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President Giorgi Margvelashvili Delivers Fifth Annual Address to the Parliament of Georgia

This is my fifth address delivered to the Parliament that naturally summarizes our activities over the past few years. Obviously, this process cannot be complete unless we touch upon the changes that took place in 2012.
Many people contributing to this process are absent today at the Parliament; however, the entire Georgian society remembers this accomplishment, as it was a step forward for Georgia. 
Peaceful change of power has become an important step that has significantly advanced our country. I remember our cooperation in the Government of Georgia in 2013 and our spirit at that time; reforms that Davit Sergeenko and Davit Kirvalidze carried out and efforts that I undertook in the education system, and I should point out that not much has been done in the education system ever since, were oriented toward ordinary citizens of Georgia and improvement of their lives. 
This was our goal in healthcare and agriculture. Having this spirit, I agreed to become the presidential candidate of the "Georgian Dream" in order to further these activities. It was exciting to see how our daily efforts changed living conditions of ordinary Georgian citizens. 
Today we will try to summarize what we went through next. First of all, I would like to begin with our foreign policy and the current situation. In terms of European integration, we see impressive outcomes, in the form of the Association Agreement, free trade agreement, visa-free regime and recently advanced Georgia-EU high-level dialogue.
We will once again receive support from our European partners soon, on May 26. We will see the firm support of Georgia from the West. We have been and still remain NATO aspirant country; however, our involvement in NATO military exercises has been further strengthened, we have NATO-Georgia substantial package, we have advanced our defense capabilities, and indeed, reforms carried out in defense have further strengthened Georgia’s defense capabilities. 
I would also like to thank all the militaries who raise the Georgian flag with pride and all the families who have suffered the pain of losing our soldiers. I would like to underline that we should further reinforce ongoing reforms in defense and increase funding that will certainly lead to advancing our country’s defense capabilities. We share successful cooperation in defense with many countries, including the United States, and this is a very interesting charter of strategic partnership. 
Negotiations are initiated and they could be further intensified in terms of free trade. In this regard, I would like to point out that protection of investors and their interests in Georgia is very important in order to successfully continue these negotiations and attract more investors to our country.
If we look at free trade, we have impressive results in this regard. In fact, we represent the country that exercised free trade with market of 200 million dollars, while today, exports products in market of 2 billion dollars. This is a positive precondition for improving the economic situation; along with the strategic function that defines Georgia as a transit country, free trade significantly triggers investment growth and prospects for strengthening economy.
However, when we describe our foreign policy, naturally, we should pay attention to the main factor, the Russian Federation. In this regard, I have repeatedly highlighted that our diplomacy is indeed successful.
Russia is unsuccessful in terms of the non-recognition policy of the occupied territories of Georgia and international community has clearly turned its back to this injustice that Russia has been attempting to communicate through recognizing independence of Abkhazia and the-so called South Ossetia.
We have positive dynamics, as well as in terms of the UN resolution on internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia. On the whole, I would like to point out that our policy against Russia, meaning the policy of strategic patience and is right and adequate, as our one of the main goals is not to succumb to provocations of the Russian Federation that is in the aggressive phase of development and not to allow the Russian Federation to exercise power over our country. This is even more relevant in the new phase, when the entire world is involved in confrontation with Russia.
We can say that 2018 was defined by Russia as an imitation of the Cold War and an attempt to establish the Cold War. The specifics and the problem of the Cold War lies behind in sabre-rattling policy in third countries, that are not fully protected and, while Georgia is not yet a member of NATO. That is why we specifically have to be vigilant in this direction and I believe, the policy of strategic patience is right. However, in this new phase, in my view, it is important to strengthen motivation to be united, despite political affiliation, in protection of values of unity and integrity of our homeland.
In this terms, I find the policy directed against the President’s institute absolutely ambiguous. Considering Georgia’s relations with Russia, our country abolishes the political body that should hold discussions on the country’s defensibility; abolishes the National Security Council. Avoiding any political context, it is equal to the self-survival instinct, to preserve such institutions and be united around these key issues, as well as to have a clear vision that we stand united to protect our homeland.
I was surprised, while in 2015, I announced discussions on the occupied regions, all political parties and interest groups got engaged and we had an opportunity to have a dialogue with everyone, but the “Georgian Dream” turned its back to this dialogue. Generally, I consider it wrong to ignore and reject those issues that should unite us instead of having diverse positions. 
I would like to remind you few recent initiatives: an initiative to appoint the Special Representative of the United States to Georgia; Georgia Support Act that I initiated. These are the issues in which Ukrainians are ahead us in relation to Russia and foreign policy. Why should we ignore and reject such initiatives? In general, the policy of ignoring and weakening institutions, in my opinion, weakens the country and not concrete politicians. My parliamentary addresses and initiatives were directed towards protecting state institutions, the National Bank, the court, the President's institute.
