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Georgia on my Mind

Georgia on my Mind

Address by Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia to the Council of Europe. Strasbourg, January 28, 2004. Source: Council of Europe. Photos © European-Security.org

For his first official visit abroad, Georgian President Mikhael Saakachvili addresses the Representatives of the the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. January 28, 2004 © E-S Photo

It's my honor and privilege to address this distinguished audience.

I see many friends in the hall and wish to thank them for their tremendous support to Georgia over the years. Please know that your support was not wasted as today is the beginning of a new era for Georgia an era of reform, stability and strengthened partnerships with our friends around the world in particular our friends in Europe.

It is not by accident that my first trip abroad as President of Georgia is to the heart of Europe.

For his first official visit abroad, Georgian President Mikhael Saakachvili addresses the Representatives of the the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. January 28, 2004 © E-S Photo

  • I wish to recount for you a few words about our Rose Revolution...

During the month of November 2003, the Georgian nation rose up in defense of the fundamental right to live in a free and democratic nation where the people hold the exclusive right to choose their own leaders and destiny.

Our peaceful Rose Revolution was not inspired by Georgia's economic or political stagnation nor was it incited by rampant corruption.

Rather, the Rose Revolution was a direct manifestation of the European values of liberal democracy. Values that form the basis for Georgia's identity and culture. Values that are widespread and shared by all Georgians

If anything, the non-violent Rose Revolution served as a message to the world - that all Georgians aspire to build and live in a democratic, independent and stable state, where human rights are respected, protected and revered.

Furthermore, we Georgians showed the courage, tenacity and commitment, necessary to defend those fundamental values, in a civilized manner, when they were under threat.

For his first official visit abroad, Georgian President Mikhael Saakachvili addresses the Representatives of the the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. January 28, 2004 © E-S Photo

I believe that Georgia's revolution can provide a model and message for the entire region providing a concrete example how nations of the former Soviet Union can successfully bring about peaceful and democratic change.

Success in Georgia means success for the entire region however if Georgia fails we must all understand that it will spell failure for the entire region.

For that reason alone we must seize the moment today in order to change the fate of an entire region tomorrow.

Today, I am enormously proud of my nation a nation that has given me an overwhelming mandate to return Georgia to its rightful destiny as a responsible member of the European community of democratic nations.

For his first official visit abroad, Georgian President Mikhael Saakachvili addresses the Representatives of the the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. January 28, 2004 © E-S Photo

  • Georgia's role in the World : (Globalization)

After returning from Davos last week I was struck by the power of globalization and the speed with which information is transmitted around the world - with the capability to influence events and outcomes like never before.

Indeed, not only was our Rose Revolution broadcast worldwide in real time, but perhaps our revolution might not have succeeded had it not been for the mobile phone!

In that respect, the Davos experience provides a truly global look with a global perspective.

Reflecting for a moment on these issues I believe that small nations like Georgia can truly benefit from globalization giving us special chances that might not otherwise be open to us.

And yet, globalization is a thorny issue that can create challenges to our cultural identity. It is a phenomenon that we must take into consideration.

I think we need to develop the capacity to, "watch globally but work with local ideas" in order to take what is best from our interconnected world without losing sight of local needs and realities. We must not lose sight of our identity - because, "the first human right is identity".

  • Integration into wider Europe

Taking identity as a point of departure, it is clear to me and all Georgians that our identity is fundamentally European.

Today, Georgia is finally on the road home once again integrating itself into the Europe with which it shares common values and a common history.

Indeed, just three days ago at my inauguration after raising the new Georgian flag, we raised the flag of the EU and played its anthem. This was no PR stunt but rather an expression of what all Georgians understand to be true that Georgia and Europe share a common identity.

To strengthen that connection however, Europe needs to do more to ensure the prosperity and stability of future generations.

For just as Georgia can play a key role as net contributor to European prosperity and stability so too can it be a source of instability if left outside.

My vision for Georgia focuses on how Georgia can contribute to Europe as a partner, as an ally and as a Member.

Our single ambition today is nothing less than becoming a full Member of the European Union.

In my opinion, our Rose Revolution showed not only who Georgians are but that we were willing to take the first brave step. Today I am asking that we take the next step together recognizing Georgia's membership in wider Europe.

For his first official visit abroad, Georgian President Mikhael Saakachvili addresses the Representatives of the the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. January 28, 2004 © E-S Photo

  • My vision for Georgia: What we must become

Under my leadership - the Georgian nation will be transformed - transformed into a nation known for its:

1. Investments in people thru education: Become competitive worldwide, Funding Georgia's future, Participant and benefactor of globalization.

