Independence Day Speech by President Zourabichvili - 26 May, 2024

26 May, 2024

H.E. Salome Zourabichvili, President of Georgia

"Mr. Prime Minister,

Mr. Speaker of Parliament,

Mr. Minister of Defense,

Georgian Army,

Members of the Government and the Parliament,

Members of the Constitutional Court,

Chairmen of the Autonomous Republics of Abkhazia and Adjara,

Representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps and Representatives of International Organizations,

I, your Supreme Commander-in-Chief, address you – the soldiers of Georgia, who defend Georgia and its independence! I address you – those who are taking the oath today and are prepared to serve Georgia! The nation is victorious and invincible, standing free, proud, and resilient today after centuries of struggle, wars, and conquests!

This is your merit and our common achievement. We will never forget or betray those people, heroes, or unknown soldiers who sacrificed themselves for the homeland and its independence. It is our constant responsibility to safeguard the treasures they acquired and passed down to us – a free and independent Georgia, not to yield it to anyone!

I address all of Georgia, all of you, and understand how the current state of our country pains you. I know the feelings with which you are listening to me today, when you fear the country’s independence and European future are under threat. Don't give in to hopelessness. This country and its independence have been built and preserved by you, the citizens of this country, and today we again must strengthen and reinforce it!

It is not a coincidence that at this critical juncture for Georgia, the President of the country is the daughter of emigration that fought for and prepared Georgia’s independence, which was declared on May 26th, 1918. It also may not be a coincidence that the President of the country is the person who negotiated the peaceful withdrawal of the Russian troops who entered the country.

I consider it my duty to my ancestors and the country to do everything for the independence and the European future of this country. I made this promise to myself before arriving in Georgia. This is the promise I made to you when I took the oath on the Constitution. I want you to know that I will not betray either my oath or my people!

I hear you, and I understand your feelings and emotions. I know that confusion, uncertainty, and even fear have crept into your heart. I know how unbearable the thought is that everything we have together fought for until now is slipping out of our hands! But I also know that the Georgian people will not allow this!

We will not allow it - we, who are united around this goal: those who remember Georgia before independence and had faith that we would achieve the sacred goal of independence; those of you standing here who were born in an independent, free Georgia and cannot even imagine any other kind of Georgia. You cannot imagine such precisely because you are free, independent, and will never accept slavery.

Today, with you and with the determination of the new generation, the new Georgia is being born and fresh energy is being created. As it has done many times in history, Georgia has once again shown us its true face - without fear, without envy, and without hatred. Georgia’s fresh energy comes with a new word, fresh perspective, courage, love, unity, and dignity, and nothing can stop it!

No one can compel today's Georgia to return to living under others' beliefs, dogmas, and shackles. That's why I staunchly believe that no one will ever be able to return Georgia to the past. I believe, and I want to assure you, that we are not at a dead end, nor are we trapped in a closed circle. Neither hopelessness nor nihilism has a place in us. The fate of our country is in our hands, and the solution is ours to find.

As the President of the country, the guarantor of its independence, security, and foreign policy, I see my part of responsibility in finding the solution. The solution exists and stands evident in front of us:

Saving our European path is the cornerstone of this solution. Today, as the specter of Russia looms over us, partnership and rapprochement with Europe are the true path to preserving and strengthening our independence and peace. Those who sabotage and undermine this path trample upon and damage the peaceful and secure future of our country, hindering the path towards becoming a full member of the free and democratic world. The European Union represents a space of freedom, where no country has joined without the will of its people; it is the path of openness, justice, and development. It is the place where even the tiniest nation, its language, faith, identity, and traditions are protected. This is a union where a person, family, his/her safety, health, social situation, his/her private life, and his/her dignified old age are protected, where all human rights are protected.

The European Union, by its very essence and idea, was created for peace; war parties do not exist in Europe, and no war has been started by Europe in this period. On the other hand, the real war party is one and only one – Russian imperialism.

The European Union presents itself as a union of free nations, among which our country is offered an opportunity to uphold its independence and self-development.

We embarked on this path 33 years ago, and on this path, our European and American friends have always stood by us, supporting the construction and development of our state. They have provided moral, political, financial, and institutional support. Today, I am forced to remind some who is the friend and who is the enemy: who took away our territories, who violated our territorial integrity, and who protects our sovereignty and respects our non-recognition policy; who banned teaching the Georgian language, and who recognized and protected the Georgian alphabet; who destroyed and who built our schools; who is nailing the doors of our churches, and who is aiding the churchand monasteries in rebuilding and preserving; who banned and rejected the Georgian wine and who appreciated and recognized Georgia as the homeland of wine; with whose support was our military armed with contemporary equipment of international standards; with whose support was the agriculture bolstered, and more – who can tally and assess how the enemy has harmed us and what a friend has done for us. This is why the foreign policy inscribed in our constitution is the future that has no alternative.

