Prime Minister of Georgia

Speech made to the Assembly

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, members of the Parliamentary Assembly, this is the first time I have had the honour as Prime Minister to speak before a European institution. It is therefore no coincidence that I should speak first before you, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, because you are the leading institution supporting and protecting true democracy in Europe. You, more than anyone, are aware that democracy is not established by announcements in fine words but painstakingly built by working together in constructive co-operation. It is before you that I have come to speak because I am well aware that you are the best architects of European democracy.

Here in Strasbourg, as a French citizen, of course I could not resist commencing my address to you in French, but now I would like to continue in Georgian, my mother tongue.

(The speaker continued in Georgian)

“The recently-begun dialogue between Tbilisi and Moscow should not create an impression that Georgia is dealing with this problem on its own and no longer needs the support of European partners”

You have embarked on the path of European values founded centuries ago, and we are conscious that transitional democracies have only recently joined you on this path. We carry a difficult past, and that is why this great body is especially important to our countries, which only now take steps towards full European integration. You are the living embodiment of Europe’s dream of peaceful co-operation. You not only project a vision; you work hard to make it happen.

Today 800 million people in the democracies of Europe are joined through the Council of Europe, the world’s oldest and largest body dedicated to the cause of democracy. For many of you this is an achievement which goes back many decades. The exhausted continent of 1949 has become the most prosperous region on earth – this was not an easy task, as more problems than solutions existed at that time. So we, the young countries of democracy, did our best to become members of the Council of Europe as quickly as possible. Georgia became the 41st member of the Council of Europe in 1999. For my country, it is a thrill to be here among you. We have come late to this club of freedom and we know that we have a long way to go. The election that brought my government to power in October 2012 represented the precedent for the democratic transfer of power in my country, which is why I feel a huge sense of responsibility in addressing you; I know that we are inexperienced in the practice of democracy. As we debate issues with our opponents at home, I can feel how hard it is for us sometimes to pull back from disputes and place our trust in the good will of the other side. Naturally, it would not be easy for you to relate to that.

Georgia’s history has been difficult and we live today in a difficult neighbourhood, with many challenges of a globalised world facing us. That is why we need your help. We need the support of many institutions of the Council of Europe to help guide us through this transition. While continuing on the path of the reforms the previous government instituted during its first years in power, which have been for the benefit of the country, we must replace the authoritarian structures of the later years with a modern civil society. In recent years: almost all fields were controlled by the ruling elite in Georgia; the basic law of the country’s constitution was abused, being practically tailored to serve one man’s ambitions; elite corruption gave no room whatsoever for business to develop; human rights were ignored, with pressure deployed upon not only those holding different views, but their families and acquaintances; and the media were mostly under control. We have begun a healing process which channels deep anger and restores a sense of self-respect to our citizens. That includes not only indicting some former officials for past crimes, but keeping the thousands of loyal civil servants who served the previous government.

That is why we work hard to ensure that our policies are fully transparent. We facilitate the work of western non-governmental organisations present in Georgia and hope for as many visits by parliamentary delegations as can be arranged. At my request, the European Union has appointed Thomas Hammarberg, the former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, as a special adviser on legal and constitutional reforms and human rights in Georgia. Observers from the OSCE and other inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations will monitor all investigations, prosecutions and trials of former government officials to ensure that they comply with international norms. Our Justice Minister, Tea Tsulukiani, is a former judge of the European Court of Human Rights, and the list of Council of Europe bodies with which we co-operate is long. We are especially grateful to the Venice Commission, which is helping us with judicial reform. We appreciate the debate in the Parliamentary Assembly as an example for our own practices at home. We are working in many agencies and committees of the Council of Europe to ensure that we meet the standards of this Organisation. We are working, in particular, on issues of minority rights, which will help us to make the transition to a new stage in our ongoing relations with the Council of Europe.

