Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s briefing

Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia: It is my great honour to congratulate you on the historic decision made today. The European Commission commends the results achieved in Georgia and recommends the European Council to grant a status of the EU Candidate Country to Georgia. It is, of course, a historic day. It is a historic decision of the European Commission. I wish to first and foremost express my gratitude Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission. My special thanks go to EU Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi, who is a great friend of our country.

“This period was very labour-intensive. It was quite emotional as well, as we carried out a huge amount of work, as you may well be aware. I wish to thank our wholesome, strong team - Parliament of Georgia, every member of our team, Chairman of the Parliament, Chairman of our party, each member of our team, as it is a result of our shared effort. Over the past year, we have been working round the clock to deliver on the 12 recommendations. Today, we saw a report, which is clearly and vividly positive. This decision is based on the achieved results. I also wish to thank Charles Michel, who has been supporting the granting of a candidacy status to Georgia. Of course, I wish to also thank our strategic partner - the United States of America. Most recently - a month ago - I had decisive and - I could say - breakthrough meetings with our American friends and I wish to particularly highlight it. I wish to single out a meeting with Mr. Sullivan and thank him personally, as you know it well that Mr. Sullivan and the US Government wanted and supported; it is of great importance. Once again, I wish to thank Ursula von der Leyen as I had a rather substantial and decisive meeting with her in Spain.

“Especially in the recent past, if anything needed to be made precise, our team made it happen with a shared effort. In a very short period of time we closed almost all the gaps and delivered on the recommendation, which were received from our European partners. Thus, once again, I wish to congratulate each citizen of our country, our people, primarily as this victory and recognition, this decent decision - I would say so - belongs to our people, which is represented by our government and our authorities. Once again, I wish to thank our team, our civil servants, government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, our diplomats, our Parliament again, as over 100 documents were passed and created - a tremendous amount of work has been carried out. Undoubtedly, the entire team delivered a huge amount of work!

“Of course, we now continue pursuing a permanent dialogue with our European colleagues, as we have been doing so far. We will have a close coordination with our European friends and I wish to note that irrespective of a lot of barriers, obstructions, sabotage and provocations, plenty of destructive actions, joint and coordinated activities of domestic or external enemies, we will win; our country has won today; our people has won; our truth has won and I once again wholeheartedly congratulate you all on the today's recognition.

“What is most important, I wish to say, is that we - and everyone remembers it well - were rather heartbroken when Georgia failed to get the candidacy status back then. It was somewhat hampering us and it may be said that the fact was heart-breaking. Nevertheless, we may proudly say today that we got to this day in a merit-based manner. I believe that our country will get the status of an EU Candidate Country in December and today's decision will be ultimately materialised. It may be said that our country will enter a different reality as a result. It is truly a very strong step made forward on the path of European integration.

“I wish to somewhat summarise the results achieved by our team. This day, may well be said, is crowning and summarising the performance of the ruling team in the past 11 years, which brought peace, stability, huge transformation and change; it may also be said that it brought 10 years of Europeanisation. That is how we can label these 10 years of peace. If anyone, any authorities or ruling team, did anything tangible on the path of European integration, it was the Georgian Dream. And these tangible results have been the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, DCFTA, Visa-Free Travel Arrangement, European Perspective that we received last year and now the candidacy status, which will be - I believe - ultimately materialised in December. It is a short summary of our performance, our governance. Country - let me once again note - achieved unprecedented peace and stability over the past 11 years, irrespective of the unbelievable challenges and complicated security environment in our region.

“It should be said that it would not have happened and it would have been impossible to achieve this if not - I would say - a historic change - a breakthrough change made by Bidzina Ivanishvili and his entire team - The Georgian Dream, which we pursue further as it is a great, national endeavour!

“Once again, I wish to clearly note on behalf of the Government and our team that we will continue coordination with our European friends. It is, of course, very incentivising for us and it may be said that we are thrilled that the European Commission assessed the situation and made the only right, decent, prudent and wise decision by issuing a positive recommendation on granting us the status.

“Our ultimate goal is naturally a full integration of the country into the European Union; accession to the EU, which required further more efforts, of course. It is a lengthy process, which will not end in 1 or 2 years. It is a multi-year process, which requires consolidation of our people and our government, entire authorities, effective governance and reforms to be continued that we have been implementing over the past 11 years.