Stability is the cornerstone of finding a way out. In this region and in this geopolitical situation, there is no solution for us except peaceful processes. Revolutions, coups d'état, destruction, or destabilization are not and cannot be a solution. We are well aware that this lends a hand to our enemy, and internally, it contributes to sabotaging the peaceful process, intimidation, repression, and ultimately, the strengthening of the authoritarian regime.

The only way to maintain stability is through elections. Elections are the sole means and the primary measure of democracy, serving as the main test by which our readiness to join the European Union should be evaluated.

With these elections, we have to make a crucial choice: either a European, democratic, independent Georgia, or a Russian-led, authoritarian, and isolated Georgia! Such a choice constitutes a popular referendum.

That is why the upcoming elections will be of equal importance for this country as the 1918 elections or the 1991 referendum - historic decisions for the nation! The voice and will of the people should rebirth the Georgian nation and restore faith in itself and its capabilities.

We have to prove to ourselves that we can and that no one can take away our future! With these elections, we must respond to the expectations of young people, and not only theirs, and open up opportunities for our citizens. They should not consider leaving the country but rather recognize that this land is theirs, and they should be the authors of the country's future.

The way out also involves what we have not been able to achieve in 33 years, that is, the "De-Sovietization" of the country - the eradication of remnants of the Soviet system. We must eliminate everything that characterized that dark past - isolation, war, the portrayal of a non-existent enemy, conspiracies and their theories, confrontation, repression, censorship, surveillance, secret records, compromising documents, slavery, deceit, lies, alienation, fear, and conformity.

It's time to let the past be the past. Our task today is to pave the way for a liberated future. What we are witnessing and participating in today is the end of the old era and the beginning of a new era!

Occupation - The only peaceful and genuine path to liberation from occupation and de-occupation is the European way, which avoids secret deals and false promises. Instead, we can promise the people in occupied Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region the prospect of joint development, true protection of human rights, and real peace without military bases and mobilization.

Justice System - Justice and the right to a fair trial are the demands of all our citizens. We all recognize that this cannot be achieved without freeing the courts from pressure and influence. Everyone knows that justice is the cornerstone of the European state and its stability.

Economy/Business – The European approach entails liberating the economy and business, with legislation and justice serving as the means for this liberation. If there is no trust in the justice system, then there will be no stability and no long-term initiative or investment. Instead, European legislation safeguards businesses from any illegal or political interference, enhances the overall business environment, and fosters the opportunity for new potential to emerge and grow. Simply put, no one will demand that you give up your shares or pay any other tribute. A liberated Georgian business possesses genuine potential to access the European market.

Social Guarantees – For the citizens of Georgia, embracing European social legislation means that their personal, family, work, and public spaces will be protected, which is the initial sign of safeguarding human dignity.

Public Service - Free public service means that it truly serves the state rather than personal interests, influences, and party dictates. This is what lies at the core of Europe. Governments and ruling parties come and go, but no one interferes with the activities of individual public servants. No one instructs or forbids them from going somewhere or saying something. While the political spectrum changes, the public servants remain, ensuring policy consistency, stability, and the state, or administrative memory. The public servants who are free from fear and revanchism are the greatest pillar of the country's future.

Culture - to export our creative energy, which has always characterized Georgia. Even today, free Georgia continues to captivate global audiences across stages, galleries, and the literary world. While our presence is established, this domain needs further support, rather than facing censorship and persecution. It is within the realm of culture that Georgia stands poised to compete with any European country, staking its rightful claim on the world stage.

Sports - In the realm of sports, free athletes must never again be entangled in the whirlwind of politics. A hallmark of totalitarian regimes is the appropriation of athletes' victories, where medals and successes are claimed as the triumphs of the ruling party. However, these victories are not theirs, they belong solely to the athletes and the nation at large. Thus, we collectively share all the joy and pride when they proudly showcase the flag and anthem of Georgia to the world.

This path of liberation is one that undoubtedly must be pursued. Liberation is a matter that impacts us all and concerns the political sphere. What is the Soviet relic if not the one-party rule, where one party holds a monopoly over all state institutions and public structures? The Soviet remnant is indeed subordination of state interests to those of the leader and the party.

We must liberate our memory from the remnants of the Soviet era. It is upon this liberated memory that we must construct our future, ensuring that the shadows of the Soviet past never engulf us again. The foremost guardians of this endeavor are a free society and free-thinking individuals, unshackled from coercion and fear. Independent people within an independent nation. Long live an independent and free Georgia!

Congratulations on the Independence Day of our country!"


International Center on Conflict and Negotiation


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