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Saakashvili addresses PACE as President for the last time

By Ana Robakidze
Wednesday, January 23
President Mikheil Saakashvili is visiting Strasbourg to participate in the winter sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) where he addressed the assembly on January 21. In his speech and also during the question and answer session, Saakashvili strongly criticized the new government of his country, as well as the imperial ambitions of the Russian Federation.

The president urged Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili’s new Georgian Dream government to continue on the path towards democratic transformation and not to undermine the progress that has been achieved.

While the president accuses the PM and his team in targeting former government officials, as well as current UNM lawmakers, local authorities, oppressing judiciary and media and exercising selective justice, he still believes “fruitful cohabitation” is possible.

“Nobody has an interest in the failure of the new government and the new majority, because this failure would hurt the country in general. This is my solemn pledge: let us work together to improve what can be improved in our democracy, let us focus on the principles on which we can agree on, the very principles that are at the basis of the Council of Europe and that all major political forces claim to respect, promote and defend in Georgia,” the president said.

Saakashvili also spoke about the October 1 parliamentary elections and expressed his disappointment with the results, “But I am proud that this party – my party – has contributed to build a system in which governments and majorities are changed through elections,” he added.

The president also assessed the work his government conducted while holding the power in the country. “For more than 8 years, I have led a team that has radically transformed our nation, fought restlessly against corruption and organized crime, systematically dismantled the bureaucratic hurdles inherited from our Soviet past, liberated initiatives in society and helped to shape the common perception that the government was there to serve the people and not the contrary; that the legitimacy was not coming from the top to the bottom, but the opposite. “

Saakashvili revealed his fear that the new government is changing the priorities in the country’s foreign policy and “de facto” giving up Georgia’s NATO aspiration.

The speech was followed by question and answer session and assembly members asked the President few questions they had.

A representative of Russian Federation told Saakashvili said it was confusing for him when the President is criticizing PM Ivanishvili for trying to find way out of deadlock in Russian-Georgian relations, which was created under his presidency. Saakashvili replied in Russian. “You have one problem; when speaking about Russian-Georgian relations. You see one map of Georgia and I see another one. With all due respect, you need eyeglasses to see a genuine map…the map of Georgia, which we have inherited and which is recognized by the international community.”

“Our borders lie on the Psou [river in Abkhazia] and Roki tunnel [in South Ossetia] – that’s the lesson in geography I wanted you to have from me.” He added.

Saakashvili also advised the Russians to get rid of their “imperial ambitions."

Whilst representatives of the United National Movement (UNM) assessed the president’s speech as very good and balanced, Georgian Dream members and also a number of Georgian political analysts think that Saakashvili was “irrelevant.”

Georgian Dream MP David Saganelidze said the president seemed to be angry and he was not interested in the country at all. The president is concerned only about his own future, Saganelidze said, adding that it is very difficult for him to comment on the speech of the president delivered in Strasburg.

Analysts say that president’s speech, as well as his latest actions, are nothing but steps taken against his own country. “This is the case when a former president is trying to discredit his own country using the European tribune” analyst Soso Tsiskarishvili said.