Prime Minister of Georgia

Speech made to the Assembly

Thursday, 21 April 2016

President of the Parliamentary Assembly, members of the Assembly, ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen, I am here today to affirm Georgia’s commitment to the vision of a Europe whole and free, at a point in time when everyone’s faith in that vision is being put to the test. For Georgia, the boats have long been burned. We have made our choice. We have come a long way on the path to a whole and free Europe. In April 1999, Georgia acceded to the Council of Europe. There are few institutions that speak of Europe as whole and free as the Council of Europe does. Georgia has joined a number of organisations to be accredited into a club of European nations. That was a national strategy. In joining the Council of Europe, we have become European in the deepest sense of the term, valuing historical roots but also empowering individual citizens.

Being European is not a geographic statement. It is chiefly about having a sense of security, dignity, freedom and opportunity that reflects a particular social contract. My country will not be free unless its citizens can live in dignity. The idea that citizens have inalienable rights that are not subject to the tyranny of a majority is at the heart of Europe’s democratic experience. We are drafting a social contract of European quality. That contract is not subject to ratification, veto, conditionality, approval or negotiation by anyone else.

We are moving ahead, despite certain internal or external problems and conditionality. Before 2012, regimes changed, but not by electoral means. Against all odds, in 2012 Georgian people achieved a peaceful transfer of power that amounted to regime change. Since then, we have delivered free elections, both local and presidential, on a level playing field. This year, we will complete the circle with parliamentary elections. We need competitive but also uneventful elections of the kind in which accounts are not frozen, no one controls what kind of news people watch and each candidate has his or her day in the ballot box.

“We have made our choice, we have come a long way to be part of a Europe whole and free. In joining the Council of Europe, we have become ‘European’ in the deepest sense of the term.”

We eagerly anticipate the Parliamentary Assembly’s monitoring this year for two reasons. First, Georgia has been served by international monitoring in times when elections could not be lost. We counted on you when our voices could not be heard. Secondly, elections in 2016 will be the most transparent, fair and level elections we have had. We want you to be there to celebrate the results, whatever they are. We are moving away from democratic transition to democratic consolidation, where the winner does not take all and the loser does not lose all. We are proud of that.

We have delivered Europe to Georgians, and we have surpassed Europe’s expectations of democratic consolidation and democratisation. We are the proof that democracy promotion, conditionality and institution capacity-building work when there is ownership of the objectives before us. If we can do it, so can others. We now have experience in the successful implementation of reforms, identifying objectives, defining tasks, keeping up with deadlines and delivering on quality benchmarks.

We have recently delivered on visa legalisation prerequisites, which promise the prospect of free and unhindered movement. For obvious reasons, every citizen in Georgia is eager to feel that kind of admittance in this space of free movement. To travel with dignity and to be welcomed and trusted would be the most meaningful and tangible statement of a return to Europe since our independence. The privilege to travel from Vilnius to Athens and from Madrid to Bucharest without a single stop is central to the experience of being European. The 100 million Europeans who joined the European Union in 2004 can empathise with Georgia’s thirst for that kind of freedom. Freedom is an integral part of our identity. After years of reforms and sacrifices, Tbilisi will turn to its citizens in the occupied territories with solid proof that it pays to be pro-European and say, “Join us. Study, work and flourish with us.”

Each opportunity we deliver to our citizens is the product of hard work. Each policy is a value chain that requires focus, co-ordination, definition of roles, initiative, a sense of responsibility and, of course, leadership. However, reforms are ultimately about chains made of values that anchor us to Europe, which is a civilisation that places the citizen at the heart of the political process. Stakeholder consultations, monitoring, reporting and evaluation keep everyone on their toes.

Abiding by European standards is an obligation that has now become a habit. The accumulative result of reforms year on year is that citizens, civil society organisations and the media have real power. We are building a home with a place for all citizens of Georgia. By ensuring strong protection of human rights, we are building a home to come to, not to leave. Our national seven-year plan for the promotion of human rights aims to enshrine the democratic values that we stand for at the very heart of our society. We have outlawed discrimination on the basis of colour, national identity, sexual orientation or religious affiliation. We are making a State in which national minorities have the right to their culture, religion and language and to security and opportunity. We are committed to ensuring the full engagement of minorities in the ongoing developments and decision-making processes in Georgia.

