EC President Juncker to deliver annual State of the Union speech on 12 September
On Wednesday, 12 September 2018, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will deliver his annual State of the Union address in the European Parliament Hemicycle.
In last year's speech, President Juncker outlined his vision for how the European Union could evolve by 2025. The speech was accompanied by concrete initiatives on trade, investment screening, cybersecurity, industry and data. This year's speech comes ahead of the 2019 European elections and in the context of the ongoing debate about the future of the European Union at 27. The speech will again be accompanied by new proposals, putting words immediately into action.
Each year, the State of the Union address takes stock of achievements of the past year and presents the priorities for the year ahead. The President also sets out how the Commission will address the most pressing challenges the European Union is facing. The speech is followed by a plenary debate. This kick-starts the dialogue with the European Parliament and Council to prepare the Commission Work Programme for the following year.
The European Commission will stream an enhanced version of the speech (with graphics, charts and various other visuals), via Facebook LIVE.
Salome Zurabishvili Sworn-in as New President
Salome Zurabishvili, 66, was sworn in as Georgia’s fifth president for a six-year term on December 16 in an oath-taking ceremony in the eastern Georgian town of Telavi.
“I, the President of Georgia, before the God and the Nation, declare to observe the Constitution of Georgia, defend the independence, unity and indivisibility of the country, to perform faithfully the duties of the President, to take care for the security and welfare of the citizens of my country and for the revival and might of my nation and homeland,” Zurabishvili said, holding her hand on the Georgian constitution.
After the oath-taking, Zurabishvili delivered the inauguration speech in presence of invited guests, foreign dignitaries, government members and lawmakers from the ruling party and Georgian soldiers. President Giorgi Margvelashvili attended the ceremony as well.
The oath-taking ceremony marked entry into force of the new constitution, which completes the country’s transition from semi-presidential to parliamentary system of governance.
The new constitution will further reduce president’s executive powers, a process launched in the 2010 constitutional amendments and finalized in the 2017 constitutional changes.
This also marked the last time the head of state was elected through direct ballot. According to the new constitution, which entered into force upon Zurabishvili’s inauguration, the head of state will be elected by a 300-member Electoral College for a term of five years starting from 2024.
A day before the oath-taking ceremony, on December 15, President-elect Salome Zurabishvili laid a wreath at the memorial of fallen Georgian soldiers at Heroes’ Square in Tbilisi. She also visited the Mtatsminda Pantheon, a cemetery of public figures in Tbilisi.
The Presidential runoff was held on November 28. The ruling party-backed candidate Salome Zurabishvili obtained 59.52% of the votes, while her challenger – Grigol Vashadze of the United Opposition finished with 40.48% of the votes. Vashadze did not accept the election results, citing mass election fraud.
Salome Zurabishvili officially becomes the fifth president of Georgia
After taking the presidential oath in the historic castle of Telavi Salome Zurabishvili has been sworn in as the fifth and first ever female president of Georgia.
She will hold office for a six-year term.
In her oath, she promised to defend the Georgian constitution, independence and unity, provide for the security of the Georgian people and the prosperity of the entire country.
“I take responsibility to be the president of each citizen of Georgia. I appreciate those who did not vote for me. I am also aware some parties have a different position towards the recognition of my presidency. I will defend the freedom and rights of the citizens, I will be the guarantor of the rule of law. I will be sure to strengthen civil society and improve the political culture. Now, when I am the fifth president of Georgia, I am proud that we have managed to carry out the transfer process peacefully. One more democratic step has been made,” Salome Zurabishvili said at the ceremony which was attended by 150 high level guests from 55 countries.
She has also pledged to do all for Georgia's development and help the country achieve its major goals including Euro-Atlantic integration.
In her speech Salome Zurabishvili has emphasised that every former president has made their contribution to the advancement process of the country.
