NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller (second from the left), Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, President Giorgi Margvelashvili, Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze, May 29, 2017. Photo: nato.int
President Giorgi Margvelashvili, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze addressed the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (PA) before its vote on the Declaration on Supporting Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic Integration on May 29.
In his remarks, President Giorgi Margvelashvili stressed the importance of holding the Spring 2017 PA session in Tbilisi, and noted that the gesture was seen by both Georgia’s allies and it adversaries.
President Margvelashvili called for a coordinated response to the challenges facing both NATO and the values of freedom, democracy and human rights, saying that “in this process, Georgia is a responsible player.” He added that since the establishment of the Georgian armed forces, “we have always stood with our allies and defended the global stability.”
The President reminded the audience that 20% of the Georgian territory is occupied, and that the country had experienced ethnic-based expulsion of its citizens. He added that the occupation of Georgia began not in 2008, but in the early 1990s and was carried out in the manner which, today, is known as the hybrid warfare. He said that despite this, Georgia has been “persistently developing as a democracy, persistently developing in the direction of the free society and the European and Euro-Atlantic integration.”
Margvelashvili added that the country is “conducting very stable and rational policy in order not to deepen the crisis and be a producer and guarantor of stability in the region.”
The President concluded his address by saying that Georgia is “patiently waiting for the day when the Alliance decides to become stronger by Georgia’s membership.”
Prime Minister Kvirikashvili also addressed the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, saying that the PA session in Tbilisi is “a very strong demonstration of support to Georgia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and the process of becoming a NATO member,” as well as a “truly firm signal” for the Georgian people.
Kvirikashvili said there was a “very positive dynamic” in Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration process, with an “unprecedented level of practical cooperation through implementation of the Annual National Program and the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package.”
Giorgi Kvirikashvili also said that the NATO member states reiterated at the Alliance’s Warsaw Summit that Georgia had “all practical instruments to prepare for NATO membership.” Kvirikashvili added that Georgia is contributing to the Euro-Atlantic security, including having the largest military force in Afghanistan among the non-NATO member states.
The Prime Minister said Georgia welcomed NATO’s decision to strengthen military preparedness “on its eastern and south-eastern flanks, including the Black Sea region,” and had already informed the Alliance it was ready to participate in the initiative.
PM Kvirikashvili touched upon Georgia’s EU membership aspirations as well, saying the country has “an ambition to reach the level of integration, when only the political decision will be left for achieving the desired result.”
Kvirikashvili highlighted Georgia’s geopolitical position that, in his words, provides “unique opportunities” for connecting Europe and Asia in the areas of trade, transportation and energy. He said Georgia is a reliable transit partner and a “leading country of the transportation axis, which actively and successfully participates in important strategic projects and initiatives.”
The Georgian Prime Minister also spoke about the challenges facing Georgia, in the form of the occupation of the 20% of the country’s territory, and its militarization that poses “important threat” to Georgia’s national security. Kvirikashvili also pointed out “the illegal annexation of Crimea, followed by destabilization in eastern Ukraine,” saying that these actions, as well as “the redistribution of the spheres of influence,” were aimed at destroying “the great progress achieved in building the united, free and peaceful Europe.”
Kvirikashvili called for the West to respond to these challenges by “more unity and firmness in defense of liberty and other fundamental values,” as well as the support of the willing European countries’ Euro-Atlantic aspirations. The Prime Minister concluded by saying he was confident that Georgia had already created the conditions for NATO to “make the next step” for the Georgian membership of the Alliance.
In his speech before the Assembly, Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze thanked NATO and its member states for the support the country “has always felt during the last 15 years, after Georgia officially expressed its desire to join NATO.”
Kobakhidze said that Georgia’s foreign policy choice was “a logical expression of the Georgian people’s historical development,” while Russia’s leaders were trying to hinder “the Georgian people’s aspirations for freedom” through “crude interference in Georgia’s affairs, instigating conflicts, direct military aggression, and, finally, creeping annexation.” He added that Moscow was trying to “frighten, divide and control individuals and peoples wherever it has a chance – in Georgia’s occupied territories of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region, Crimea and Donbass, Eastern Europe and Middle East.”
The Georgian Parliamentary Chairman concluded by calling the NATO PA members for unity in the name of “protecting freedom and peace.”
The Spring Session of the NATO PA in Tbilisi ran from May 26 to May 29. More than 200 lawmakers from parliaments of NATO Allies and 21 partner countries attended the meeting. The four-day meeting in Tbilisi marked only the fifth time in its six-decade history that the NATO PA has held a session outside the trans-Atlantic Alliance.
The Assembly will meet next to hold its annual autumn session October 6-9 in Bucharest, Romania.
This post is also available in: Georgian