We are building a society where women are protected not only by law but in practice. Since July 2015, civic organisations can file cases on behalf of victimised women. We have signed the Istanbul Convention. We have a national action plan for Security Council Resolution 1325. When I look at the Davos gender equality economic indicators, it is clear that Georgia has some way to go, but we are looking at those indicators, and that is the beginning of every serious policy. We have transformed the ministry of internal affairs into a community-oriented organisation and enacted a new law on policing, which sets the highest standards for the protection of human rights and enshrines the principles of legality, equality, proportionality and political neutrality. We cannot outlaw intolerance, but we can make it unacceptable.

Looking ahead, the priority of the Government of Georgia is to ensure decent living conditions and opportunities for Georgian citizens. Our agenda is as comprehensive as ever. Having introduced a national healthcare programme and doubled welfare services, we have adopted a four-point reform agenda with the following priorities. First, we are facilitating jobs creation by further liberalising business and the investment environment, including inter alia by implementing tax reform and supporting entrepreneurship. Secondly, we are empowering people by supporting skills creation in education reforms targeted at bridging the gap between what professions demand and the supply. Thirdly, we are strengthening open governance by ensuring that we have an inclusive decision-making process, where opposition, civil society and private sector voices are heard. Fourthly, we are improving and modernising public services, including by introducing the single-window principle and a unified front office for all government services for individuals and companies.

Together with the implementation of relevant soft policies, we are investing in core infrastructure development, including by supporting the expansion of the east-west and south-north trade corridors, utilising Georgia’s potential as a transit country between Europe and Asia – we also have massive tourism potential – and thus creating economic opportunities for all our citizens.

One of the biggest challenges the Georgian Government faces is the situation in the occupied regions of Georgia – Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region of South Ossetia. As a human rights organisation rather than a security organisation, the Council of Europe has an important role to play in protecting human rights in the occupied territories of Georgia. One cause of the violation of human rights in the areas affected by the conflict in Georgia is so-called borderisation, namely artificial obstacles along the occupation line installed by the Russian Federation, which divide families and significantly affect the everyday life of the local population. The people residing within the occupied regions and adjacent areas are deprived of their fundamental rights and freedoms, including but not limited to the freedom of movement, the right to property and family, the right to an education in their native language, and other civic and economic rights.

Another important concern is Council of Europe access to areas affected by the conflict. Despite his efforts, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner has not been granted access to the occupied regions of Georgia. We seek to break the deadlock in Russia-Georgia relations by pursuing pragmatic policies, including by taking steps to restore relations in trade, transport, humanitarian aspects and other fields, but our efforts to normalise relations with Moscow are insufficient without due respect for our independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are also greatly concerned about the plan of the Tskhinvali South Ossetia de facto authorities to hold a referendum on joining the Russian Federation. Such illegal developments not only undermine Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but have potentially dire consequences in an already-fragile South Caucasus region.

At all times, security is a priority in parliament. We are no longer a country where each family has someone in prison. Only a few years ago, we were the country that held the shameful record of having more prisoners per capita among all European countries. The government could shake you down for your money or your vote, threatening to deprive you of your dignity or that of your loved ones.

We are European, but the term “dignity” lies at the heart of being a Georgian. We have worked and are working closely with the Council of Europe, the Venice Commission, European Union special adviser Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe special adviser Michael O’Boyle, and the European Commission. That forum will provide what should be taken for granted: a depoliticised police force; a prosecution that goes after offenders of any social class; a justice system that cannot be arm-twisted; a plea bargaining process that does not shake up in blackmail; a plea bargaining system that serves justice, not power; and a penitentiary system that is not an instrument of revenge and mass terror.

Are we perfect yet? No, we are not. No one in Europe is perfect. We have utopias that are unreachable – that is very European – but the commitment to constructing a utopia lies at the heart of a nation that has discovered wine and is determined to build a republic. That is hard work but it is also decent work.

