Official web site of the President of Georgia
 

02.03.2016

2016 Annual Report of the President of Georgia



 
Honorable Chairman,
 
Dear Prime Minister, Government Officials, Members of the Parliament,
 
Distinguished Guests and Ambassadors,
 
Honorable Society,
 
 
 
It is my honor to address you and the whole society on the essentially important issues for our country. But before I start my speech that mainly refers to the perspectives of our European and Euro –Atlantic developments, I would like to recall the person, who was a friend of mine, co-fighter of many of you and as most importantly, one of the main architects of Georgia`s European integration.
 
Eleven years ago, on this day, our friend, the Prime Minister of Georgia Zurab Zhvania tragically died. I would like to ask you to hold the moment of silence to pay tribute to his memory.
 
Dear friends, in 2016 we celebrate the 25th anniversary since Georgia`s independence. 25 years ago altogether, we attained the cherished dream of our predecessors and previous generations as Georgia became independent. However, the path from the independence towards freedom still has to be gone through.
 
The independence means to be independent from somebody or something. However, freedom is much more! Freedom does not only mean deliverance from somebody, but it refers to the pave your own, unique way. 
 
We gained our independence but the struggle for our freedom continues! We must create state that is politically independent and free. This is state where political and social rights of every citizen is guaranteed; this is unity, which is dominated by laws but not by individuals. Free Georgia is the only Georgia that will manage to be unified not only territorially but also contently. The country where Georgian past, present and future comes together.
 
Based on our free and historical choice, I announced 2016 as a year of European State. This is the continuation of the struggle carried out by our previous generations. Regarding this path, Noe Jordania stated “we are not afraid of future”, Zurab Zhvania was setting the goal “I am Georgian therefore I am European”. On this way, I do not see Georgia as a guest in the European family, but as a full-fledged member of this community.
 
Hence, as we represent pro-western, pro-European Georgia, we must clearly admit and define the goal to build a western style State. However, in order to continue our advancement we must clearly see the point, piece of our history where we exist.  Which part of the road are we going through now? 
 
Nowadays, fifth of the Georgian territories are occupied. Due to the hard economic conditions, almost fifth of the country’s population has emigrated. The rate of poverty and inequality is high. We have alarmingly high rates of child and maternal mortality. In economy, share of small and medium businesses is not more than 20%. The unemployment rate is extremely heavy, while, the portion of employed people in the public sector is disproportionately high.
 
The 2015 was difficult both in political and economic terms. The slowdown of global economic growth, particularly in emerging markets; strengthening US dollar; dropping oil price to a historical minimum; Recession of Russian and Ukrainian economies in the wake of the war between these two countries; Economic difficulties emerged from political tensions between Russia and Turkey. These are challenges that emerged in the world economy and took place specifically in our region that Georgian economy had to deal with.
 
It is obvious that in economic terms, 2016 is going to be difficult for the whole world and particularly for the developing countries. The competition between states will be naturally increased for the access to the limited resources. It is important for Georgia to manage and effectively use its competitive abilities.
 
Considering ongoing global challenges in the region, we must realize that in modern reality unused opportunities mean regression. Due to the ways of Georgia`s development, Ilia Chavchavadze, founding father of our historically European choice, stated - "Just stand a little while longer, you will turn into the stinking pool". Therefore, in such difficult situation in the world as well as in the region, Georgia must take steps for its effective development.
 
We have to follow the rhythm and pulsation of the contemporary civilization. In such unpredictable environment, the efficient and rapid utilization of all our opportunities and competitive advantages is crucially important. In 2016, Georgia must be focused on the rapid economic growth.  Therefore, the government needs to work hard to strengthen the ongoing structural reforms and increase the competitiveness of our country on the global capital markets.
 
In this regard, I would like to welcome four main initiatives of the Prime Minister of Georgia in order to ensure our country`s economic development:
 
·          Launching job-creation oriented reforms;
 
·         Involving business sector in government decision-making process and therefore quick solutions;
 
·         Accent on acceleration of regional development and regional infrastructural projects;
 
·         Educational Reform; I would like to highlight this initiative on the fundamental reform of the system that I consider as very important. Georgia must respond to the high demands of competitive environment by establishing qualitative educational standards.
 
