Expert opinion
13 October, 2011

Expert opinion about the visit of the President of France

Dachi Grdzelishvili

As it seems, President Saakashvili decided not to pin his hopes only on the USA and give ‘its due’ to the European Union too. It must be said that Sarkozy, the visiting President of France, paid back in his own coin - when addressing the people on the Freedom Square he tried his best to show himself as a friend and well-wisher of Georgia. In this speech besides fine words an

observant could notice bitter but useful truth – about Russian-French and EU-Russian relations.

Together with the above said, a lot in the internal policy needs reflection; especially after Bidzina Ivanishvili, a well-known Georgian businessman having his business interests in Russia, decided to get actively involved in Georgian politics and made several declarations about it. Ivanishvili’s commercial offers to the owners of TV companies were something so queer that, to say the truth, didn’t seem very correct. We discussed in details home and foreign political issues with Zurab Abashidze, a political scientist:

Z.A. – The visit itself had special significance. As you may remember, there was much talk that allegedly Mr. Sarkozy believed the six-point agreement signed in August, 2008 was fulfilled by Russia. Naturally, in Georgia the attitude towards this was rather critical. With regard to this well-known document Mr. Sarkozy clearly confirmed his position saying that when a state takes responsibility (in this case he certainly meant Russia), it must fulfill it and non-feasance, blackmail and threat to Georgia are absolutely unacceptable.

Declaration with regard to NATO was very important as well: we know that in 2008 France didn’t support giving MAP to Georgia. As it was confirmed during the visit, this attitude is also changed.

The declaration that the EU observers who arrived in Georgia in September of 2008 should monitor not only the border but enter Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region too, to my mind, is also very important.

Q. – Sarkozy told Putin that the Soviet Union couldn’t be restored. But, according to Sarkozy, Russia is considered to be France’s strategic partner as their fates are interdependent and Europeans and Russians will together secure sustainable wellbeing of their peoples and stability of the continent…

Z.A. – Of course France has good relations with Russia and in today’s world, besides reconciliation, there is no alternative to co-habitat for these two countries. And Sarkozy told us directly – after the WWII they reconciled with Germany and have good relations with Russia and we too, at a certain stage should manage to find common language with Russia. There was a lyrical deviation from the main topic when he mentioned giving shelter by France to Georgian government in exile; our historical relations were also mentioned…Thus, speaking frankly, I liked the speech very much. As far as I know, the initiative to address the people gathered on the square came from Sarkozy. The gesture itself is nice…

Q. – That is, France manages, on the one hand, to criticize Russia and speak in public about the issues, unacceptable for them and on the other – to pursue its own interests. Is it possible for Georgia to conduct similar policy with Russia?

Z.A. – Sarkozy has advised us: Georgia should become an attractive state so that Abkhazians as well as Ossetians will give preference to living with us. As for the question whether Georgia can manage what is manageable for France … if we remain realists, of course Georgia’s situation cannot be compared with that of France. France has never been a Soviet Republic and a sphere of Russia’s influence. France is a great European country, a member of NATO and EU; there was a time when France conquered Moscow and after all, France is France… But EU has its vision, its agenda and geopolitical tasks.

At present maintaining good relations with Russia is in their interest as far as it’s the demand and aim of their policy. We can’t force anybody to conduct its policy in accordance with Georgia’s interests. But it’s possible to take into account Georgia’s interests and consider us as friends who need support. But only good visits, good meetings and good speeches are not enough for success. As I have mentioned, we too have to do a lot. Georgia needs serious democratic and systemic changes in order to become a worthy and full-fledged player of the commonwealth.

Q. – Now let’s shift to the other issue. Last week Bidzina Ivanishvili made a serious declaration…

Z.A. – Every citizen, including businessmen, has the right to join politics, and personally Bidzina Ivanishvili may have even more right as he is a Maecenas of unprecedented scale.

Q. – Will he be ready to observe the rules of play established in Georgian politics and avoid getting stuck in ‘gutter politics’?  Will he manage to maneuver in the chaos called Georgian politics?

Z.A. – It is difficult to forecast it… We’ll have the first and most vivid answer on this question when we see on which political figures he will make bids at the beginning of his political career; who will stand by him and be members of the team that will be transformed into a political party.

I hope he has elaborated and analyzed all this because our opposition spectrum needs serious strengthening in order to bring political configuration into balance.

Q. – But in Georgian media and generally in our society there is a kind of uncertainty connected with Bidzina Ivanishvili – for instance, with regard to his desire to get hold of  TV companies; in his extensive speech it is said that every TV, including ‘Maestro’ and ‘Kavkasia’ (which are considered to be oppositionist companies) is controlled by Mikheil Saakashvili and the said TV channels represent ‘pseudo-opposition media with special assignment’…

Z.A. – A politician must make declarations, show initiatives and offer suggestions. Press must criticize all this. Having in mind that Ivanishvili is a Maecenas, hardly anyone could criticize Bidzina Ivanishvili and this was understandable. Besides, it was his right to remain in the shadow as well as keep up personal life. Now, after he appeared on a political arena, rules of game have changed – he is a politician and direct obligation of mass media is to criticize him sharply or mildly, with or without mercy, as they deem it appropriate.

A politician should always be ready to acknowledge that a ‘watchdog’ will keep an eye on him and he mustn’t make mistakes otherwise he won’t be pardoned.