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President Zourabichvili: ‘Essential that Diaspora has Representatives in Parliament’

President Salome Zourabichvili suggested several initiatives on the need of a diaspora representative in the Georgian Parliament and establishing a Diaspora House at the Parliamentary Network on Diaspora Policies conference held by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
During the conference, the President stated that the political participation of the diaspora needed to be enriched and their involvement in the country’s advancement through political participation should be expanded by including diaspora representatives as elected members of Parliament.
“It is essential that the diaspora has representatives and protectors of its interests in the Georgian Parliament. Such a practice exists in many countries that have large diasporas and have realized that they should be allowed to deliver a speech in Parliament and be involved in the law-making process,” noted the President.  
President Zourabichvili asked the political groups participating in the parliamentary elections to include a representative of the diaspora among the first 15 members of their electoral lists.
“This will be a novelty and an important message to our diaspora. If we have a healthy competition among the parties in this regard, it will be beneficial both for the country and for our diaspora,” highlighted the President.
The President’s also proposed to establish a Diaspora House in Georgia.
President Zourabichvili stated that diaspora members who are returning to Georgia frequently need detailed information on the job and investment opportunities, education options, and other opportunities offered by the country. The Diaspora House would have the specific and essential function of providing thorough information.
President Zourabichvili expressed her readiness to provide a cabinet at the Orbeliani Palace for the Diaspora House and addressed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to appoint an official who would meet with diaspora representatives at the Palace.
The President stressed the role and significance of the Georgian diaspora at the conference. She stated that as Georgia considered itself a country without emigrants for a long time, it was not ready to overcome the diaspora problem, but in a very short period of time, it transformed into a nation with a large diaspora abroad.
“We weren’t ready to understand what the diaspora represented, how it could be used in the country’s building process while simultaneously being supported, provided for with the proper treatment as to not become a permanent emigration.   
“I grew up in the emigration and I was always surprised when I used to meet emigrants from diverse countries saying that they started a new life in a new country and didn’t want to have any further links with their homeland.
“However, the attitude of our diaspora is not similar. The hearts of our compatriots living abroad always belongs to their homeland. Fortunately, there is no gap between them and the country. But it does not mean that we should not work more in order to make existing spiritual connections more effective.
“We should provide perspectives for the diaspora here in the country as well as opportunities abroad to expand their potential at the maximum extent and be honorably represented everywhere,” underscored the President.  
President Zourabichvili stated that illegal migration is a problem for our partners today, but it does not mean that our diaspora is not very well-accepted in many countries and does not contribute intensely by its culture and experience.
“I have lived in France and I know how Georgian doctors are respected in every city and every hospital there. Our doctors are appreciated in the world, both in research and in practical work. This is our inherent and one of our largest potentials,” noted the President.    
The President stated that when talking about maintaining links with the emigration, the issue of their return arises immediately. This topic is different in today’s world. Currently, in the age of simplified communications and new technologies, there are various options to return to your country: returning temporarily, gaining diverse connections to live abroad and work in your homeland, and more.
“Georgian students from foreign countries working as interns in the Administration of the President are some of the most dynamic and interesting parts of my administration through their ideas, freedoms, and skills for taking initiatives, that is also utterly important and the thing we lack the most,” stated President Zourabichvili.
The President urged representatives of the Georgian diaspora to return to the homeland. She also highlighted that no return is as honorable and successful as a return to one’s own region or town.
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