The President of Georgia addressed the audience gathered in the Carnegie Center

Thank you for this gracious invitation. I am very pleased to be here.

We had, for the last two days, meetings with the President of the European Parliament, the Secretary General of NATO, and the President of European Union, but obviously my visit here is also a nice treat.

It happened so that we are in town together with the Prime Minister. It was really a coincidence. My visit was planned one month before, but somehow it was a Georgian three days in Brussels.

It is a very interesting period, it is a very promising but at the same time dramatic period for our country.

First of all, one has to say that Georgia has had very important benchmarks for the last 8 years.  We developed at a pace which is unheard of in many parts of the world. For during our 8 years for years we enjoyed double digit growth.

We had 7% growth last year. We were expecting 8%  this year. Poverty was decreased two and a half times. Georgia was ranked number 9 in the World Bank list of ease of doing business, and no other developing country has ever made it to the top 10.

Just to mention, Russia 137th at the least, and many other Post Soviet countries are below 100, like lower than 100. We were, according to the European Union studies, the least corrupted country in Europe just last year, according to the European Union frères’ studies, frères were least corrupted. We are the safest country in Europe, least criminalized.

Now this has all occurred against a backdrop where we were 8-9 years ago, when we were one of the worst criminalized, one of the most corrupted. So obviously Georgia has shown examples of development and the biggest question is whether it is some kind of semi authoritarian place where you know, there might be modernizing rulers, but in the end they never give up power.

Actually, these elections gave the answer to that question. We handed over not only power, but the transition was very smooth, because the first few days we brought representatives of the new coalition to every minister to run the ministry.

We gave them total control of information, financial flows; we also gave them full access to all the files of the Government on internal and foreign policy. 

We didn’t have to hand over, under the present constitution, the Ministry of Justice, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Defense or the Ministry of Interior. 

We did give this to them because we thought that the Government should have been fully responsible at what they were supposed to do.

So overall, this was a very smooth transition. We believe that there is incentive to build on this momentum for the whole region.

This was a powerful example; I mean Vladimir Putin who has said that he doesn’t like me or my Government.

On the one hand he should be rejoicing at what happened, but on the other hand if you see an example of having free elections in that part of the world it’s a bad example for the region and also for Russians from his perspective.

Having said that, I cannot hide that I’m concerned by some of the developments that have occurred already after handing over power.

We have had cases, and the Secretary General of NATO said today and two days ago, that he’s extremely concerned by arrests of political opponents in Georgia.

Jose Manuel Barroso also spoke about selective justice and the same was reiterated by Mr.Van Rompuy.

A number of high level arrests took place. The Former Minister of Defense and Interior was one person, and the Head of the General Staff.

A number of other officials in the military and police, a case was started against the Presidential Protection Service, and basically at the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office.

A financial fraud case was started against the Public Broadcaster of Georgia, and an announcement was made about that.

So these are certain matters of concern for us. But otherwise, with all these things it should be made clear that Georgia cannot and will not go back to any other sphere of influence but to Europe.

There is no constituency in Georgia whatsoever that will ever allow backing away from that. So what we really need, despite all the shortcomings and despite all the setbacks, we really need to move forward.

And we really need to get an association agreement with the EU. We should get ready to get the EU prospective for Georgia.

And we should certainly get visa liberalization and all the things which are in the pipeline, and I think we are up to doing them.

And the fact that the Europeans accept Georgia and Georgia has no other place to go towards.

The only thing that is clearly important to understand is that we should be in a situation in which we cannot go back to a Russian domination sphere and be in position to go to Europe.

That’s what really matters.

And the other thing is that no matter who will try what, you cannot privatize Georgia’s state institutions and you cannot hijack something that people are used to.

That’s bigger free media, civil society, strong self government, we just need to now get used to this new institution where there is cohabitation, where there is some coordination at different levels, but otherwise if you go forward and some people try to kill all the freedoms, because of the political system it’s not doable.

It would have been doable in Georgia 10 years ago, 15 years ago.

I think something that the Rose Revolution made very irreversible is exactly that people are used to these kinds of benefits.

I think some other things can go wrong but this can not be reversed because of the taste for freedom and the other tastes people got used to is undeniably a result of the successful government for the last 8 years.

They know what the standard of success looks like already. It’s not like it is against the backdrop of chaos or inefficiency that a failing new government has come in where there would be a need for authoritarian rule.

Everyone knows that Georgia had a successful government, including our opponents, and because of that you can not really reverse it. 

You know Putin came after Yeltsin and people were longing for some kind of order because Yeltsin’s Russia was a mess.

We had Georgia which was a very orderly and fast developing place and turned out to be a real democracy as well, and that’s something we all value a lot.


Question: The Prime Minister is also in Brussels in no coordination with you and who is running foreign policy in Georgia? This may not be bad for the image of Georgia…

Mikheil Saakashvili:

I was invited one month earlier together with the Prague Parliamentary Assembly, so this is a combination of two visits. Obviously, once the Prime Minister got into office he got his invitation from the same institutions. I guess we all have to coordinate. Also, those institutions have to coordinate. But anyway, in any case, I’m happy that we are here. It’s also very much an educational process for them; they get lots of new information. It’s one thing to interact with hard lobbyists that can sell you any pictures…anything. The thing is when you come and see real people, real institutions and real issues, discuss real issues with them. And from that point of view I was not pleased by the level of criticism which we got, and which was pretty high for the first visit. I’m not pleased because I really want Georgia to advance. It’s obvious, and you know that the more we advance in this direction the safer democracy will be anyway.  So from us, it’s not just an altruistic thing… you know it’s a very useful process for everybody.

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