That ongoing co-operation will be pursued with the greatest energy, but our democratic vision – our dream for Georgia – goes beyond those important details. I have read the history of the European movement carefully, and I understand that building a united Europe was, above all, a project of peace. Looking back over the past century, one can see how recurring warfare was especially disastrous for small countries caught up in conflicts not of their making. Europe was once a battlefield where small countries were fighting. The awarding of the 2012 Nobel peace prize to the European Union was in recognition of Europe’s historic achievement in building peace. As you all know, warfare has not been overcome completely; small countries, in particular, continue to suffer from aggression. A clear example of that has been seen in my home country, as 20% of our territory was occupied by Russia in 2008. Other conflicts endanger the peace in our region; the Caucasus is not yet a zone of peace.

A special challenge will be building the relations with our largest neighbour, Russia. With a new pragmatic approach, we started bilateral dialogue with Russia and we are returning Georgian products to the Russian market. I can assure you that our position in our relations with Russia will be correct and principled. The appointment of a special representative for relations with Russia clearly demonstrates that we are willing to turn the page and engage in dialogue. In 2010, Georgia unilaterally pledged the non-use of force in the conflict resolution process, and that pledge was endorsed by the parliamentary resolution on 8 March 2013.

In this challenging process, Georgia needs international engagement and support more than ever. The newly started dialogue between Tbilisi and Moscow should not create an impression that Georgia is dealing with the problem on its own and is no longer in need of the support of European partners. We will be realistic about Georgia’s possibilities, recognising that Georgia is a small regional power in a volatile neighbourhood. No sustainable future can be built by projecting military power but there can be no progress towards peace in the region if Georgia is expected to abandon its legitimate interests, especially its territorial integrity and the right of its citizens to return to their homelands. The regulation of these relations will benefit not only Georgia, but the Caucasus in general. Our intention is to use the tools of civil society to help build peace in our region. Above all, we will focus on democracy, as we believe that the security, unity and prosperity of Georgia largely depend on the quality of the democracy. I wish to emphasise that Georgia’s western aspirations – euro-Atlantic integration – represent our strategic choice, one with no alternative. The choice was made by the Georgian people long ago. Georgia’s decision to apply for membership of NATO represents, above all, a deep commitment among our people to live using the values of the west. That commitment was upheld in the resolution on the basic directions of Georgia’s foreign policy, which was unanimously adopted by the Georgian Parliament.

I wish to touch on current and planned developments in my country. The government is working actively on implementing employment policy. We are improving the labour code to meet European standards to the fullest extent possible. I believe that the State should play a decisive role in the development of business and provide development guarantees. Today, business is free from political pressure and soon we will see concrete positive results in investment growth. We have already established fair utility rates based on realistic calculations. Co-operation and negotiations with our partners continue in that regard. The Georgian Government is implementing large-scale agricultural reform, which is unprecedented for the country. Vital health care reform is also under way. The universal health care programme has already been launched. In the next stage of the programme, all citizens of Georgia will enjoy the benefits of the state’s universal medical insurance package, and the system will improve even further in the future.

Building a country on democratic values is impossible without free media. Journalists must be free to criticise the government and thereby provide society with objective information. Our government is absolutely open to media representatives, and their objective appraisal and criticism will benefit our work tremendously.

Reform of the judiciary is the cornerstone of our work to ensure genuine democratic processes in the country. That reform, which has been initiated, is based on the recommendations of local civil society organisations and reflects comments from the Venice Commission and its Georgian judicial branch. I believe that Georgia has a unique chance to establish a truly independent judicial system, free from the executive branch and free from political influence. The Government of Georgia aims not to miss this chance.

