Speeches & Statements

The President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili met the local population in Batumi

Congratulations to you all on St George's day and on the day of Adjara Liberation!

Many historical dates might become suspicious, but this really was a day of liberation.

You know that starting from the second half of the 90ies Aslan Abashidze (a man that was appointed by Russia) started to adopt the so called legal acts that practically drove Adjara autonomy from the subordination of the central government.

This concerned not only issues of autonomy (Adjara autonomy even today has finances, budget, issues connected with local education and culture), but some fundamental issues - Armed Forces, Police control, control of local Supreme Council as well.

He called himself the head of autonomy - this was not envisaged by the Georgian constitution.

When I came here on the day of inauguration, people were not allowed to come close to me, but people broke the cordon.

Later, when I came here in the rank of President, local illegal formation met us on Choloki. There were more then 2000 armed people in this formation.

They were given an order to open fire against the representatives of the Georgian government. This was nothing else but classic separatism.

We were ready then to take any type of measures, but it did not become necessary.

People's patience was exhausted when Abashidze exploded bridges and told Adjarian population to cut all relations with Georgia, not only on paper and by law, but also even on physical level.

People came out on the streets and before our forces came to Adjara, Abashidze escaped.

I will never forget this day till I am alive.

This is the most beautiful and probably the best day of my live.

Probably many of you, who were the participants of these events, will never forget it.

I remember it well, when late at night I came to Batumi, I wanted to come earlier, but everyone suggested not to come in order to avoid any type of bloodshed.

I remember very well not only this night, but also morning. I spent the night in hotel "David" and I didn't expect anything. In the morning a huge gathering of people woke me up. People expressed their happiness.

I haven't come here in order to read you a lecture about our achievements during the last 6 years.

I came here to ask you, do you think that our promises were fulfilled partially? And what's most important I want to ask you what is necessary in order to make your dreams come true? What else should we do all around Georgia?

The best part of the Georgian population is gathered here. I want to ask you what must we do here in Batumi, in the best part of Georgia?

I might have more reasons to be here and boast, because you saw what CNN journalist said: I traveled all around the world and I have never seen such a miracle.

Many other foreigners, who come here, say the same, but I know better than anyone else that many people in Batumi live in hardship, I am not even talking about Khulo, Keda, Shuakhevi, Khelvachauri and Kobuleti population.

Of course there is so much to do.

I haven't come here to speak as a CNN reporter that everything is ideal here.

I want to ask you to tell us your opinions.

It might not be correct from my side to bring you all outside today on a holiday, but I am always glad to meet you. This is how I celebrate my holidays.

Citizen: Our Batumi has become so beautiful, I am very glad and I want to thank you for this. For me personally a problematic issue is employment. I am unemployed myself and if this problem is solved I will be more grateful...

Mikheil Saakashvili: I understand your problem so well. One can have perception of a beautiful city when their hearts are full of attractiveness and joy. Investments bring employment. Many investors come to Batumi and start their business here. Many five-star hotels are built here... But no matter how much is done, if you are unemployed your conditions might get harder. We have a very specific way out: more development, investments, stability. Several thousand people are employed on the construction sites in Batumi. The level of unemployment in Batumi is still very high, despite the fact that several thousand people are employed in the port, construction sites, several thousand people are employed in the public sector - teachers, doctors, public servicemen and so on... 90 percent of builders here are Georgians. In two years this number will double. A big project of Batumi will be over in 2012. The number of people employed in hotel cells is about 10 thousand, this means that we will have about 40 thousand people employed in tourist sector.

We are planning to receive about 900 thousand tourists, by the end of 2010 the number will be raised until 2 million. This means that five times more people will be employed by then.

Second - this is production. Investors opened serious economic facilities in Khelvachauri, Kobuleti, Bobokvati where now the uniforms for the English premiere league team "Newcastle United" are being sewn. This is just the beginning.

We have brought new greenhouses, we are planning to produce busses and other types of automobiles here. Adjara has a big industrial potential. Very educated and good people live here and their abilities must be realized.

The third source for employment is infrastructural projects. Batumi port got extended. We are now extending Sarpi customs and are building new customs. We are going to invest serious money in roads. We are starting to construct Batumi-Tbilisi railway line. Tbilisi citizens are here today and nobody wants to go back. We are starting to build railway in May, in 2012 it will be possible to come to Batumi in two hours and a half by the highway.

