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PM: Our choice is Europe, but we should keep dialogue with Russia

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, April 18
Late on April 15, Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili met anchors of the country’s leading political talk-shows, the first of this type of question-and-answer format of meeting since Kvirikashvili was appointed as PM at the end of last year.

In his welcome speech, the PM spoke about the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) coalition’s three years in office and underlined the existing challenges.

The PM stressed the GD coalition had managed to overcome a range of problems, as the previous United National Movement Government’s (UNM) inheritance “was not good enough”, but he also said there were new challenges that required a different approach from the government and a renewed governmental team after the upcoming October 2016 parliamentary elections.

The PM stressed the government has a initiated four-point political plan that envisaged fundamental changes in the state economy, education, governance system and infrastructural direction, which could play a vital role in solving the current problems.

Kvirikashvili said a market-based education system and development of vocational education, high-level reforms to develop the economy, (annulling of income tax among them) large-scaled infrastructural works and a reform of the governance system to provide fast service and information would be crucial to overcome the existing challenges.

With regards to the elections, the PM said the Georgian Dream party would take part in the elections alone, without the other parties of the coalition, with new professionals in its election list, many of them known (and others less known) to public.

The PM excluded the possibility of any future cooperation with the non-parliamentary opposition Democratic Movement-United Georgia and Alliance of Patriots, which urged the government towards better cooperate with Russia.

Kvirikashvili said the elections would be held on October 8 and stressed he was consulting with the President over the date for the launching of the election campaign. The PM said he and the President would settle the issue without any “speculation and controversy”. The PM repeated that July 8 would be a relevant time for starting of the election campaigning.

On this note, the PM was asked about the recent NDI survey which revealed less than 20% support for the GD coalition.

The PM said he respected the NDI’s activities in Georgia, but there were some question marks over the organisations which continue to conduct the polls. The PM said he did not share many points of the survey's outcome.

When he was asked about Georgia’s foreign policy priorities, the PM said the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration remains the government’s major goal, but he said for the purpose of stability in the country holding dialogue with Russia was important.

Kvirikashvili stressed his government has achieved significant progress as they continually raised the issue of Georgia’s occupied regions before the international community and at the same time maintained stability in Georgia through holding dialogue with Russia.

With regards to the unfulfilled pre-election promises, the PM said it was impossible to 100% meet all the promises, especially in the social and economic field wherein foreign factors could also play a role, but said his government’s future social policy would be more focused on those who need it most.

In this context, the PM mentioned the Universal Healthcare Programme, wherein all Georgian citizens equally received certain, free medical service and said wealthy parts of the public should be exempt from the service.

The PM said removing those from the programme who had good income and could cover their medical expenses would enable the Government to help the poor better.

The PM also spoke about the illegal surveillance videos and promised he would be the guarantee that interfering with people’s personal lives in Georgia would come to an end.

The head of the Free Democrats opposition party, Irakli Alasania, said he liked the PM admitted what was wrong, but he said he believed the PM’s hopes in settling the economic crisis are not based within a concrete plan.

The opposition UNM representatives repeated the country’s real ruler is ex-PM and founder of the GD coalition, Bidzina Ivanishvili.