Tbilisi: Saakashvili Addressed the Nation, Parliament

Saakashvili Addressed the Nation, Parliament
By Giorgi Sepashvili, Civil Georgia / 2005-02-10 13:32:59

Civil Georgia, Goergia
Feb 10 2005

In his first-ever state of the nation address to the Parliament on
February 10 Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said that the
country has made the step from being a failed state into becoming a
state since the 2003 Rose Revolution.

In his one-hour long annual report to the Parliament and nation,
the President spoke about Georgia’s domestic and foreign policy,
as well as the achievements made and those “numerous challenges”
Georgia faces ahead.

In the address, which has already been described by the opposition
New Rights parliamentary faction as “a stage-show,” the President was
mainly appealing to the ordinary citizens of Georgia. Representatives
from various professions, including “successful” teachers, soldiers
and patrol police officers, were invited to attend the parliamentary
session. Saakashvili thanked each of them separately for their
activities in an attempt to add a more emotional element to the


Mikheil Saakashvili started his speech by listing the successes which
the country’s new government achieved over the past year. He listed
the reintegration of Adjara, curbing of corruption and smuggling,
creation of a people-friendly Patrol Police and the creation of
the Financial Police, designed to fight smuggling, as the major
achievements of the government.

He emphasized the process of “building a new, not large, but
well-trained armed forces,” as well as the launch of training of the
reserve forces.

“To gain peace we need to be a strong nation and a strong army is
the major component in this process,” he said.

He also listed the privatization process launched last year among
those successful initiatives begun by the country’s leadership. “We
need privatization in order to attract investment and to create jobs,”
Saakashvili said.

The President stated that the energy sector, education, the healthcare
system and defense will be the sectors that the government intends
to allocate revenues received from this privatization process.

He said that the government “could cover all the pension and salary
backlogs,” as well as increase revenues. In this regard he stressed
the role of Finance Minister Zurab Nogaideli, whom the President
recently nominated for the position of Prime Minister.

“This was the major reason why I decided to nominate Zurab Nogaideli.
The person who could increase revenues and repay the entire pension
and salary backlog needed to be promoted,” Mikheil Saakashvili said.

Problems, Road Ahead

Saakashvili said that despite these achievements, the country faces
“numerous challenges ahead.” He listed unemployment, reform of the
judiciary and education systems and self-governance among them.

He said that “the government failed to create new jobs in the private
sector and establish a European-style economy.”

“Yes, we have fired many officials from the governmental structures
and it was an irreversible process but at the same time we could not
create new jobs in the private sector,” he said.

Saakashvili stated that development of services and tourism is one
of the major priorities for the government. “But development of
infrastructure is necessary first,” he added.

Saakashvili said that there should be no set backs in the process of
reforming the education and judiciary system.

“We should achieve a real independence for the judiciary branch,
which does not exist now. Kote Kemularia [Chairman of the Supreme
Court, who has been nominated as the new Justice Minister] will work
hard over this issue at his new post,” Saakashvili stated.

The President said he is not ready “to appoint all the officials in
the region from the center.”

“Mayors of all the cities should be elected starting next year,”
he said.

Saakashvili did not specify, though, whether these elections should
be direct or whether the mayors should be elected by members of
elected councils.

President Saakashvili also said that the number of parliamentarians
should be reduced from the current 235 to 150, as it was decided by
the national referendum carried in November, 2003.

“2,300,000 voters said that the number of MPs should be no more than
150 and if we fail to implement this, it will be humiliating for these
voters. There should be at least 50 MPs elected in the single-mandate
constituencies [instead of the current 75], and MPs elected through
party-list should also remain,” Mikheil Saakashvili said.

He said that a two-chamber Parliament should be established; however
he did not specify when this may occur.

Foreign Policy

President Mikeil Saakashvili said that Georgia “has turned into an
attractive country for the rest of the world.”

“And this has not happened because Georgia is just a corridor,” he
said, referring to the word frequently used to describe Georgia’s
role in the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline
and the TRASECA transport corridor begun by Eduard Shevardnadze’s

He said that Georgia “has ideal relations with its neighbors,” listing
Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. “And we should care for these ideal
relations,” Saakashvili added.

He stressed that “another state in the post-Soviet space has emerged
recently with aspirations similar to those of Georgia – Ukraine.”

But the President emphasized that there are still problems with
Russia. He called on Russia for mutual compromise.

Saakashvili said he is ready to travel to Moscow and again extend
a hand of friendship, “which has been hanging [in the air] for one
year,” to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Last February, when President Saakashvili traveled to Moscow and met
President Putin, the Georgian President said he visited Moscow in order
“to extend his hand of friendship” to Putin.

“We face particular problems in our relationship with Russia; however
this mistake should be corrected through mutual compromises. This
should occur on the basis of defending bilateral interests,” Mikheil
Saakashvili said.

He reiterated once again that Georgia will not host military bases
of third countries on its soil.