Tomasz Kobylański recently sat down for an interview with David Bakradze, ex-speaker of the Georgian Parliament and ex-minister of foreign affairs. Currently, Bakradze is the leader of the United National Movement list, and a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections which will be held in Georgia on 27 October 2013. Read about changes in Georgia after the Rose Revolution of 2003, Bakradze’s electoral campaign during this year’s elections, and what he believes the near future holds for Georgian foreign policy.
Tomasz Kobylański: How would you assess the campaign preceding the presidential elections in Georgia held this month?
David Bakradze: This campaign is unprecedented in a way that the opposition is conducting the most civilized campaign Georgia has ever seen. The opposition is not calling for overthrow of the government, or anything like that, which was often heard in earlier years. On the contrary – it is about oversight of the Government which is very privileged to have opposition like UNM.
Unfortunately, the ongoing large-scale prosecutions of UNM leaders as well as mass questionings of its activists undermine its capacity to conduct an efficient campaign. UNM Secretary General and former PM Vano Merabishvili is held in pre-trial detention without a court verdict during the pre-election period. More than 100 former officials are charged, while over 10,000 UNM activists have been questioned (some more than 20 or even 30 times). Finally, many campaign events are disrupted by either Georgian Dream activists, who appear there holding party symbols and try to intervene, or violent attacks of the government’s satellite groups. The fact that violent offenders in all cases got away with merely symbolic fines is a serious problem.
What are the social and political changes that occurred after the Rose Revolution and the last 10 years of Mikheil Saakashvili’s rule as the President of Georgia?
Much has been written and said on what happened to Georgia after the Rose Revolution. In brief, Georgia was an undisputed failing state and it became a functioning democracy with a rising economy as well as a frontrunner of reforms, fighting the red tape. From being one of the most corrupt countries in the world in 2003, Georgia became less corrupt than a number of EU members.
What change can we observe in Georgian policy as well as in a daily life after Bidzina Ivanishvili came to power last autumn?
While Ivanishvili gave astronomic promises by any meaningful measurement, Georgian economy has taken a dip. Unemployment has considerably risen and economic growth fell – from the last year’s 7% level went down to almost 0%. Crime is on the rise. There are signs of mismanagement and incompetence everywhere.
In your opinion is the signing of the Deep and Comprehensive Association Agreement between the EU and Georgia a priority for your country’s foreign policy?
Before the Rose Revolution, Georgia did not even appear on Europe’s radars – no one took any talk of its European aspirations seriously. We worked hard for a number of years to negotiate this agreement with all its components, including free trade and visa facilitation. Initialing and signing it is extremely important also because it would set clear standards for Georgia and will leave less room for showing undemocratic instincts by any leader.
What is you proposal regarding establishing Georgia’s relationship with the EU, Poland and – on the other hand – Russia?
Georgia is highly visible in Poland, which means that the number of tourists to Georgia can grow incomparably. Under various governments, Poland has done a lot to achieve progress in Georgia and the progress in this sphere is in our mutual interest. As for Russia, if there is one country in the world interested in good relations with the Federation – it is Georgia. But the “good relations” obviously cannot be developed at the expense of Georgia’s sovereignty and its Euro-Atlantic future, which, as I said, is the preferred choice of our people.
What would be an outline of the foreign policy of Georgia if you win the October elections?
First, ensuring that Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration continues unabated. Mixed signals have been sent recently from the side of the current government – when PM Ivanishvili said that we might in fact “study the possibility of joining the Eurasian Union” – and Georgia cannot afford any ambiguity in its foreign policy. Georgia belongs to the European family and that was a historic choice of Georgian people long before we were born. Many generations of Georgians perished fighting for it, including hundreds of Georgian officers who ended up in the interwar Poland after fleeing Soviet occupation at home.
David Bakradze Ex-speaker of the Georgian Parliament and ex-minister of foreign affairs. Currently, he is the leader of the United National Movement list, and a candidate in the presidential elections held on 27 October 2013.
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