Salome Zurabishvili officially becomes the fifth president of Georgia

Published in Politics
Sunday, 16 December 2018 20:46

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!”

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