The government pays special attention to the integration of ethnic minorities in Georgian society so that they may feel at home in Georgia. We will remain a country where different confessions of faith have co-existed for centuries. The empowerment of social self-governance is one of the preconditions for integration in Georgian society. You will be aware of the high emotions of bodies grounded in local self-government following the October election. Over the years, the public have seen one political force dominate all levels of government, and to this day society finds it difficult to comprehend a new reality when different political forces have decision makers at different levels. The replacement at a national level of the formerly dominant political force installed a sense among the local population that a similar replacement of that force was inevitable in local self-government as well. There is also an unfortunate tradition that, in such situations, local officials in the regions change their party affiliation in favour of the ruling party. This time, events became chaotic and in some cases even exceeded legal boundaries.

The Georgian Government is committed to the constitutional principles of the separation of powers, including the independence of local self-government bodies. At the same time, as a ruling political team, we are obliged to address adequately violations of law. I emphasise that the government and law enforcement agencies will deploy legally stipulated measures to address all instances of use of force, pressure or intimidation should such instances occur.

As we enter our sixth month in office, the Georgian Dream coalition has already established a solid record of achievement. Our programme to build civil society is well under way, the economy is returning to a solid foundation, and recent polls show that the voters are increasingly supportive of their government. We are making steady progress towards Euro-Atlantic integration, and there have even been a few small steps towards negotiations with Russia. Perhaps most encouraging is the fact that, after a rough beginning, we are starting to apply lessons from the Council of Europe on how to build consensus with former adversaries. I am confident that Georgia has finally turned the corner. Our election victory in October was an important next step towards sustainable democracy. Success in that task will be of great importance to the Georgian people. I am certain that it will help us to make an important contribution to the project for peace which is the underlying foundation of the European ideal. Thank you for your attention.

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Now I give the floor to those who have put their names down to ask a question. They have 30 seconds each. First, we will have a response on behalf of the different groups. I call Ms Pourbaix-Lundin, on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.


You said some time ago that the EPP presidency declaration, which spoke of democratic backsliding in Georgia, a letter from 23 Members of the European Parliament and this Assembly’s resolution on media freedom were shameful lies. If I say that I agree with those critics, what is your response today?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

I think that expressions used by the EPP and other representatives of European structures have often been based on biased, unilateral information distributed by the representatives of the former government, who often spread lies. I have met many leaders from the EPP and have great respect for the party, which is the biggest. I do not think that such misunderstandings will occur in future, and we will co-operate with the EPP.

Mr IWIŃSKI (Poland)

Mr President, how do you view internal reconciliation in Georgia given the tension that has existed since the last parliamentary elections? What is your estimation of the prospects of normalisation of relations with Russia? I put the same questions to President Saakashvili in January because, to my mind, it is important to have a comparative approach not only in science but in politics.

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

On internal political processes, let me assure you once more that in Georgia only restoration of the justice of processes is happening; there is no selective justice. There is a huge amount of aggression in society, and it is necessary to restore justice. What is happening in Georgia is something that should be happening; it is being carried out by law enforcement bodies. Mr Hammarberg, whom you know very well, is in Georgia observing the process, as are observers from the OSCE, NGOs and civil society. Let me assure you once more that the process is transparent and does not resemble political persecution.

My personal dream, and that of my team, is to settle our relations with our large neighbour, Russia. I am under no illusion that a total restoration of relations can happen very soon, but we hope it is possible. It is easier to get into deadlock than it is to break it. Step by step, by using peaceful expressions, we will settle our relations with Russia. We have already made progress in trade and cultural relations.

Ms GUŢU (Republic of Moldova) (interpretation)

Where are the lines of division between you, as Prime Minister of Georgia, and the current president, Mr Saakashvili in this political cohabitation, as we call it, given that Georgia has firmly decided on European integration, which requires the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

I think that we are managing with co-habitation. My personal desire is for both the government and the opposition to stand together. There are many problems in our country, and we do not have time to engage in disputes. We should join our efforts and move in the right direction.

However, co-habitation and the restoration of justice are different matters. We should not confuse politics with justice; those terms are often mistakenly used. There are many talented and gifted people in the opposition. Instead of arguing with each other, we should support each another, but the restoration of justice and co-habitation are different matters.

