Interview with CNN International

Interview with CNN International

I am joined now by the President of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, who has vowed to veto this controversial bill. Madam President, thank you very much for taking your time to speak to us on this show. I mean the scenes that our viewers have been seeing, that we have been seeing for the second night, really show the discontent as well as the anger towards this draft law which could potentially mean, we’ll be looking at more antidemocratic and authoritarian Georgia. Why would a country that has European aspirations want to take this route in your view?

Well, it’s very clear that the country, the population does not want to take that road. Every time in Georgia’s recent history or longer history that the question, the choice has been there, the answer of the Georgian population (and too many times it has been on the streets) has been - we want Europe, its Europe that is our future. Its also our values. And that’s what is happening again.

Clearly, the law, the draft law that has been presented, which I have announced that I will veto, is the law that goes against all the principles that the European Union stands for. And that happens at a time when we are waiting for the decision on the candidate status that has been refused to Georgia a few months ago, when it was given to Ukraine and Moldova.

So, the Georgian population knows that we are at a very important juncture for its future. They know that now the future of their children is being determined by what we are going to do in the coming weeks and months, and they are saying very clearly that what they want is to be in Europe.

And we’ll be hearing that people on the streets Tbilisi. You say Madam President that you will veto this law, but the executive power lies with the Prime Minister, and from what I understand, 76 lawmakers from the governing Georgian Dream party are backing this. Yet a majority of the Georgian population, as you’ve clearly laid out, say that country’s future lies within EU. So, just explain the disconnect between the legislature, which has been democratically elected and the will of the people.

Well, they were elected, as I was elected at the time as a president, to the Parliament on the program of getting Georgia into the European Union. That’s what we have in the Constitution, which I am a guarantor of. And my position in this country, even if I don’t have the executive powers, is that I am here to ensure that what we’ve promised to our electorate will be delivered.

If the Parliament, the majority ruling party, does not feel that it is answerable to its population, that’s their problem. I feel like I am not only answerable, but I think that the only reason why I decided to run for the presidency, why I want to be the President of this country is to help to bring this country closer and eventually into the European Union.

That really is a historic choice, one that may not present itself again. We are in a very complex (to say the least) geographical position, but we have been given, the European perspective, which is very important. European perspective means that the objections that have existed before, because of our geographical positions saying we don’t know whether that’s really Europe, has been now put aside. So, we really have a huge chance together with our Ukrainian friends and our Moldovan friends to join the European Union and that will clearly be the place, where finally Georgia can rest after many centuries of different empires walking over our territory and occupying it at some times.

And you know as we are looking at some of these images coming in, that you know, second night of protests, riots, police, water cannons, no doubt that it is very concerning to look at these images.

I just want to get your thoughts on what we heard from the US Embassy in Georgia. They are described, the legislation, Madam President, as Kremlin inspired. But in your statement, you say that this law, what you call a trap, is a directive from Moscow. Are you talking about Russian interference? Is there Kremlin behind this?

I said that there was no other explanation, because as I said we all know that we are now on the run-off to the decision by the European Union about our candidate status. And there is no need for this law. It comes from nowhere. Nobody has asked for it. There is no need to have more registration of the non-governmental organizations and the presentation of this law calling these people, including myself by the way, foreign agents are something that looks very much like Russian politics.

It looks very much like Russian politics when the free expression of the will of the people is answered by trying to repress this protest. These people are coming in front of the parliament, they are coming peacefully and they are coming with one request, which is to withdraw this law which the Venice Commission probably in the coming days is going to say that also, it has no standing of its own. So let the authorities understand that they have the last chance to really close the gap with our population which has been widening and widening. They have the last chance to demonstrate that they are not some non-declared pro-Russian force. They have the last chance to show that what they are giving lip service saying that they are pro-European is not only lip service, but it’s really where they are heading to.

So, let them refrain from any use of force, that’s my call from here. I know and I support and I’ve had yesterday address to the population - I support fully what is happening, because I think that democratic country and Georgia needs heart, its values and its practice, population at least, is the democratic country. We have a much more democratic population than we have had and fortunately, governments. And this population has a right to express its will, has a right to say it wants Europe and I am going to support it with all capacity that I have and one of them is to talk to the foreign leaders, to talk to the foreign media and that’s why I am very thankful for the capacity that you are giving me to do that today.

It is important to have you here, Madame President, given the scenes that we are seeing in Tbilisi right this hour of young people, people across Georgia really voicing their opinion. We are seeing them being drenched with water cannons as you and I are talking here. And I think it’s important, let me put this into context for our viewers, because Georgia of course was the first country the President Putin invaded back in 2008 and I was reading you lost the fifth of your territory to Moscow in that conflict. Do you fear that Madam President that Putin is eyeing Georgia as the next target?

Well, we are not the next target. We have been the target over and over since not only recent period but the first independence in 1921. We were fully invaded and annexed by then  Soviet Russia and again 1992-1993 second independence, and again in 2008 and many repressions all over this period of the Soviet power.

So, Georgia is not the next, it’s the ongoing really victim of Russia’s aggression, of Russia’s imperialism. And that might be another way, indirect way to try to put foothall in Georgia. Georgia is extremely important because we are the Black Sea, we are the next extension of the European Union in a place where the Trans Caucasus is very important for the future balance in the world and around Europe.

So clearly, Russia is not going to let go very easily. But, Russia is losing its war in Ukraine. Russia is losing any kind of attraction that it might have had on anyone. All the neighbors of Russia know that Russia has been or is or will be trying to get territories of other countries and that is something that should stop.

Really the fundamental point of the war in Ukraine and how it will end will be to stop Russia from being that occupying power that it has been over the last century and a half. That is our future. Russia has to understand that if it wants to be considered as normal partner of international relations it has finally to understand that it has borders like any other country and no right to invade anybody else.

Madame President really appreciate you taking time to speak to us here on the show! Thank you very much! 

Thank you! Thank you vey much!


სხვა სიახლეები