Speeches & Statements

The President of Georgia addressed theNATO Parliamentary Assembly's 58th Annual Session

Mister President,

Secretary General,

Dear Colleagues,

Distinguished Members of the NATO Parliamentary Assemble,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an immense honor and a great privilege to address you today.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Secretary General Rasmussen, to President Lammers, and to all of you—the distinguished representatives of a family of nations we yearn to join- for allowing me to make the case for the transatlantic aspirations of the Georgian people.

In fact, making this case has been—and will remain—the true and most profound leitmotif of my entire political life.

From the very beginning, in the darkness of the early 90s—when our country was ravaged by corruption and violence, when our capital had no electricity, and when our only real institution was organized crime—my involvement in politics was inspired by a simple idea. The idea that Georgia should and could join the family of Western democracies, that Georgia should and could one day become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and of the European Union.

Back then, some called this idea an illusion, but we have gone a long way since the darkness of the 90s and what was unrealistic 20 or even 10 years ago has become quite close today.

Throughout all these years, every single action and decision of mine—right or wrong, good or bad—was informed by this unyielding ambition for the Georgian people to go where they belong. To go West.

It inspired the judiciary reform I tried to initiate as minister during the Shevarnadze presidency. It lead the Rose Revolution. It fueled every single change our government has implemented since 2004. 

Reformist leaders in the post-Soviet world sometimes feel like sailors on a long, difficult journey in an ocean of troubles. As we sought to navigate these troubled waters, NATO, as well as EU membership was like a pole star guiding the way for all the members of our idealistic team.

NATO and EU are, Ladies and gentlemen, the quintessence of what we call transformative foreign policy goals.

I cannot see any equivalent in the world.

And today, just weeks after free and fair elections that brought to power a new parliamentary majority and a new government—just as our team of reformists lost the control of most of the executive and legislative powers—I come to you as a President of cohabitation, as a political leader affiliated with an opposition party, and, more important, as a simple citizen of a nation that strives for freedom, to share my deep conviction that my country is more ready than ever to fulfill its NATO ambitions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In Georgia, NATO is neither a partisan issue, nor just a simple foreign policy objective.

Our NATO aspiration is an integral part of the identity and the nature of the new state we have built over the last decade. It is the corner stone of our democracy, the bedrock of values on which we have erected our most important institutions.

And the support for our integration into the transatlantic alliance goes well beyond any political, religious, or social dividing lines.

Unlike in some other countries, there is no rift in Georgia about whether or not our future lies in the West and in the Alliance. There is no structured and powerful part of our society that openly opposes the integration process. There is no mainstream political force publicly advocating a reversal of our Euro-Atlantic path.

Why is it so?

It is so because this path is in our genes as Georgian citizens. It is defining not only what we want, but who we are.

Throughout a very long, difficult History, our nation has always tilted toward the Western World, striving to integrate itself into the European family of nations. It was both a matter of survival against the existential threats coming from powerful Eastern, Southern or Northern empires and a question of common values.

As I speak, no mainstream force in Georgia dares to openly oppose NATO and EU membership quite simply because Georgian voters would reject anybody announcing his intention to reverse our Euro-Atlantic path.

Georgians have voted for NATO integration by a landslide in a referendum in 2008 and they have repeated their commitment to it at every stage, through every test, and at every single turning point of their recent history.

The United National Movement—the party that lead the Euro-Atlantic transformation of our country over the last decade—is now in minority in the Parliament. But the results of the last election should not lead to any pause in our integration process.

On the contrary:

By proving that the transfer of power now takes place through free and fair elections—and no longer through revolutions or coups; // by making clear that our new state institutions do not belong to any political force, but to the nation as a whole; // by proving to all political parties and to the world that the Georgian people will hold any government accountable and that they consider themselves as sovereigns of their collective fate…

…by doing all this, Georgia has demonstrated in the last month the maturity of its democracy, underscored the tremendous progress made over the past nine years, and reaffirmed its readiness  to embrace the high standards that define the open and advanced societies gathered in this Alliance and represented by you in this hall.

I would like to take a moment to offer a special thanks to those of you who came to Georgia in order to monitor our parliamentary elections.

As a vast army of highly paid lobbyists toured the world arguing that our elections already had been rigged and that my team would never accept any other result than a landslide victory, your presence on the ground was decisive.

You were able to testify first hand about the progress that has been made by our State and by our democracy.

For those of you who are used to monitoring electoral processes in other countries of our region, you have seen that Georgia is no longer in the same league, that Georgia is getting closer, year by year, to the standards that unite all of you in this room.

