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The Speech of the President of Georgia Mr

A New Era Begins in the History of the Georgian Diplomacy

Speech delivered by the President of the Republic of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, on presentation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia at the Georgian MFA, Mrs. Salomé Zurabishvili. Tbilisi, March 22, 2004, . Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Website. MFA Photos.

Greetings! It is a customary rule that ministers are presented by Prime Minister. But I made a special exception for Mrs. Salomé, for I believe it is truly a historical event in the course of Georgia's Foreign policy. Our decision to appoint Mrs. Salomé as a Minister of Foreign Affairs was not made just in a day. The country had to pass through some stages of development leading up to this event. Mrs. Salomé personifies that part of our country, which became practically lost to Georgia during the Bolshevik occupation. Within the last twelve years, Georgia came to be ruled by the generation to whom the Georgian emigration was identified with an enemy !

President Mikheil Saakashvili introduces Mrs Salomé Zarubishvili as the new acting Foreign Affairs Minister of Georgia.

President Mikheil Saakashivili (MFA Photo)  

  • I want to share with you one secret !

In 1996 I addressed President Shevardnadze with a request to consider the issue of employing Mrs. Salomé's services in the Georgian diplomatic service, but my suggestion was then received with a decidedly cool reaction and dismissive attitude. I realized then that in principle this government with its mentality was only a successor of the old one.

New Georgian Acting Foreign Minister, Mrs. Salomé Zurabishvili, with Georgian President Mikhael Saakashvili facing the Diplomatic Community in Tbilisi, March 22, 2004. MFA Photo.

Acting Foreign Minister with President Saakashvili

It is vastly important to me that this decision was reached after my conversation with President Chirac! Of equal importance is also the fact that Mrs.Salomé not only represents the French diplomacy generally, but she is well-sensitized with the major trend of Georgia's Foreign policy as well. It is the integration into Europe. She is well-sensitized with another major trend: close and friendly cooperation with Russia, and is insightful of the problems of our relations with the US. She like me studied at the Colombia University in New York and at the embassy in Washington. I would like to extend my cordial thanks to the preceding foreign ministers of Georgia, in particular, Mr. Irakli Menagarishvili, who headed the Ministry in the course of many years. I think he did a vast amount of work towards the formation of the Georgian diplomatic corpse. I would like also to thank Mr.Tedo Japaridze. As early as in 1992, Mr.Tedo performed a very important part in pushing forward the first strides of Georgian diplomacy. Later, he played a unique role in the rapprochement of Georgia and America and was highly responsible with his work as the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the last days of his tenure as well.  

  • I would like to state that the Ministry carries a staff of highly qualified professionals.

The Ministry has to be transformed into a much more flexible structure, the mechanism of rotation has to get worked actually and the wages are to be increased. Despite my stating that there are truly many professionals at the Ministry, I can also derive my judgements from the documents, which are placed on my table for official meetings. These documents cannot stand any kind of criticism! In most cases they are drawn up for the sake of formality.

I remember when I was on my first visit in Davos, not yet in the capacity of the President of Georgia, I was handed several documents, which ran one and the same: "We want good and friendly relations with Russia". This is how the meetings are prepared. But what I am actually interested in is the concrete problems persisting in the field of oil and telecommunications.

  • This is not the way to work !

I do not need ready-made phrases to speak out! I assure you I am second to none in expressing myself ! I need concrete themes, a concrete list of trends and priorities. There has to be a farewell to kinder gardens in Foreign policy...

To be frank, the professionals at the ministry did not always receive proper appreciation. These professionals have to be given a bigger scope to express their policy.

  • What are the major trends of our policy ?

It is first of all the integration of Georgia into the European Union and other European bodies!

We were recently in Bratislava and I want to assure that no other country has ever received so much attention as Georgia did that day.

A key issue on the agenda is a generally expressed interest in the South Caucasus. What we managed to derive from the revolution is that the South Caucasus is involved in the wide Europe friendship initiative, the European Union expansion plan, but at the same time, our principal task is to move the issue of Georgia to the said agenda. And today the issue of Georgia is placed high on the European Union's agenda!  

