Speeches & Statements

Mikheil Saakashvili addressed the participant of Munich security conference

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for this opportunity. I think whatever was said here is very relevant to what happened in my region and what is still happening there. We are all interconnected.
Of course, we can compare the sudden upheavals of 2011 and the ongoing protests in the region to what the economist Nassim Nicholas Taleb has called Black Swans—improbable, unpredicted high-impact events which amaze the analyst community when they appear, yet in retrospect seem obvious or inevitable to everyone.
They take us by surprise and force. After Mohammed Bouazizi sent himself into fire the whole political Geography, the whole setting, the whole prognosis, forecast… everything has changed for the region. We can barely grasp the meaning of what has happened, nor can we know where these diverse events will lead.
There is no freedom textbook to teach people in Tunisia, Libya, or elsewhere. Georgia’s post-revolutionary experience of radical social, political and mental transformation does not provide a transferable model for everyone, but I wanted to reflect upon what is relevant from our model. Just recently at the white house, President Obama said that Georgia is a model for the region in terms of democracy, transparency, transformation and reforms. I think that what he was referring to are the several things we have learned similar to what our friends are experiencing in their countries.
First of all, the real revolution is not when you are with CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera cameras, waving flags, singing songs, making statements. The real revolution starts when those cameras leave and it is routine work.

Secondly, only a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to reform can bring tangible, enduring results. The reforms of the judiciary, police, tax collection, customs, political class, electoral code, and education system should not be implemented individually, but as part of a complete project of social transformation. There is no separate approach. Of course democracy threatens identity. Of course there is a temptation to say: This is our identity. We cannot move away from it, but the exact process of transformation is exactly changing the perception of your identity; bringing in a mental revolution. Without that there can be no real forward progress. When you attack interest groups, they bite back—it can be painful. We had our share of demonstrations and opposition; I had to resign in 2007 because I thought I put the reform agenda against the referendum in the new Presidential elections. It is very important not to forget that the fight is never finished.

We could have rested. Georgia has progressed tremendously. The World Bank ratings, Transparency International ratings, all kinds of ratings in terms of population perceptions and we could have said: Okay, everything is over.

Reforms should never stop. Governance is a process of constant learning, questioning, adaptation, and change. This is what every authoritarian regime always fails to understand.
Now is when it comes to a point where I want to mention the fact that revolutions are fought and won by the citizens of the countries in which they occur.
But the response of the international community matters – both in order to support democratic movements and to deter those who want to suppress them.
Seen from our part of the world, two radically different attitudes emerge, embodied by two specific regional powers.
On the one hand, the Russian Federation reacted with panic and outrage to freedom movements in the Middle East and tries everything it can to prevent any international support for these uprisings, everywhere. I was not surprised by their position at the UN. I read all of their statements about what happened in Libya, in Tunisia and Egypt. What happened was a very logical follow up.
On the other hand, Turkey, represented here by my friend Ahmet Davotuglu, asserts itself as a role model for the post-revolutionary countries and an active supporter of the change.
On one hand, one government that desperately tries to halt the progress of history, on the other, one that decided to embrace the evolution of the world.

Think about what we have had in our experience. We had an Iron Curtain on the Turkish border during the Cold War times. We still remember the spotlight in which they would light up the beach every night so nobody would sneak out into Turkey. This is the southern part of Georgia’s Black Sea coast. It has been removed and now we enjoy not only open borders but a visa-free travel and passport-free travel with Turkey. Our citizens can cross the border with any ID and they don’t even have to take it out of their pocket because it has an electronic chip. We have a joint airport on the border, we have a free trade regime, and we have joint projects, joint dams on the border; hydro power as well as other types. But a hundred kilometers north of that place we have a new Iron Curtain; several layers of barb wire; we have people killed from time to time crossing that place; prevention of population movement. 500,000 people cannot go back to their homes.
So, from that point of view, this is a lesson and a message of hope: there is no future for global powers playing against the will of the people. Outside or inside their borders and as you know, what is happening in the streets of Moscow is not accidental. It’s very clear, you cannot sell to your people that a great idea lies in restoring something that cannot be restored rather than in their dignity, their rights as humans, their freedom of speech, and freedom of their children.  Any reforms implemented in the West are going to undermine the Soviet Union. I think the best and the shortest way to demise of Russia’s present system is through the refusal of reforms.
And finally, the last thing I wanted to say, and this is a very important message. I carried it from Washington. I think there is a lot of talk today similar to after the Berlin wall fell, when the end of history was proclaimed. Let’s not make the same mistake now.
Let’s not give in to the prophets of the Great Decline, the clash of civilization or any form of cultural relativism. The fact is that our support of these people matters, your support matters, that the ideas are really marched. Any talk about a decline in our values, is proven to be the exact opposite every day. In all of those countries we are talking about. It has been proven wrong in my country. It’s being proven in Moscow and St. Petersburg.  

Let’s not overlook the universal call for freedom that we are witnessing in the most diverse parts of our world.
Because in this call lies the true motor and the true meaning of history.
Thank you!

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