President Saakashvili said on September 12 that PM Ivanishvili “broke the main taboo” of the Georgian politics by saying that his government is watching and studying the Russian-initiated Eurasian Union.
In a televised statement made during a meeting with a group of students in Tbilisi, Saakashvili said that over the past ten years Georgia’s pro-Western foreign policy course was not even debated or questioned by any major political force, but now “regrettably”, he said, the issue re-emerged in the political discourse.
Saakashvili said that up until recently, the government was “formally” maintaining policy of integration to the EU and NATO.
“It has changed recently. Few days ago the Prime Minister has publicly reiterated that the Eurasian Union, which… is a new form of the Soviet Union and which was initiated by Putin to undermine the progress achieved in our region in respect of NATO and EU, is an option that will be explored,” Saakashvili said.
“Prime Minister Ivanishvili broke the main taboo of the Georgian politics; as a politician he had the right to do it. But with this taboo already broken and with the issue of whether Georgia should go towards the West or towards the North is a topic of debates… now it is important to realize what does this debate mean for us,” Saakashvili said, adding that it was much more than just about foreign policy choice of the country as choice in favor of the Russian-led Eurasian Union would amount throwing the country back into the past when Georgia was engulfed by corruption and crimes.
He said that the Georgian people should not allow anyone to drag the country into “darkness" and "abyss” by choosing the Eurasian Union instead of Europe. “We will be in Europe, but for this to happen we should speak out,” he added.
This issue was also a focus of UNM presidential candidate Davit Bakradze’s campaign speech during an outdoor rally in Zugdidi on September 11. Bakradze told supporters in Zugdidi that the upcoming presidential election is about choosing Georgia’s foreign policy course.
“Without any exaggeration, this upcoming election is not only about choosing between the candidates, it will be about our country’s declaration before the world – which path are we choosing; whether we are ready or not to continue struggle for Georgia’s freedom; whether we are ready or not to continue moving towards the civilized world in order to establish our place in the European family. Or are we tired? Did the problems exhausted us so much that we are ready to go back into the past and to again bow our head before a big neighbor [Russia]? What is our choice – to continue progress or to return back?” Bakradze said.
“The government is telling us that it is exploring Eurasian Union membership perspective… I want to tell them – there is no need in studying and analyzing possibility for returning back into the fold of occupying power,” he said.
“Yes I want to improve relations with Russia, but I declare unambiguously that these relations will not be improved at the expense of Georgia’s national interests,” he continued. “I know what the result-oriented dialogue with Russia should be – constructive, calm, but at the same time extremely principled, with criticism and oriented on country’s interests. Any other form – be it bowing head before Russia, rejecting criticism or appeasement, will be only counter-productive.”
In his speech in Zugdidi, Bakradze also attacked two presidential candidates – Giorgi Margvelashvili of the Georgian Dream and ex-speaker of parliament Nino Burjanadze; he said that Margvelashvili would bring the country under Russia’s control “step-by-step” and Burjanadze would do it immediately.