  • What does it mean for Georgia?  

It means that if we succeed to solve this issue in the course of 6-7 years, Georgia will become an ordinary normal and developed European state!  

  • How can this be achieved?  

First of all, we have to achieve our internal stability, to adjust all disputable issues within the country, at least to outline the contours and to develop the economy!  

We no longer collect taxes on paper, as the preceding government did; we exact money, cash everywhere. Then this cash is invested into pensions and salaries, which may allow from the next month a seven- and sometimes an eight-fold increase in salaries of not only ministers but public officials as well.  

  • Another issue is of course our friendship with the US, as the US took its stand by us in the hardest days for Georgia! The Georgian people ought never to let it pass from their memory !

Today the US is assisting Georgia in the formation of security bodies and armed forces! The US assistance also goes towards the reforming of power sector and the settlement of other important issues! President Bush referred to me as his personal friend and it is a great privilege for me, but in difference from my predecessors, I am not in the habit of seeking personal friends in politics. It is Georgia's friends I look for everywhere!  

Presently, Georgia has a huge number of friends!  

  • Our relations with Russia:  

We enjoy warm and very favorable relations with the President of Russia! I consider him to be a leader of vast talent and a politician of the widest dimensions!  

The developments having unfolded in Ajaria put our relations under the first serious test! I want to stress that Russia's restrained position was what, to a large extent, conditioned the backtracking of the local defiant functionary and his recognizing that the whole territory of Georgia must fall within the control of the Georgian central authorities!  

It was a dispute over whether the single democratic political system and joint state bodies would be retained in Georgia.In this situation, Russia's reasonable and moderate attitude sends an important signal of the emergence of the possibility to create a thoroughly new pattern of Georgian-Russian relations.  

The problem of the previous authorities was the failure by the Georgian side to comply with any of the agreements!  

It is important to insure that all undertaken obligations are fulfilled by Georgia. But at the same time we expect of the Russian side to work up a new policy and a new approach towards the Georgian side!  

Russia is our huge partner; Russia is our major market, without which the development of Georgian economy will be hardly conceivable! The failure by any government of Georgia to get the benefit of it will be deemed as a crime!  

  • Our relations with other neighbors:  

These are the relations with Turkey!  

The situation in Ajaria assured us clearly of the truthfulness of Turkey's friendship! The Turkish government stated on that same day that in any circumstances it would stand on the side of the Georgian central authorities!  

The local region will develop all its relations exclusively through Tbilisi and by the permission of the Georgian central authorities. Turkey declared that whatever step we might take in Ajaria, it will be accepted with understanding by Turkey! This is a true friendship and true support! There is a voluminous capital in turkey, which has to be invested into the small and middle-sized Georgian business! Turkey is assisting us in the formation of security services!  

The Kojori Battalion is the best special-purpose detachment I have seen in Georgia and it is entirely equipped and trained by the Turkish side, just like the special brigade of the Georgian internal forces!  

Of similar degree are our relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan!  

I am happy indeed with the contacts I am enjoying with the presidents of these countries! We are a single region. There can be no talk of Europe unless the South Caucasus comes to be a whole! We need common tariffs, common legislative space; we need to insure that Armenia-registered enterprise is considered to be automatically registered in Georgia as well and vice versa! The whole economic area has to operate freely in order to establish links between investments and to insure that money invested in Georgia is invested in Armenia and Azerbaijan and vice versa! There has to be a free movement of people! There has to be a free movement of cargo!  

Of great importance are our bilateral relations with European countries! It is principal for us to manage to create the texture of our future relations!  

  • What was our problem?  

We used to hold meetings and talks, exchange pleasantries, reach agreements and then follow in the same course!  

That is why a chain of my visits was introductory and bore an intensive character! Next year will see only 4-5 official visits and the realization of the visit outcomes!  

Every special flight costs about 80 thousand dollars but the payback is also huge: from Berlin we received 12 million Euro. The visit to America cost 150 thousand dollars but we hope to obtain 170-200 million dollars' worth of aid in the future.  