The new 2016 to 2019 action plan agreed between Georgia and the Council of Europe focuses on the promotion of penitentiary and judicial reforms. We have moved from the general to the specific with resolve. The independence of the judiciary and prosecution has been armoured with life tenure and peer-to-peer regulation and oversight. Our administration did that from 2013 to this day in three successive waves of reform. The transparency of the judicial process has been reinforced to create a level playing field between the prosecution and defence, and we have consolidated best European practice for the safety and impartiality of jury trials. We have halved the prison population and are using imprisonment as a measure of last resort, and we have put in place guarantees for juvenile offenders.

We are the first government since Georgia’s independence that is not feared. Perhaps that is the achievement of which we are most proud, although we are shamed by the fact that the rule of law cannot be extended to the occupied territories. We can only do what we can for internally displaced persons and refugees. We can only invest in confidence-building measures and outreach, and hope for a bottom-up solution.

We are delivering what we can where we can. In doing so, we will be criticised and monitored, as we should be. Our work is not technocratic but political. As representatives of the Georgian people, we set an agenda, prioritise, allocate resources and assume responsibilities – or, in one word, lead.

The government believes with good reason that confidence in the rule of law requires not only reforms, but restorative justice. We want to make Georgia a better place to live for citizens, and not just to show off. In the history of democracy, there has never been restorative justice without controversy. The balance between restoration and lustration is thin, and criticism is inevitable. We want unity, but not at the expense of justice. We want justice, but not at the expense of unity. That is the essence of our Gordian knot, but we will not cut the knot with silence – as Martin Luther King said, our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. We must loosen the knot. To be silent is to be an accomplice in injustice, and Georgia needs to believe in justice. That is the essence of democratic consolidation for us. No one should be forced to be silent, and no one is forced to be silent in Georgia today.

Reporters without Borders suggested that, in 2015, Georgia was a leader in eastern Europe. Freedom House has continued to provide glowing reviews of Georgia over the past four years. For freedom of the Internet, Georgia is ninth in the world, on a par with Britain and France. In 2012, we created one of the most liberal digital broadcasting regimes in the world. We go the extra mile. The board of public broadcasters is a truly independent body that engages stakeholders, including NGOs and monitors. Cable TV providers must guarantee media pluralism and offer alternative voices.

As I said, we are celebrating 17 years having a relationship with the Council of Europe in April, and 25 years of the restoration of independence in May. Twenty-five years is a generation. We have had a generation of moving towards the essence of Europe, which complements independence and is significant for each Georgian. In pursuing democratic consolidation and building a European state, we are opting for a certain kind of civilisation. That is the essence of our choice.

The Council of Europe is at the heart of being European and of the kind of contract we want as a polity. We understand that the Parliamentary Assembly is as much about politics as policies. From our friends and foes, this year we ask one thing: make decisions of which you can be proud. By all means be critical, but also be helpful. Help us build on the foundations that we have laid together. Help us be all we can be in a country that is partly occupied, but fully European.

Georgia has responded to expectations. We are proof that promoting democracy, institution building, civic empowerment, conditionality and reforms work. We hope that, together, we can set a faster pace towards democratic consolidation. Together, against the odds and against the forces that want to take Europe apart, we stand on the right side of history. Let us stand together for everything that Europe stands for. We are European, which is the essence of dignity, which is at the heart of every Georgian. “European” means the dignity of a citizen that every Georgian deserves, and dignity is at the heart of our identity.


Thank you very much, Mr Kvirikashvili, for a most interesting address. Members of the Assembly have questions to put to you. I remind them that questions must be limited to 30 seconds and no more; otherwise there is not enough time for everyone to speak. Colleagues should ask questions and not make speeches.

Mr FISCHER (Germany), Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party

Following your speech to the Assembly, we assume that the election campaign, the election itself and the time after the election will be conducted in full accordance with the standards of the Council of Europe. What influence does the situation in South Ossetia and Abkhazia have on the election campaign?

Mr Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia

As you know, in October, we have parliamentary elections. Unfortunately, our citizens in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region cannot participate in them. We have already sent invitations to ODIHR to come to Georgia and monitor the pre-election process. Our aim is to provide a fully transparent pre-election process and to have our partners monitor it. We are determined to hold one of the best free and fair elections in Georgia’s history Georgia.

Lord ANDERSON (United Kingdom), Spokesperson for the Socialist Group

You and your people are indeed European, and we understand your frustration and your aspirations to join the European Union and NATO. Will you tell us a little more about the human rights changes to make you even fitter for those organisations? In particular, are you prepared to accept the recommendations of the Venice Commission on your electoral law?