Your role in monitoring our elections was crucial, but your vigilance now and in the coming months and years will be even more vital to the health of our young democracy.

We will need your ever-watchful eyes and your vast storehouse of knowledge to help ensure that Georgia stays on the right path—that our institutions continue to serve all Georgian citizens—that our judiciary is used to protect our laws and not to extract political retribution—that the rights of ethnic, religious, sexual and other minorities are respected.

Our journey towards the Alliance is not over and more reforms are needed.

First of all, we must overcome the “winner takes all” mentality that is a very unfortunate characteristic of young democracies with short institutional memory.

We should all understand that the long-term continuity of the State matters more than any short-term political gain—that institutions stand above and not under  political parties or social groups—that democracy means not only free and fair elections, but also a scrupulous respect for the constitution and for the rights of minorities—that public institutions must never be used for private gain—and that witch hunts are not a suitable response to the people’s demands for better social services or more inclusive politics.

We must continue to strengthen the independent media and judiciary, two essential pillars of the open society we have built.

We must continue to enhance civil society’s capacity to control and oversee State institutions.

We must not stop reforming and strengthening our military forces and our security apparatus, while protecting them from political interference.

We must pursue the decentralization of power that we have initiated recently, giving much more legitimacy and greater powers to local governments.

We must do all of this and much more.

But the Georgian nation already has cleared so many hurdles and improved in so many ways... Our people are ready.

They behave like their peers in other European democracies, expecting the same accountability, transparency, and consideration from their government as in any NATO member country.

The Georgian people are ready and they will impose their will on all political forces, I am absolutely confident in this, and ensure that the path is pursued and the final goal is attained.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In Bucharest, Georgia received a promise of membership in the Alliance.

Since then, a fiercely determined, gradual process leads to the ultimate outcome— the full membership.

Many of our friends have stressed—and rightly so—the importance of the October 1st elections as a litmus test for our democracy.

We passed this test. We had free and fair elections and a peaceful transfer of power. Now it is time to help us advance towards new benchmarks in our integration process, it is time to see new concrete steps towards the fulfillment of the Bucharest statement, new tangible steps towards our membership in the Alliance.

In the last 10 years, the Georgian people have overcome many obstacles and hostile forces on their way towards NATO …

Threats, pressure, embargoes, bombings, invasion, occupation, terrorist acts—nothing could deter them or weaken their commitment.

The Russian Prime Minister Medvedev said few months ago that with the 2008 war, Russia had managed to stop the enlargement of the Alliance.

By saying this, he clearly stated one of the main goals of the 2008 invasion, but also clearly overestimated the results of it.

Because, since then, the Georgian people have proven to be so resilient and so committed to the Alliance that our integration process only gained in intensity.

In a hostile context, Georgia is the highest non-NATO contributor to the ISAF. This participation is based on our own national security interests, but also stands as proof of our commitment to the Alliance. We are reliable partners and we want to take our share.

Ladies and gentlemen,

During all these years, Georgia has become a laboratory for the region, a test case, too.

A test whether or not democracy can grow in the former Soviet Union, whether or not our trans-atlantic path can succeed.

If the Georgian way succeeds, then the whole region will be changed. If not, it is a strategic area that might be shut down for a long period.

I come here today to make the case for the Georgian aspirations to join the Alliance, but more broadly for the enlargement of NATO in general.

We are commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Prague Summit, the larger ever enlargement summit in the History of the Alliance, as a result of which 7 new members from the former communist Europe have joined.

10 years after, the Prague Summit historic decisions can be celebrated as a tremendous success story and not only for the countries that joined NATO in 2002, but for the Alliance in general.

It brought more stability, more security and more democracy to the European continent.

It has shown to the world that the NATO enlargement is not a negative, but a positive agenda: it is not directed against anybody or destabilizing anyone, it is just shaping an always bigger space of shared values and common peaceful practices. Something that is in everybody’s long-term interest, even those who do not seem to understand it as I speak.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to command the fact that you are not just commemorating this glorious past, but, instead, looking forward to the future by inviting our four aspirant nations to celebrate this event together with member states.

These four countries are different by their history and their trajectory, but what unites us is the same faith in the Alliance future and an identically strong determination to defend and promote the principles it stands for.

The formalization of this so called group of aspirant countries has been a major achievement of the recent Chicago Summit.

We will walk together towards the next summit, confident that the enlargement agenda is not over.

My dear friends,,

The goal of a Europe Whole and Free is still ahead of us. History did not come to an end and the Alliance is needed, more than ever, as well as its enlargement.

Thank you.

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