“Georgia is facing a great challenge now - Abkhazia and South Ossetia are occupied by Russia. There is the occupation line inside the country where our citizens are being kidnapped. This is not acceptable for a sovereign state. We are not going to tolerate this,” President Zurabishvili said.
A number of new regulations, including constitutional amendments, also came into force today.
The constitutional reform carried out in 2017 introduces a new model of government which is characteristic for a parliamentary republic, meaning that the next president will not be elected directly by the people. The new president after Zurabishvili will be elected for a five-year term by a special 300-member council starting in 2024.
President Salome Zurabishvili’s Inauguration Speech
After being sworn-in as Georgia’s fifth President at a ceremony held in the eastern Georgian town of Telavi, Salome Zurabishvili delivered her 25-minute inauguration speech.
Below is the official translation of Zurabishvili’s inauguration speech as provided by her office:
“Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Chairman of Parliament,
Your Holiness, Spiritual Leader of our Nation,
Excellencies and Distinguished guests,
My fellow Georgians, my fellow Abkhazian and Ossetian brothers,
My fellow compatriots living abroad, in particular those who came for this occasion and are here with us today.
I want to take this moment to welcome those who represent the descendants of our first political emigration. It is a powerful symbol that I have become President of Georgia as we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Georgia’s independence.
History’s circle has turned. A descendant of Georgia’s first emigration, forced into exile following the Soviet Red Army’s invasion has returned to this country to be sworn in as commander-in-chief.
As many times throughout its history, Georgia stands at the crossroads. Once again, we are facing great challenges. Telavi, the place we are gathered embodies this country’s history: its battles, its challenges and its achievements. The place I have chosen is somehow regarded as a historical “memory card” for the Georgian Nation. King Erekle fought for our country’s development and unity. He created the modern Georgian army and won numerous battles. He laid the groundwork for the creation of a modern European nation.
But it is also here in Telavi, that King Erekle’s plans to create a modern state, establish new standards and put our country on the path towards Europe, were shattered. It is here in Telavi that the country’s western progress was halted. Georgia’s opportunity to develop as an independent, united and strong country was blocked. Many factors were involved, including foreign interference.
Nevertheless, after restoring independence Georgia resumed its journey towards building a truly European state. We are now in a critical phase of this development.
Standing here in Telavi, our way forward is also clearly visible. Uniting the country, pacifying society, strengthening and establishing our place in Europe – these are our primary goals.
We wasted too many years in political divisions. As President, I will lead by example. I will demonstrate to my fellow citizens that national consensus is of utmost importance for Georgia’s development and unification.
It is not a political coincidence if I decided to take the oath of office in this city. I have decided to address the wider society from the very place where I failed to win a majority of votes in the election runoff.
I am thankful to everyone who trusted me with their vote in the elections.
I am grateful to the “Georgian Dream” party for supporting me as an independent presidential candidate. In doing so, it took a vital democratic step towards a Presidency that strives to stand above the fray of party politics.
I respect voters who did not cast their ballot for me. I am also aware that different parties have taken controversial positions, even regarding my recognition as President.
Regardless, I have a constitutional duty to be the President of all Georgians, to be the President of every citizen of Georgia from this day forward. Inclusiveness is of the main principles of democracy. The modern state is based on the premise that an elected President is duty-bound to serve each and every citizen.
I will do everything in my power to guarantee individual rights and freedoms. I will defend the rule of law. I will strive to strengthen civil society and further improve the country’s political culture.
But we should all work in the same direction. The independent media, the non-governmental sector, and every citizen can and should play a positive role in building a more united country.
Today, I have become the fifth President of Georgia. I am proud that the transition and transfer of power processes were managed in a peaceful and orderly fashion. In this regard, we have taken an additional step in this country’s democratic history.
I want to emphasize that all previous Presidents have made a contribution towards the creation of an independent and democratic Georgia:
One century ago, the leaders of the First Republic adopted a constitution which was regarded as modern and progressive for the time.