“It will ultimately lead to a full Europeanisation of the country. Transformation of our country should continue and our ultimate goal and our great, main dream is to have our country united. It is our main goal, which we are getting closer day by day. I believe that today's achievement and historic step makes us closer to the great, common, national goal. Once again, I wish to thank everyone, our team and congratulate every citizen of ours living on this land on the historic victory and recognition witnessed today. We received a well-deserved status, one that our strong and proud Georgia people deserve! Thank you!”

Sopo Beridze, Imedi TV: Mister Prime Minister, I want to ask you a question based on the statement by Ursula von der Leyen. She spoke about the progress to be achieved by the Government on the 12 priorities. I would like to know about Tbilisi’s official response to this statement and your plans about taking further steps. Also, the President of the European Commission said that they support the wish of the Georgian population’s vast majority. While Brussels speaks about the will of the Georgian people and their historic choice, lately we have heard certain interpretations from your opponents, so what is your response? They repeatedly say that the Georgian people deserve the candidate status.

Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia: Thank you for your question. Everything that we are doing, and everything that the Government is doing, we are doing it for you, our people, our children, our future, and our country. Naturally, this is a very weak attempt somehow to downgrade the results and work of our Government, which we have been carrying out over the past 11 years. We represent our people’s will, act on behalf of our people and for our people. And I repeat that everything we have done and are doing is for our people, so my response is simple. Also, as for your main question about the recommendations, this is a normal, natural process that we will continue, of course, similar to the way we maintained coordination with our European colleagues. A large portion of the recommendations is implemented; some are finalized partially. But this is a natural, normal process that we will follow and bring to a conclusion.

Mariam Kopaleishvlii, Rustavi 2 TV: Throughout this process, we have heard from individual members of the opposition, including the President, questions concerning deservedness, as though the citizens, but not the Government and Georgia, deserved the status. Incidentally, today the EU Ambassador also said that the discussion in this direction is over. How would you respond to the Ambassador?

Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia: Thank you for your question. Allow me to share my opinion once again. I totally understand the motivation of the opposition. I want to state with all responsibility that, unfortunately, the opposition—and, of course, I mean the radical opposition—has done nothing on our country’s path to European integration.

I repeat, if anyone, any government, ruler, has done anything tangible, it is Georgian Dream’s Government. I had the privilege and honor to sign the Association Agreement and the FTA during my first tenure as Prime Minister under Georgian Dream’s rule. Of course, we finalized work on visa-free travel and received it. Last year, we were granted the European perspective. This year, as we see today, there’s a historic decision, and our country will receive the status.

Accordingly, as it is written in the report, of course—I would like to inform you that the report states unequivocally and clearly that the recommendation is based on the results achieved. Naturally, the results were produced by the authorities, the Government, the same Government that was elected by the Georgian people, voters.

Thus, every speculation about this decision being made because of the expressed will of the people is of course overly exaggerated and erroneous.

This result has been achieved by us, and this is the recognition and appreciation of this result, which I just spoke about and summarized very briefly.

Nodar Chachua, Public Broadcaster: Today, the village of Kirbali is grieving for Tamaz Ginturi who was killed by Russian occupants. The citizens of Georgia want the EU status and subsequent membership to feel better protected. What will be the Georgian Government’s response to this crime?

Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia: Once again, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the family of the deceased, Tamaz Ginturi, also to his loved ones, everyone, and the public. Of course, it is a grievous crime and a dire consequence of occupation that we face on a daily basis. You know that it is the unfortunate consequence of occupation that was established after the war in August 2008. Talking about the legacy of the previous government today, on this positive day, I will not list this dire legacy on this positive day. One of the most difficult legacies and direst crimes—an irreparable mistake, if you will, or dire legacy of the past—is occupation. This is handing over more than 100 villages to the occupant, including the Kodori Gorge, that resulted in tens of thousands of refugees, and the murders, deaths of hundreds of our compatriots, heroic soldiers, police officers, and activists in this war. It is a tragedy and the dire legacy that we inherited. As you know, we have corrected numerous of their crimes in more than one sphere; but, unfortunately, we have not been able so far to correct the dire legacy called putting an end to occupation. But I am confident that, as a result of our consistent, prudent policy, we will succeed in peacefully de-occupying and uniting our country.