 
 
The political will on the implementation of educational reform in our society already exists. Educational system must respond the long-term interests of our community.
 
 We have already initiated and taken important steps towards liberal economy that creates important perspectives for our economy`s further development. I would like to highlight negotiations on the free trade with China, intensified cooperation with US in the same direction, the existing free trade agreement with EU, though it should be mentioned that the potentials of DCFTA are not completely used yet. In this respect, we need to determine the comparative advantages of Georgia towards the European countries and its trading partners; competitive sectors should be identified.
 
We must see the great potentials that Georgia really has. Some of them are given from nature and god but some are determined by our geopolitical location where we live. We really have these capabilities but it needs utilization. I would like to underline once again that the unused potentials and opportunities not only freeze the country on the one place, but it pushes back the pace of its development.
 
Our country’s competitive advantage – the transit function must be more actively developed. More initiatives that are infrastructural as well as active involvement of international financial institutions to the logistical projects, strong support of warehouse companies are significant.
 
Georgia has really unique and important location. In terms of “New Silk Road”, we historically have the function that gives great importance and accent to Georgia`s geopolitical opportunities. The projects in this direction either have started or implemented but the process has to be deepened. Our goal is to carry out the growing potentials. Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, TANAP, TAP, other initiatives of Silk Road, trans regional projects such as:  Trans-Caspian pipeline and Lapis Lazuli transit route -- these are significantly important potentials that should be maximally used and developed.
 
The opportunities that go through the process of either implementation or planning has been added a new, interesting opportunity for the overall region and particularly for Georgia. This is the Iranian economic potential; cooperation of Persian Gulf with Europe that will increase the unique role of Georgia.
 
Not only such geopolitical projects, but also our nature, the place where we live opens very interesting possibilities for us. Firstly, these are opportunities in agriculture. Georgia has serious potential in this direction. It is significantly important to undertake principal steps and fully utilize these resources.
 
Simply speaking, agriculture has to be transformed into business. The efficient development of land market is one of the most important step in this direction. If we comprehend the fact that number of infrastructural projects are developing on Georgian territory, it is crucial to support warehouses and logistical projects sideway with infrastructure and transit arteries. This will contribute to employment within the country; it will help to ensure a healthy proportion between employments within agriculture and urban segments. 
 
Tourism development plays significant role that is the huge potential given from our nature.
 
Economic growth and protection of ecology and culture has never been unresolved dilemma. If we focus only on industrial projects, and do not consider where we implement them or what standards do we use, we will lose very important thing that is spiritual potential. If we destroy our nature, we will lose our unique cultural heritage.
 
The economic development itself is an opportunity to move with the same values that we had when we came to power in 2012. This is a person, individual-oriented budgetary policy that has to be maintained. It is not just the decision of any political party or any group with political beliefs. This decision means that the government is focused on the person, on the individual. This is decision that takes its roots in our Constitution, which says that we build social state.
 
Naturally, it does not exclude that the state budget spending should become more adequate and efficient in the social direction and the differentiation of social support should be deepened.
 
I would like to highlight and express my support towards the healthcare reform that is implemented in Georgia. This reform gives the relief to our country`s population. Therefore, despite the difficulties, state must continue and develop high quality and affordable health care policy. This is not only politics. Under this policy, we protect the most valuable - our citizens’ lives.
 
When we talk about building modern European state, we mean the state traditions that formed the core of European statehood. Historically, Constitutionalism is one of the fundaments of European statehood that means defending constitutional institutions` functions and deepening their cooperation. To change the personified relationships typical for the transition period with the properly working strong democratic institutions is highly important. Political or personal confrontation should not be transmitted to the contravention of fundamental statehood, constitutional institutions and processes. 
 