Mr Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia

Of course our vector towards Europe and your Atlantic space is the decision of the Georgian people. Georgia’s aspirations towards Europe and NATO are consistent. We have a positive dynamic towards Europe. We have an association agreement and a deep and comprehensive free trade area agreement, and we have a reform agenda under the association agreement. We have made good progress, which was confirmed at two consecutive Association Councils in Brussels. We have made excellent progress in improving Georgia’s military interoperability with NATO troops. Georgia takes part in peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan and the Central African Republic. We are preparing for the next Warsaw Summit to have even closer co-operation with NATO through more joint programmes to build Georgia’s defence capabilities.

We have already enshrined a significant number of the Venice Commission recommendations in electoral legislation. Recently, the number of majoritarian districts has been changed to reflect the equality of all majoritarian districts. Co-operation with the Venice Commission is important for all of us. We are open to that co-operation. I recently held an important dialogue with opposition parties and non-parliamentary opposition groups to discuss electoral legislation, and important changes have been proposed to accept some of the opposition parties’ recommendations. The process is inclusive, and we aim to make it even more inclusive, bring down the temperature, decrease confrontation and increase the co-operative spirit before the elections.

Mr XUCLÀ (Spain), Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (interpretation)

I welcome you on behalf of the Liberal group and hail your commitment to complying with European standards. A few months from the election, are there any moral tensions about the violation of human rights, especially the right to privacy? I am thinking of the registering and recording of the private lives of citizens in your country. Who is responsible for this and what measures do you envisage taking to put that right? I know that you have pledged to reform pre-trial detention, but that is a lengthy process. Will you reform it so that it is in line with the standards of the Council of Europe?

Mr Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia

First, leaking videotapes of private life is blackmail against the society and, especially, the Government of Georgia. If there is anyone who wants to have this issue investigated and to find the suspects it is the Prime Minister – and the Government. The investigation is ongoing. Immediately after the release of the videotapes I asked our law enforcement institutions to launch an investigation. International institutions and our partners are engaged in this investigation; namely, the FBI is helping the Georgian prosecutor’s office investigate this issue. The investigation is going in two directions: first, to find those who were engaged in the videotaping and, secondly, to find the distributors of the tapes. In the first instance we have had some success: five former officials have already been arrested. The second issue of the distributors is very sophisticated and we are doing everything possible to find the suspects.

Generally, human rights are a very high priority for us. We elaborated a human rights strategy in 2014 and the Prime Minister chairs the interagency monitoring committee to protect human rights in Georgia. On pre-trial detention, we have asked for feedback from our European friends and of course we will listen very carefully to the recommendations.

Mr PRITCHARD (United Kingdom), Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group (interpretation)

Prime Minister, welcome. Of course, the greatest human right of all is the right to life. I pay tribute to your State security services intercepting – just in the past few hours – a sale of uranium 238, which could have fallen into the hands of terrorists. In a week when NATO and the EU have said that terrorists are seeking these materials, what more do you think Georgia, the Russian Federation and former Soviet republics can do to ensure that these chemical weapons and nuclear materials do not fall into the hands of those who seek to harm all of us in Europe?

Mr Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia

Indeed, capturing criminals who were attempting to take uranium across the border was a significant success. We take this issue very seriously. We have excellent co-operation with our partners. Recently the President of Georgia attended the Nuclear Security Summit in New York and co-operation in this area is highly important to us. Generally, we have excellent co-operation with the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom recently helped Georgia build a security emergency management room, which was a great success and an excellent case of very fruitful co-operation between the Georgian and United Kingdom security forces.

Ms KAVVADIA (Greece), Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left (interpretation)

Mr Prime Minister, you have committed yourself on several occasions to undertaking the necessary reforms to electoral law before the parliamentary elections in Georgia in October. Indeed, the most recent announcement was on 15 April, just a few days ago. However, according to a number of reports by all the opposition parties, no positive changes have been introduced to the current legislation. Given that in March the Venice Commission also made a rather negative assessment of the changes in electoral law that were made last December, what measures do you intend to take in the immediate future to align the electoral legislation with the Venice Commission recommendations, and can you give this Assembly a timeframe for their introduction?

