President slams GD Government in her annual Parliamentary Address

On March 31, the President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili presented her annual report to the Parliament. The session was attended by the heads of the central government, as well as of the autonomous republics of Adjara and Abkhazia, representatives of the Orthodox Church, the diplomatic corps, and international organizations.

The President began her 40-minute address by expressing solidarity with Ukraine and, on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy in Bucha, honoured the memory of the dead with a minute of silence.

Salome Zurabishvili then emphasized the “historical significance” of the referendum on the restoration of independence held on 31 March 1991, saying that the Georgian nation had “decided its own future” with this referendum. After the introductory part, the Georgian President devoted a large part of her speech to criticism of the government. She also focused on the country’s European integration and candidate status.

During her address, Salome Zurabishvili reminded the ruling team where they stood yesterday, when they began to fulfil the mandate given by the people, and where they stand now, having deviated from the will of the people and the mandate received from them. Salome Zurabishvili recalled a number of positive steps taken in the first stage of the “Georgian Dream” coming to power, Salome Zurabishvili said to the ruling majority – “Today you are the government that has slowly begun to metamorphose.”

“Instead of strengthening state institutions as the cornerstone of the country’s democracy, the one-party system and its influence are strengthening. The laws being passed at an accelerated pace do not serve to strengthen the country’s democracy or the well-being of its citizens, but to strengthen and prolong power,” she emphasized.

In this context, Salome Zurabishvili criticized “Georgian Dream” for failing to break the long-lasting “vicious circle” serving to consolidate power and “with the involvement of the same individuals”, at a time when the reform of the judicial system, which is necessary for the country’s future, “has reached a dead end”.  The President noted in this context that people with differing opinions and political tastes were beginning to leave the Georgian Dream. “Among you, even a slightly different opinion is no longer heard, because it automatically means leaving the mandate,” she told the members of Georgian Dream.

Salome Zurabishvili blamed the government’s recent actions and rhetoric for failing to obtain EU candidate status on June 17, 2022. Stressing that the Georgian people “have repeatedly expressed their will and choice, and today they are clearly telling you what future they want and where they do not want to go”, the President asked the ruling party: “Why can’t you hear the people’s strong desire? 

“The Georgian people came out three times to make you hear them – not at the request of political parties, not at the dictation of foreign forces, not by order, not by money, not for a coup, not for conspiracies, but for their European future,” the Georgian President said. To illustrate this, she mentioned the anti-occupation protests in June 2020, the pro-European rallies in March 2022 and the demonstrations against the bills on “foreign agents” on March 7-9 this year.

“The Georgian people know very well that the idea of creating the European Union serves peace and not war. Therefore, no matter how much the ruling team tries to spread conspiracy theories about a “second front” and accuse its European partners, it will not change the fact that the EU serves peace and development of our country, as demonstrated by the EU monitoring mission in Georgia,” President Zurabishvili responded to the accusations.

She stressed that official Tbilisi and Moscow use the same rhetoric on the subject of this ‘second front’.

“No matter how hard the ruling team tries to prove that European and national interests conflict, it cannot escape the reality that the protection of our territory, de-occupation, strengthening of the defence forces, security of the population, development of the economy and education are impossible without close ties and cooperation with our partners,” the president stressed.

Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of the ruling party, reminded the public that Salome Zurabishvili was elected President “with Bidzina Ivanishvili’s posters.” “We have detailed information about why she changed her colours, but we will not go into details, because Salome Zurabishvili has not crossed the red lines yet,” he stressed.

MP Davit Usupashvili of the Lelo for Georgia party said that “this podium has seen different kinds of speeches, but today we heard the speech of an angry head of state…angry because Georgia had a unique opportunity to take a big step towards strengthening its independence and instead found itself in a misunderstanding,” Usupashvili said, adding that “if you had been angry a few years ago, we might have been much further ahead; but no matter, we still have enough time.”

Georgian Foreign Ministry summons Norwegian Ambassador over Saakashvili’s Human Rights prize

The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned on March 28 the Norwegian Ambassador to Georgia Helene Sand Andresen to express the position of the Georgian side regarding the Norwegian Conservative Party’s decision to award a human rights prize to former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

According to the Georgian MFA during the meeting, First Deputy Foreign Minister Lasha Darsalia also addressed the Norwegian Ambassador’s comments on the matter. 

“I am astounded by the comparison with the terrorist Breivik, which I consider extremely unseemly,” said Norwegian Ambassador yesterday referring to PM Garibashvili’s comparison of imprisoned former President Mikheil Saakashvili with terrorist Anders Breivik, while commenting on Saakashvili’s recent award. She also stressed: “The Lindebrække prize is awarded annually by the Norwegian political party “The Conservative Party of Norway – Høyre”. It does not represent the views of the Norwegian government. 

The Norwegian Embassy in Tbilisi was unaware that former president Saakashvili had been awarded this prize until we read about it in the news.”

 According to the Foreign Ministry, the decision of the Norwegian Conservative Party to honour Saakashvili does not contribute to the depolarization of Georgian society and is an insult to those who were victimized, suffered human rights violations and abuses of power that occurred during Saakashvili’s time in office.

A protester against “Russian law” faces 7-11 years in prison

The Georgian Interior Ministry reported on March 29 that police had arrested a man for “assaulting a police officer and damaging another person’s property by setting it on fire” during the 7-9 March rallies against the ruling majority’s “Russian law” laws.

According to the Interior Ministry, the detainee threw stones and Molotov cocktails at police officers during the protest rally, injuring police officers. He also allegedly set fire to the car belonging to the Interior Ministry. The investigation was opened under Articles 187 and 353 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which envisages imprisonment for seven to eleven years.

The detainee is 21-year-old Lazare Grigoriadis, who was officially charged by the prosecutor’s office on March 30. The Tbilisi City Court sentenced him to pretrial detention on March 31. Grigoriadis continues to exercise his right to silence.

The detainee’s defence lawyer said that Grigoriadis was detained late on March 29, when he left his friend’s house. The lawyer also noted that the detainee’s arrest was “unexpected” because he had not been summoned by the police for questioning.

Elene Khoshtaria, the leader of “Droa,” stated that the detained person is neither a member of “Droa” nor knows him, but his rights will be “protected in every manner.”

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