Mr LEIGH (United Kingdom)

Prime Minister, following on from your statement about justice, why did you not follow the recommendation of the Venice Commission not to terminate prematurely the High Council of Justice? Also, will you bring the officials who are responsible for putting pressure on the judiciary to book?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

Again I think that you have one-sided information; there are still methods for the opposition to spread lies in Europe. We have taken into account the recommendations to a great extent – perhaps 99% – although some commas or full stops might not have been taken into account. You do not have the necessary information. We took into account the recommendations of the Venice Commission and those of civil society. The Chair of the Supreme Court and Mr Hammarberg agree that our reforms are a good step forward. The only person who is against them is Mr Saakashvili.

Mr L. KALASHNIKOV (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

Georgia has a law on occupied territories, under which people who enter those territories from somewhere other than Georgia may find themselves in prison for a year or even longer. I know people who have entered South Ossetia and Abkhazia not from Georgia because of the physical impossibility of doing so. They may find themselves in prison. What are you doing to restrict the application of that law, or at least to minimise its effect?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

Regarding the occupied territories, we are not planning any change in the law. If you are referring to the terminology, we have different stipulations.

I was unable to hear the question very well, but I will state our attitude to the territories. We will continuously try to resolve the problem peacefully and to establish relations. To our brothers, the Abkhaz and the Ossetians, I reiterate this message: we will restore our relations and unify our territories only through peaceful means. So far, we do not have any tools to change the situation overnight, but there are other means – for example, peaceful rhetoric – which I am convinced will help us to settle the situation.

We are also trying to make our neighbours understand that the situation is dangerous for Russia’s security. I believe that both sides and Russia will realise that the situation is not beneficial in the long run. I believe that our dialogue will become more concrete, which will finally enable us to restore Georgia’s territorial integrity.

Mr BOCKEL (France) (interpretation)

Thank you for your encouraging statement on the future of Georgia, Prime Minister. You were talking about the rule of law, and now you have a thorny co-habitation. Manuel Barroso has been talking about selective justice. All those issues are placing question marks over the future development of your country. What are all your energetic political efforts leading to? How long will this go on for?

Mr L. KALASHNIKOV (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

There was a mistranslation of my question, which was a specific question. Under the law on occupied territories, a mission, such as the OSCE’s or ours, that enters Abkhazia or South Ossetia not from Georgia may be put in prison for two years.

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

The question was clear. The law is not going to change. Clearly we greatly wish to fix the situation with Russia, but it is logical that we correct the law. If someone breaks it for the first time, we will issue a small fine and explain to that person what the law is. That will enhance the settlement of relations between us and our larger neighbour.

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

Mr Bockel has not had a reply on energy policy. I call Mr Bockel.

Mr BOCKEL (France) (interpretation)

My question was about the rule of law, and I finished by asking about your energy policy. What energy policy do you have to guarantee the independence and development of Georgia?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

The main question is a legal one, which is why we have gathered here so many representatives of the Georgian Parliament. Of course, the main goal is to restore justice in our country and to establish a really independent judicial system, to enable our citizens to live in a country ruled with justice and by law. Therefore, we will not spare our efforts to make our judiciary independent, to build democratic institutions.

Energy is the most attractive sector for investors in our country. Energy independence is one of the main components of security for any country. Therefore, we are engaged in building hydro power stations in Georgia, and we will continue their construction in the future. Of course, we welcome the construction of the large-scale pipelines that traverse Georgian territory. We will continue our relations with our neighbours to enhance Georgia’s function as a transit zone, and that will be beneficial to the rest of the world as well.

