On November 8, following the European Commission’s positive recommendation on Georgia’s EU candidacy, President Salome Zurabishvili, together with representatives of the diplomatic community, addressed the people of Georgia at the Orbeliani Palace at the event which launched the “Our Voice to Europe” signature campaign [ed: Coincidentally, in Georgian ‘ჩვენი ხმა ევროპას’ / ‘Chveni Khma Evropas’ carries an additional meaning of ‘We vote for Europe’ in Georgian].
President Salome Zurabishvili’s speech
The event commenced with the Georgian hymn. The President began her speech by congratulating the Georgian people at home and abroad on the European Commission’s decision “Congratulations – this day belongs to you! This day is the achievement of Georgia!” -she said.
She also recalled and praised the prominent Georgian ancestors associated with the country’s European aspirations, calling this day their day. Emphasizing the importance of the Georgian people, the President said, “Above all, this day is your day, because the people of Georgia have resolutely expressed their will, enduring both happiness and sorrow, even in the face of war, corruption, and other pressures.” Zurabishvili stressed that if not Europe, “any other path leads to slavery and the loss of our true selves,” and she also said that this is a reality best understood by the Georgian people.
The President also said: “This is our response to Russia! This is our answer to the occupation!” and paid tribute to those who fought for Georgia’s freedom and European path.
In her speech, the President mentioned that she congratulated the leaders of Ukraine and Moldova on the European Commission’s recommendation to start accession negotiations with them. “I am confident that we will traverse this still lengthy road together…all three of our countries will attain full membership in the European Union,” the President said.
The President also emphasized that while the European Commission’s recommendation “is a significant part of the final decision,” it will be up to the European Council whether or not to grant Georgia candidate status, a decision expected to be announced on December 14-15. She added: “As we move forward, in the weeks leading to the final decision, we must remain united, actively participating and taking responsibility.”
Emphasizing her personal role, the President said she would continue to work hard for Georgia’s candidacy. She announced her participation in the “Paris Peace Forum” on November 10-11, where Zurabishvili will take part in a panel discussion on crises and conflicts alongside Charles Michel. The Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Garibashvili, is also slated to attend, and as Zurabishvili said, “in this context, whether intentional or unintentional” their presence will “set an example of depolarization.”
Stressing the importance of unity, President Zurabishvili announced the launch of the “Our Voice to Europe” petition campaign. Georgian citizens can sign the letter both physically at the Orbeliani Palace and electronically, appealing to European leaders to grant Georgia candidate status in December.
The appeal reads as follows:
Our Voice to Europe
We, the citizens of Georgia,
Address you, the leaders of Europe, while awaiting your historic decision next December. We want to bring to you our voice, the united voice of our people, and to let you see the depth of our united motivation.
We call on you to grant our nation the candidate status, in accordance with the longstanding aspirations of the Georgian nation and the unyielding will of its people. Nothing has been able to alter the determination of the Georgian people despite the dire challenges, neither war nor occupation. We have long been bound together by our shared past and our common values. Therefore, our future lies with you – in Europe. This future has no alternative!
In accordance with the provisions enshrined in the Constitution of Georgia, we pledge an unwavering commitment and our unrelenting efforts towards our goal. Irrespective of diverse political affiliations and views, we are united hereby in signing this petition and are therefore pleading for receiving the candidate status.
The President allowed emphasized the importance of the Georgian diaspora abroad. “Their role is of immense significance, as they are already in Europe or other parts of the world, but manly in Europe…Their full involvement in this initiative is essential and cannot be overlooked.”
The President also said that the Orbeliani Palace will host the sectoral meeting and gatherings of representatives from various fields. “Diverse groups will convene at the palace to sign the petition and voice their affiliation with Europe,” – Zurabishvili said.
The President spoke about artwork set on the stage while she was speaking, saying “these artists have a scope, a profound desire, and a dream, and perhaps, with our support and the assistance of the EU ambassador, their collective work can reach the heart of Europe and serve as a representation of us there.”
Zurabishvili said that the signing process is open to all, “regardless of their political or religious beliefs,” noting that the presidential administration “has extended invitations to everyone, including members of both the ruling party and the opposition” to attend the event. “I am not certain if everyone has arrived, but I believe we are portraying an image of unity here,” – Zurabishvili said.
After reading the text, Salome Zurabishvili signed the letter as President of Georgia, after which the signatures were made available to everyone.
The event at the Orbeliani Palace was also attended by the representatives of the diplomatic corps, including the EU Ambassador to Georgia Paweł Herczyński, the US Ambassador Robin Dunnigan, and EU member states’ diplomatic representatives.
EU Ambassador Paweł Herczyński’s speech:
Paweł Herczyński also delivered a speech from the Orbeliani Palace, congratulating Georgia’s political leadership, including the President Zurabishvili, “but first and foremost…the people of Georgia” on the EC’s positive recommendation. “You have strongly and consistently supported Georgia’s European integration,” – EU Ambassador said. He added: “This is a big recognition from the European Union of the progress achieved within the last years and the overwhelming public support towards EU membership,” – Herczyński added.
He also spoke of the killing of a Georgian citizen by the occupying forces on November 6. “I hope that the positive recommendation from the European Commission will also encourage the occupied breakaway territories to move closer to the rest of the country and eventually help bring peace resolution to the continued tragic division of Georgia,” – the Ambassador said.
According to Herczyński, the EC decision also underlined “that the European Union sees Georgia as a key partner in the region, which can play an important role in bringing peace and stability in the neighborhood.”
He also emphasized that despite the positive recommendation, Georgia still needs further reforms to move closer to the EU, as one of the next steps is the actual decision of the European Council in December, whether or not to grant Georgia the candidate status. “My one and most important message to all of you would be that now is the time to unite and join forces for Georgia’s European integration,” – said the Ambassador, adding that “the enlargement of the EU over past years have demonstrated: once there is political consensus, all the reforms can be implemented rapidly and the process can move very quickly, and this is what I wish to Georgia and all of you.”
The EU Ambassador concluded by saying that “the voice of the people of Georgia has been heard loud and clear in Brussels, now it is time for the political leaders to mirror the sentiments of the people of Georgia and work together on speeding up the meaningful reforms necessary for moving Georgia closer to the EU.”
U.S Ambassador Robin Dunnigan’s speech:
The US Ambassador to Georgia, Robin Dunnigan congratulated the country, saying that the United States “enthusiastically welcomes the European Commission’s recommendation on Georgia’s candidate status.”
She also said that the U.S will continue to work to support Georgia “hand in hand with the EU, with Madam President, [with] the political leadership of Georgia, [with] the Government of Georgia, and [with] the People of Georgia.”
Ambassador Dunnigan recalled the Georgians who died for freedom alongside U.S. and NATO soldiers, and thanked the country for their service.
At the end of her speech, the Ambassador expressed her hope and will for the common future of the U.S., the EU, and Georgia. “This is a great day for all of us in the transatlantic community and congratulations truly to the people of Georgia,” the Ambassador Dunnigan said.
The event outside the Orbeliani Palace concluded with the hymn of the European Union.
- 08/11/2023 – Georgian Politicians React to Receiving EU Candidacy Recommendation
- 08/11/2023 – Prime Minister’s Press Conference on EC Recommendation related to Georgia’s EU Candidacy
- 08/11/2023 – EU Ambassador: This is a big recognition from the EU, however Important Work Remains to be Done