I would like to reiterate that the state is standing by the family of the deceased Tamaz Ginturi. We will maximally assist in whatever is necessary. But, of course, it is hard in this situation to ease the pain of this family and their loved ones. I also want to point out that the actions and behavior of the opposition, which we saw, are unacceptable and immoral. This reminds me of the murder cases of several of our compatriots under their rule, also by the occupant force, but somehow I do not remember them stir the same hype as they did today. Unfortunately, the deceased, Mister Tamaz Ginturi, was not the first, and under the previous government—in 2009, 20210, 2011, and 2012, if I am not mistaken—we remember well and the media remember the dire facts of our compatriots being kidnapped, illegally detained, tortured, and killed. Somehow these people have forgotten that all this happened under their rule, and this dire legacy: occupation, borderization is the dire legacy of their rule, including the village of Kirbali, which was under our control before the August war. And today we see that, after the August war, it is on the other side of the occupation line. We realize it all very well. But I would like to reiterate that we are a responsible Government, we are responsible for our country’s security. It was no coincidence that I mentioned the only unprecedented peaceful period that we now have, when the country has not seen a war and has not lost territories.

The most heinous incident took place. The life of every person is precious to us. But I also want to say that no one doubts today. Had there been the National Movement at the helm today, there would have been war, calamity, destruction here. The country would not have received the candidate status, and there would have been no peace, economic development, advancement, and so on.

I also would like to emphasize what I have said repeatedly before. Had our Government been in 2008, this war would not have happened. We would not have lost the Kodori Gorge, over 100 villages, and so many people would not have died in this brutal war. Today, we would not have 20% occupied by Russia.

This is reality, and I once again urge the destructive radical opposition and tell them that they have no right to so much as utter a word and say anything critical against the Government. These people have no right to utter a sound, because they committed the most heinous crime by abandoning the Kodori Gorge, slaughtering our heroic soldiers by leaving them on the battlefield, handing more than 100 villages over to the occupant; and the Russian troops, which had left earlier in 2007—I repeat that the Russian troops left our territory in 2007—they returned them in a matter of months. Their foolish, imprudent, or maybe purposeful…. I am convinced that our generation will receive an answer to this question. And they returned them in greater magnitude, and as a result we have 20% occupied. This is what is most important. And another matter is that, back when tragic incidents like that of Tamaz Ginturi took place under their rule, with our citizens murdered by the occupant forces, the same government in parallel—this treacherous, backstabbing government in the form of the National Movement—handed over strategic sites to the Russian state and companies.

They sprawled on the ground before them during the war. We remember well how the ex-president sprawled on the ground and personally begged Russian tourists to come to Georgia, while we saw this kind of crime being committed.

Consequently, this is not about double or tenfold standards. Listening to the statements of these people is not interesting anymore. I only want to say one thing. They have no right to say anything critical against our Government, because we are correcting the cause botched and ruined by them. Thank you!

Keta Tsitsishvili, Mtavari Arkhi: You spoke a lot, for several minutes, about the mistakes of the previous government, that they did not stir hype when such grievous things took place. For a long time, we have been hearing your accusations against the previous government. In this particular case, what did you do after such a grievous outcome? Meaning the murder of Ginturi.

My next question is about today’s event, on which Georgia truly must be congratulated. Today, Ursula von der Leyen said that the Government absolutely must start cooperating with the opposition and civil society. How do you intend to start this cooperation?

Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia: As for your first question about what our Government has done. We immediately responded as maximally as we could at the moment.

Of course, we firstly engaged and informed our international partners, the EU Monitoring Mission, everyone. We activated a hotline. We took every step possible. That night, a meeting was scheduled, and our Government provided rapid response.

I really hope that the second detained person who, unfortunately, has been illegally kidnapped, will be released very soon.

I repeat that this is the result of the dire legacy left by your government, which you represent.

We will correct this, trust me, and you will see it with your own eyes very soon, when our country is united and made whole.

