Georgian president calls for national unity in Independence Day spee

Georgian president calls for national unity in Independence Day speech

Rustavi-2 TV, Tbilisi
26 May 04

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has used the occasion of the
Independence Day parade to call on his people to “reclaim Georgia” by
working together to achieve the country’s unification. In his speech,
which was broadcast live by the Georgian TV station Rustavi-2,
Saakashvili said that “neither Georgia nor its president will
ever accept a fragmented Georgia”. He said the first step towards
unification had been taken in Ajaria, and urged the peoples of
the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to join in the
process of agreeing the form of a single state. At the same time,
he promised to respect their language rights and to take account of
their interests. Saakashvili also bemoaned the fact that economic
and political troubles had forced many Georgians to leave the country
in recent years but promised that nevertheless all Georgians living
abroad would be entitled to Georgian citizenship. The following is
the text of Saakashvili’s speech broadcast by Georgian TV station
Rustavi-2 on 26 May. Subheadings inserted editorially:

[Saakashvili] My fellow citizens, my fellow-fighters, soldiers of
our nation. Four months ago, we presented ourselves to our nation for
the first time and we took the oath that we would reclaim Georgia. We
pledged that we would reclaim Georgia and replace the years of
disappointment and alienation by a new feeling of hope and unity.

We asked you to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in order to restore
legality and decency and create state institutions. On the day of
my inauguration, I pledged that we would accomplish the hopes of
our ancestors, the hopes of heroes who sacrificed their lives for
the freedom of Georgia – today we are looking at the memorial of the
300 Aragvians – , the hopes of these and other heroes of Georgia. We
pledged that we would start the process of the unification of our
great nation.

Georgia on “right track”

At that time, we asked you to trust us and to believe in better common
future for us all. Today all of us can see that our belief has already
produced the first results. Four months ago, there were more sceptics
than believers, both here and abroad. Pessimists predicted that we
would break our necks at the very first attempt. They were talking
about an inevitable and rapid defeat. They did not think that anything
could be fixed in Georgia. And yet, we are now standing before you,
and it is impossible to deny this: Georgia is on the right track
today. Our people are gathering new strength today. Our belief is not
only not diminishing, our belief is getting stronger. Our belief is
now based on concrete results.

Today Georgia has a chance, as never before, to become the great
state it once was. Georgia may become a state in which our children
will be proud of their ancestry, their citizenship, their passports
and a state which will be the object of the respect and admiration
of its neighbours. We can already see the first signs that such a
state is being established here.

We started a real war against corruption and we have already won the
first battles in this war. Untouchable people no longer exist at any
level of the Georgian government. We have disarmed and neutralized
several armed gangs. We have made serious progress in the formation of
our armed forces. I want to say that today, as never before, trust in
our armed forces is increasing. Here, together with us, is a resident
of Tbilisi, Roland Nebieridze, who has five sons of draft age. Until
now, none of them wanted to serve in the army because they did not
trust the state. But now Batoni [Georgian polite form of referring
to a man] has decided to send all five of his sons to the Georgian
army. I call on all of us to greet them, here they are. [Applause]

Relations with other countries

We have achieved real and serious successes in the international arena.
Georgia’s severely damaged reputation has been fully restored. Georgia
is a popular country all over the world, as never before in its

We have established close relations with the United States of America
and we remain its military ally in the fight against international
terrorism. We have made a decision that our contingent in Iraq will
be increased threefold. We should support our soldiers who will be
going there voluntarily, so that we stand by our allies.

We have significantly improved our relations with Russia. We have
started a new phase of cooperation with Turkey, Azerbaijan and
Armenia. For the first time, Georgia is referred to as a serious
candidate for joining the European Union.

“Reclaiming Georgia”

What do I mean when I say that we should reclaim Georgia? We mean that
all the changes should become irreversible. We mean that every Georgian
family should feel the benefits of these changes. Who should reclaim
Georgia? The answer to this question is in each of us. Reclaiming
Georgia is the common task and common responsibility of every Georgian
child and citizen. Reclaiming Georgia is the essence and purpose
of all our lives. Reclaiming Georgia means its reunification. We
have already made the first big step in this direction in Ajaria.
Ajaria and Batumi [capital of Ajaria] are free today, and this is the
accomplishment of every Ajarian, every Georgian who did not give up,
who believed and who had faith in our freedom and our unification.

