Address by President Saakashvili at the Georgian Security forum

Welcome, everybody!

This is a very representative conference for us.

A very good tradition has been established in Georgia.

Georgia is no longer a backwater in the world, surrounded by myths and legends. Georgia is the country which has become interesting for the whole world.

I would like to thank the organizers of this conference for inviting such important and competent experts.

The subject we are talking about today concerns not only our country and the region, but a global security and actual issues for the world.

Global fight against terrorism, as well as the world's energy security and new trends in its [the world's] development intersected in our region. We are at the forefront of the fight for democracy.

Frankly speaking, I myself prefer Georgia to be an insignificant and a small country, meaning that big states, one state at least, thought less of Georgia and of the events taking place in its villages and small corners.

I would like those people who live in Russia to think that Georgia is a very attractive place for tourism, that the best skiing resorts in the entire east Europe is in Georgia, where I myself regularly go skiing every weekend. I want them to think that we have the best, the warmest and the cleanest sea and the best cuisine in the entire post-Soviet space. I want them to think that we have lots of things that we can offer the guests of this region.

I don't want Georgia to be associated with tension and any kind of excesses. However, the model they want to impose on us looks like this.

Yesterday, I read an opinion of one of an unknown for me analyst saying that the EU commissioner's visit to Georgia was not good, because Europe will fail in this region as the only thing one can hear in Georgia are the voices of swords and guns and a national rhetoric.

This is a total lie.

This is the platform for those who do not favor democracy.

When a military intervention took place in Abkhazia in early 90s hundreds of thousand not only ethnic Georgians but the representatives of other nationalities had to leave the area. Then I was studying in the USA and I remember articles published in the press.

I remember an article saying that nobody, especially Europeans and generally western people, can understand a mysterious soul of the Caucasians. Tolstoy was also cited, saying that only Russians were able to deeply understand a mysterious soul of the Caucasians and Georgians and all the other nations should keep out.

Two or three years have passed and the same citation in the same newspaper was used against Chechens.

By adopting surface and incompetent reasoning on this region and being badly informed about it lagged us behind and made us suffer the consequences.

The truth is that Georgia is the oldest European country. The main Georgian myths are related to Prometheus and Argonauts. Georgia is the oldest Christian country. Some conservative Europeans think that Christianity is one of the criteria for being a European. However, I consider that being a European is much broader term and together with religion includes other values as well.

Therefore, I firmly support Turkey's integration into the EU.

Georgia is one of the European states. It is proved by the fact that the skulls of the oldest Europeans, the Georgians, are kept in the museum which is 200 meters walk from here. This is proved scientifically. Several thousand years old gold and other historic valuables are stored in this museum.

We should acknowledge that geography is being fully revised.

We haven't started fighting for establishing Georgia as a part of Europe today. This fight counts many centuries.

When Georgia became member of the Council of Europe a conceptual dispute took place between the MPs and I remember it very well.

This happened about 10-11 years ago, when I as a member of the Georgian Parliament started working as an observer at the Council of Europe.

One of the German MPs at the committee meeting said that Georgia is not a European state because it is not written in one of the chapters of Britannica "Brockhouse and Ephron".

The debate with a British MP was over what was written in the encyclopedia, which read that Georgia is not a European state.

As soon as the British MP independently researched this issue came at the committee and said that this part of the encyclopedia was print in Hong Kong not in Briton.

On the other hand, "Brockhouse and Ephron" is an imperial Russian encyclopedia and it was of course within Russia's.

I don't want that a modern Europe and the world turned up in similar situation in 2006. It is about attaching one and the same stigma - don't even come close to this region, it is very dangerous and you will create problems to your own selves.

I think that after September 11 a myth about a possibility of having locked out in one's own country finally broke up.

I think that the Rose Revolution was the first ever televised revolution in the world history. Our Revolution was followed by a revolution in Ukraine which was a direct result of our revolution and the Ukrainian leaders openly talked about it in this very room.

Ukraine was followed by Kyrgyzstan.

In one of the western newspapers I saw a picture of one of the Belarus activists holding Georgian five-crossed flag.

What is being argued and what I mean when I say that I preferred that they got rid of Georgia?