2. Celebration of its unique culture:  We are European and have a special place in Europe.

3. Strengthening of its democracy which is a model at home and in the region: Home to all Georgians celebrating its multi-ethnic heritage (tolerance).

4. Home to an efficient and responsive government : Where all Georgian voices are heard and represented : Protection of human rights and freedoms.Where Georgia is a stable contributor to the international community.

5. A united nation that capitalizes on all the benefits of its geo-strategic location : Restarting regional economic development, Net-contributor to European security, a Cultural crossroads.

For his first official visit abroad, Georgian President Mikhael Saakachvili addresses the Representatives of the the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. January 28, 2004 © E-S Photo

  • Georgia's Foreign's policy perspectives: The Georgian nation will be an ally to all its friends and neighbors.

I have already made the point that Georgians are Europeans - with a fundamental set of values, culture, behavior and system of governance that place them firmly within the European family.

It is also clear that our unequivocal priority for the coming months and years is to further our formal integration into European structures to reunite Georgia with Europe after so many years of artificial separation.

At the same time, Georgia cherishes its long-term partnership with the United States. A partnership that my Administration will work to deepen and strengthen.

When it comes to our relations with the Russian Federation we must recall that in the past Russia played a negative role in our neighborhood. Unfortunately, their interpretation of peace keeping meant keeping one piece here and one piece there...

This strategy continues today in the form of Russia's reluctance to abide by international agreements to remove their military bases.

I wish to once again declare my profound commitment to rebuilding relations with Russia - relations that can only work if Russia is truly committed to playing a peaceful and constructive role.

A few days I extended my hand to Russia as an expression of my desire to build new relations between our countries, with positive outcomes for Georgia and Russia that take into consideration our legitimate economic and security interests.

It is my sincere hope that next month when I travel to Moscow, Mr. Putin will accept that hand.

For his first official visit abroad, Georgian President Mikhael Saakachvili addresses the Representatives of the the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. January 28, 2004 © E-S Photo

  • Challenges facing the Nation: What we need to do

Along with our powerful mandate comes a dizzying array of challenges and responsibilities that we must address and overcome in order to rebuild Georgia.

In facing these challenges, I am the first to recognize that we will not be able to change Georgia overnight.

What is important however is that we maintain the pace of change that way our people will see and understand just how serious we are.

First among these challenges is:

1. The elimination of corruption: To date we have already shown our will to crack down and we will move forward with resolve. Visible and institutional manifestations of corruption will be targeted. Goal is equal application of the law for all citizens and the freeing up of human capital and human potential.

2. The creation of economic opportunity : Simplification and harmonization of tax legislation ; elimination of harassment on roads and borders, the welcoming of foreign investors ; economic incentives for all citizens.

3. The establishment of lasting stability at home through the peaceful resolution of conflicts that have for too long divided our nation (Abkhazia and South Ossettia).

4. The elimination of poverty and the strengthening of our health care network (provision of basic guarantees).

5. The reform of governmental structures (including real local self government) and practices (professionalization of civil service).

6. The establishment of a strong and professional army.

For his first official visit abroad, Georgian President Mikhael Saakachvili addresses the Representatives of the the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. January 28, 2004 © E-S Photo

  • Who we are today: Oor new Government team

Succession is one of the biggest, and potentially most dangerous challenges facing a nation in transition.

Georgia proved that it could maintain law and order during it's critical transition by conducting elections that were recognized internationally as free and fair. This achievement showed the strength of the State, the wisdom of its leaders, and the character of its people.

I am particularly proud of my new government, who bring new energy and commitment to serving Georgia.

Their commitment is an inspiration to me making me confident that we will not fail.
In a few months we will hold Parliamentary elections and I look forward to once again sending a message to the world that this government and this Georgia is serious about is commitment to democracy.

  • Conclusion

Two days ago at my inauguration I dedicated my Presidency to the Georgian people to all those who have suffered and even given their lives to preserve our freedom to the children of Georgia whose future we must rebuild and to the reestablishment of complete and total territorial integrity throughout Georgia.

I stand before you today, presenting a firm and unwavering commitment to lead Georgia back to the European fold to stand once again, side by side with our European brothers and sisters so that together we can build a more stable and prosperous union.

By working together, I am confident that our partnership will not only deepen, but that it will succeed.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).