Mr DÍAZ TEJERA (Spain) (interpretation)

Democratic society needs to protect its minorities, whether ethnic, religious or sexual. Given the Kutaisi case, do you think that it is a good thing for democratic society in Georgia that ferocious attacks have been carried out on minorities?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

We are, of course, very open to all minority groups in our population. They are regular members of our society. I assure the audience in the Chamber that if anything of the sort happens in Georgia, the reaction of the government and law enforcement bodies will be very harsh. I do not believe that Georgia is different from the rest of Europe from this point of view. The problem of ethnic minorities in Georgia is non-existent. Perhaps there are some excesses of different types, but the government’s reaction is adequate. I reiterate that our whole team and members of our coalition are absolutely transparent and take an open attitude to ethnic minorities. They are fully fledged members of our society, and we will spare no effort in making them feel that that is so in the future.

Mr PUSHKOV (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

Mr Ivanishvili, we are delighted to welcome you to the Chamber. We in the Parliamentary Assembly have just decided that the people of Kosovo can be represented by two deputies from the Kosovo Parliament, without the right to vote, but some people have no access to the Parliamentary Assembly. Do you agree that the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia should also have the right to be heard in this forum?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

Ossetia and Abkhazia are parts of Georgia. Correspondingly, Ossetians and Abkhazians, along with our delegation, have the possibility to participate in the Council of Europe. On your specific example of Kosovo, you know that Kosovo invited international observers and was open to international co-operation. Unfortunately, that has not happened in our situation. We do not have elementary monitoring, even to carry out humanitarian projects in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are very close. Unfortunately, I therefore cannot see this perspective.

Ms PASHAYEVA (Azerbaijan) (interpretation)

My question also relates to national minorities in your country, including Azerbaijanis – the biggest national minority in Georgia. In your capacity as prime minister, what steps do you intend to take towards settling the problems of national minorities, including Azerbaijanis? You have made certain promises about solving the Georgian citizenship problems of Azerbaijanis. Has there been any progress with respect to the realisation of those promises?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

I visited Georgia’s regions during the election process, and I often hold meetings with ethnic Azerbaijanis who are our citizens and with other ethnic groups. I have very good, friendly personal relations with them. I can assure you that problems for Azerbaijani, Armenian or any other ethnic group do not exist generally, but I hear such questions reiterated in the Council of Europe. We have Council of Europe obligations and have given commitments in the Charter on regional or minority languages. Let me assure you that our new government will do its best, so that such minorities feel not only that they are fully fledged citizens of Georgia, but that, like other Georgians, Georgia is their homeland. I do not think that today’s situation is bad, but it needs improvement.

On languages, we will do our best to fulfil our obligations and commitments to the Council of Europe. Let me reiterate that there is no problem for national minorities or for the protection of regional languages. There is no problem with studying the State language; that will allow them to become more fully integrated into society. We will do our best to carry out that process.

Mr ZOURABIAN (Armenia) (interpretation)

I would like to ask about the possible reopening of the Abkhaz railroad. Do you agree that that reopening would contribute to Georgian-Abkhaz reconciliation, to confidence building and to economic co-operation in the region?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

I shall give a short answer because I do not want to leave any question unanswered. I am sure that the railway can be reopened, but perhaps doing so will not be easy in the short term because many interrelated questions are involved, such as our relations with Russia and with our Abkhaz brothers, as well as the reaction during my visit to Armenia. It is not a simple process, and it is very much connected with politics. It needs time, but it will happen and all the rights of the interested parties will be protected.

Mr MENDES BOTA (Portugal)

As general rapporteur on violence against women, I visited Georgia last year and witnessed the efforts, commitment and progress that have been made on that. I hope that your government will remain committed to the cause and will sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention as soon as possible. That would contribute to raising awareness and could also help to prevent acts of violence such as the one against a member of this Assembly, Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, who was brutally assaulted by a demonstrator as the police stood passive.

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

We have managed to discuss the Istanbul Convention and assignments have been distributed, so in the near future we will rectify the situation. As for the specific case of Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, there are many questions, of course. It is regretful it happened as it did, but there are many questions about it. It was not directly a case of violence against women, but a political act that had been well elaborated and thought through, so it needs assessment. Of course, I regret that it happened, but the law enforcement bodies reacted adequately, believe me, and the guilty were punished.