President Zviad Gamsakhurdia played the greatest role when he called for a referendum and proclaimed the act restoring Georgia’s independence from the Soviet Union.
Eduard Shevardnadze was the first to initiate the path towards Europe and the Euro-Atlantic space.
Mikheil Saakashvili, during the first stage of his presidency, laid the foundations of numerous significant reforms.
During the presidency of Giorgi Margvelashvili, new steps were taken towards strengthening the democratic process and reinforcing stability.
My promise is to take all necessary steps to make our country’s democratic development and its European future irreversible. Nothing can nor will hinder my determination to achieve these objectives.
The development of a modern state rests upon strong and lively regions. I made a defining decision in this regard. I choose to hold the presidential inauguration, not in the capital of Georgia, but in one of its regions, in the region of Kakheti.
A modern, European country requires the balanced development of the regions and the capital. Throughout our history in fact, Georgia’s provinces were its pillar and underpinned its strength. We should merge this historical experience with the modern European example.
The regions of Georgia have great potential. It is therefore important that we maximize regional opportunities for progress and open up new prospects.
My dream, a dream shared by all Georgians, is that as many people as possible, as many emigrants as possible, will return to their villages, to their abandoned homes.
This is an issue which entails great effort. It is premised on preserving ongoing relationships with those who live in those regions. Just as I am here today, with the people of Telavi, I will come to every region throughout my presidency. I will be with my people.
Georgian society is united around the issue of its European future. By electing me, the Georgian people yet again voted for the European path.
The EU association agreement and visa liberalization have opened up great opportunities for us, and we have solid support from our western friends and partners.
This process should be accelerated. The will of the Georgian people is expressed in the new Constitution: a forward path towards the European Union and NATO. Together with our strategic partners – the United States of America and European nations – I will take this process forward. I will make use of all my experience and contacts in international organizations and the European Union to achieve our common purpose.
We will consistently take active steps to reach those aims. We will deal with internal and external challenges honorably, accomplish reforms important to our country, and consolidate democratic institutions. Our goal is to reinforce our democratic credentials and become an increasingly mature democracy.
We will join Europe. But we must join Europe with our values, our identity and our culture.
We Georgians, with our ancient, rich and unique culture, based on Christianity, can make a contribution to the world. Georgian civilization can and should proudly take its place on the international stage.
The essence of Georgian identity is tolerance. Throughout centuries our tradition has been one of peaceful co-existence with religious and ethnic minorities. Georgia is uniquely known for never having experienced antisemitism. Because we live in a world where tolerance is increasingly challenged, we should strengthen this tradition of tolerance to inspire others. With this in mind, we should make Georgian culture and identity better known.
Culture is what a nation is based on. While our culture provides a strong foundation, it needs to be protected and attended to. Culture will be one of my main priorities. But culture without education is unthinkable. I therefore want to express my deepest respect to all teachers and educators. You are those who raise our children. In other words, you hold our future in your hands.
I will be the first woman president in the history of Georgia.
By electing me as President, we have demonstrated that Georgia is a progressive nation. 100 years ago, in the first elections of democratic Georgia in 1918, women enjoyed equal rights. 5 women were even elected as members of Parliament. These were exceptional achievements even by European standards.
Today, we have broken a new glass ceiling in Georgia’s longstanding history of women’s rights. We have taken another bold step – an example which still stands out as an exception in a world with only 11 sitting women Presidents. By taking this historical decision, we confirm that the role of women in Georgia is expanding. We demonstrate that equality is not a strange word.
Georgia is up against big challenges. Abkhazia and Tskhinvali* are occupied by Russia. The occupation line penetrates deeply into our country’s territory. Our citizens are abducted every day by a foreign power. This is unacceptable for any sovereign state. We will not tolerate this.
People living in these areas need more attention and security. We need to achieve a higher level of security. For this reason, we continue to closely cooperate with our partners and with the European Union’s Monitoring Mission. Cooperation with NATO needs to be increased and strengthened.