 In this respect, I would like to mention judicial system. Judiciary is one of the fundaments of our state, our society and politically sustainable country. Let me draw your attention on several issues: For the effective judiciary and judicial reforms, the law and political will is needed in order to avoid pressure towards judges and curvature of judicial authorities. For its part, the main strain in the judicial system goes to main individual – to judge. Therefore, the principles and procedures of their selection process deserves special attention. Particularly in such circumstances, when you, government and I can be changed and reelected by people, but the judges that we assign are appointed for our life term.
 
Within my authority and responsibility, I implement the selection of judges based on professionalism and inviolable reputation. We had such approach in past that still continues. Within this attitude, my represented and your appointed judges both in Supreme and in the Constitutional Court will fulfill the highest standards. Therefore, Georgian citizens will have opportunity to achieve the highest justice in the highest circles.
 
Recently, society had many reasonable questions on personnel selection decisions conducted by the High Council of Justice.
 
The improvement and enhancement of the judicial system should be continued. The main player in this process is High Council of Justice. Naturally, Georgian Parliament has to make decisions on implementation of reforms, but I would like to offer you some initiatives:
 
·         Launching appeals mechanism at the Supreme Court on decision made by the High Council of Georgia due to the appointment of judges during the probationary' period;
 
·         Changing the selection mechanism of the members of the High Council of Justice in such a way that proportionally three members of all court instances be presented in the Council;
 
·         Giving the right to the Scientific Advisory Board of the Supreme Court to present recommendations to the High Council of Justice about the appointment of judges for lifetime and for their promotion;
 
 
 
·         The functions and composition of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Supreme Court should be strengthened in order to increase the qualification of the judges and promote analysis of the court practice.
 
Bar Corps play significant role in the System of Justice. I consider their protection on the legislative level also as important that will ensure deepening the principle of competitiveness in our judicial system.     
 
For the formation of the fair justice, the role of law enforcement authorities is essential. I think that regulatory legal framework for the Prosecutor`s Office, Ministry of Internal Affairs and State Security Service still needs perfection. Last year, due to the Prosecutor`s Office, the Parliament of Georgia passed the law that in fact determined the rule of Chief Prosecutor’s appointment. I think that real reform of the Prosecutor's Office must be implemented that will not contain only the rule of Chief Prosecutor’s appointment.
 
In this regard, as I consider it appropriate, the Prosecutorial Council  should be authorized to participate in the process of the prosecutors’ appointment and dismissal. At the same time, the council should be strengthened with the participation of civil society and law scientists.  But globally, the systematic reform of the Prosecutor`s Office must be implemented. It should be highlighted that active reform of the Ministry of Internal Affairs should be conducted as well. However, the main goal we should aspire is directed towards Georgian citizens. They should have feeling that they live in secured country but the protection of their rights must not go through the restriction of their freedom.    
 
The fight against crime never ends. However, we, altogether, the government structures and the whole society must manage the crime to be marginalized and unacceptable for our society. Therefore, community must be actively involved in the cooperation with law enforcement branches.
 
Another important structure, I would like to talk about is the National Bank of Georgia, the constitutional body that ensures our country`s economic and financial stability. Last year, the Parliament of Georgia has adopted law on the National Bank of Georgia. I would like to remind our society that I used Veto that you managed to override. My questions regarding this issue deepened after the Constitutional Court of Georgia suspended changes before the final decision. In such circumstances, I believe that today, we must take steps forward and pass the Law on the National Bank of Georgia that will strengthen this institution.
 
National Security Council is another very important constitutional institution. This is the place where the head of the state, representatives of legislative and executive authorities discuss the essentially important issues for the country`s security. The functions of this council is crucial in terms of the risk prevention as well as strategic planning and deepening military-civilian relations control. This is unique format where all three-government representatives gather. Several days ago, this important institution celebrated 20th anniversary. Certainly, we will continue its effective functioning in future, as Georgia is not presented in the peaceful region and the risks instead of decreasing has further deepened throughout the last year.
 
In response to the threats and challenges, Georgia took concrete steps to deepen security and defense spheres:
 
·         According to the established plan, the considered activities under NATO substantial package are being implemented;
 
·         In August, the Joint Training and Evaluation Center was opened.
 
