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Key Economic Data
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 3,937 3,324 3,100 126
GNI per capita
 US $ 830 650 590 145
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Georgia


Update No: 354- (25/06/10)

Mending fences with Armenia
The biggest geopolitical task for Georgia nearly two years after its brief war with Armenia, which it resoundingly lost thanks to Russian intervention, is to secure a stable peace with Yerevan. The Armenians want an end to the blockade by Azerbaijan and Turkey, concerning Nagorno-Karabakh, their enclave in Azerbaijan. They cannot afford to be at loggerheads with all their Caucasus neighbours.

Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian met on June 13 with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, in Batumi. Edward Nalbandian arrived in Georgia on a special helicopter provided by the Georgian President.

The Armenian minister greeted Mikheil Saakashvili on behalf of Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan. The two sides discussed agreements that were reached between the two countries and economic cooperation plans. Among highlights was an item of the problems of the Armenian Community in Georgia. Parties discussed ways of possible settlement of them.

At the request of the Georgian President, Nalbandian presented a report on the current stage of settlement to the Karabakh conflict and recent developments in the process of normalisation of relations with Turkey.
After the meeting, Saakashvili asked Nalbandian to offer his best wishes to the President of Armenia.


Saakashvili on Ruling Party’s Vision
The president made a most wide-ranging and searching speech on June 15, in which he outlined his future vision for Georgia, implying, as we shall see, a different future for himself too. He made seven main points;-

1. Georgia’s ruling party is the only one to secure fast-track reforms’
2. Singapore is an approximate model for Georgia
3. Politically Georgia should continue with EU integration
4. A regional approach needed to EU integration
5. Constitutional reform should continue
6. Russia poses an existential threat to Georgia
7. Georgia should further diversify its economic ties

Taking them one by one:

1) Boldly into reform with his party
President Saakashvili said that his ruling party was the only political force capable of securing progress and the irreversibility of reforms; he, however, also indicated that signs of a broadening of political groups with a reform agenda also emerged after the May 30 local elections.

Speaking at a live televised meeting with lawmakers from the ruling National Movement party and some senior government officials in Batumi, Saakashvili said that his party’s landslide victory in the local elections “is a heavy burden of responsibility” for the authorities against the background of challenges the country faces, “when 20% of our territory is occupied by brutal, perfidious and Mongoloid-type of political forces.” This is not exactly a tactful way to refer to the Russian leadership. But then there is no love lost between Putin and Saakashvili, not after the August 2008 war.

“The good about these elections – apart from our victory – was that marginal groups and those willing to again enslave Georgia received a very good response from the people. The second good thing about these elections was that those [parties] which came second and third [referring to Christian-Democratic Movement and Alliance for Georgia], as well as others recognized the election results. This is very important. For the first time it was possible to hold civilized election campaign,” he said.

“What is our political vision for the future? On the one hand the vision is that there should be democracy in Georgia; there should be modernization in Georgia; and the most important vision is that no one should be able to reverse the reforms, which we have carried out,” Saakashvili said.

“The absolute majority of foreigners approved these elections, but some [foreign] quasi-experts may arrive and tell you: ‘the only good result of elections will be when the government is changed. Otherwise, you are not a democracy’.”

“But I do not remember any of them ever saying that there is no democracy in Japan, which was ruled by one party for 60 years… I have not ever heard that Germany has stopped its democratic development and become a dictatorship, although this country was ruled by Helmut Kohl and his Christian-Democratic Union for 17 years,” he said.

“How does it happen that less than seven years after we came into power, everybody starts talking ‘it’s too much for them.’ It means that they cannot reach us and instead of reaching this level they want to throw us down. Everybody should understand that it is up to the Georgian people to decide whom they want to bring up and whom they want to bring down.

“We do not want Georgia to stop progress. So far our political force is the only one capable to provide it. I hope, that group of political parties with a reform agenda will broaden and if you have noticed people voted for those parties – those, which came second and third [referring to Christian-Democratic Movement and Alliance for Georgia] – which do not question fundamental reforms. All the parties with responsibility will be able to take part in the process of governing.”

“But no one should think that we will give up and say no to decision-making authority, just because of scoring points somewhere [abroad]; we have responsibility before our country and before its future,” he added.

2) ‘Singapore is a Model, but Politically We Move to Europe’
In this context of external threats, he brought an example of Singapore saying that it had a serious confrontation with China in the 60s and 70s of last century and “the only reason why Singapore survived was that it managed to turn from the country of a third world to one of the leading countries of the world.”

“This is an approximate model of development for Georgia,” Saakashvili said.

3) Integration into the EU the key goal
Saakashvili also said that “politically” Georgia should continue its integration into Europe.

“When we talk about the need to look at Singapore, from the political point of view we are Europe and politically of course we are moving towards the EU. Of course we should have visa-free travel [with the EU] and of course on the first stage we should have visa facilitation [with the EU] and achieve free trade [with the EU],” Saakashvili said.

4) Regional approach needed for EU integration
In this context of integration in the EU, he also spoke about the need of having a regional approach on the matter. “We should understand that it is not possible to achieve everything [in respect of EU integration] at once. In the frames of [the EU’s] Eastern Partnership [initiative] we should create a separate regional union, which will unite all those countries, which are in a situation similar to us and those who aspire to move in this [European] direction,” he said. He added that such grouping would allow these countries, which he did not specify, “to talk with each other and to approach Europe together.”

