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Addressing Parliament, President Lays Out Challenges
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 14 Nov.'14 / 14:20

  • Crisis in GD was ‘symptom of broader problems’;
  • ‘Disrespect of institutions’ causes problems;
  • He spoke of ‘lack of institutional governance’;
  • Politicians should be protected from being unfairly ‘discredited’;
  • ‘Otherwise, we will get frightened, ineffective state system having no initiative;’
  • He called for more parliament oversight of the government;
  • Parliament should be ‘flagship of European integration reforms’;
  • ‘Bold steps’ needed to remove question marks over politicization of prosecutor’s office;
  • GD ‘has to deliver’ on its pre-election promise and decouple security agencies from MIA;

President Giorgi Margvelashvili entering the Parliament chamber in Kutaisi before addressing lawmakers, November 14, 2014. Photo: president’s office

President Giorgi Margvelashvili said in his address to the Parliament on November 14 that recent crisis in the ruling Georgian Dream coalition was a “symptom” of much “broader problem” going beyond political infighting and exposing “lack of institutional governance” in the state.

“I have noted for multiple times in recent year that disrespect of institutions and neglect of the principles of checks and balances would have created difficulties to the state system. And that happened. It was unclear in recent days whom the institutions serve to – political leadership or the state,” President Margvelashvili said.

After Irakli Alasania was sacked from defense minister’s post, followed by resignations of the foreign minister and state minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, President Margvelashvili asked last week the Parliament to consider holding a session where he would make a “special address” to the legislative body and the nation. Alasania’s dismissal was also followed by withdrawal of his Free Democrats party from the ruling Georgian Dream coalition. PM Irakli Garibashvili sacked Alasania following the latter’s reaction to the arrest of several MoD and general staff officials and launch of other separate MoD-related probes; Alasania condemned those arrests and investigations as “politically motivated” targeting him and also directed against country’s “Euro-Atlantic choice.” 

President Margvelashvili told the Parliament that sacking and resignation of the three ministers, who were in charge of “key directions in terms of the country’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration, have raised questions at home and abroad about how efficiently formation of Georgia as an European state and part of Europe will continue.”

“Thus, I think that today, as never since the change of government in 2012, it is necessary to consolidate this course, give it a new impetus and to reaffirm its irreversibility,” Margvelashvili said.

“First of all, the cause of [recent] political developments is deeper than just incompatibility of one political group, Free Democrats, with the ruling coalition’s agenda,” he said.

“The cause of these political processes is what I have spoken about for multiple times over the past year – that is lack of institutional governance in our state.”

“Therefore, for me this concrete case is a symptom of general, much broader problem, a symptom, which should prompt us to improve the system and to prevent such problems in the future,” Margvelashvili said.
 
“One thing is clear: one can’t serve two lords – one cannot be declaring about European goals and at the same time building different style of the state. That’s what our recent history teaches us – let’s recall that [ex-president Mikheil] Saakashvili was the most vocal speaker about ‘westernization’, but after he decided to build undemocratic state far from the Western [values], he suffered a failure,” the President said and also added, that the current government is facing higher bar for meeting democratic standards than its predecessor.

In his speech Margvelashvili stressed the need for putting decision-making process in a formalized, institutional framework. He also noted importance of engagement with the civil society in this process.
 
“It is clear that democratization and institutionalization is a key foundation for our country’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration,” Margvelashvili said.

The President, who met Irakli Alasania on November 13, also told the lawmakers that the Parliament should provide for efficient mechanisms of oversight, which, among other things, will serve as a safeguard for government stability, as well as will defend politicians from being unfairly “discredited.” In this context he also recalled the case of ex-minister of agriculture Davit Kirvalidze.

The arrest of MoD and general staff officials in late October immediately evoked parallels with the case when several officials from the Agriculture Ministry were arrested in 2013 on charges of misspending of public funds through mishandled tender; then minister of agriculture Davit Kirvalidze resigned after those arrests. But nine months later, in February 2014 misspending charges in this highly controversial case were dropped from the agriculture ministry officials. 

“We should create such a situation, wherein we and the entire society do not suddenly find ourselves facing a reality, when a minister of our government, whose reforms gave a new impetus to agricultural development, is suspected of corruption that, by the way, is not then substantiated, and in another ministry – led by a minister [referring to Irakli Alasania] who has been acknowledged by NATO just because of his [efforts] to create transparent system – are accused of corruption,” Margvelashvili said.

“We should protect our government’s stability through effective oversight system; we should protect our politicians from being discredited. Otherwise, we will get a frightened, ineffective state system having no initiative,” Margvelashvili said, adding that “the actual tool for such safeguard is efficient parliamentary oversight, when the Parliament and the society have maximum of information.”

In his speech President Margvelashvili also highlighted other issues, which he said should be addressed by the Parliament, among them the need for reform of the Interior Ministry, which also incorporates security agencies.

“A structure with unprecedented powers, actually beyond any democratic control, which turned into a massive machine of human rights violations, was created under the previous government with the merger of police and security agencies and incorporation of security agencies into the Interior Ministry,” Margvelashvili said.

“Therefore, separation of security agencies from the Interior Ministry and putting in place efficient oversight mechanism on their activities is an urgent necessity; Parliament has a special role in this regard,” the President said and also recalled that such a reform of the Interior Ministry was part of Georgian Dream coalition’s platform under which it ran the campaign ahead of the 2012 parliamentary elections.

“Election [campaign] promise has yet to be delivered,” he added.

He also spoke about the need to reform the prosecutor’s office in order to “remove question marks over its politicization once and for all.” The President said that “institutional independence” of prosecutor’s office should be secured.

“Bold steps, including legislative amendments, should be made for this purpose,” Margvelashvili said.

Margvelashvili said that creation of strong institutions also require stable, professional public service. “Change of government or of a head of [state agency] should not be leading to massive dismissal of public servants,” the President said.

“The Parliament should have a special say on all these challenges. Just this is the key goal of my address to you. The Parliament has a lot of mechanisms at its disposal through which it can, on the one hand, become a flagship of European integration reforms, and on the other hand, guarantee stability of Euro-Atlantic course through implementing efficient oversight over the government,” Margvelashvili said.

He said that with his arrival in the Parliament he wanted to demonstrate unity “in this decisive moment for country’s Europeanization” and to call for speeding up of reforms required for Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration. He also said that speeding up of implementation of new package of cooperation between NATO and Georgia, adopted at the Wales summit in September, is also required.

In his speech Margvelashvili also spoke about, what he called, “threat of annexation” of breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Russia.

“This threat of annexation should not divide us, but unite,” he said. “Country’s Euro-Atlantic integration and Europeanization is the only solution and response to these actions by Russia.”

After the President’s address, lawmakers from the UNM opposition party walked out of the chamber in protest of not Margvelashvili’s speech but of a decision of the parliamentary majority not to hold debates immediately after the address. Debates are usually held after President’s routine annual address to the Parliament, but as far as it was not the annual address, which takes place in February, GD lawmakers turned down proposal for debates pushed for by UNM, which is planning a protest rally in Tbilisi center on November 15 to protest against Russia’s “attempt to annex” Georgia’s breakaway regions and against, what it calls, government’s inaction to counter these attempts by Russia. 

Parliament speaker, Davit Usupashvili, was the only lawmaker to speak after the President’s address. He said that the Parliament, government and the President face two key tasks that require to be tackled simultaneously.

“Improving institutional system, getting rid of those ugly holdovers that we have inherited and building of the European system of governance, and at the same time to govern the country with these systems, which are in the process of transition,” Usupashvili said.

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