Mr HERKEL (Estonia)

Whenever I meet Georgian politicians from either side, they have a lot of criticism for their opponents. I want to look at this from a different angle. What are the biggest mistakes you or your political movement have made in your relations with the opposition? We have heard several examples of selective justice. How do you reconcile them?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

Thank you for your question, which makes it clear that criticism can be heard at a general rhetorical level about both the opposition and the ruling parties. It would be better if you received more information about it and allocated more time to studying the question. We do not only criticise each other at a generally rhetorical level. I assure you that I, personally, do not spare any efforts in my appeals to society to assure the audience that we need to settle the situation with the opposition. We need to establish normal relations, but that is not that easy. Although I do not have time to explain the subtleties, let me ask you once more to be more attentive to the question. Mr Hammarberg is observing the situation, but if any of your respective parties express a wish to send representatives to Georgia, they will be only too welcome to do so. Let them collect the information on the spot, because we thirst for your advice.

It makes no sense to start a rhetorical dispute, as the opposition is continuing to use language that is not quite clear to address their own population. In my personal meetings with Mr Saakashvili and other representatives of the opposition and in all my public appearances with journalists, I call on them to speak in clear and understandable language to their own people. They are always speaking to you, to the Europeans and the Americans, and in most cases their speeches are not clear and understandable for the Georgian public. Their speeches are saturated with a lot of lies. That is why they lost the election. I see no wish on their behalf to change, and it creates problems for them.


I want to make a short comment on the issue raised by the EPP representative about the media resolution. As a member of the Georgian delegation to the Assembly, let me say that we deeply regret the resolution passed on media freedom in Georgia. The problem is that on 7 November 2007, Imedi TV was raided by police special forces.

The PRESIDENT (interpretation)

Ms Khidasheli, I am sorry, but you are supposed to be asking a question. You are not here to make a statement; you should just ask your question.


After the elections, the police-raided TV company was returned to its original owners. If that is the route the Georgian Government plans to take in restorative justice, will it restore justice in thousands of cases of deprivation of property for the citizens and businesses of Georgia? What tools will the government use in implementing restorative justice?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

I think that was more of a commentary than a question. I can explain further, however. Of course, there were mistakes when the Council of Europe adopted a resolution telling the government that we were damaging the interests of the media, extending pressure and so on. The outstanding example of the TV channel Imedi in 2007 is a concrete illustration of how the previous Government tried to tell lies to the international community. On 7 November 2007, a peaceful rally was dissolved by the Government who burst into the private independent television company. Since then, the channel solely served the interests of Saakashvili. When our government came to power, we returned the company to its legitimate owner. It was freed from the terrorist act perpetrated a few years ago and justice was restored. Instead of thanks from the Council of Europe, we received the resolution that has been mentioned. That shows that the art of lies was mastered by the previous government, who misled you so that you took that resolution. That is why I insist that the information should be double checked – on both sides – when the Council of Europe decides to take a resolution.

Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania)

We are in the Council of Europe, which is a human rights organisation, and we often have practical questions. For example, today we will be discussing the Magnitsky list, which is an issue of human rights. What do you think about problems such as Magnitsky, Tymoshenko and the authoritarian regime in Minsk? What is your official opinion and what is your country’s opinion?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

Of course, I am well aware of those problems, including the Magnitsky list. I know what is going on in Ukraine, too, but I know much better what is going on in my country and what was going on there. Human rights were totally violated during the previous Government’s tenure. When we talk about cohabitation, we must remember the cases of selective justice. Human rights were totally violated under the conditions of the Saakashvili regime. The situation became very grave in this respect.