When we are talking about Georgia’s reunification, we should return
to the main foundation of the Georgian nation – when two of our great
rulers came to believe that in unity lies strength, when two great
kings [of Georgia], Parnavaz and Kuji, stood together, and united
Georgia. Georgia was created when leaders of its various regions put
[the interests of] Georgia above their own interests. They sacrificed
their egoistic interests and their own desire for power in order
to create a strong and permanent unity in a peaceful way. In unity
lies strength.

Unlike an absolute majority of other countries, Georgia was not formed
through conquest and the use of force. In reality, our nation, our
unity and our culture are the result of human solidarity, harmony,
tolerance and diversity among the natives of this land and their unique
talents. Today, on our Independence Day, I again wish to draw on the
wisdom of our ancestors. It is precisely by showing our respect for
their principles of tolerance, brotherly love, self-sacrifice and
human dignity that we shall reunite Georgia.

Appeal to South Ossetia, Abkhazia

I wish to confirm that neither Georgia nor its president will ever
accept a fragmented Georgia. Until my last breath, I will not put
up with a fragmented Georgia. That is why we offer our Abkhaz and
Ossetian brothers to start immediate talks on the restoration of a
single state. We are prepared to consider any state model that takes
into account their interests and ensures their future development.

I wish to address our Ossetian brothers, confirm my most profound
respect for them and promise them that the Georgian state will always
consider their interests, the interests of every Ossetian living in
Georgia. I wish to address them – I am the first president of Georgia
to do it – in their native Ossetian language. Its state language
status will be guaranteed by the Georgian state, which will also create
guarantees for its development and protection. These guarantees will
be created for every inhabitant of Georgia, including every Ossetian
living in Georgia. [says several phrases in Ossetian]

I also wish to address the Abkhaz and again offer them to start talks
on federal relations and broad guarantees, including international
ones, for their autonomy. We offer a hand of friendship to the
Abkhaz people, and I can now repeat it in Abkhaz. [says one sentence
in Abkhaz]

I wish to appeal to the entire Georgian nation to be tolerant. We
should be able to see not only others’ but also our own mistakes. We
should be able to offer a hand to anyone who seeks friendship. Let
us be tolerant but at the same time let us never again show our backs
to the enemy, let us never again succumb to those who want to divide
Georgia. [applause] There is no force in the world that can defeat a
nation that wants to unite and fight for its motherland. We should
all stand united, so that no-one will ever be able to intimidate us
again, no-one will ever be able to sow doubts in our minds, no-one
will ever be able to keep us in a permanent state of mourning,
suffering and despondency.

Appeal to diaspora

When we speak about Georgian reunification, we should remember that one
in five citizens of Georgia have left their motherland. These people
were forced to flee by hardship, war, devastation and an unpromising
future. The children of these people, who were born after they left,
have never seen their motherland. Their return and the restoration of
links with their motherland is one of our main and urgent historical
tasks. The Constitution of Georgia gives the president of Georgia the
power to grant Georgian citizenship to citizens of foreign countries
proceeding from and based on Georgia’s national interest. I appeal to
our compatriots dispersed around the world, our flesh and blood. Guided
by Georgia’s interest, I have decided to grant Georgian citizenship
to all Georgians living abroad regardless of their citizenship if
they wish to have it and if they apply to us.

We should all join together to reclaim our country. We should all
return to our country, our Georgia. We should make sure that our
children, our offspring return to Georgia. We should all join together
to help our country get up on its feet and together deal with the
challenges of the modern world.

We have gone through a lot of suffering and torture. The main cause
of that suffering was our alienation from each other. I ask you to
unite because we are well aware of how much we can achieve by being
united. We have enough perseverance, culture and intellect to change
our everyday behaviour for the better, which will allow us not only to
change our own lives through daily work but also transform Georgia and
our way of life to a genuinely European state and genuinely European
way of life. In order to find the strength to attain our cherished
goals through daily work, we should realize that this strength lies
in each of us and in our unique features that have saved us over the
centuries and helped us survive to this day.

We, together with the government, with our authorities, promise to
discharge our duties honestly, with dignity and with due respect
for every person. At the same time, we ask you to support each other
and support all our good initiatives. Let every person be involved
in the titanic work that will lead us to success. Georgia should be
built up by the Georgians, by every single citizen. The government,
the president or our army alone will not be able to build up
Georgia. Georgia is to be built up by each of us, every citizen, every
genuine patriot and everyone who loves their motherland. May God give
us the perseverance and wisdom to do this. May St George lead us to new
victories. I congratulate you on Georgian Independence Day. [applause]