November 14, 2014
I greet the Parliament of Georgia and express my respect to you. I respect your opinions, your political views, because you represent an expression of democratic will of citizens of my homeland. I have not come to the Parliament to speak with just one single party; I want to discuss issues with the entire legislative body. I have come here with a mandate of and on behalf of the entire Georgian population in order to share my views with the representatives of the Georgian people about the recent developments.
The function of the Parliament, which under the constitution defines the key directions of the country’s domestic and foreign policy, is decisive. You not only define the key directions of the country’s development, but also provide oversight of the activities of Georgia’s executive government; the Prime Minister annually submits reports on the course of fulfillment of governmental programs and you assess the government’s activities and make relevant conclusions.
The importance of strengthening of Parliament’s oversight functions is also underlined in the EU reports.
Therefore, a month ago, when we faced a threat of annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, I addressed you to define your position on this very important issue. And now, when the political situation has become tense both in the parliament and in the government and crisis events in the ruling coalition have led to dismissal and resignation three ministers and to creation of a new political configuration in the Parliament, I naturally address you.
The fact that all the three former ministers 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.
So I want to draw your attention to the following circumstances: 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. 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. 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; it was unclear how protected the principles of state secrecy, impartiality of investigation and de-politicization of these agencies were.
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
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 state. That’s what our recent history teaches to us – let’s recall that 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.
Democratic standards of the new government are much higher than those of its predecessor, but Western-style institutional governance is our real challenge and we should look it in the face. We should understand that principled efforts from all of us are required in order to establish a European state.
In order to enter into Europe, we should become Europe with our life style, our democracy, our pluralism. We should establish western system of governance and the state where rule of law is an inviolable principle. Everyone should equally observe the law in a legal state, both individuals and state institutions. It is essential to put into practice balanced system of separation of powers, and checks and balances. We should not allow relations between the state institutions to be replaced by personal relations between the heads of these institutions. Decision-making process should be put within formal framework and there are frames envisaged by the constitution for that purpose. It is clear that democratization and institutionalization is a key foundation for our country’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration
We should reinforce the sense, which emerged among the citizens in 2012 parliamentary elections, that this is their country; this is their state and that state institutions exist and work for the wellbeing and safety of citizens. And if this is our vision, then we should promote more engagement of civil society in the process of elaboration and preparation of political decisions and public monitoring on implementation of these decisions. We, the authorities, should feel control from the civil society on a daily basis; we should be as much open and transparent as possible in the process of making public decisions; engagement with the civil society in the process of decision-making is also one of the obligations under the Association Agreement [with the European Union] and we should ensure its implementation.
It should also be noted that we have achieved successes; we have signed the Association Agreement with EU and received substantial package at the NATO summit [in Wales in September].
Meanwhile, the Association Agreement as well as the NATO Wales Summit decisions set a very concrete agenda for us and implementation of these tasks is country’s key challenge; not only the state agencies, but we all should actively get involved in this [implementation process].
First of all, I want to draw your attention to those obligations, which are stipulated in the article 4 of the Association Agreement with EU and which are about domestic reforms. These are: “Developing, consolidating and increasing the stability and effectiveness of democratic institutions and the rule of law; ensuring respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; making further progress on judicial and legal reform, so that the independence of the judiciary is guaranteed, strengthening its administrative capacity and guaranteeing impartiality and effectiveness of law enforcement bodies; further pursuing the public administration reform and on building an accountable, efficient, effective, transparent and professional civil service; and effective fight against corruption.”
Implementation of these commitments is not only a prerequisite for our Western integration, but also a foundation of the European Georgia. Naturally, the Parliament of Georgia has a special role in its implementation.
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.
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. It should be noted that this [reform] is also part of [Georgian Dream] ruling coalition’s [pre-election] platform and the election [campaign] promise has yet to be delivered.
In addition, I want to focus on the issues of reforming of the prosecutor’s office. In order to remove question marks over politicization of prosecutor’s office once and for all, it is of decisive [importance] to ensure its institutional independence. Bold steps, including legislative amendments, should be made for this purpose.
I also want to note the importance of judicial independence. Recently we jointly took steps in this direction through reforms initiated by the Justice Ministry and through appointing impartial and highly skilled judges in the Supreme Court and I want to thank you for it.
The Association Agreement also envisages issue related to public service reform. There should be a strong foundation for professional public service on the path of strengthening of institutionalization. Stability of staffing is a cornerstone of the institute of a professional public service. Change of government or leadership should not lead to massive dismissal of public service employees. Proper public service concept is a major component of state system; its implementation will create a firm basis for institutional infrastructure of democratic and legal state.