Reinforcing security in the Black Sea region is also one of our main priorities and will entail a higher degree of support from our western partners.
I will be actively involved in negotiations with our American and European partners to achieve our long-espoused goals as soon as possible.
Georgia’s defense capability depends on the professionalism of its armed forces, on their operational readiness and on modern equipment. Strong national unity is a political condition for all of the above.
I have the deepest admiration and full confidence in the armed forces of Georgia. I respect our soldiers and veterans. I want you to be sure that I will be fully involved in increasing the defense capabilities of our armed forces. Reinforcing the army and enhancing the defense of our country is my priority.
As Commander-in-chief, I condemn all recent attempts to divide the army on ideological and political grounds. They are totally unacceptable. Such actions damage our country and strengthen our enemy.
I will visit our soldiers in Afghanistan who fight side by side with our foreign partners. They are fighting against global challenges which present a threat to international, regional and national peace and security. Our soldiers fulfill their mission with dignity. Some have paid the heaviest price by giving their life in this battle.
Peace and stability are the main preconditions for the advancement of human society. A peaceful and stable Caucasus is necessary, not only for this region, but for the entire world. Georgia will have to strengthen its position in the Caucasus. We can regain our historical role in this region. We should shoulder our share of this collective responsibility.
As our neighbor in the Caucasus region, Russia has an obligation to fully recognize and implement international law and internationally recognized borders. That is the condition for it to be accepted as a full member of the international community and normalize relations in the region. That is the condition for it to establish equal and peaceful relations with its neighbors.
Georgia is located in a region that offers opportunities to implement interesting economic projects. We have to become the regional center of economic security and stability. To achieve this aim, it falls upon us to make our country even more attractive.
To implement this vision, we will need more initiative and innovation. This is the function and the obligation of our youth towards this country. This presents a positive prospect for the next generation. I am ready to support them fully by helping to attract foreign investment and promote the implementation of new ideas.
Keeping our society together entails solidarity.
Solidarity between generations has been a historical trait of this Nation. It should not be lost.
Social solidarity is a prerequisite of a healthy and stable society. Where there is mutual compassion, assistance, and support, there is stability. And with stability comes opportunities.
Solidarity means that we remember and support those who need to be cared for: vulnerable people, single mothers, people with disabilities.
I will stand with our refugees. I will stand with those families whose children have only heard about their roots from their parents. I know only too well the values that help these families survive – immense patience, steadfastness and hope. This very notion of hope is what binds us together as a society.
I do believe that Georgia will restore its territorial integrity. We have to remember that our fellow citizens are living in occupied territories. It is our duty to find a way forward and strive for reconciliation. We have a long shared history with both Abkhazians and Ossetians. We are relatives. We have families in common. We have no alternative but to find a way forward to help future generations in these regions. Today, as never before, the Abkhazian language and identity need protection.
Our country needs to stabilize and develop. We have strong human resources, economic potential, and a talented new generation. But we have to believe in ourselves and our abilities, and take responsibility for our future. I came to Georgia, I came back to Georgia, because I believed in my country. I believe in it now more than ever. It is our national duty to believe in Georgia’s future: an independent, strong, free, modern, tolerant and European country. That is the future of Georgia!
God Bless Georgia!”
The Second Round of Election of President of Georgia will be held on November 28
Tomorrow, on November 28, the Second Round of Election of President of Georgia will be held. With regard to the election, today, Ana Mikeladze Spokesperson of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Georgia held the final news briefing.
3 703 electoral precincts are ready to hold elections, including 55 precincts abroad and 11 precincts established in exceptional cases.
Voters will cast their votes in the Second Round of Presidential Election of Georgia at the same electoral precincts which were opened for the First Round of October 28 Presidential Election where they already participated in the polling.