What the people want to see is less the applause Saakashvili may be receiving on the international arena, than the increase in pensions, the creation of new job-places and the emergence of new business!  

This is what the Georgian people truly wish to witness!  

The fairy tales on how the oil pipeline may pour upon us riches come to no one's interest. Oil pipeline is of paramount importance and comes with certain interests in Georgia free from corruptive environment. The fact that oil pipeline crosses the country means nothing. This project is to be completed and I will exert every effort with that end in view. I know there will be numerous obstacles, but we will do our utmost to finalize this process.  

At the same time, it is obvious that a hungry child cannot be "fed" by oil. The aforesaid depends upon the successful functioning of the state.  

We are in a very complicated geopolitical situation. Georgia is a small country with very hard legacy. We are to endure and overcome these difficulties.  

Given these circumstances we need to establish close relations with all neighbors, all friends and all our partners.  

Georgia begins to play intensive role in the international arena. The vivid example of this is that in every country I have visited recently Georgia was the key issue of all discussions.  

With a view to attracting tourists to Georgia the tourist routes of the country should come with the sphere of interests of at least one third of the World tourist agencies.  

It is important for us to create this infrastructure, to maintain stability, to attract investments; each embassy should know that it does not represent a separate feudal group of cronies, but it is a defender of Georgia's interests.  

Each Embassy is to inform how many tourists it can bring; how many tourists can be brought, for instance, to Svaneti, Ajara; how many people can be interested in development of natural and mineral resources.  

If we fail to implement these tasks, this process will be generally assessed negatively, since I am not interested just in accumulation of papers. I must know how many businessmen will come to Georgia and what amount of money they are intended to invest.  

I would like to cite an example: a group of American investments met our ministers. The ministers talking to each other crowded in one corner.

Fortunately, my assistant Nato Kancheli, who attended that meeting, talked to the investments and as a result of this conversation we obtained guarantees for investments in amount of 15-20 millions; several millions have been already invested.  

The ministers, who were standing in the corner, will not remain at their posts for a long time, if they do not reform the methods of the work. The diplomats who are not working relevantly will not be able to stay in the diplomatic service of Georgia.  

Therefore I want everybody to take into consideration that absolutely new era begins in the history of the Georgian diplomacy.  

We are pressed for time.  

The "window" of chance is open now and we are to take advantage of it, since it may be closed so, that we can squeeze our hands, feet and even our heads.  

This process requires everyday work.  

Georgia in order to maintain its position must obtain asymmetrical trade levers.  

The next stage envisages the conclusion of such agreements with the partners, which provide us with opportunity to receive economic aid and to carry out integration.  

  • And finally, our secret weapon is Mrs. Salomé Zurabishvili who does not represent the secret any more.  

There existed a lot of gossips and conjectures in view of this issue. For instance, does it mean that we will keep away from Russia, since foreign activity will be entirely European-oriented?  

I would like to declare that Mrs. Salomé Zurabishvili is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. She is a representative of one of the most patriotic and one of the most distinguished Georgian families. Appointment of Mrs. Zurabishvili to the post of the Minister of Foreign Affairs is the fulfillment of a true Georgian dream.  

Her policy is the policy directed towards the future of Georgia.  

I am proud that our country has the minister of such a high qualification - she is a real international star.  

I am proud that we are the country that is developing towards progress; we are the country that is acquiring prospects for development.  

This is all that I wanted to tell you today. Being here in the Ministry is a great honor for me.  

I am intended to change the premises of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry is worthy of having the better premises, since it is the image of Georgia. The best staff works here and these people deserve to have the best conditions.  

It is our task to make Georgia's image majestic and as ever before Georgia to arouse admiration!  

It is my honor to present Mrs. Salomé Zurabishbili as the Minister.  

I would like to greet the representatives of Foreign diplomatic corps and express my gratitude for their immediate responding to my request and coming here. We realize that maintenance of friendly relations with all countries is very important for us.

So, Mrs. Salomé, everything depends upon you, your skills, your courage and your exceptional decisions.  

Thank you for attention.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).