As for Ukraine, we do not have the right to criticise other countries that are coping with a heavy legacy which ended only recently. I reiterate that human rights were totally violated in our country, but that our government will try its best to restore justice in this sphere. Our government will do everything in its power to bring itself closer to “old Europe”, the family to which we wish to belong, and our main task is the protection of human rights. Georgia is working to eliminate such issues entirely by improving the judiciary, the mass media and so on. The protection of human rights is the most European of tasks and we are fully committed to it. We will not spare any effort in seeking to achieve it.

Ms VON CRAMON-TAUBADEL (Germany) (interpretation)

Recently I had an opportunity to travel through your country and my impression overall was very positive: the progress was visible. What post-cohabitation alternative are you developing to ensure that you can actually implement your political goals in a more ambitious way?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

In six months it is possible, although very difficult, to accomplish enough to boast about. However, it is excellent that you saw a lot of progress during your trip, and I thank you for your comments. I assure you from the government side that there is no problem with cohabitation, as some concrete examples have shown. We regard it as one aspect in the process of restoring justice, so it is good that you noticed progress in that respect. To this day, however, not one ambassador has been endorsed by our president – that is how he is hindering the process. This man ruled the country but is now blocking developments. He is doing all he can to avoid enabling the courts to become independent. I would again invite all members to come to Georgia so that you can see it all with your own eyes and be witnesses to the process.

Mr A.K. TÜRKEŞ (Turkey)

Georgia became a member of the Council of Europe in April 1999, at which point Georgia assumed the commitments attending membership. One of those commitments was to ensure the return of the Ahiska Turks to their homeland in Georgia. So far, of a total of 5 841 applications, only 863 have been granted repatriation status. What are your plans regarding the repatriation process for the Ahiska Turks? Will you facilitate and accelerate the bureaucratic procedures and remove the deadline for applications?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

In all my meetings today and yesterday I mentioned our obligations and commitments, but I would add now that on 27 March the new government decided to accelerate these processes to the maximum extent. More than 800 applications have been dealt with already but we will be able to accelerate this process in the next two years so that we can establish who has the desire and basis in fact to receive Georgian citizenship through this accelerated procedure. By all means we will fulfil our obligations to the Council.

Mr M. JENSEN (Denmark)

As you will know, in 2010 the Committee of Ministers adopted its recommendation on combating discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. In a recent reply to the Council of Europe regarding implementation of the recommendation your government, with great honesty, acknowledges: “There are persistent challenges present which need to be further addressed”. What steps is your government taking to address these challenges, and does it have an action plan to implement the Committee of Ministers’ recommendation?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

We are working on legislation to combat discrimination and will adopt it in the near future. As for the current situation and our team, I assure you that our law enforcement bodies react to any violation whether it be discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or anything else. That is how it has been and how it will be. I assure you that we are working on a law against discrimination and that we will adopt it in the near future.


The former President of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, who tragically died three years ago in Russia, loved Georgia very much. He risked his life for Georgia during the Russian aggression against Georgia in 2008. You do not like your president, Mr Saakashvili, but you seem to like the President of Russia, Mr Putin, very much. Do you think that Putin was responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Georgia in 2008? What are your plans for the independence of Georgia? Do you want to defend its independence together with Mr Saakashvili?

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

I will inform you about my approach. Politics should not be based on love between and among people, but heads of government should love all nations and all countries and call everything by its proper name. I am very grateful that you have just reminded us of Mr Kaczyński. I was very concerned about that tragedy; we have always considered Poland to be one of our friends. As for territorial integrity and Russia, Saakashvili has made his own mistakes in this process. Our people have their own demands and questions for their government regarding the mistakes that were made. If Saakashvili had not made such mistakes it would have been very difficult for this aggression to be carried out. As for your question to me, I always try to act correctly. Your rhetoric, like that of Saakashvili, seeks to draw me into dispute. I have no desire to engage in a dispute. Our country received the treatment that it did because of Saakashvili’s rhetoric. We are attempting now, so far as possible, to act diplomatically to correct the mistakes that were made. We will do our best to express ourselves correctly in our words and actions. I assure you that we can settle the matter in this manner.

