Mikheil Saakashvili said it was symbolic, when he took spiritual oath at the grave of King Davit the Builder, who united Georgia 900 years ago, in western Georgian city of Kutaisi on January 24.
“Georgia’s territorial integrity is the goal of my life,” said Mikheil Saakashvili, who will be officially sworn in as a President during the inauguration ceremonies on Sunday. He also said that he would do outmost to hold next presidential inauguration in Sukhumi, the breakaway Abkhaz capital.
President-elect began two-day long inaugural ceremonies by traveling to a Gelati cathedral in Kutaisi to receive a blessing from the Catholicos-Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II.
“At the grave of King David we must all say: Georgia will be united, strong, will restore its wholeness and become a united, strong state,” Saakashvili said, while appealing thousands of Georgians gathered outside the Gelati cathedral.
After the spiritual oath taking ceremony in Kutaisi Mikheil Saakashvili returned to Tbilisi and convened Georgian and foreign reporters to outline his priorities after he will officially take the President’s office on January 25.
“We will have one more day of celebration [January 25] and after we energetically start to deal with numerous problems inherited by the previous authorities,” Mikheil Saakashvili told the reporters late on January 24.
Mikheil Saakashvili said fighting corruption, restoration of rule of law and order, restoration of territorial integrity, liberalization of the tax code and Georgia’s integrations to the Euro-Atlantic structures will be the issues, which he would target from the very first days of his presidency.
“I am not going to compromise at the expense of the national interest. I will put an end to the corrupted clans. This is the first to be done. Arrests are necessary. But the most important is to reform the entire system. We will reform state structures. We will reduce number of tax inspectors and policemen, but those who remain will have high salaries,” Saakashvili said.
“But treasury is absolutely empty. That is why we won’t be able to improve the situation in just one day. But we will start taking drastic measures towards improvements,” he added.
Saakashvili said he will be “extremely strict in fighting corruption.” He reiterated that he will submit anti-corruption bill to the Parliament right after taking the President’s office. In 2001, by then-Justice Minister Mikhail Saakashvili proposed a bill that would allow for the confiscation of the assets that officials could not prove were acquired legally. However, President Shevardnadze rejected the draft then.
He said that the regaining control over the breakaway Abkhazia “will be possible only after the economic growth in Georgia.” President-elect stressed that simultaneously with the economic development the government should largely focus on armed forces.
“Georgia’s each citizen should undergo at least one week long military training. I will submit to the Parliament draft law, which would prevent appointment of those officials on the high position whose, sons have not undergone military service. Now our army is the army of soldiers from the impoverished families,” Saakashvili told reporters.
“I do not want to use troops in Abkhazia, but we should have strong economy and army to restore territorial integrity,” he added.
While talking about the foreign policy priorities Saakashvili reiterated that Georgia’s goal in integration into Europe, however he added that Georgia is open for cooperation with Russia.
“We [Georgians] are ancient Europeans, and we deserve our place in Europe and nothing will stop our aspiration into Europe. During the meetings with Mr. Solana [EU’s foreign policy chief] and with other high-officials from the European Union we talked about Georgia’s involvement in the EU’s Wider Europe Initiative,” Saakashvili said.
“But our will is not enough for integration into the Europe. They should see that we are fighting corruption and improving situation in the country,” he added.
Georgian President-elect said that Tbilisi is willing to start new relations with Moscow. “Russia made many negative things for Georgia. But we are ready to cooperate with Moscow. We are ready to forget everything in order to start new relations,” Saakashvili said.
"We are a very small country and we need to survive in a very complicated geopolitical environment. I don't want to turn this country into a battlefield between different superpowers," he said.
"I am not pro-American or pro-Russian, I am pro-Georgian," Saakashvili added.
Saakashvili will hold meeting in Tbilisi with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on January 25. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov will also attend the Georgian President’s inauguration.
Former President Eduard Shevardnadze’s promises were much similar to those given by the new President. However, public confidence and expectations towards Mikheil Saakashvili, who was elected with more than 96% of votes, is extremely higher.
“I would better die rather then to disappoint you,” Saakashvili said while appealing the thousands of Georgians gathered outside the Gelati cathedral in Kutaisi on January 24.