·         In  July 2015,  a large-scale, multi-national military exercise „Agile Spirit 2015“ was conducted in Georgia in the framework of the Substantial NATO-Georgia  package. Representatives of NATO member and partner countries participated. 
 
·         Last year, based on the signed agreement with France, the process of creating the modern anti-aircraft defense system has started.
 
·         A large-scale command and staff training "Didgori 2015” was held.
 
Euro-Atlantic integration still remains as priority for Georgia’s security. We will use all the instruments NATO has offered for strengthening our defense capability as well as we will enhance our efforts for Georgia`s integration into the Alliance. This is strategic goal that we try to achieve not only in terms of political integration, but also we increase our country`s defense capabilities on the daily basis in accordance with NATO standards and strong support of our allies.
 
At the same time, along with international community, we actively continue to fight against terrorism both in international missions and inside the country with active prevention policy. Therefore, we are deepening close cooperation with our partner countries.
 
I would like to express my gratitude once again to the Georgian soldier, who reveals our homeland with professionalism and courage throughout the whole world. I bow head before the bloodshed of our co-brothers on the battlefield.
 
In the existing complicated and dynamically changing international environment, it is extremely important to conduct pro-active foreign policy and actively promote Georgia`s issues on the world`s agenda.
 
In 2015, the visits to the United States, to the European Union countries and Asia, as well as the visits of Heads of the States from different countries, European Union and NATO leaders in Georgia, gave us great opportunity to draw international community’s attention to the current and essential issues for Georgia. We managed to fully fulfill all the requirements for the visa liberalization with the EU. Naturally, we expect that doors of the European states will be opened in 2016 for the Georgian citizens.
 
We must strengthen bilateral relations with the United States. Besides the new impetus in the negotiations on free trade, we still have untapped resources in many other spheres for deepening cooperation with our main strategic partner. Additionally to other directions, there is potential which implies that Georgia should be more actively presented and observed in Washington as well as on the US political radars.
 
At the same time, it is important to set the goal and take our relations with EU on the new level as well as implement Georgia’s European perspectives. Moving to the new stage also implies to forming our country as an important regional player in future. European Georgia must become the foothold for regional stability and prosperity. Our goal is to show our partners and international community that European prosperity will be maintained only when Georgia and Caucasus will be stable. It is very important to deepen our cooperation within our region and beyond; Enlarge the projects that will present Georgia`s importance on geopolitical map. We need to show clearly that European prosperity can not be ensured without Georgia.
 
But what is the main problem of this region?
 
We can obviously see that the problem is not young democracies. Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – the successful countries that made their free choice are facing territorial problems. In this regard, the so called treaties signed by Russian Federation with Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region / South Ossetia was concerning for us and for our partners that we altogether condemned. The unified European and Euro-Atlantic policy must become the response that will clearly demonstrate the impossibility of drawing dividing lines in Europe, in this part of universe. 
 
Georgian - Russian relationships represent part of the European policy and should be presented in European policy terms. The response should be unified and clear based on following:
 
·          As with any other state, Georgia aspires towards cooperation with Russia based on the principles of equality.
 
·         United, stable, prosperous, democratic and strong Georgia is the guarantee for enhanced security in Caucasus, advancement and mutually beneficial cooperation with neighbors.
 
·         The welfare and prosperity of any country, including Russian Federation cannot be achieved through the occupation of its neighbor`s territories and ignoring the interests of that society.
 
Once again, as the leader of the state, I reaffirm Georgia`s aspiration towards neighborly relations based on the respect of each other’s national interests, territorial integrity and equality. However, before such dialogue will take place and the context will be clearly understood and read, we should not stop our efforts and strengthen the significant point of our foreign policy that refers to the non-recognition policy. In this respect, we cannot have break at any minute. We have success in this direction as more and more countries support UN resolution on the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. Parallel to this policy, we constantly send massages to the people living on the occupied territories regarding their opportunities to have benefits from Georgia`s European integration.
 