Mr AGUZAROV (Russian Federation) (interpretation)

Prime Minister, we regard your winning of the October 2012 election as a great achievement for democracy in Georgia. We understand how difficult your life is being made by what you inherited from the previous regime, but we hope that Georgia will carry out the necessary democratic reforms, as well as the other specific tasks that you have set yourself, and will rise before not only Europe, but the whole world as a worthy bearer of the torch of democracy.

Georgia considers Abkhazia and South Ossetia as part of Georgia, but the Abkhaz and Ossetians consider them as their lands. The problem, however, is not with the land itself; it is that Abkhazia and South Ossetia do not want to be part of Georgia. Understanding that well, Georgia began aggression against South Ossetia in August 2008. The new Georgian Government is now repairing its relationship with the Russian Federation, but can rapprochement with Russia fit comfortably with Georgia’s announcements on South Ossetia and Abkhazia, or is there no turning back on that?

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

I am sorry to interrupt again, but I must remind speakers that this is an opportunity to ask questions. Each of you has 30 seconds. You do not have the right to make a statement.

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

That was a brief historic overview of our country. Let me remind you that the Georgian Government made many mistakes over the past 20 years regarding our Abkhaz and Ossetian brothers, but mistakes were made on both sides. Those wounds need time to heal. Our aim is not to repeat such things and we do not even consider the possibility of using force. We will use public diplomacy and peaceful means. I always assure our Abkhaz and Ossetian brothers that we will never apply force or violence, because we need patience and peace to achieve Georgia’s main aims: reviving the economy; developing democratic institutions; and improving relations with the Abkhaz, the Ossetians, Europe and Russia. We need time and we need to take the right steps. Only after that can we speak of historical progress. We need questions from all sides, because it will otherwise be difficult to make any decisions. We want to make Georgia democratic and economically strong. I am sure that our Ossetian and Abkhaz brothers understand that we will restore our united country.

Mr XUCLÀ (Spain) (interpretation)

What form will the local government reform process take? You won the elections, you have the majority, and you have to act with the generosity of someone who holds such a majority. You have to work towards reconciliation in your country and lead a mature democracy in which both the majority and the minority feel represented in the same political system.

Mr Ivanishvili, Prime Minister of Georgia (interpretation)

The current situation with self-government organisations is chaotic. I assure you that the Government has never intervened in the process. That is not our strategy. The misunderstandings and chaos were the reason for the situation that I tried to portray, and it is one of the main problems of our country. The reaction of law-enforcement bodies to the self-governance violations was strict. Eleven criminal cases were filed and the reaction was adequate. As I understand it, the process has changed from being active to passive and is now extinguished.

The answer is easy. Instead of intervening, we are working hard on the new structures and laws of self-governance. The draft law has already been published in the regions for further discussion. We are trying to bring it closer to the European model, because, under the previous Government, self-government was absolutely non-existent and one person was ruling the country. We will maintain whatever was good in the previous system, but this reform is the most challenging for me and my government. We are trying to change our society to increase political culture, which is currently lacking, and that is under development. Georgia has an ancient culture, but we are not really experienced in self-governance. We are therefore attaching great importance to local self-government organisations, and we will teach people on the spot how to control their own government. We will teach the population that, unlike under the previous government, this government is the public’s servant. The process is not at all simple and we fully realise that. We are trying to implement innovative and new reforms in this field.

Finally, I think the draft law is good enough, but we have a whole year for discussion and feedback. We want to establish real self-government institutions in the regions and will endow them with the maximum possible rights. That is our strategy. Your question was about the situation today. Such self-government organisations were previously non-existent in Georgia. Whatever was there was artificial and superficial. We are striving to establish real self-governance.

THE PRESIDENT (interpretation)

We must now conclude the questions to Mr Ivanishvili. Thank you for coming to Strasbourg, for giving us your statement and for making yourself so available for questions. I must apologise to colleagues who were not able to ask questions.