeanism is not the result of conjuncture, but the natural decision taken by our nation many times through the history.
Even the ancient Greeks recognized us as a European nation.
We were not only a part of Christian-Judaic culture, but we also contributed to it.
Therefore, Europe is our family, our values, our future! It is also the guarantee for maintaining our self-cognition!
From Post-Soviet to a European State – this is the definition for the historic and political mission of our nearest future.
On this path, we took a very important step in Vilnius last November, where we initialed EU Association Agreement.
Now, our goal is to sign this agreement in the shortest period of time. After this Georgia will become the first state in Southern Caucasus, which will sign similar agreement with the European Union.
While meeting the European leaders in Vilnius, I felt how great their support to Georgia is; I saw that the leaders of European states are backing Georgia and our European choice.
Therefore, as the Head of the State, with full confidence I announced and I reiterate now: Georgia’s European Choice will never be revised! The society and political spectrum will never oppose each other on this issue.
So, I would like to define again, that this will not happen due to the political groups’ decision, but because this choice was made by our ancestors. We stand very firm on this path.
In 2014, we should reinforce and strengthen the cooperation with the United States - our strategic partner.
In this regard, we act within the United States-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership, that has not completely addressed its opportunities yet, moreover, it has even greater possibilities and prospects for further development.
The cooperation in the defence sector is noticeably promoted. The meetings between the defence ministers of the two countries have been held.
The U.S.-Georgia joint military trainings were conducted in Georgia several times in 2013.
In August 2013, after a five year-pause, the meeting of the chiefs of Georgian and the U.S. defence structures met in the Pentagon.
We also hope to enhance economic cooperation with the United States, which will open new markets and attract new investments to Georgia.
We hope for enhancing relations between the state leaders, lawmakers, other professional groups and of course, society.
Important steps should be taken to this direction in 2014.
I also would like to mention that I view the future of building stable and secure Georgia in the process of integration in NATO.
Protected citizen, protected society and protected state – this is the key standard for NATO and our defensibility should be developed in this direction.
The 2013 was significant from the standpoint of getting closer to NATO.
A historic decision on joining NATO Response Forces has been made. We got highest assessments for implementing the terms of the 2013 Annual National Program.
It should be also noted that the visit of the NATO Military Committee to Georgia emphasizes the particular level of our cooperation.
You know that our soldiers have been heroically serving within the ISAF Mission. I want to express my special gratitude to them for this service.
Eternal memory of those who lost their lives in action.
As a result of service to this mission, Georgia has over 11,000 military servicemen today, who are prepared in accordance with the standards of marine forces.
Georgia will continue to service in a new mission in Afghanistan after 2014 and from 2015, we will join the NATO Response Forces.
Cooperation with the NATO will be also continued within the Georgian infrastructure -optimal transit road for withdrawal of ISAF forces from Afghanistan, offered to the Alliance by the Government of Georgia.
The NATO Summit is scheduled for September, 2014.
Our society, as well as the authorities, expects the effective steps towards the NATO integration as a result of the long-term cooperation and collaboration with the Alliance.
We are also prepared for participation in UN and EU missions.
In 2013, a framework agreement has been signed in Vilnius, which implies the participation of Georgia in the EU crisis management operations.
We have been offered to participate in three operations that were supported by Georgia.
It would like to underline that participation in these missions increases the global, as well as our national security.
Accordingly, as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Georgian Armed Forces, I consider it reasonable to send the infantry company of Georgian armed forces to the EUFOR RCA.
I address the Parliament of Georgia to support the aforementioned decision.
Today, the state of Georgia actually and at most takes care of its soldiers and properly respects them. This is expressed not only in the trainings, but in the programs of education and other professional courses.
In 2013, a new document of the Defense Strategy Review was created, that determines the main directions for the development of our military forces and the defence system in general.
Georgia has an ambition to fully transfer to a professional army. The work to create a new National Military Strategy is underway.
When we speak about defence and our plans in this respect, I want to highlight that our aspiration to EU and Euro-Atlantic space is not intended against any other state.
Our goal is cooperation and not confrontation.
We will never jeopardize the security of our partners and friends, but we will always be ready to defend our common security and well-being.
This is my brief address to you today.
Of course, our visions and assessments may differ, but I always welcome debates on these issues.
I welcome different views on the position we have today, but it should be emphasized that in Georgia, the agreement of great responsibility of democracy, peace, security, welfare and universal equality that the state undertaken before its citizens, will never be questioned and endangered, because this is how democratic states should be and this is the tradition of our country.