Georgian PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili addresses the General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly’s 72nd session in New York, September 21, 2017. Photo: UN
Addressing the UN General Assembly on September 21, PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili said Georgia is “growing, vibrant” and “resilient in the face of challenges.”
In a 17-minute speech, his second one since taking the prime minister’s post two years ago, Kvirikashvili spoke on issues ranging from economy and constitutional reform, to foreign policy and the occupied territories, and also expressed his condolences and sympathy to the victims of hurricanes in the Caribbean and the United States and earthquakes in Mexico.
From Aid Recipient to Top Performer
In his speech, the Prime Minister reviewed Georgia’s progress and commitment to democracy and governance reform over the last five years, highlighting the country’s advancement in international rankings such as fighting corruption, protection of property rights, an independent judiciary and law enforcement.
“This year marks the 25th anniversary of Georgia’s membership in the United Nations. Over this period, we managed to transform our country from a UN humanitarian aid recipient to a top reformer that recently was elected as the Chair of the Open Government Partnership,” he also stated.
The Prime Minister spoke on the ongoing constitutional reform process, saying that the country will introduce a parliamentary system and improve it “to conform to the best European standards.”
“In addition to addressing numerous contradictions in the current constitution, the new draft introduces many new progressive initiatives, such as the right to physical integrity, the rights of disabled persons, the right to access to the internet, environmental protections, and many more that are in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission,” Kvirikashvili noted.
“These commitments reflect Georgians’ aspirations to attain full membership in the European Union and NATO. Georgians understand this to be their destiny, as Georgia has long been an integral part of Europe’s broad cultural and historical tapestry,” he added.
Connecting East and West
Prime Minister Kvirikashvili spoke on the role of Georgia “as a hub for doing business in the region, connecting East and West.”
PM Kvirikashvili highlighted that the country signed the Association Agreement with the European Union and achieved visa-free travel to the Schengen area. “At the same time, Georgia has become the first country in the region to sign a Free Trade Agreement with China,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the two agreements enable the country “to use the full potential of its free trade networks.”
He then touched upon the One Belt One Road project, stressing that the initiative would “facilitate trade in high-value goods and services between Europe and Asia, carving significant time from traditional seaborne transport around the peripheries of Eurasia.”
“Asia and Europe will meet in this grand adventure through the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project, which we are implementing together with our Turkish and Azerbaijani partners, and Georgia’s new state-of-the-art port on the Black Sea at Anaklia,” he also noted.
Russian Occupation, Human Rights Violations
The Georgian PM told the audience that the UN members “are well aware that the Russian Federation continues to occupy two historic regions of Georgia’s sovereign territory in violation of its many international obligations, including dozens of Security Council and UNGA resolutions.”
“Since the beginning of 2017, the Russian Federation has intensified its policy of occupation and factual annexation of Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia,” Kvirikashvili stated, emphasizing on Moscow’s “military build-up” in the two regions, “intensified” fortification of the occupation lines and human rights violations, including of freedom of movement across the occupation line and right to education in Georgian language.
Kvirikashvili also noted that the county is “firmly committed” to the peaceful resolution of the Russia-Georgia conflict, and that “it has many times” reaffirmed its adherence to legally binding non-use of force. “Russia has not reciprocated,” he added.
The Government of Georgia, the Prime Minister went on, “is providing new instruments to rebuild trust with our compatriots living across the occupation line.” “We are determined to make the benefits of Georgia’s European agenda available to the people on the other side of occupation line,” Kvirikashvili stated and added that Tbilisi offers healthcare, education and other social benefits to the residents of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region.
‘Significant Contributor to Euro-Atlantic Security’
Despite Georgia’s own challenges, PM Kvirikashvili noted, the country “is a significant contributor to Euro-Atlantic security.” “We continue our active participation in international operations, including in Afghanistan and in the European crisis management operations in the Central African Republic and Mali,” he said, adding that the country is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and a party to a number of UN antiterrorism conventions.