Despite the fact that such comparisons are made, I am not a Phidel Castro and there is not any Che Gevara in the Georgian government.

These comparisons are offensive for us.

What is happening in Georgia is much broader and much more important for me.

First of all the most important for me is my country - Georgia.

Fight which is going on today is related to values. There is fight over what does free and non-free society mean.

When a revolution took place two years ago I remember an article which read that first of all Georgia should become a real state and a real democracy should be built afterwards.

This was a right reasoning because Georgia was just a territory and a failed state.

At the same time I remember how the situation was analyzed - neither a real state nor democracy could have existed in this part of the world.

I can say that today Georgia is a real state and that we have a real democracy.

Everybody considered that a state would not be able to exist without corruption in this region and that corruption was one of the governing tools.

The reality is that Georgia is not a corrupt country and I say this with full responsibility. Whatever lies some of our local good-for-nothing analysts would tell the documents prove that the budget has increased five times. These are not only the figures written on the paper.

Many of you who visited Georgia two years ago would have seen quite a different picture today: lightened streets, new police cars, municipal transports. Those who had seen the army would have guessed that we have a totally new army. We can show everybody, who will get interested in how many new hospitals, polyclinics and schools are being built in Georgia. All these things have been done with money generated through fight against corruption.

We have a democracy, however, there might be some people who would say that all these things are lies. I myself believe my eyes more than these analysts.

Our people also believe their eyes more. That's why the Georgian government based on the opinion poll made in January enjoys more than 70 per cent confidence rate. However, we work intensively to drop this numbers to 60-55 per cent and then make it stable.

This is a reality.

This is what is very important not only for Georgia but for the whole region.

As soon as we came into power people presumed that we would start fighting as we did not have enough strength and experience. That's why so many journalists all over the world came to Georgia during the revolution.

I would like to consider for a moment how many state buildings several thousand demonstrators had occupied in several days. These people were from the regions and provinces, mainly ordinary, very hard-up people, but they did not steal a single paper, computer or a chair from the building.

Absolutely uncontrollable demonstrators were in the Chancellery for almost a week but they didn't even break into Shevardnadze's room, though, I am sure, they would have found there many interesting things.

I think this is the most important thing - freedom wakens up the clearest and the greatest instincts

When we held a big conference at the second anniversary of the Rose Revolution many presidents and foreign ministers visited Georgia. But serious journalists did not come and I was happy about it.

These journalists came to Georgia at the first anniversary to report on how disappointed people were after the revolution, just as it is happening now in Ukraine.

This might have been the only news for them. No-one could have said this at the second anniversary, that's why nothing interesting was happening for them.

I wish that similar global news never happened in Georgia.

Other things are more important for us: two days ago building of a five-star hotel "Radisson Sass" and two weeks ago building of a hotel "Haiti" have started. For that reason old buildings are pulled down.

Soon, we will sign a contract with "Hilton" after which building of a hotel Sheraton will start in Batumi.

A big airport is being built in Tbilisi which will be finished by the third anniversary of the Rose Revolution. The second airport is being built in Batumi and will be finished by the fall.

In maximum one month we start building the first motorway which will connect together west and east Georgia. This year we are building dozens of modern hospitals, which is very important for me.

Such news is more actual for Georgia than any kind of shakes and global shocks.

We don't need shakes and any kinds of excesses.

At the same time fight of values is taking place both in Georgia and in the entire post-Soviet space.

Sadly, Georgia is a polygon for all these activities.

There was a civil was in Georgia 15 years ago as a result of which, unfortunately, two big areas - Abkhazia and a small but very important area - Tskhinvali city and several villages separated from Georgia.

We are talking about such a big contrast between these territories that it would have been an irresponsible behavior for any freedom and peace loving person to turn a blind eye on this.

We are saying that KGB's visionary world has been realized in these two small enclaves (I am saying it without any exaggeration) where the dream of [Felix] Dzerzhinsky, [Lavrenti] Beria and people like them (I would like to add Andropov to this list also, who is idealized in one of the biggest states) are being fully realized without any principle, law and control.

