2022 Address to the Parliament of Georgia by President Salome Zourabichvili
2022 Address to the Parliament of Georgia by President Salome Zourabichvili. "Horrible scenes are unfolding before our eyes today. Hospitals, children's oncological hospitals, kindergartens and schools, even churches of a same faith bombed by Russia. Evacuation of the elderly and pregnant women.
The relentless struggle of Ukrainian soldiers, or ordinary citizens, to defend their land, homeland and save their independence: such a selfless struggle against Russian aggression only evokes in us respect, solidarity and support.
Georgia has stood and stands by Ukraine and Ukrainians!
I would like to ask you to stand up and show our solidarity!
Let us honor the selfless heroes with a minute of silence!
I want to thank the representative of Ukraine here, Mr. Andrii Kasianov, and with him all those who are defending our freedom and our European future today in Kyiv, in Odessa, in Mariupol.
I want you to know that we are expressing the united spirit of all of Georgia here. We express here, all of us gathered here, the support of the State and of all its institutions, of all political forces and of ordinary citizens. I also want to emphasize that today, the Church is represented here with us and together, we all express our full support for Ukraine and for the Ukrainians!
Today, from those looking at this tragedy, we Georgians understand what Russian centuries-old imperialism means, we Georgians understand and share the most what the Ukrainian nation is going through.
Ukraine and Georgia went through one path: liberation from the Russian Empire, independence, invasion by Soviet Russia and its following uprisings, repressions and the Holodomor; restoration of independence, separatist conflicts provoked by Russia, more war and more occupation. Despite all this, no one and nothing could stop us from freedom and independence. No one and nothing could make us deviate from the historical European path we have chosen.
The history of Georgia, just as the history of Ukraine, is a history of pride and devotion. History is an example of trials and tribulations, of relentless, heroic, selfless struggle against the invaders. This is how a nation is created. The miracle of the centuries-old history of the Georgian nation has been and is in its endurance, its resilience, its unbreakability, its pride! Today, we see the same attitude in Ukraine, and I believe it can only lead to victory.
Today, not only Ukraine, but the whole world is facing the hardest days, but the battle of Ukraine, whether it is won or not, is already successful! Successful, because these events opened the eyes of the world and woke us up.
Undoubtedly, Ukraine's merit is unprecedented international solidarity and unity in this solidarity. Undoubtedly, Ukraine's merit is the unprecedented unanimity and firmness of the European Union, the joint actions of the United States and Europe. Through its accomplishment, Russia is isolated today, weakened tomorrow.
Today is a turning point for everyone, including Georgia, because today we are facing great challenges that may become even more severe tomorrow. Yet at the same time, as is usual in history, with new challenges, crises and wars come new opportunities. New roads are opening up. On this new path, Georgia must take its place. We need to understand what is happening, understand and prepare for every possible event and not sit idly by and wait for what the future holds. This is the obligation of all of us who sit here before the country! Time is running out. If we do not prepare for new events, new threats and new opportunities now, that time will not come back.
That is why I fail to understand and cannot tolerate, that today, at such a crucial time for our country and for all of us, instead of ending quarrels, fights, enmities, destructive confrontations and polarizations at this crossroads, those of you gathered here forget what is reflected on our coat of arms: “Strength is in Unity!”
Society is much more awake than you, conscious, brave and most importantly united. Today I see that signs of national accord have been awakened in the people, although I do not see it in you. Do you not understand what responsibilities you have all together before your people?
And today both sides, both the ruling power and the opposition, are sinning and sinning in front of the country!
The majority, instead of seeking consent, chastises anyone who disagrees as traitor and sometimes as party to war. The opposition, instead of seeking accord, declares any statement or decision of the government as pro-Russian.
Both approaches, in addition to being completely unacceptable and reminiscent of the methods of the Soviet past, are detrimental to country, both from the inside and the outside, and to some extent dangerous. At home, they cause division, weaken us, deprive us of power, confuse and frighten society. Outside the country, they make incomprehensible the sustainability and purposefulness of our national aspirations.
The government sins when it does not dare to express what our history and dignity dictate. There is no justification for this. None of the arguments of caution or fear changes the fact that we must stand with dignity, at least in words, where our conscience and our Georgianness demand it!
The government sins when, at this turning point, it did not present before Europe this historic declaration of our country as backed by joint signatures as a sign of national consolidation and as the first step of national accord, but chose to lock itself in and sign it alone.
