Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, European Council President Charles Michel, as well as Presidents of Ukraine and Moldova, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Maia Sandu, respectively, addressed the Batumi International Conference – Georgia’s European Way, today.
The conference opening went amid protest by a group of media representatives and activists outside the Sheraton hotel, the conference venue in Batumi, demanding Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s resignation, as well as justice for Aleksandre Lashkarava, the journalist the died few days after being attacked by far-right mob during anti-LGBT violence of July 5 in Tbilisi.
President Zurabishvili’s Remarks
President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili said “Georgia’s European choice is inseparable from our history. It is inseparable from our values and it is enshrined in all our constitutions, since Georgia has regained independence.” “This choice, the choice of European path has for us and I know, for our friends, no alternative.”
The President stated that the European choice “is also the unaltered choice of our people and the one issue on which whatever the polarization, whatever the debates between the political parties, the one issue on which the consensus has never been disputed.”
According to President Zurabishvili, the Batumi Conference is a signal that “we are not alone in this endeavor… but it also means that we have to do much more and much faster.”
The Georgian President also noted that the Batumi Conference is a strong message for the Eastern Partnership, and that it “is a moment to take stock of the reengagement of the European Union in the region.” She said President Michel’s mediation of Georgia’s political crisis and his recent visit to Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the discussion of the important projects in the region, “mark the importance for the European Union of a neighboring region that will be democratic, that will be stable and that will be secure.”
PM Garibashvili’s Remarks
“It is clear that the Black Sea remains on the front lines of a dynamic regional chess match. That is why you are here and why this conference is so important,” asserted Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili.
He said Georgia continues “to honor our commitments to Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Our cooperation with the EU is as energetic as ever.” According to him, the implementation of the Association Agreement remains at the top of his government’s agenda and that his government is continuing reforms “aimed at stronger democratic institutions, legal approximation, and regulatory convergence with the EU.”
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Underlining the Georgian Dream government’s “ambitious pledge” to prepare Georgia for filing the EU membership application in 2024, PM Garibashvili said “I am certain that through continued reforms, steady implementation of the Association Agreement and gradual approximation with the EU, we will achieve this goal.”
He also stated that “our democracy is on track thanks to the efforts of our EU and American friends, led by EU President Michel. As a result of renewed multilateral support and financial assistance, normalcy is returning, democracy is working, and our economy is starting to boom.”
President Charles Michel’s Address
“The EU stands by you in solidarity… And there remain challenges to your reforms, it’s our common goal to overcome these challenges together,” addressed the European Council President to the Georgian, Ukrainian and Moldovan leaders.
“In December, we will hold next Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels. I make to you all promise today: the EU will remain strong and reliable partner for your region,” asserted President Michel, adding that “we count on your commitment to advance reforms, not to please Brussels, but in the interests of your people and your own societies.”
“And together, we must always stand up for human rights and the rule of law, equal rights, non-discrimination, freedom of expression, assembly, and the press [that] define who we are, and they are also the best guarantee for prosperity,” he underscored, presumably also alluding to recent events in Tbilisi, which left LGBT pride march cancelled, CSOs attacked, and at least 53 journalists attacked in an uncontained homophobic far-right violence.
President Michel also underlined the EU’s mobilization of 2,5 billion euros together with the European Investment Bank, during COVID-19 pandemic to the six eastern partners, noting that “this strong EU support clearly shows the strategic importance we give to our partnership with you.”
“Our Eastern partnership can be a launchpad for greater cooperation in all these areas… It serves as catalyst for democracy, good governance reforms, and rule of law,“ he added.
Ukrainian President’s Remarks
“We [Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine] have common aspirations today, because we have common visions tomorrow. This is full membership in the EU. Equality, freedom and democracy,” stated Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He said, “unfortunately, our countries are united not only by aspirations, but also the price we paid for them. We know not from books what the annexation is, what the occupation is, what the war is.”
According to the Ukrainian President, the meeting in the format of the Associated Trio, that of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, “forms a new regional dimension for EU enlargement, which will cover our three countries.” “Without them, the picture of the European project will look like an unfinished puzzle, which lacks at least these three, in my opinion, important particles.”
This article will be updated with the address of Maia Sandu, President of Moldova.