“It should be underlined that electoral precincts opened abroad tomorrow will work for additional hours and voting procedure will last until 24:00 according to the local time of respective country which will give our fellow citizens more opportunity to use their constitutional right.
In reference to Afghanistan, the Georgian armed forces serving in Afghanistan voted yesterday. Their votes will be counted on November 28th at the CEC after the end of polling in Georgia”, stated Ana Mikeladze.
On November 28, two candidates will participate in the presidential election, namely, №5 Grigol Vashadze and №48 Salome Zourabichvili.
Tomorrow the voter will be given one ballot paper where he/she should mark sequence number of only one desired candidate. In case sequence number of more than one candidate is marked, or all candidates are crossed or no sequence number of any candidate is marked, such ballot papers will be annulled and won’t be deemed as a valid vote. It is noteworthy that the rule to fill in the ballot paper is publicly displayed at all electoral precincts and is available to voters.
“We would like to remind you that voting is secret. Any kind of control over the will of the voter is unacceptable. Herewith, I would like to underline that photo-video recording in the polling booth is forbidden,” noted Spokesperson.
On November 28th, at 08:00 morning all electoral precincts will be ready to serve the voters. Ballot papers are handed out to electoral districts which are printed into Georgian, Armenian, and Azerbaijani languages and trilingual ballot papers (Georgian-Azerbaijani-Armenian) are printed for four precincts. The process of distributing the electoral documentation and relevant materials to precincts is underway.
The total number of voters amounts to 3 528 658 for the November 28 elections.
It is worth mentioning that for November 28 elections are registered and will be monitoring elections up to 17 000 proxies of electoral subjects, more than 48 000 domestic observers and more than 1300 international observers. Up to 2 300 journalists will cover the electoral process.
On November 28, at 20:00, once the polling process is completed vote counting procedures will begin. Following the completion of all official procedures at the polling station, the PEC summary protocols will be sent to relevant District Election Commissions (DECs). DECs through the special program, in earliest possible time, will electronically send summary protocols to the CEC and CEC upon its receipt will gradually upload summary protocols at special website www.results.cec.gov.ge.
It is noteworthy that for ensuring transparency of the electoral processes, the CEC enables every interested person to observe the process of summarizing the preliminary results at the CEC via internet livestream. A 360-degree camera will be used to broadcast the process through CEC official Facebook account, Youtube and CEC official website”.
CEC Call Center - 2 51 00 51 and online chat of the Central Election Commission will operate for 24 hours. Persons with disabilities and ethnic minorities may also enjoy the same services from the CEC Call Center. Citizens may address the CEC and receive any election-related information.
On November 28, Media Center will also operate continuously at the CEC enabling representatives of the media and observer organizations to receive relevant information. The news briefings will be regularly held during the whole day at Media Center.
“We call on voters to actively participate in the elections. We also call on all electoral stakeholders to support the conduct of elections in a calm and accessible environment for everybody and the realization of the free will of the electorate”, stated Ana Mikeladze.
President of Turkmenistan highly evaluates the outcomes of the Turkmenistan-Azerbaijan top-level talks
Upon completion of the ceremony of signing the bilateral documents, Presidents of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan held a press conference.
Commenting on the outcomes of the top-level talks, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov underlined the constructiveness of the talks that focused on the aspects of the bilateral relations, their status and prospects as well as the regional and global agenda.
It was noted that Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan demonstrate the identity or similarity of the positions on the important international aspects, first of all, with regards to the maintenance of stability and security in the region and the world as well. The head of Turkmenistan thanked Azerbaijan for the support of all the initiatives put forward by our country. In turn, Turkmenistan regularly supports fraternal Azerbaijan.
The President of Turkmenistan noted that the exchange of views on the cooperation on the Caspian Sea that unites the two countries took place during the talks. As is known, the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea has been adopted recently. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov emphasized that standing for that the Caspian Sea always be the sea of peace and good neighbourliness we would continue pursuing this policy.