The government sins when party is given preference over state institutions over decision-making or publicity. When key decisions between government agencies are not considered jointly and information is not shared. How can one believe that in such a difficult and watchful circumstance the Security Council had not met even once, never have military threats been jointly discussed in the presence of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. These machinations must be corrected immediately!
The opposition sins when it has attempts in Brussels, Kyiv or the United States to tarnish Georgia's name and face and portray the country in such a way that we prefer fear to dignity! As if we are not worthy of either joining the European Union or partnering with NATO and the United States. Or even worse, when it claims that the government - and therefore the country - has changed its pro-Western course! It is an insult to the country and to your people when you accuse your country so much in Washington and your own country has to defend itself from you. Such politically motivated attack not only harms the government, but also the country and bids the work of the enemy.
The opposition sins when it insults the police and police officers. The Police is an institution with a special responsibility for the stability and security of the country. Especially during this extremely tense period. Respect and support for them is incumbent on everyone, especially those chosen by the people. How is this time for ketchup and flour? It is a shame!
The opposition sins when it calls for radical measures and seeks to overthrow the government, that is, to use its current international situation to achieve its own political agenda. In one shot, it puts the country in a deadlock and maybe in danger, without seeking responsibility for it. It verbally appeals to unity while seeking to win political points through provocations.
However, I agree with both. With the government on the need for some caution and with the opposition on the need for courage.
Therefore, I do not and will not go into the assessment of individual statements or actions of the government that relate to the war in Ukraine and our security. Such discussions should take place in a closed but inclusive format, involving everyone, listening and exchanging opinions, and then everyone should take joint responsibility for the decisions made. The government is responsible for creating this format.
Therefore, I do not and will not go into analyzing the actions of individuals who are deliberately manipulating and trying to sow misunderstanding, resentment, disagreement and inspire any rift between two friendly countries during this difficult time. It is clear to everyone and our partners are well aware that any disagreement between Ukraine and Georgia is favorable for Russia and only for Russia.
I do not and will not go into the discussion of the issue of pardoning Saakashvili, where it should be coming from, because the answer has already been given once. The resurgence of this matter at the time of the war in Ukraine only provokes internal polarization.
Once again, even an attempt to bring any misunderstanding between us and Ukraine is unacceptable. I will not allow this. Therefore, just like last year, on April 9, during my address to Parliament, I appealed to the Government of Georgia to return our Ambassador to Ukraine. Also, today from here, from this rostrum, I address my colleague and friend, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and ask him to return the ambassador so that the connection between the two nations, in these difficult moments, can be fully strengthened, closer and more unwaveringly.
In this difficult time, let us open our eyes at least today and understand what is happening to us. Let us all come to our senses, let's get into this new time together and show to the country the direction and the path!
Let’s correct what hinders us on the path to progress and success. Unity is our only solution. This unity begins with the President, as according to the Constitution, the President guarantees unity.
Therefore, it is absurd when you accuse the President of dividing society when she appeared on Rustaveli Avenue to represent the whole of Georgia! To represent all those who did not come because of political reasons and those who simply could not come. At the same time, the President presented herself on Rustaveli Avenue as the host of the President of a friendly country, as Georgian manners require! This is not a division, this is the first expression of national accord! Those who do not understand this do not understand the voice of the nation. If not the politicians, the public understood all of it perfectly.
And it is time for everyone to understand that the president does not belong to any political force and will not belong to another. She fulfills only the promise made at the inauguration: "I take responsibility with the authority granted by the Constitution, to be the president of all, the president of all Georgian citizens."
The institution of the President is not just about respect, it is necessary to cooperate with it, especially during this difficult period. The war in Ukraine, the new approaches of the EU, Georgia's place in the light of these changes, threats and preparedness ... These are topics that should and would be discussed in any country, not only within the government, but also between the government and the president, between the majority in parliament and various opposition.
Therefore, two weeks ago, I signed a special session of parliament to discuss Ukraine. Therefore, I requested that the Security Council be held in an expanded format.
I therefore appealed to Parliament to schedule my speech on 5 March, shortly after my return from Europe. None of the calls were shared, no extraordinary meeting was scheduled, nor extended Security Council, and finally, the date required for the annual speech was not met.
It is incomprehensible at this time, when the need is highest and time is running out, the restrictions imposed on the President's international activities.