Mr Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia

First of all, there were several series of changes to electoral legislation. On the very first day of my approval as Prime Minister by the parliament, I immediately launched a negotiation process with the opposition parties. Two days ago we proposed important changes to the electoral code to make the process more inclusive, to lower the thresholds for political parties to win the election to become parliamentarians, and to lower the thresholds for financing the opposition parties from the State budget. There is a political agreement between the ruling party and the opposition parties that in 2020 the system will change from majoritarian to proportional representation. But six months before the elections it would be very difficult to readjust the electoral system to the entirely new proportional system. This is why we partly disagree with the proposal from the opposition parties. This is where we are right now. We are continuing the negotiations and this process is not over. Our proposal should be appreciated by the opposition because it makes significant changes to the current electoral system.

Mr HERKEL (Estonia)

Mr Prime Minister, thank you for your speech. There is a strong Russian influence on the media landscape of Georgia and unfortunately the ECRI report has also announced that some kinds of xenophobic media were supported by the government via advertising contracts. What will you do to stop this tendency, and would your government like to have better co-operation with the pro-European opposition, including Ukrainian National News?

Mr BABAOGLU (Turkey) (interpretation)

Prime Minister, in the past two years about 500 Meskhetian Turks have been granted conditional Georgian citizenship. Unless the time limitation is either lifted or extended, many Meskhetian Turks will risk losing their Georgian citizenship. Since the facilitation of this process was one of Georgia’s membership commitments, what steps are you taking to encourage a solution?

Mr CHIKOVANI (Georgia)

Prime Minister, welcome to the Council of Europe – the home of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Putting our political differences aside, I want to ask a question that is very important for this Organisation. You have described three waves of reforms that the government has carried out in respect of the judiciary. How satisfied and pleased are you with that reform? In the end, a judge whose decisions had been overturned by the European Court of Human Rights many times had become the face of Georgian judiciary.

Mr Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia

The first question, from the Estonian delegate, was about the impact of Russia and strengthened Russian propaganda in the Georgian media. Our response has been to launch a massive strategic pro-European communication campaign, which is very important. Our Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, who is here, chairs this massive campaign which targets all sources of central and regional media. It promotes European values, human rights protection and the importance of building democratic institutions. That is the way to respond to anti- European Union propaganda.

I would not say that there is any financing of xenophobic media, although that may be a perception among some opposition members. The TV channels, which are mainly opposition, are financed much more intensively. We cannot block any media source; we can only make our choices. We have made our choices in favour of the pro-European media and that is very important.

Our friend from Turkey asked about Muslim Meskhetians. Georgia has fulfilled its obligations in this regard. We have adopted a law on the repatriation of people forcibly exiled from the Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia. The status of repatriate has already been granted to 1 533 forcibly displaced people. Some 479 Azerbaijani citizens have repatriate status and obtained Georgian citizenship. The process is under way. In 2010, the Georgian government adopted a simplified procedure for the acquisition of Georgian citizenship by individuals with returnee status. In 2014, the repatriation strategy based on the principle of the equality of all citizens, non-discrimination and the promotion of integration was approved. The issue of the extension of the two-year term for the completion of citizenship procedures for the people forcibly deported in the 1940s is under examination, with the involvement of the relevant government agencies. Most probably a positive decision will be adopted in the near future.

Mr Chikovani asked about judicial reform. In general, no one could be satisfied with the level of reform, but everything is relative. If we compare the existing court system in Georgia with that which existed four years ago, we see that progress has been clear. There were three consecutive waves of judicial reforms. The first was completed in May 2013, the second in August 2014 and the third was sent to parliament in December 2015. What is involved is a new set of legislative amendments aimed at enhancing internal independence. Of course, there will be judges who were part of the previous system, but imagine the allegations from the opposition if we cleared the system of all those judges. We are not doing that.

The system is not perfect, but we are moving ahead with our reforms and the progress we have made is recognised by numerous international organisations. I shall give one example. World Bank world governance indicators say that there has been a 15% improvement in the rule of law in Georgia since 2012. In other areas such as the control of corruption, accountability, government effectiveness, political stability, absence of violence and regulatory quality there has been a 10% to 15% improvement every year since 2012. That is my answer. We are not satisfied, and no one is perfect. It is important for us to continue these reforms.