It is important for all of us to realize that our relations with our northern partner frequently goes through the active use of soft power. In such circumstances, the coordinated work with our western partners is necessary to neutralize these attacks. It should be also considered, that important economic cooperation can be determined by the Russian soft power. I have to repeat that mainly such relations refers to Gazprom.  We should not forget that Russia uses its economic levers for political purposes. Therefore, negotiations with Gazprom should be conducted in a transparent manner under the highest political leadership mandate, within the established red lines. 
 
I will continue to be actively involved in all processes and I will use all my efforts to effectively and harmlessly return Georgia to its natural, European and Euro-Atlantic space. However, in order to implement and take these important steps, the European course must be deepened not only in foreign policy terms, but the reforms of public and political systems has to be implemented domestically as well.  We must turn the European standards to our daily life.
 
It should be emphasized that according to international authoritative rankings, Georgia has positive potentials such as: corruption, doing business, free economy, militarization index. However, its enhancement and advancement is necessary and important.
 
The strong society creates modern European country. The state and public practices based on the principle of secularism needs to be strengthened. Modern democracy cannot be conducted without strong political parties. Therefore, the political parties should be supported to become more stable in order to have enlarged and steady electorate that will vote for them over the years. This is prerequisite not only just for political liberalism, but for the creation of effective democratic system where main figures and actors are strong political entities. It also implies that our traditional a bipolar confrontation between the government forces and radically opposing groups will be changed by political palette. The electorate will vote and steady strengthen the political entity that will protect their interests and not choose just between worse and better.  
 
I would also like to mention that we have important steps taken towards development of civil society. However, civil society is not only non-governmental organizations. It should be noted that the non-governmental sector in our country is quite strong that is important part of our community. Strengthening civil society is one of the strategic goals. Main actor is active citizen who should be basis for modern Georgian, European social-political institutions.
 
It is natural that today, I want to focus specifically on the upcoming parliamentary elections as the major challenge of 2016. Since 2012, the standards and quality of elections has been improved, though it is necessary to deepen this tendency. In 2016, we must conduct elections based on European standards that will ensure Georgia as country with European political culture. Undoubtedly, questions should not be raised neither from society nor from the international organizations and observers regarding the legitimacy and fairness of the elections. As the consequences, the winner must be society and country but not just any political entity. Our goal should be the victory of the electorate who will determine which political authority will run the state.
 
For deepening European political culture, one of the main aspects represents the relationships towards political parties and opponents. It is natural, that political competition and confrontation revives political life. However, the controversy considers opponent as adversary and not as enemy. The goal should be victory and not destruction. This is European political culture and we should work in this direction.
 
Talking about elections context, I would like to mention the changes of electoral system. For me, it was important to see the consensus that was achieved among political entities. The case concern amendment in majoritarian system. It was impressive that members of the parliament had common view on this issue. However, the only difference in political spectrum is the date whether to implement this model in 2016 or 2020. Herewith, it should be outlined that not only 2016, but also 2017 and 2018 are elections years. Therefore, the changes should be considered now in order to avoid the force majeure situation in electoral reforms constantly.
 
Nowadays, starting the implementation of reforms is significant. Herewith, as we talk about the elections next year, we should mention Self-Governance as the main segment of the democratic institutions. In reality, self-governance is the guarantee of democratic processes. Having successful democracy means to be democratic on the various public structures starting from small villages completed with Georgian Parliament. Self-Government must be given more authority and responsibility. Building their democratic system is our political goal that should be started today, as the 2017 is the year of new Self-Governance elections. 
 
When we talk about elections, we should emphasize the role of media that takes important place in political life as well as it is essential in the year of elections. Media must be free and impartial giving equal opportunities to all political parties to state their position. It is our duty to ensure and protect freedom of speech and media. Free media is inviolable.
 
Today, we have media multiplicity that is determined by our society’s nature of freedom and democracy. Our citizens` struggled for this goal. The diversity that gives great opportunity to address people is very important for us, for the politicians. One important accent that we must pay attention to is the public authorities` and high-ranking politicians`self-restriction, the refusal to evaluate and judge the specific editorial policy. This is European political tradition that will further strengthen free media.
 
