In her exclusive interview for The Messenger, leader of the opposition Democratic Movement-United Georgia, former parliament Speaker Nino Burjanadze responds to the question as to whether her party is really pro-Russian or not. She also names the party she feels most positively about and stresses that the Republicans and the Free Democrats have always cooperated with the United National Movement.
Nino Burjanadze: Republicans, Free Democrats and UNM are very likely to create coalition
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, May 25
Is the Democratic Movement-United Georgia a pro-Russian party as it is frequently named so?
It is interesting, since people who make such statements do so without any evidence whatsoever. That cliche was stuck to us by former President Mikheil Saakashvili to affect us and he partially did it through his media outlets and various levers. He launched a black campaign against us without providing any proof that we were pro-Russian.
You always state that we should first of all regulate our relations with Russia and it should be the key issue for the country…should not it be a ground for making statements that your priority is Russia?
Such statements are made by the whole civilized world, by the leaders of the United States, France or Germany. They directly state that regulating relations with Russia is of utmost importance. They stress that we should not be in confrontation with Russia or even be provoked by Russia’s activities as the west never launches a war with Russia for Georgia’s sake. On the other hand Russia is our neighbour. Poor is always better than a glorious war. We have never made pro-Russian statements, never said that Georgia should fit its interests to the Russian ones through ignoring its own goals and priorities. Our main priority is Georgia. In order to settle major issues for Georgia we should cooperate both with Russia and with the West.
Should Georgia become a member of the Russian founded Eurasian Union?
The Union has not been established yet. One can discuss the participating in some organization when it is founded, when its goals and content is known, when its offers are revealed and so on…
If we take active steps in order to solve our problems with Russia, what should be our attitude to the EU and NATO?
Realistic - we should maintain active cooperation with both of the organizations but we should be brave enough to speak out the truth that Georgia will not become a NATO member state. In order to become the member of the alliance you should not have territorial disputes, or we should say that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are no longer parts of Georgia. The latter is unacceptable for me…when it comes to the EU, the Riga Summit has once again portrayed that attaining the visa liberation is a long term goal. Turkey signed the Association Agreement with the EU 30 years ago and it still does not have visa liberation within the EU…but we should cooperate with all bodies. However, cooperation and goals should be based on real situations.
You frequently criticize the current government for its domestic and foreign policies… What would your priorities have been if you were elected in 2012?
Absolutely different from the current leadership with better and more effective ruling methods. Cohabitation that took place among the coalition and the United National Movement was absolutely unacceptable.
How would you acted with regard to the former ruling party?
In accordance with the law, they deserved much of what has happened to them, but the ruling coalition was afraid of the West. It was afraid that the West might have taken the coalition as the pro-Russian force if they judged the UNM. Meanwhile, for Georgians one of the main demands and the key promise of the coalition was the restoration of justice. The August war and many other issues should have been investigated. If the coalition acted as it should we would have had absolutely different domestic situation. When it comes to foreign policy, I would have started a direct dialogue with Russia. The Russian President has offered a meeting three times, but we gave obscured and shameful answers. The most shameful answer was that we needed consent from the West.
Is there any political party in Georgia you have a positive attitude towards and would you be prepared to create a coalition government??
It is hard to say now. There are parties and individuals who have similar approaches. I am happy that the Alliance of Patriots practically repeats much of what we say ourselves…however, it is quite a long time before the elections and we have no talks or definite plans. It is more likely that we take part in the 2016 parliamentary elections alone.
NDI’s recent survey reads that you practically have no rating…
The ratings cannot be taken seriously at all…it said that 31% of the interviewees supported Georgia’s membership to the Eurasian Union, while we had no rating through the polls. It is known for everyone how the polls are conducted and who orders them.
They are written based on the demands of the United States.
Do you have any evidence for this?
Political experience and observation give us grounds to suggest this. The 31% was not occasional. In the future the figure will be used to justify the future coalition of the United National Movement with the Republicans and the Free Democrats.
How can one justify it?
It would be stated that there was an inflow of the pro-Russian sentiments and so a rival force should be created. They would say that the coalition was created for surviving the pro-Western course. The Free Democrats and the Republicans have always cooperated with the United National Movement, even when they were in the opposition.
If the parties were allied with the UNM, then why did former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili decide to create a coalition with such parties?
You should ask Ivanishvili about it…I believe that Ivanishvili cannot oppose the pressure from the West. Why he fails in this regard is another matter...
You know that our readers are mainly in diplomatic corps and foreigners. What would you say to them?
I would say that Georgians feel disappointed over permanent promises with regard to the EU and NATO without genuine outcomes. I would also say that Georgians are disappointed in their support to Mikheil Saakashvili, who has committed multiple crimes. It is unclear for people why the West supports Saakashvili if the West’s main priority is justice. Such issues destroy the image of the West in the public eyes. The West should have encouraged fair investigations in Georgia. Our Western friends also acted unjustly to us in the context of May 26 peaceful rally in 2010. The greater part of diplomats turned a blind eye to the illegal actions of the UNM that did its best to persuade them that we were pro-Russian.
You have always taken high posts, had close relations with the dip-corps, how did Saakashvili manage to persuade them that you were pro-Russian?
The greater part of diplomats with whom I had contact with when I took post changed since I moved to the opposition. In the course of five years Saakashvili, his team and the television stations which support him did their best to influence people and diplomats negatively against us.
Saakashvili is charged for the November 7, 2007 rally dispersal when you took the post of Parliament Chair. Have you been questioned over the fact or do you feel responsibility concerning the development?
I have given explanation over November 7 and I am ready to answer all the questions. If I were not a parliament chair and had not opened the parliament door for protesters there would be victims I assure you.