President Margvelashvili Bemoans “Systemic Parallelism” in Annual Report
On March 31, President Giorgi Margvelashvili delivered his second annual report to parliament, where he covered domestic and foreign challenges, economic development as well as the need for improvement in the election process. The President’s speech acknowledged the successes of the policies that the government has been pursuing over the year while outlining some aspects which had been less successful.
Members of the government including Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili and his cabinet, although invited, did not attend the President’s address for the second time. However, the speech was held in the presence of foreign diplomats, civil society representatives, chairpersons of supreme and constitutional courts and the central bank chief.
As an epitaph to his speech, Margvelashvili asked for truth and stated: “If we want to make changes in the country, we need to start telling each other the truth.”
In terms of the domestic situation in Georgia, the President addressed the problem of governance and especially the challenges of systemic parallelism. According to him, establishing parallel councils headed by Prime Minister Gharibashvili is bound to cause inefficient and irresponsible decisions in domestic and foreign affairs of the country, since the functions of those institutions are not clear and usually overlap which diminish accountability of the government. “I consider that it is impossible to implement correct economic policies and reforms under the existing systemic parallelism,” said the President during his speech in the parliament.
Margvelashvili asked that functions be defined for each department and consequently authorities would be directly responsible for their actions.
“Economic progress cannot be imagined when Georgia has an Economy Minister who also serves as a Vice Premier, while at the same time his decisions are being hindered by several economic agencies,” added Margvelashvili
Besides criticizing parallelism in the economic sector, the President also criticized the same trend in foreign affairs and attacked the recent establishment of the Inter-Agency Council on Foreign Policy that, according to him, sometimes duplicates the functions of the Foreign Ministry.
Regarding the foreign policies followed by the country, he noted that he along with the majority and international organizations oppose the Russian intervention in Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. He noted that the newly signed treaties of Alliance and Integration are further evidence of illegal and provocative actions by Moscow. The President also underlined that the Prime Minister’s representative for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, must have a defined mandate provided by law. He also noted that it is important to integrate his work with those of Georgia’s Foreign Minister. “Zurab Abashidze is given a special task that is to pursue a constructive dialogue with Moscow, however his functions and responsibilities are not clearly recognized under the law,” said Margvelashvili.
The President also addressed the obstacles to the work of the National Security Council created by the establishment of Security and Crisis Management Council directed under the PM in 2013. He noted that the fact SCM took over the NSC gives rise to questions and concerns from the international community, business partners and investors.
“The country should be headed by competent institutions. But unfortunately, we have various structures with identical functions and in several occasions we have agencies that portray themselves as superior over the institutions that are clearly defined by the constitution; This tendency on the other hand leads to weakened institutions and even anarchy while demeaning democracy’s benefits for population and efficiency for the government. There will not be a winner if the trend continues,” suggested president during his speech.
“The past should never repeat itself,” noted Margvelashvili with regards to the justice system. He emphasized the ill effects of the previous government’s zero tolerance policy and called for strengthened human rights: “In the country, how we treat inmates is a crucial indicator of how we protect human rights. I will never accept that besides being imprisoned, those people are also demeaned or are tortured either physically or mentally,” added the President.
Regarding the court system, Margvelashvili appraised the new government’s steps towards enhancing freedom of the system. He said that it is of primary significance that no member of local or international society should have doubts about independence of the justice system in Georgia since it represents the core values of the country.
The President finalized his address by emphasizing the role of citizens. “We as officials have responsibility to serve for our homeland, while the only judge of our activities are the people of our country. Most importantly, we are responsible to the Georgian community and we are supposed to act according to their needs,” added Margvelashvili.
Evaluating the President’s annual report, opinions varied across the spectrum of MPs. Opposition parties suggested that the fact the President’s administration did not allow debates during his visit to Kutaisi proved that he does not have a clear vision. They also emphasized the insignificant role of the presidency in the existing system, and added that Margvelashvili himself does not have the relevant leverages to take part in most of the reforms.
On the other hand, majority members praised the President’s speech and claimed that the format of the visit was arranged in the most constructive way possible. “The debate form of today’s visit has offered a chance to each political organization to express their views and only after that the President could respond to their concerns,” said majority leader and MP Tina Khidasheli.