Over the past year, number of individuals, including media representatives spread the information about the attempts to influence them by illegal surveillance and footage of their private lives. This fact once again emphasizes that still practical as well as systemic steps should be taken towards this direction.
 
Last year, the Constitutional Court made a significantly important positive decision regarding nine-month period of pre-trial detention established by the Constitution. However, the process regarding pre-trial detention has to be deepened. We must create and establish system that will get closer and be adequate to the European standards. We attempted to study the case about systemic crimes committed during the term of our previous government. I mean violent crime; we found out that the persecution has been initiated against 124 persons.
 
What does the 124 persons mean? This question is important for Georgian society. Do we obviously see that systemic crime was responded?! In this respect, there are still questions. Our citizens must be guaranteed  that those people who committed sadism and violent crime are persecuted or have already been sentenced.
 
I would like to talk about another acute problem. In 2012, we stated that our country had political prisoners and we released them. Therefore, today we are obliged to give every such person the opportunity to use the right of fair trial. To release a person stating that he is political prisoner and do not give the opportunity to prove his innocence itself is illogical and absurd.
 
The 2014 was appalling year in terms of the violence against women. In some extent, this pushed me to announce the 2015 as the Year of Women. Together with the government, we did a lot in this direction. Even in the Parliament, the law regarding quota is registered and I would like to stress that I support it. In order to sum up the Women’s year, I selected three of them and awarded: Maro Makhashvili, Irine Enukidze and Nona Gaprindashvili. Of course, it could be said that this is symbolic. But, the appreciation of our glorious women`s merits will strengthen our society`s values as the value to a large extent determines our future.
 
The violence is directed not only against women but it takes place in the whole society. It has to be managed by elimination of its causes and facilitator factors. Not only aggression but also everything that leads to it - intolerance, discrimination, stigmatization or indifference must be unacceptable for our society. I consider as necessary to respond to the every case of discrimination in a proper manner that of course must be determined by law enforcement agencies, though it is not the solution. Society and law enforcement bodies as well as political and public entities must stand on the same position.
 
We need to create public opinion jointly that refers to the inhuman behavior and oppression as unacceptable for our culture and nature, for what we call our past and identity. I would like to stress that the unity of diverse is essential condition for building Georgia as our common homeland.
 
Alike last year, I would like to draw your attention once again to the importance of children`s rights protection, as nowadays thousands of children live in extreme poverty in Georgia. The employment and resettlement of refugees, creation of adapted living conditions for disabled persons, protection of elderly and homeless persons' rights, social support for veterans carries essential importance; health rehabilitation and employment issues deserve special attention. 
 
This is important in political, human and historical respects. Our personal as well as our nation`s and state`s place on the map of civilization is determined by our behavior, how do we treat, how do we make life easier for people next to us who need help, assistance and care. I can say that the Georgian society had always been exceptional, not only in poverty period but also in the nest years. Tens of thousands of our citizens divided their last food to neighbors, friends, and even to strangers. Their charity rescued and saved dignity, health and lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the most difficult years and they continue it today. Each of such person creates the strength of Georgian society. I would like to underline that I will always stand with such people and support charity initiatives in this direction, I will participate in the essential process that implies to the making life easier to each other.
 
The path from our country`s independence to freedom goes through the freedom of every citizen. The freedom itself does not exist without responsibility towards state as well as towards citizens and yourself. This responsibility implies to the agreement on the fundamental values on which a free and developed state is being built. This is not forcible, it is the agreement of free people to build, strengthen and develop their free homeland.
 
Freedom means care and effort for prosperity and peace, equality and enhancement of democracy. Free State will not succeed without active citizen. A citizen who participates in the political process as voter, as member of government or society.
 
This country belongs to all of us equally. Today we must create its future. We cannot blame anybody else for the missed opportunities, mistakes and failures or make any excuses to our present and future. We must keep in mind that today we stand here and create present and future of our country.
 
God bless Georgia!