5) Constitutional Reform
Saakashvili said that an ongoing process of constitutional reform should continue and reiterated that he would continue distancing himself from the state commission, working on the reform, so as to provide maximum independence for the commission. “A model of constitutional reform was created, which I have not read yet – I should admit it – but the Venice Commission liked it very much when we visited the Commission [earlier this month, i.e. June],” he said.

The Venice Commission, which is the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal and constitutional affairs, has yet to produce its written assessment of the draft of the constitution, that was endorsed by the state commission on May 11.

“Whether the Venice Commission likes it or not is not the most important issue. The most important is to give the Georgian people the possibility to be engaged in the governing of the country on a daily basis. That’s the goal of any European-style of constitutional model,” Saakashvili said.

6) ‘Existential Threat’
On Russia and external challenges, Saakashvili said that Georgia still faced “existential threats from our immediate neighbour”, which has “an absolutely uncivilized leadership.”

“So what shall we do? Shall we become like them and start walking on four legs? Shall we give up what we are achieving, or shall we continue what we have been doing and try to be masters of our own destiny? The Georgian people have made a very right choice in these elections,” he said, adding that Georgia’s strength is in its ongoing reforms. “We can not afford to stop the reforms,” Saakashvili said. “We need permanent progress.”

7) ‘Diversification of Economic Ties’
In a curious exhibition of his visceral anti-Russian stance Saakashvili claimed that “it was good that Russia imposed an embargo on us” otherwise Georgia would have faced “total economic collapse” last year. As a clincher here, he added, “because for those [countries] that depended [on the Russian market] their economies collapsed by 20% - these are real figures.”

“But totally depending on the Euro zone would also not be right, so we should further diversify [potential export markets],” Saakashvili said. He added that more economic ties were needed with the Middle East, the Arab nations, China, as well as with the United States, Brazil and India. “We should not depend only on one centre of economy,” he said.


Saakashvili may run a third time
Saakashvili is not ruling out remaining in government for a third term by becoming Prime Minister after his presidential term ends in 2013, he said to the French newspaper Le Monde during a recent visit to France.

He was asked if he wanted to become Prime Minister when he can no longer be President, like Putin. Saakashvili replied, "Putin is Putin, and Russia is not ruled by its Prime Minister or President but Putin and the FSB. Having the freedom to walk around the city without bodyguards fascinates me, but as for the post of Prime Minister, I have considered this. However at this moment a lot of things are unclear. Who knows what kind of economic situation there will be in two years time, what the result of the constitutional reform will be, what my mood and rating are?"

When Saakashvili’s second term as President expires, he will be only 45 years old, and that is why it is not surprising that he wants to remain in politics. However former Chair of Parliament Nino Burjanadze said in response to his comments, “I have been warning the Georgian public and the world about this for a long time, I have said many times that this Government does not intend to go anywhere, not in 2013 or 2033.”

She said that Saakashvili is an impatient person who could not bear keeping his idea to himself. “I would like to ask the public, our international friends, everyone interested in introducing democratic values to Georgia: if Saakashvili does not resign in 2013, what will we do? Will refugees return to their homes? Will illegal prisoners be freed? What will we do - will we call his staying in power a step towards democracy?!” the leader of Democratic Movement-United Georgia says rhetorically, adding that without conducting a serious battle there is no way to establish democracy and fairness in Georgia.

Steps have already been taken to make Saakashvili’s idea a reality. The English version of the draft new constitution given to the Venice Commission (unlike the Georgian one) states that it will not come into force until after the 2013 elections. The opposition says that this was done deliberately. This is the personal implication of it all for him!

The Public Constitutional Commission, a different body to the one which presented this draft, does not exclude that Saakashvili will become Prime Minister. Its head Vakhtang Khmaladze says it is suspicious that the English version of the draft gives a date of inaction which would allow this to happen, but no date at all is given in the Georgian copy. Telling Georgians that the new constitution would only apply after the next elections would have created a huge protest, but it seems that the members of the State Constitutional Commission are less afraid of foreigners.

Political scientist Ramaz Sakvarelidze says it is not surprising that after Saakashvili’s term as President expires he will want to become Prime Minister. He does not exclude that he would use the opposition to stay in Government after his term ends. “It is clear that Saakashvili would not like to be a young pensioner. He is a very pragmatic politician and will find the best way to remain ruler of the country. The terms of the post of Prime Minister have not yet been defined. We will have a situation in which although names are changed the rulers remain the same. Saakashvili will do this and then blame the opposition for agreeing to the constitutional changes which have allowed him to,” says Sakvarelidze, expressing the hope that the opposition will be "more long sighted”.

Davit Darchiashvili from the ruling party is sure that Saakashvili will be an active political figure after 2013 but the results of the Parliamentary elections of 2012 will determine what role he will play. “Political activity is possible in many forms but it is too early to speculate on this, especially before the constitutional reforms are completed. Much will depend on the elections of 2012 and what the next Parliament will look like, but we have an opportunity before 2012 to give our maximum attention to economics, which stabilises politics."

As for Saakashvili becoming Prime Minister as happened to Putin in Russia, Darchaishvili says, "Russia is not a free country in every respect so it would be wrong to draw such a parallel.”

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