As for the second question about Madam Ursula von der Leyen’s recommendation, I have said it before more than once, and every member of our team without exception has said it publicly, including on the first day, for example, when the 12 recommendations were made public last year, I gave a speech in this building and addressed the opposition, saying that every door was open. We want this process to be maximally inclusive, so that your engagement may be guaranteed, ensured, and transparent. The Parliament created relevant working groups for each recommendation.

Unfortunately, representatives of your party would not engage in these working groups, and I want to urge you to address your party representatives with this question, why they did not engage, and why they did not participate, and why they have been sabotaging and employing destructive actions over these past 12 months.

The main addressee in this case should be your own party and your party leadership. Why did not they participate? We stated from the very outset that every door was open, that we were ready to engage the opposition in this process, so that the process could be guaranteed, inclusive, and transparent. But I want to repeat the same today as well. We do not change our wording. We say that we are of course ready to cooperate, make compromises, and speak, including with the destructive opposition busy with sabotaging. But this must be a two-way process. Unfortunately, our unilateral steps yield no results, and could not yield results. These groups were created, but we were forced to work alone and fulfill these recommendations on our own. This is reality, my dear.

And now I want to say that we will get busy with tenfold enthusiasm and more energy. We will respond to the remaining recommendations and other emphases. It will be rapid, and we will bring this process to a conclusion.

Anna Mdivani, Pirveli TV: Let me quote the report. “Georgia should, in particular, considerably increase its alignment rate with EU CFSP statements and decisions; avoid actions and statements that go against EU positions on foreign policy.” This is a quote from the official report. In your opinion, what did they see in your and your teammates’ statements to make it necessary to include this request in the report?

Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia: Our country has its own national interests. Unfortunately, I am going back to the issue of occupation. And, as you know, one of our foreign policy’s stated priorities is non-recognition. And given that we take into account this non-recognition policy and its possibly dire consequences in some cases, we are exclusively guided by Georgia’s national interests. We have repeatedly talked about it, explained it, and worked on it together with our European and American colleagues. Most of them have been fully shared, and they understand very well the sensitivity and specificity of this matter. There are issues that can be improved, and we have achieved this improvement in a very short time by increasing our alignment rate to 43%. But, unfortunately, I cannot discuss much publicly, because in many ways it is related to the matters of our national security, our national interests on the whole. This is how I would like to formulate it. But we maximally, as much as we can, align ourselves and share the EU’s foreign policy and join their resolutions or statements, etc., though provided, of course, that our key national interests are not jeopardized—and I repeat—that our non-recognition policy toward the occupied territories is not jeopardized in any way or form. This is our main goal.

Anna Mdivani, Pirveli TV: I have another question. Now that we have received the candidate status, are you, Georgian Dream and your team, planning to cooperate with the President and to put an end to this confrontation in the course of this one year?

Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia: Personally, I have no confrontation with the President or the opposition. I have no business with them. We have a lot to do for our people, our country. I understand Madam President’s motivation, and the motivation of our failed opposition. Apparently, they must have learned over the past few months or weeks that the decision was reversed, and that now we would receive a positive recommendation, which was confirmed today. This is why it was a feeble attempt on their part somehow to become involved in this process, at least over the final few weeks, and somehow to score some points, and it was a very feeble attempt, of course, from both the President and the opposition. Because—and I want to emphasize and state unequivocally—unfortunately, neither the President nor the opposition has done anything on our country’s path to European integration, not last year, the year before, or over the past 10 years. If anyone has done anything and brought tangible results to our people, it is Georgian Dream. This is what our Government is about.

The President has her role, and I want everyone to understand their constitutional rights and obligations as President, Prime Minister, Parliament, and everyone else. We know, and I am aware of my rights and obligations. And I, of course, follow the Constitution, our main legislation, and I observe it and honestly serve my country. I also urge the President and everyone to read well and understand well their rights and obligations. I do not want to enter into any polemic with the President. Her function is clearly defined, and the Constitution explains it all for the Parliament, the Government, and the executive branch. Thus, we all have our work to do, and this why we all must do what we are expected to do. This is my recommendation for everyone. And I wish a long rest to the opposition.