Prime Minister, you mentioned the growing distance of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia because of their so-called governments. Do you see any chance of using a people-to-people reconciliation process that could bring the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia back closer to Georgia?

Mr MARQUES (Portugal)

Prime Minister, I had the pleasure of visiting your country three weeks ago; I was mainly in Tbilisi, which is a wonderful city. It is fair for this Assembly to recognise the excellent job you are doing on the issue of IDPs following the shameful Russian invasion.

This Assembly declared last year that the arrests of opposition leaders were political, which means that they are political prisoners. Are you ready to release them if the European Court rules in their favour? Can you ensure free and fair elections if the leadership of your country’s opposition are in jail?

Mr ZINGERIS (Lithuania)

I congratulate you on your work in respect of the European Union, but can you mention the future of the TV station Rustavi 2? We know that you have brought some moderation to that issue.

Another question is about the past. Here in the Council of Europe we have just opened an exhibition about totalitarian regimes in Europe. There are five statues of Josef Stalin in Georgia. How can you justify that given what is crystal clear about Georgia’s relationship to the Stalin regime?

Mr Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia

Confidence-building measures between Georgians and Abkhazians and Georgians and South Ossetians are the highest priority for our government. Unfortunately, during several waves of conflicts, the trust between Georgians, Abkhazians and South Ossetians was lost. First of all, we need to rebuild the trust that was lost. We have a comprehensive plan of confidence-building measures, with offers of various social programmes such as free healthcare services and free education. We recently inaugurated a trade centre, which was opened along the administrative border line, at which both Abkhazians and Georgians can trade goods from their cultures.

That is not the end. We have a very active agenda, but first we need to put on the table our offer to our Abkhazian and South Ossetian citizens. We are working actively on reconciliation and a roadmap. You may understand that this is a sensitive issue, and we need to consolidate consensus in Georgian society. We are working actively towards that and we are likely to present the roadmap in the very near future. This is of a very high priority for us. Visa liberalisation is an important achievement for Georgia. Georgians are waiting anxiously for the final result and all the benefits, such as free trade with Europe, can be available for Abkhazian and South Ossetian citizens and companies.

On the question of so-called political prisoners – I would call it high-profile prosecution cases – one of the biggest challenges the Georgian Government faces is dealing with the legacy of the criminal activity of officials from the previous government. We had 20 000 complaints about past abuses and 3 000 Georgian citizens were prosecuted. I have never shied away from admitting the positive legacy of the previous administration, but we should also admit that, starting from 2007, life in Georgia became a nightmare for most of the Georgian population. One can say that we have political prisoners, but I would say that we have a rule of law and that no one in Georgia is above justice.

To ensure transparency, from 2012 we opened court cases to the public and media, so everyone can watch cases of high interest to the Georgian population. The chief prosecutor invited international experts and prosecutors from the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel to form a special board of advisers and, according to the opinion of the international prosecutor adviser panel, the evidence provided by the chief prosecutor was legally and factually sufficient to justify the prosecutions of former high officials. That does not mean that we are happy to see anyone in prison, but that is proof that no one in Georgia is above justice.

The third question was on Rustavi 2, which was also a high profile court case. The case had two dimensions: ownership and media freedom. In my previous capacity as a Minster of Foreign Affairs I made several statements about protecting Rustavi 2’s editorial independence, which proposed the creation of a board consisting of NGO leaders and media representatives to ensure its editorial independence. However, again the case has two dimensions of which the other is ownership, and by no means can the government intervene in the court’s proceedings regarding ownership. If you ask me what my opinion is, I would like to see Rustavi 2 as it is right now, opposing government policy, so as not to give the opposition the chance to speculate on that issue before the elections in October.

On sculptures of Stalin, I do not think that Stalin will ever again become important on the Georgian political agenda or in social life. We have a law against the legacy of the Stalin period that is used in prosecutions. The raising of monuments of Stalin is prosecuted in Georgia. That is my answer. We should not take that case seriously because no one in Georgia has any sympathy to or empathy with the Stalin period.


Thank you. We must now conclude questions. Mr Prime Minister, thank you very much for the most interesting discussion we have had. I look forward to us continuing our co-operation in the future.