This means that the traffic will get heavier and this means more employment as well. Turkey is developing very fast, but I assume that this place will develop even faster. Like Dubai is developing in Persian Gulf, like Singapore in regard with China. Batumi must use its close neighboring location with Turkey, Russia and Ukraine better. We must make use of all these issues better, to make this city alike those I have mentioned above. We will have more 30 and 40 storied buildings here then many European, Asian or American countries have. I said that apartments in Batumi would become very expensive.

You know that after war we paid some parts of credits even when our country was in great hardship. I know that Adjarian people stood firm during the aggression. I will never forget live-chain in Adjara. This was a direct respond to our enemy. By Suslov's plan the weakest parts of Georgia should be Adjara, Abkhazia and Mengrelia. Today Adjara and Mengrelia are the main basis of Georgian statehood.

Citizen: Thank you very much Mister President for coming and gathering us here. We are the students of Shota Rustaveli University. This University played a huge role during the Rose Revolution. We have a question regarding educational reform, how it will continue, also what are the chances of exchange programs...

Mikheil Saakashvili: There is incredibly strong youth in Batumi and this warms my heart. Batumi population has more chance to meet me, several times I took a bike ride in the streets of Batumi and people didn't start to point fingers at me - I am grateful for that. We have real Europe here. Batumi is the first European city developed in Georgia. This status means that we must live in European style as well, must receive European education. We are now starting computerization program - we will provide every first grader with a computer. This doesn't mean that computers will substitute books, like some people think. Computers are the most right way out of poverty. We are planning to start teaching English from the first grade in Batumi schools.

We are going to bring 570 Americans, before the end of the year we will add 500 more Americans and there will be American teachers at schools together with Georgian teachers. Many families in Batumi expressed will to host them in their families. These people are very clever, they will have English language teachers free at their own houses.

Levan Varshalomidze and I were browsing around Batumi Old Boulevard without any TV cameras, we met one lady there and she started to talk to me in English. I have asked her why she was talking to me in English and she responded - I know English and that's why. These people are really very educated.

Every schoolchild with excellent grades will receive computers from the state free of charge. Many colleagues from the government and I received our education abroad by the finances of French, American and English people. We are enhancing the number of young people who can receive education abroad on state finances.

I am very glad that almost everyone is coming back. But it is necessary to improve the quality of education in our Universities.

Batumi University has very good traditions. We are going to finance its material base better in order to help the graduates of this University find jobs everywhere in Georgia and abroad. You all know that new Universities are being developed now.

Batumi becomes a very important center. It is an ideal city for University city. If I want to create several good University centers in Georgia first of all it is Batumi.

I used to speak with our architects a lot. Orbeladze, who is a very good architect tells me that best engineers and best constructors are in Batumi. Batumi citizens were working day and night when we were constructing a boulevard. The rest of Georgia must take after them.

You know that there was some misunderstanding between Levan Vrshalomidze and the central government on sharing the functions. People must not go from Batumi to Tbilisi in order to sign privatization documents.

I know that today, when there exists free economic zone in Poti, I am sure that this will work best. I have tasked my government to start the process of free economic zone in Batumi as well. We will have a lot of investments here and it will be necessary to realize it. Today the whole Adjara and the rest of Georgia look like a construction site. We need time, it is impossible to do everything in one day. Yesterday Misaktsieli population told me - we need some time and everything will be done.

I understand your worries about unemployment very well. I understand how much discomfort is created by these dug roads. But 24 hour running water means more investments and more tourists. Finally Batumi will become Singapore, Dubai - but with our unique traditions and culture. Medea's monument is erected on the main square of Batumi. Recently I had a conversation with kids and I was evaluating their historic knowledge. One little boy told me everything about her and added: she was not a good woman. Children know computers very well, the society here is very developed.

The day before yesterday an ethnic Abkhazian came from Sokhumi; he called his friend, who is one of the high-ranking officials here and said: I knew that we lived in slew, but I had no idea if we lived in such a big slew I had no idea. How can you compare this place to the place where we live now. We cannot notice this any more, because we want much more. We want more but sometimes we forget that Batumi was the darkest city in Georgia, there were so many drug abusers here. My nature is the same - I always want more. Especially when I know that mother has a problem to feed her children, has a problem of health...

Today we are opening a very good hospital in Batumi. You always had good doctors, but there was no good hospital here. Now we face another problem - if everyone will be able to get treatment in that hospital. Some people might get ill, but have no money or no insurance to go to this hospital.

There always appear new challenges - we must face these challenges and find the best way to solve problems.

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