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<b> <span lang="EN-GB" style="font-size:14.0pt;color:red">Why Georgia Is Serious About EU Integration</span><span style="font-size:14.0pt;color:red"> ?</span></b>

 

Why Georgia Is Serious About EU Integration

 

"We do not need to become a battlefield between great powers. Georgia is not pro-American nor is it pro-Russian. Georgia is pro-Georgian and that means strong, responsible and friendly relations with all of its neighbors." Speech given by President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili in Berlin, Germany. Friday, January 30, 2004. Source: Press Office, Georgian Presidency, Tbilisi.

  • Introduction : New Directions for Georgia

Ladies and Gentlemen, Honored Guests, Friends: It is a privilege for me to address you this afternoon on my first official visit to Europe as President of Georgia. I am proud that I have come to the heart of Europe – to Berlin, to discuss recent events in my country with my colleagues and German counterparts.

 

Georgia as you all know is a nation whose customs and traditions are deeply rooted in European culture and European values. Georgia is also a nation that shares much with the German people: We have strong cultural links. We have done business with each other for more than one hundred years (i.e. Siemens); and most significantly, We share common aspirations to live in a free and democratic society, integrated within European structures.

 

For us Georgians, I want to say that we understand the experience of German reunification in a deep and profound manner – as we too seek to reclaim our rightful place in Europe that was denied us for too long.

 

Unfortunately, the end of Communism did not result in the immediate reestablishment of full integration with Europe, because in many ways - the former leadership failed the governance test. The culmination of this failure in governance was in fact the spark that led to our peaceful Rose Revolution – a Revolution driven by average citizens who stood up to defend the fundamental right to freely chose and elect their own government when it was denied them.

 

The citizens of Georgia – of whom I am extremely proud, sent a message around the world last November – that their beliefs, that their values are fundamentally European – and that Georgians will no longer tolerate the disintegration of their state.

 

Through massive peaceful civil disobedience, the citizens of Georgia regained their freedom once again. A freedom that I have pledged to protect through the reform and restructuring of the Georgian state.

  • A Few Thoughts On The Meaning Of The Revolution

I think there are three main lessons that can be learned from our Rose Revolution. 1. The first lesson is that Georgia has once again proven – at home and abroad – that it is a nation whose culture, values and system of governance are fundamentally European.

 

Despite our past artificial separation from Europe, the Revolution showed that we have succeeded in retaining, maintaining and defending our democratic vision.

 

If ever there was a doubt that Georgians were not Europeans or that we have different values – this Revolution showed both the strength and the depth of our universal commitment.

 

Here I wish to make a specific point: Georgia’s commitment to the principles of liberal democracy is not a reflection of a small elite but rather, a reflection of the overwhelming will of the people – as expressed during the dramatic month of November when all across Georgia, hundreds of thousands of citizens made their voices heard.

 

2. The second lesson is that Georgia’s future – as a stable and peaceful democracy – is dependent upon, and rooted in, the full integration within Euro-Atlantic structures.

 

As President, I view full integration into the European Union as both a goal and a manifestation of our rightful destiny.

  • Because we are European – we belong in Europe.

Looking rationally at the situation, the first step in this process will be for Europe to recognize Georgia’s place in the Wider European Initiative.

 

During my meetings yesterday in Strasbourg and here in Berlin – I am calling on our European friends, and in particular MY GERMAN FRIENDS, to answer our call and recognize our role.

 

Through a strengthened partnership between Germany and Georgia, I am confident that we can succeed in completing the cycle of full European unification. I am confident that Georgia will be a reliable and responsible for partner.

 

3. The third lesson of the Revolution is that Georgia’s integration into Europe will make Europe a safer and more prosperous Union. Georgia will become a net contributor to European stability.

 

I make that claim for a number of reasons.

 

First, Georgia has already survived its most important governance test – Managing the succession process.  

 

For any transitional nation in the world – the succession test is perhaps the most brutal – for it exposes the nation to threat of instability and disintegration.

 

While many predicted we would fall apart and disintegrate during our succession – Georgia in fact became stronger as a result, and more unified.

 

Georgians should be proud – and Georgia should be recognized, for passing that test with dignity and resolve.

 

We passed this critical governance test because of our maturity and because of the deep and universal support for democracy that binds our nation and establishes its strong, European identity.

 

Passing the succession test is clear proof that stability is on the rise in Georgia.

 

Second, our Revolution provided confirmation that democratic, non-violent transition is possible in the States of the former Soviet Union.

 

Please understand, while our intention is not to export Georgia’s model to rest of the region – we nevertheless provided a powerful example to nearby States that stability and democracy are linked and are possible!