We are talking about negotiations between the Georgian government, local Russians and the representatives of the separatist government which was taking place two weeks ago in village Chuburkhinji, which belongs to Gali district and which is not fully controlled by Abkhaz separatists. During these negotiations a small kid who is prohibited by so called Abkhazian laws to study in the Georgian language, but still studies, leaned out of a window and when seeing the Georgians cried out - "victory to Georgia".

In several hours all the teachers of this school were arrested and in front of the eyes of Russian peace keepers were taken in an unknown direction.

Georgia did not start war on it. We tried to be in silent.

But I have a question to you - how would a normal, civilized person have reacted on this? This is a rhetorical question and does not require an answer.

Then, somebody might say that the Georgian government is overwhelmingly emotional.

We are a democratic nation and we prove it every day by means of a television. The programs scenarios that are to be aired on TVs are not written at the State Chancellery.

There is a second enclave in the South Ossetia where during several weeks the news was how innocent people were kidnapped, tortured, cut to peaces, shoot and how parts of the corpses were sent to their relatives demanding a ransom.

The government of which democratic country would tolerate such facts when all these things are taking place in front of the eyes and with the support of those forces, which are the masters of this territory?.

Particularly, we are talking about three Russian generals who participated in the war in Chechnya, who govern South Ossetia and have nothing to do with either Ossetia or with its people and history.

When we are talking about the exchange of information, it should be mentioned that this is virtually impossible.

When President Bush paid visit to Georgia he expressed his desire to meet with Tskhinvali and Abkhazian non-governmental organizations, but these generals blocked out the roads in order not to allow any of them cross the border.

We wanted to realize this meeting and it did not matter if the most radical people, who were against the central government, came to Georgia and firmly expressed their ideas in front of the US President.

They did everything not to allow even the most aggressive person come to Georgia.

When talking about values, it should be mentioned that a TV company "Alania" which is compose of ethnic Ossetians operates in Georgia.

People might not have noticed that broadcasting of this TV channel has been jammed in the last several weeks. Special equipments have been brought from Russia by means of which broadcasting of this TV channel is being jammed.

Now it is 2006 and the world watches all these incidents with calmness.

This is much more important than internal problems in Georgia, as some people say it, which is caused by immaturity and emotionality of the country.

Of course we should be careful but when a leader of the separatist enclave comes out, whom the Russian President meets on regular bases, and says that he would destroy all Lithuanian, Ukrainian and West European if they decide to take over peace mission in the Tskinvali region is really a great problem.

Two weeks ago OSCE mission entered one of the villages where they saw a group of so called volunteers who were pointing anti-aircraft missile at the air.

OSCE representatives got interested in this fact, but they were advised to appoint ethnically Russian Barakevich who was fighting in the Chechen war and got in the Tskhinvali region for the first time last year.

Barakevich on its hand said that Tskhinvali's airspace is closed and any aircraft which would cross this space would be blown up.

This is not my speculation, it is written in the OSCE proceedings.

I am asking you, experienced experts - What shall we do? How would your countries have reacted in such situation?

I will tell you what we were doing . . .

At the beginning of 90th I was working at the Norwegian Human rights institute and was working on aspects of civil war that was taking place in the Tskhinvali region.

Since then I have been thinking about this conflicts in terms of protecting human and minority rights.

Many do not even know that we have peace plan which is a long wish list - it includes everything that anyone has ever requested.

Two years ago using term "South Ossetia" was equal to committing suicide for every Georgian politician, just as it was about South Tyrol.

We used this term because we are open to similar decisions. No-one could even talk about the autonomy, because they thought it meant committing suicide. We began talking about a broader autonomy.

Our aim is to regulate the situation and also to prove that when there is a free and democratic society there is not any issue which can not be solved by means of integrity, self-governance and democracy.

We have our peace proposal which also exists in the Ossetian language which was supported by the U.S., EU, OSCE last ministerial in Lublin, including the Russian Federation, that made us feel happy.

A week ago it turned out that the Russian Federation supported not the peace proposal but the address I made in the UN two years ago where I talked about three steps for conflict resolution. They liked the phrase related to the first step when I said that we should be extremely patient and not be in a hurry.

Can it be called a serious politics?

They put aside our peace proposal. Then we wrote a plan for the heads of the enclave which they claimed to be their own.

Afterwards, they though that we would support our own plan, but they were mistaken.

Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli stated that he is ready to discuss their plan.

Since then they have not sent us any massage.

Our main goal is to maintain peace, since Georgia needs peace, development, stability and prosperity.

Regardless of these problems Georgia's economic growth amounted for nine per cent last year. This year this indicator will amount to at least ten per cent. We are constructing dozens of hotels on the Black Sea coast. In most of the Georgian cities we are constructing water and sewerage systems, roads, electricity lines and new power plants.

We do not need any turmoil.

Not a single country has ever had such a big progress in such a short period.

Undoubtedly, our goal is NATO integration, since Georgia is not only a user of a security system but we are an extremely important and effective part of the global security system, which the world needs more than anything in such a strained region of the world.

During the past two years Georgia managed to increase effectiveness of the security system and also to implement reforms in this sphere.

During the past 25 years, after colonial reforms, not a single eastern European country had such a rapid development.

The main remark in an annual report of "Human Rights Watch" was that Georgian government was implementing reforms too fast and without extensive consultation, in most cases.

Such complaints even please me.

Our top mission is to create an effective state and also to promote its further development and strengthening.

This is our main goal which will dishearten enemies of freedom and democracy.

NATO integration is very important for us.

After my address at the Parliament some experts declared that I should not have loudly spoken on Georgia's integration into NATO and that quiet moves are better.

We are a democratic country and we are talking to our people, since we want to make everything clear for them.

I advise this to my friend Victor Yushchenko.

First of all people should know everything about their perspective.

Democracy functions this way.

For me, as a democratically elected leader of my country, the main audience are people, rather than any expert or international organization.

These are the value which we are promoting.

Precaution measures are very important but everything should be said as it is in reality.

We are either members of the democratic community or we are beginning to look like the enemies of democracy.

We can't act with their methods.

Those who are against NATO extension have taught the lesson - it openly expressed protest twice, but failed.

It does not show resistance openly, but we should expect provocations.

We do not need provocation, we are cautious, but we are not afraid and are strong enough not to be provoked.

We are talking about Georgia's aspiration to be a political ally of democratic countries and also of international security.

Recently, for my parliamentary address, I invited those pupils who refused to interrupt the learning process during the energy crisis. 12-13 year old children chopped the firewood themselves, brought heaters and continued learning in such conditions.

They are real Georgian heroes.

Those days journalists were walking around seeking for those people who would denounce the government, but no one even complained.

Everyone realized that if we want to have prosperous future, we should be united. Now we need to show those people, who blew up the pipeline that we are not afraid of anything and we must suppress their desire to blow it up again.

This is a healthy society, creation of freedom and democracy.

Freedom and democracy breeds such type of responsibility and pride.

Every Monday children sing national anthem and raise national flag. This is a result of our unity rather than a state propaganda.

A democratic world has very stable partners in this region.

In what region is Georgia located?

Let's return to the debate of British and German MPs again.

Georgia is located in the South Caucasus region. Georgia, just exactly like Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine is a Black Sea region country.

Georgia is a European country by its convictions, history, culture and what is most important by its aspirations.

I wish that Europe's attitude towards Georgia was shown not only in including Tbilisi in weather forecasts.

It is much deeper and more comprehensive issue. We are getting ready for it.

The most important is publicity, more information and more news about Georgia.

From this point of view your visit is a very important event.

Ultimately, the greatest threat to democracy and freedom is non-publicity and hiding the facts.

When publicity and truth exists in the society, every force that will decide to do evil will be defeated.

On 23 November we laid the foundation for the freedom monument. There were the Presidents of Ukraine, Romania, Estonia, also the wife of the leader of Serbian revolution and Anatoli Sharansky.

Freedom monument symbolizes St. George who defeats the dragon.

In fact, this is a struggle between good and evil and when good triumphs over evil.

Freedom means triumph of freedom over evil.

It was a miracle that grenade did not blow up when President Bush was addressing the public.

The first reaction of our security people was to make sure that the grenade was not functioning, because the chance for the grenade to blow up was only two per cent.

I can draw other examples to prove that evil has no perspective.

I wish this year was the year of freedom, a year of future triumphs both for Georgia, for Europe and the whole continent.

Thank you for your attention.

Communications Office
of the President of Georgia

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