In terms of our country’s integration into the European space, it is also important and essential to immediately finalize self-governance reform, to transfer real financial and administrative levers to self-governance bodies. Just this transfer will ensure social-economic development of Georgian regions. It is essential to prevent those agencies and officials, who have no such legal authority, to interfere with self-governance bodies and their activities.
At the same time, it is important to implement all priority areas envisaged by Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) and in general of the Association Agenda. It is important to make reform agenda clearer. Moreover, you will probably agree that it is desirable if planning of annual measures for implementing DCFTA precedes the process in which you [MPs] are now, I mean, discussions of [annual] state budget.
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.
We should manage and create such situation, when we and entire society do not immediately face the reality, when the minister of our government, whose reforms gave a new impulse to agricultural development, is suspected of corruption that, by the way, is not proved and nothing is followed.
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.
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. The actual tool for such safeguard is efficient parliamentary oversight, when the Parliament and the society have maximum of information.
In the same context and especially with respect to recent developments, the effective functioning of the Parliament’s group of confidence is especially important. Putting efficiently in practice mechanisms of this group will ensure more transparency that is so important for the work of state institutions in a democratic framework.
In order to strengthen Parliament’s institutional role, we should put an end to the practice of dallying enforcement of separate legislative norms. Examples are: postponement of deadlines related to illegal surveillance, [full] application of jury trial system, rule of questioning of witnesses, holding of contest for public servants of local self-government bodies.
Of course the Parliament has the right to suspend or postpone enforcement of normative acts taking different circumstances into account, but it should not become a permanent pattern. Such attitude towards law will have a negative effect on the authority of this law itself and will promote among citizens nihilistic attitude towards the law. Not only exercise of right, but existence of right itself will also be questioned with such approach.
I want to thank you for supporting my veto [on extending deadline for adopting key surveillance regulation]. At the same time, I want to note that high level protection of personal data is a commitment undertaken under the Association Agreement.
Georgian armed forces make an important contribution to the process of European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Our troops play an extremely responsible role in the NATO and EU missions, risking their lives to strengthen global security and stability. Their role in successful international peacekeeping operations has been highly appreciated. Their contribution has been acknowledged by partner countries and they deserved high appreciation from the military and political leaderships. Georgia is ready to play a significant role in strengthening global security in future and the decision was made at the National Security Council according to which 750 soldiers will participate in the Afghan peacekeeping mission from 2015.
As already mentioned, the substantial package received at the NATO Summit in Wales is an important step ahead on the path of our country’s Euro-Atlantic integration. It is beyond doubt and we all agree about it that implementation of the decisions made in Wales should be accelerated and we should continue this process through close cooperation with our Western partners.
Along with the sustainability of non-recognition policy, active and unambiguous inadmissibility of steps directed to annexation of occupied territories, support of our legal rights, real and efficient care for our security should be clearly underlined.
I want to thank you again for taking into account my vision on expanding the composition of the National Security Council of Georgia. From now on, the Parliament is directly involved in the work of this constitutional body; the council institutionally ensures the President’s working relations with both the Government and the Parliament. To make decisions on top level, it is important to achieve political consensus proceeding from spirit of the constitution. Therefore, I deem it important to discuss the process of implementation of the substantial package with NATO within the format of the National Security Council, because the successful implementation of this package will increase the country’s defence capabilities, its interoperability with NATO and will speed up the process of NATO membership.
Following my appeal one month ago, the Georgian Parliament assessed Russia[-proposed] new treaty on “alliance and integration” as an attempt to annex occupied Abkhazia. I, as the President of this country, convened a session of the National Security Council, where we agreed to coordinate our work in order to develop a strategy in response to this challenge.
In parallel, I also intensified my efforts on international stage to ensure sustainability of non-recognition policy and support of our country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, on the one hand, and to receive proper assessments about the attempt of annexation, on the other.
My recent visits to Japan, Kyrgyzstan and Austria, meetings with Secretary Generals of the UN and OSCE served this very purpose to highlight the most painful issue for our country – occupied territories. Let me tell you that in all formats we received firm support that was reflected in signing a joint statement with Japan and putting the issue of Georgia high on international forums’ agenda. Today it is extremely important for us to make use of all the international platforms for intensive discussions of Georgia’s problems. With joint efforts and through broad international involvement we should manage to change confrontational paradigm of Russia’s “spheres of privileged interests”.
I think that we, both politicians and the entire society, should be united in face of a threat of annexation of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region. Threat of annexation should not divide, but unite us. The only solution and response to these actions by Russia is the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration and the country Europeanization. We should jointly work to achieve democratization, security and stability of our homeland. I also believe that European and democratic country will be attractive for our Abkhaz and Ossetian citizens.
So I came here today in order to be united at this decisive moment for country’s Europeanization, and to speed up fulfillment of the task defined by our people – the country’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration, through timely implementation of relevant reforms.