What might be the aim of weakening state institutions? In this terms, if review Constitutional amendments of 2017, we will see that the main initiatives indeed weakened democracy and state institutions.
Let us take a look at the situation in local self-governance – we have weakened the self-governance system and as a result have less self-governing cities. With regard to the President's institution –abolished direct Presidential elections, against the will of the population, and the most importantly, postponed the decade-long-promised reform of the Parliamentary elections to 2024. Weakening political institutions, steps taken against politicians, I think, eventually weaken not some politicians but institutional management of the country. In this regard, when I look back to 2016 parliamentary elections, I see that it was deliberate elimination of the political class and attempt to weaken political parties, the main players in Georgian politics.
During this period no steps have been taken to strengthen the political opposition, to create a prerequisite for strong opposition; no legislation has been adopted in this direction. When I recall the public broadcasting of torture in 2015, it could be said that such steps really take us far from the European political culture and class.
But at the same time, in these years our country’s image has been changed and it is no longer aggressive. Our citizens are no longer afraid of the state, unlike previous years. This benchmark was established even from the very beginning in 2012, during the governmental changes and it is still maintained. The positive changes take place in the penitentiary system, as well as in criminal prosecution; however, these changes should have been more intense.
The law enforcement system should have been freed from those individuals who are associated (without any questions) with the violence happening previously. That is why I welcomed your initiative on "Girgvliani's Amendments" to avoid those violent actions that united the entire country in 2012. However, this has not happened. 
Consequently, if we do not dismiss these individuals, who committed violence, from the Prosecutor's Office and from other criminal prosecution bodies, how can we guarantee fair investigation and information transparency on cases of President Gamsakhurdia, Zurab Zhvania, Rafalianz, Mukhtarli. These were our purpose, mission and mandate while changing the Government to end the violence. But, despite the absence of violence, these individuals still remain on their positions up to date and these structures have not been depoliticized. 
Hereby, in this context with the same emotion, I would like to touch upon the justice system. 
The reform of judiciary is indeed difficult and cannot be carried out within a day; therefore it would be right not to have an ambition of its implementation in one day. However, it was our common responsibility to lay a foundation for the changes in judiciary system.
What have we done to this commitment through last appointments and conducted processes? We have postponed it for unlimited time. 
We remember the difficult conditions of the political campaign and media environment in 2012, while being in opposition. Indeed, since 2012, media become free and assaults against media no longer exist. However, some nonviolent obstacles are still raised against media; you can ask any media representatives, they work in a stressful regime, in a permanent expectancy to face difficulties.
We have taken positive steps in business as well. The pressure on businesses is no longer carried out and business environment is free. This is really a step forward.
I also welcome the Prime Minister's initiatives in terms of taxes that demonstrates progress. I welcome the promotion of startups and innovations; however, the goal for 2020 towards the social equality, unfortunately, has not been achieved. It could be said that economic inequality is still intense in our society. This is a fact! In the context of this inequality, of course, ongoing processes on banking loans had a serious impact on our population. However, I still would like to thank the National Bank of Georgia that makes every effort to have stable and foreseeable situation.  
We have very low number of small and medium businesses in our country that are still under the shadow of large businesses. However, the key problem is unemployment. Today we live in the country in which majority of the population faces this problem. I do not want to start statistical debate on how many people are unemployed and employed, while the statistics are based on a definition that a person, for example, was working at least an hour for the past seven days to earn income, help for free or just was formally registered as a worker. As it turns out, this formula determines unemployment rate in Georgia.
My friend Zurab Zhvania used to say that the best statistics to show economical condition is to check a fridge – whether it is full or empty. Today, in terms of employment, we are in the situation in which our citizens are ready to risk their lives not to lose their jobs, not to mention overall labor safety conditions in the country.
Therefore, we can say that many things have been achieved since 2012. On the 6th anniversary, it could be noted that the state has taken an important step towards foreign policy. The state is no longer violent. Unfortunately, in these six years, we have weakened state institutions and have not guaranteed a more democratic state system that would better address the will of our people and society.
Throughout this period, we entered reality, which involved political parties like the “Union of Citizens of Georgia", the “National Movement", when concentration of power becomes dangerous for democracy as well as for the ruling party itself. 
We do not have a luxury to enter the era of dramatic changes, again. Democracy and separation of power is the answer to all those problems that I have already discussed.
We should take into consideration the examples of Georgian history; today, we must ensure the democratic process for the people on the level of self-governance as well as any others.
That is why my major advice to the Parliament is to change the law on elections urgently, before the new constitution enters into force, and not in 2024, but today. Let`s think about the changes in this law and separation of power that will be a serious precondition for the stability of the country as well as of the ruling party.
I would like to thank you for your attention. I am ready for the discussion with the emotion that we all are citizens of this country and we should be concerned about our country's future and stability.
God Bless Georgia!


 
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