Interview with Bloomberg


We are joined today by Salome Zourabichvili, President of Georgia. Thank you so much Madame President for joining us.

Thank you for having me.

It strikes me from the distance, your country is in a difficult position that we have seen play out within the last 24 hours. As I understand, T=there was even an initiative proposed called the ‘Foreign Agents Law’ which was very controversial and the Europeans had really condemned it, the United States had. It seemed to be similar to what Russia has done in the past. Now, it has been rescinded. Tell us where you are at that stage and why it is so important?

It is very important because we are at very important place now, waiting for the decision of the European Union on our candidate status, which was awarded to Ukraine and Moldova a few months ago and we are awaiting for a similar decision before the end of the year. we have been given number recommendations of what to do to deserve this candidate status. We have been given a ‘European perspective’ which is no less important, because it means that all the discussions that were before about our geography, that we were too far away, are now ended and we are with the European perspective, but we have to deliver.

And that’s where this law comes completely out of the blue and it goes against everything that the EU recommends us to do, which is to involve more of civil society, to be more transparent, to allow for more insertion of the civil society in the political discussions about the European future. As it was taken by the Georgian population as an anti-European law and it was taken as such by our international partners, all of them, there was total unanimity amongst our international partners and total unanimity of the Georgian society, which showed from the streets for the third day now. As soon as the law was initiated, I declared publicly that I would veto it. I have supported the demonstrations that have happened in Tbilisi and finally the authorities gave in and withdrew, or have announced that they are going to withdraw this law. Which still nobody understands why they suddenly decided that it was something useful to be done at this stage.

Now that’s the battle, this is not the end of the road that we are going to join the EU to get the candidate status, so it is a very important time for Georgia.

As I understand it and I do not understand the parliamentary politics in Georgia at all, this proposed law made it pretty far into the process; it looked at one point that it might be adopted. Did the fact that it made it that far do you think that it damaged Georgia’s position with the European Union in of itself? Did it damage your status because you came so close?

No, I think to the contrary. because everybody knows that in the Georgian Parliament there is a majority that is the Georgian Dream, so anything they propose, they are able to go ahead and implement it. Nobody can really oppose it, not even the veto of the president, but what it has demonstrated is that when the society is united on something, they can defeat even the majority that is in the Parliament, and that's what is important. I think that it has increased our chances because it has shown very effectively where does the Georgian population stand, which has been shown on many occasions until now already that it's pro-European. All the opinion polls are given 80% in favor of the EU, and that's where people want to go, want to study, so it's very clear where the population stands.

What was not clear, less and less in the recent time, was the position of the authorities. Because, they were the ones to introduce to the Constitution the European integration process, Euro-Atlantic process, to declare that 2024 should be the year when we announce the candidacy that was before the Ukrainian war, and suddenly they take steps that are going in the other direction. So their position is not clear. Georgia's position is very clear.

You mentioned where this initiative came from; it surprised me as far as it did. Do you have any intelligence where it did come from? Is it, do you think, Russian influence either directly or indirectly because you are close to Russia, and it does echo similar laws that Russia has enacted?

Yes, it is close to Russian law, Hungarian law. Why the authorities, governmental authorities or parliamentary, declared one and the same, why did they think that they wanted to go in that direction, is something that one would have to ask them. I have no clue. I have said and repeated that I thought it was certainly going in the opposite direction, that it was not pro-European law. I have said early on that I would veto and oppose any law in this period that would go against the recommendations presented by the European Union, and I did veto the law on listening devices that was also going in the wrong direction. So that's where we are, and we cannot second guess why political leaders take certain decisions, whether it's for electoral aims in the future, whether they have some connections with Russia, whether we think that Russia is an easier partner when you are less democratic than the European Union, that's for you to guess and me to find out.

Madam President, I believe you have said in the past that you are concerned about the Russian influx into Georgia. Does this remain a concern for you? Again, we are so conscious given what is going on in Ukraine, Though, it has happened to Georgia. You know, Russians have come into northern Georgia and taken a fair amount of territory.

We have a very good experience of what it means; that is why the Georgian population is in total solidarity with Ukraine and myself personally I have expressed my solidarity as many times as could, because we are in the same boat. What the Ukraine is doing today is fighting for its own sovereignty and its own territory, as well as our sovereignty and territory. So, it is very important that this unity is kept within the country and between Ukraine and Georgia.

You were mentioning the Russians who have come to Georgia. Most of them have come because they were fearing mobilization or were not in agreement with the way their President is carrying out this aggression against Ukraine (It’s difficult to know.). So, my concern was to say that we must keep control of this process. We cannot close our borders, as that would not right and not in conformity with Georgian traditions of hospitality and receiving foreigners, but we have to control what’s happening, who is coming in, how long they are staying, and what kind of jobs they are taking -all of that.  we have a duty to control for our population so our population knows that their government is taking care of this situation and that it is not getting out of hand., we have not had Over the past year any incidents between neither Georgians and Russians, nor between [Russians and] Ukrainians, because, we also have Ukrainian and Russian refugees. But we have to know what’s happening. It cannot be just left on its own inertia

Best of luck and thank you for coming to Bloomberg. That is the President of Georgia. She is Salome Zourabichvili.


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