 

In that respect, Georgia’s example CAN lead to region-wide stability and the spread of democracy and democratic principles.

 

Put otherwise, by investing in Georgia’s success today – which is a unique window of opportunity – we have an opportunity to change the fate of an entire region tomorrow….

 

Finally, Georgia’s stability and democracy contributes DIRECTLY to European security.

 

It is high time Georgia becomes a contributor to Europe and not just a recipient of donor assistance – and today Georgians proved this is possible.

 

Specifically, I mean that the reinforcement of democracy in Georgia and Georgia’s integration within Europe will mean the Union has a strong and reliable partner on its Eastern flank. That frontline partner can help the EU solve many difficult issues while at the same time, opening up new markets and new opportunities.

 

An example of some of the issues where Georgia can help the EU include:

 

-         Solving migration issues.

-         Fighting the spread of terrorism.

-         Ending human trafficking.

-         Interdiction of drugs and weapons. And

-         Creation of real economic opportunities for EU companies and EU citizens through access to new and untapped regional markets.

In other words, Georgia’s entrance into the EU will create a win-win situation for the entire community and all of its citizens.

 

Reflecting for a moment on the experiences of one of our role models in the region, I want to share with you the words of the Prime Minister of Estonia, Mr. Mart Laar who observed in his article in the Wall Street Journal that:“ Europe’s future today, depends on countries like Georgia”. I fully agree with his Excellency and would like to add that Georgia looks to Germany for the leadership and partnership to make that possible.

  • Challenges Along The Way

I am sure that no one in this room believes Georgia’s road to full integration in Euro-Atlantic structures will be easy – nor will it take place overnight.

I know – and so do the Georgian people, that as a nation – we have no other choice. Nevertheless, Georgia faces a number of fundamental challenges that it must tackle. And it must tackle them swiftly, with purpose and with strength.

 

Some of the challenges are internal – some of those challenges are external. Internal Challenges:

-         Fighting corruption (visible and institutional).

-         Eradicating poverty (poverty reduction plan).

-         Spurring economic growth:

-         Tied to defeating corruption,

-         Reducing poverty and

-         Changing the tax and investment environment (Under my Presidency, all foreign investors will be welcome in Georgia and given the full support of my government.)

-         Reforming government and governance (real local self governance and down-sizing and professionalization).

-         Re-establishing territorial integrity.

  • External Challenges:

Re-establishing territorial integrity is both an internal and an external problem as it touches the heart of Georgian-Russian relations.

During my Inauguration I extended my hand to Russia as a signal of our willingness to open a new era of positive relations.

Next month when I travel to Moscow, it is my hope that Mr. Putin will take that hand. In the past, it is true that Russia played a negative role in Georgia, conducting a policy of peacekeeping that sought to keep one piece here and one piece there. Indeed, they are still dragging their feet on the issue of base closings.

Nevertheless, I am sure that we can forge a new basis for cooperation because we share so many of the same interests.

 

I doubt many of the people in this room think that I have much in common with Mr. Putin – and yet there are many fundamental issues where we see eye to eye:

 

- Both of us have a deep and profound respect for the State.

- Both of us believe in the Rule of Law.

- Both of us love our countries.

- And both of us wish to strengthen and build our economy.

 

If Russia is willing to adopt a pragmatic approach to its relations with Georgia – one grounded in respect for the sovereignty and dignity of the Georgian people – I am sure we can enhance our cooperation and advance our mutual legitimate interests.

 

Just as I have asked for Germany’s support in completing our integration into Euro-Atlantic structures – so too am I confident that Germany can be a key player in helping Moscow understand that the new leadership in Tbilisi is ready for new dialogue and a new beginning. I want to state today, for the record, that Georgia is committed to solving its territorial problems using peaceful, non-violent solutions – working cooperatively with the Russians and other international partners.

 

Our Rose Revolution proved that we can bring about great changes without bloodshed or violence. While Georgia’s foreign policy is deeply oriented towards the West because our culture and values are Western in style and substance– we do not need to make a zero-sum choice.

 

We do not need to become a battlefield between great powers. Georgia is not pro-American nor is it pro-Russian. Georgia is pro-Georgian and that means strong, responsible and friendly relations with all of its neighbors.

  • Conclusion

Four 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, with our German Friends, so that together we can build a more stable and prosperous union.

 

Today, Georgia is on the way home – the journey however is not yet finished. There are important doors that remain only half-open. The Georgian people are determined to open those doors and it will take your help and your commitment to welcome us in.

 

By working together, I am confident that we will succeed and that we will share a common future.

 

 


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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).

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