A wide range of issues of the Turkmen-Azerbaijani partnership in the trade and economic sphere, including in the context of such promising areas as agriculture, construction, industry, new technologies, transport were considered during the talks.
Among the main areas of cooperation, the Turkmen leader specified the energy sector. There are wide opportunities for the consolidation of the efforts to export energy sources to the regional and international markets. The work of the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan significantly contributes to ensure the further productive cooperation.
The head of state noted that the common historical and cultural roots of the peoples of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan served as a key factor for the development of the cultural and humanitarian cooperation. At the present, the good traditions, being passed on to the future generations and contributing to their education in the spirit of patriotism and national values, find their continuation.
In this context, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted, the talks touched upon the theme of applied arts, traditional for our peoples – carpet weaving. Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan have always been famous for their carpets. The leaders of the two states underlined the importance of organizing carpet expositions in both countries, and considered the opportunity an International Conference.
Thus, a wide range of issues were considered and a solid package of documents was signed. In this regard, addressing the representatives of the media, the President of Turkmenistan focused on two aspects, the first of which is transport. The parties expressed their intention to develop the transit corridors and the corresponding logistics system. It was also agreed that a special commission of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan will be responsible for the above-mentioned issues.
In this regard, the President of Turkmenistan noted that Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan had many significant examples of partnership, including the signed Agreement on the creation of a transit transport corridor between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey with access to the European direction that connects Central Asia with Europe along the East-West line. As for the partnership with specialized international structures, there are good opportunities for cooperation, in particular, through TRACECA, IRU among others.
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted that an international conference would be held on November 28. “Today, we have discussed that we could provide the member countries with certain preferences, for example, preferential tariffs, etc. Now, the most important thing is to develop the proper logistics”.
The President of Turkmenistan also focused on the Programme on Trade and Economic Cooperation for 2019-2021 that was signed on the outcomes of the top-level talks. The programme will also contribute to the further diversification of the product range. At present, according to statistics, the turnover rate increases every passing year, and as compared to the same period of 2017, it increased by about 17 percent. Speaking about this, the head of Turkmenistan underlined the important role of the work of the Intergovernmental Commission for Economic Cooperation.
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov noted that the top-level talks between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan were held in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust, demonstrating the mutual commitment of the parties to the further mutually beneficial cooperation.
Taking this opportunity, the President of Turkmenistan thanked President Ilham Aliyev for his personal contribution to strengthening of the Turkmen-Azerbaijani friendship, and addressed the best wishes to the distinguished guest and the entire fraternal people of Azerbaijan.
The state news agency of Turkmenistan
68 Georgians Appointed as Young European Ambassadors
On 9 November 2018, newly selected Young European Ambassadors (YEAs) will meet H.E. Carl Hartzell, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia, at an official meeting in Tbilisi.
68 young Georgians were selected to take part in the third round of the YEAs initiative. During the meeting with the Head of the Delegation Hartzell, Young European Ambassadors will present their previous activities, discuss the ways of empowering youth and initiate plans of future activities. Young European Ambassadors, who have actively participated in various events in Georgia and abroad, will share their volunteering experience and to receive certificates in recognition of their active role.
Within the week of 12 -16 November newly selected Young European Ambassadors from Georgia will visit “Young Farmers Centers” in Tetritskaro Municipality. They will make presentations in order to raise awareness about the European Union, shared values, inform about the EU funded youth initiatives and opportunities for Georgian youth in the field of education and mobility as well as brainstorm on the next activities.
The ‘Young European Ambassadors’ initiative aims to foster cooperation and sustainable links between young people and youth organisations from the European Union (EU) and its Eastern Partner countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine. The initiative facilitates the mutual exchange of ideas and information on the EU, as well as the engagement of young people in informative activities. It is focused on people-to-people contacts and dialogue-driven activities that contribute to an enhanced understanding and perception of the EU and a greater appreciation of its relationships with the Eastern Neighbourhood.