On February 26, 2022, I was refused in written manner to pay working visits to Paris, Brussels, Berlin and Warsaw. Given the current situation, I have canceled all official formats. At such times I found it necessary to use my personal contacts and turn working visits into personal meetings. I think that this approach and such restrictions are harmful for our country, which is in such a difficult region. There is no time for restrictions, on the contrary, whatever we can, at the international level, we should be involved as much as possible, we should not give rest to our partners! I even think that my forty years of experience in diplomacy and strategic affairs, and the personal contacts acquired during this period, are more useful to this country than to lose.
Today we are faced with two issues that force us to act together: that is, the issue of new EU membership and the issues of support for Ukraine and the problems created around it.
My visit to Europe has convinced me that there is a new real and genuine chance of joining the European Union, a real readiness on the part of our partners. In this context, it was necessary and I tried my best, through personal meetings and through international media appearances to establish Georgia's place in these processes, so for them not to be tempted to either forget Georgia or consider it in a different light than Ukraine or Moldova.
Now it is heard from all sides: What shall we do? How do we increase our chances? When and how?
My answer is: Unity! Unity and unity!
There should be no division and separate running to our partners! It is necessary to prepare and present the united plan for the national accord, which will not be a subject to the annulment! President, Prime Minister, Government and the Parliament, all political parties, media, non-governmental organizations, ordinary citizens – all of us should be united and act around one plan and one purpose. We should be working on the package of reforms the execution of which will be mandatory if we seriously see out future in Europe. This will be the real illustration of the national accord, without which, so far none of the countries have integrated in the EU.
Similarly, our approach toward the war in Ukraine should be consolidated. It’s not permissible for anyone, whether a friend or an enemy, to doubt that we cannot agree on such an existential question of existence. I’m convinced that the society thinks more sensibly and its consolidation is possible. It’s not permissible that the country that historically is an exemplary heir to the wars of independence and those of injustice not to stand with Ukraine. It is also clear that as the representative of the US State Department has noticed himself, it not permissible for anyone not to understand the extraordinary conditions that the country, with 20% of the territories occupied with the occupation line located in 40km from the capital, is in.
Our path is one: of principle, but intelligible, neither the provocation of the confrontation, not of advance concession and vague politics of the extreme caution. If this line becomes that of our union, in this framework, it will be easier to discuss our sentimental questions, sanctions etc.
On the one side, ccautiousness is necessary, because of the occupation, regional challenges and country’s economic capabilities. On the other side requires us to behave as suitable to Ukraine’s friend and member of international community. The question of Russian citizens entering the country is a sensitive one, which should not become subject of our division, cause of a reputation damage and that of panic. Here too, we have to maintain balanced position. In this regard, those official statements that appellate on the dangers of ethic discrimination in Georgia are harmful. Instead, the Government is obliged to provide the society with exact and timely information, and convince it that civil order is ensured both on the border and in the country.
I would like to address the government and the opposition party representatives: in these hardest times all means should be used to achieve the united position: on the side, the question of EU integration and on the other side – Ukraine. It should be achieved in a way that none of the questions are used for narrow, political interests. I welcome Prime Minister’s statement regarding EU integration. I welcome the resolution that the parliament is working on and I call on this resolution to be adopted unanimously. I have also familiarizes myself with the statements of several NGOs, societies’ petitions and initiatives that I also welcome.
I offer for all these beginnings to be united and for everyone to sign one document, which will be our application’s support and the sign of our full consolidation, and for it to be sent to European Union in one package on behalf of Georgia.
I offer an immediate creation of the position of the EU Integration State Minister and its department, which can be selected from the opposition. He/She will conduct coordination for the integration requirements to be promptly executed, as in the case of other candidate countries.
I call on Government to create extended or other format of the National Security Council with the participation of the opposition, where all the sentimental questions will be discussed. Here too, I would like to once again call on you to announce moratorium on the hate speech in this hardest period.
Lastly, I address the people – I want to thank you for all the private solidarity initiatives, with which you have expressed the support for Ukraine.
Also, on behalf of the Georgian living Ukraine and my own, I would like to thank the employees of the Embassy and the Consulate in Kyiv, Odessa and Lviv, for their personal and tireless devotion.
I want to tell you that hard period is waiting for us, hard economic and social circumstances, just like the whole world. This is our contributing part, at a time when our Ukrainian brothers with their blood and fight are defending the freedom and independence, and open the doors for a new future.
I want you to know, I will try everything, with the Government and the opposition to together find the means of cooperation and unity. To stand up to the threats together and together to find the keys of all the new doors. You too have to contribute, to fulfill your obligation and to bring National Accord to reality. This is the real cornerstone of the country, which will allow us to endure and do everything.
Glory to Ukraine! Glory to Heroes! Long live Georgia"!