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President Salome Zourabichvili’s First Press Conference

Salome Zourabichvili, President of Georgia has held a press conference to discuss the current processes in Georgia at Atoneli Palace. According to President Zourabichvili, the Presidential Reserve Fund is abolished in compliance with the current legislation; however, new mechanisms should be implemented in order the President to support initiatives, charity and innovations.
"I have decided to find a mechanism and a private resource, with the help of public figures, to establish a foundation in which I, first of all, will transfer my presidential salary and hopefully, others will also follow my example. The French pension that I already receive is quite enough, enabling me to use my presidential salary for activities that we will decide together,” President Zourabichvili said.
In her address, President Zourabichvili has discussed the defamation law and showed readiness, on behalf of the entire Presidential Administration, to hold broad discussions with the society and non-governmental organizations on this topic. Even though a president of Georgia does not have a right to take legislative initiatives in accordance with the new Constitution, President Zourabichvili said, this does not mean that a president has no right to have an opinion, to take moral initiatives, to raise key topics of public concern and address legislators, the Government and society on these significant issues.  
"Freedom of speech must be protected, and often these two principles [freedom of speech and defamation] are confronted, but there are countries that have already decided this issue. For example, France passed a law against defamation in the election period and the Constitutional Court has proven that it does not contradict the freedom of speech, nor the key human rights that are reflected in the Human Rights Declaration.
Today, social networks form a background in which the feeling of responsibility is reduced. When talking merely on media, it is noteworthy that the media has its own rules of conduct, and therefore citizens are more protected; however, when it comes to social networks that are sometimes anonymous, sometimes controlled by other countries, it is necessary to think carefully in this direction,” President Zourabichvili explained. She has also discussed the country’s foreign priorities, stressing that it is her major goal Georgia to be more actively promoted on the world map.
"Georgia can be more actively promoted in several directions. Environmental protection is one of those directions. Also, we have a scheduled meeting with the EU Monitoring Mission next week in order to discuss how this Mission could bring more security to the population living close to the occupation line. This will be one of the key topics raised at the meetings to be held in Brussels and the EU.
More active cooperation with the EU and all the steps taken to accelerate Georgia’s membership are also a top priority. Travel visa issues also require attention. Our statistics is not advantageous, but threat does not exist. We have to show responsibility in this regard. There is still a lot to be done,” President Zourabichvili added, informing the public about her prospective visit to Afghanistan, being currently under preparation with the involvement of the Alliance.
President Zourabichvili has also spoken about autocephaly of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, stating that if the Georgian Church and the Patriarchate are wary of the consequences, the President of Georgia cannot be less responsible.
"Autocephaly of the Ukrainian Church is a crucial and sensitive issue, as we all know and remember the significance of the restoration of autocephaly of the Georgian Church in 1917 for the Georgian state and its independence. This was a precondition for our independence. This is our historic path, on which the Church has been in the foreground for centuries, being a precondition for the strength, independence and development of our state.
This is not a historic experience of Ukraine; we are different countries and we do not have the same experience, but this significance is for everyone. It would have been easy for me to congratulate the Ukrainian people on this occasion, naturally, considering my historical experience, but today I speak not as a private figure, but as the President of Georgia and therefore, I have a huge responsibility to bear.
I think that the Georgian Church and Patriarchate do not know less than I do and do not give less importance to autocephaly of the Georgian Church. If the Georgian Church and the Patriarchate are wary of the consequences, I do not want to emphasize details, I cannot be less responsible, as the President of Georgia. I do not think that I have the right to take responsibility for these issues.
I do not want to stress the reasons, but we are all aware of the threats that this might cause. This is the most well-known for the Patriarchate of Georgia. I will not take responsibility for escalating the situation,” President Zourabichvili said.
While responding to journalists’ questions, President Zourabichvili also emphasized those political processes related to the “list of judges”.
"The court, court reform and people’s trust in the court system is the cornerstone of our country’s democracy. Our court system is a guarantee of Georgia's EU integration. Not only our society, but also our European and American partners should trust our court system. We know that we need to move to the fourth stage of the current reform and this determines the future of our next generations. It is not possible the President not to pay close attention to this process, how we move to the fourth stage of the reform, how this reform develops and how our society accepts it. In this regard, I am not indifferent nor neutral, I am and will be a big advocate of this reform,” President Zourabichvili said, adding that it would be totally unacceptable to promulgate her personal views on any specific judge.
"As the President, I do not have a view on specific judges or on creating a list of judges. The only thing I could say is that when the issue concerns the Supreme Court and trust in the Court, it requires the most careful procedures," President Zourabichvili said.
At the end, President Zourabichvili also assessed the news spread on social networks on Lugar Lab as incompetent, calling social networks “means for spreading fake information”.
"We know that the Lugar Laboratory is a target of deliberate Russian propaganda and it is spread by the hands of the Georgian society.
I would like to call on the society to be cautious, because the Lugar Lab is crucial for our country. It is very important in terms of health care. Lugar Lab’s relations with the World Health Organization are also key as we receive great benefits from this Laboratory.
Today, this is a fully Georgian structure and not American, as they attempt to demonstrate. We see artificially introduced signs of tension and I want all to be careful and cautious while dealing with this issue,” President Zourabichvili stated.

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