Joint Press Point of Georgian President and Foreign Ministers of Baltic Countries and Iceland

On May 15, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili and the visiting Foreign Ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Iceland made a joint statement regarding the adoption of the Foreign Agents law. At the press point, which followed the Ministers’ meeting with the President, Salome Zurabishvili addressed the future plan of actions, while the Ministers emphasized their support to Georgia’s EU integration and expressed hope that the Agents’ law will be withdrawn soon.

The President of Georgia thanked the European partners who have always supported the European future of the country and spoke about the heavy burden that the ruling party’s decision on the adoption of the law will have on the Georgian aspirations for EU integration. She emphasized that the government didn’t take into account the will of the people and the advice of the international partners and made the decision in an unilateral way. She emphasized that with this decision Georgia has turned away from the EU path, which it had already walked halfway.

The President stressed that the undesirability of the decision has been proved by the almost 30 days of protests of the people against it, which proves that the known figure of 85% of Georgians supporting the Euro-Atlantic integration is real. She emphasized that these demonstrators show that it is important for Georgia to have European values: freedom, democracy and above all independence; and that Georgians will never go back to Russia.

“We also discussed what the next steps should be. I clearly explained to our friends that in no way will I use my veto to enter into a false, artificial, deceptive, misleading discussion. No and never. Because I will not betray the spirit that is in this country today, that needs to be promoted. I will be the person who will open this road and I will not block this road to go forward, this message will be delivered by our friends to everyone where it is needed, so that no one thinks that the Georgian president can be used by this government to save the face of this government,” – Salome Zurabishvili emphasized.

She also talked further into the future plans, saying: “On today’s agenda is the question of how to save Georgia.” The President said that she familiarized “our friends and partners with our future plans” about how the European platform should look like, which she’s said she’s been working recently. She said she will soon present the platforms to the Georgian citizens, stressing that the this initiative will take unified Georgia to the elections and with the elections “we’ll return Georgia to the right course.”

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis began his statement by emphasizing that the Georgians are the “closest friends”. He said that that the Ministers represent nations which are “friends who care about Georgia and its people, who care about Georgia’s European future”. He noted that Georgia has been making headlines in the international media in recent weeks because of its controversial foreign influence law, the totally unacceptable use of force against protesters, the orchestrated campaign of intimidation of non-governmental organizations and activists, “but also because of remarkable resilience this people have shown, undeterred by violence and intimidation, not mislead by anti-Western propaganda, making their European aspirations visible and heard time and time again.”

Minister Landsbergis stressed that ” in free world the rule of law, human rights, fundamental freedoms, as well as civil society are all critical assets and not a liability. Its only non-democratic regimes that see their oppression as the way to preserve their power. I sincerely hope Georgia will not find itself on the slippery slope in that direction. The first objective for us coming here thus is to express our support and solidarity with everyone who fights for Georgia’s democratic and European choice.”

He noted the support towards Georgians European aspirations and highlighted that the second objective of their visit is “to pass a very clear message to the representatives of the ruling party both in the Parliament and the government both of the risks and severe consequences Georgia will be facing if they continue on this very dangerous course.”

“Georgia has already achieved a lot on its EU integration path, you have never been as close to the start of the EU accession negotiations as you have come last December, after the European Council took a decision to grant Georgia the candidate status on the understanding that it surely implements the remaining recommendations, however neither the achievement of the past nor those of the future can be taken for granted. It took many years, lots of effort, but everything can be lost in just one blink,” – stated Minister Landsbergis.

He noted that the Ministers believe it to be their duty to inform the public about the risks that the law brings and added: “Let me be very clear: the adoption of the foreign agent’s law, as well as continued repression against Georgia’s civil society will stop Georgia’s further progress on EU and NATO path. If this happens, responsibility will lie squarely on Georgia’s government. However, it is still not too late. We have heard from the madam President that she plans to veto the law, and this will offer a way-out opportunity for the government withdrawing this unfortunate legislative initiative all together.”

The Minister also concluded: “There should be no illusions that cosmetic amendments to this law may make it democracy or EU proof. This law is not compatible with European choice. You cannot fix something that is fundamentally broken. It is our genuine interest to help Georgia to make its European journey until its final destination. As late Prime Minister of Georgia, Zurab Zhvania said in his speech in Strasbourg when Georgia joined the Council of Europe “I’m Georgian and therefore I’m European”, and yes you are!”

Foreign Minister of Estonia Margus Tsahkna begun his statement by underlining that the Ministers aren’t visiting Georgia to “give lectures” on what Georgia should do, noting that in democracies this type of decisions are made through elections. He stressed: “We know exactly that leaving in the neighboring with Russia is a very dangerous place… Russia has put all the neighboring countries in the position that we must make a choice where to be, towards freedom or on the Russian [side], together with Russia.”

“I’m here today because Estonia cares a lot about Georgia historically and as well today and we care about the Georgian people… We have supported the Georgian reforms for decades and we have shared the view with Georgia that the best guarantee for the democratic and prosperous Georgia is the membership of the European Union,” – Minister Tsahkna stated.

Regarding the law, the Minister said: “This law is violating human rights and civic freedoms and everything that EU stands for and this law is a symbol… of the choice between Russia or European Union. This law is taking Georgia further away from the European Union path. This is the U-turn to which the European Union will certainly react. EU integration is a merit-based process. When you reform, you get benefits such as visa freedom or above all the possibility to become an EU member. When Georgia backtracks, you will lose things. And in this case of human rights violations, the EU will normally introduce sanctions…”

Foreign Minister of Iceland Thórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir noted in her speech that the Ministers “come here to show that we are all willing to demonstrate solidarity with Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations.” She added that as the representative of a small state which has benefited a lot by joining the EU and safeguarding European values, she understand what benefits the law actually threatens.

Minister Gylfadóttir further stressed that the “values of freedom, human rights and rule of law are not a price of admission into the Euro-Atlantic community, but the very real keys to increase prosperity and peace. We have learned this from our own experience and been fortunate to work closely with the Baltic states, have seen firsthand how their journey has brought prosperity in their societies. We’ve made this journey out of respect for Georgia, its leadership, and its people. We hope will be able to count Georgia as the part of the world that sticks up for the liberties and rights that are being attacked by Russia and that is actually reflected in over 85 percent support of the people of Georgia, supporting the trans-Atlantic path.”

Finally, the Foreign Minister of Latvia Baiba Braže emphasized in her speech that the visit wasn’t planned “to become parts of [Georgia’s] internal political process.” She noted that based on Georgian’s open support towards EU integration “the Baltic states and us Nordic-Baltic group [have invested] enormous amount of political capital around the EU and NATO table financial, political and other capital in supporting Georgia’s objective.”

She added that this support will continue, saying: “We want and we see Georgia as part Europe and as part of the EU. Its European path is important to us, the same as Ukraine’s… Albania’s and other countries…”

“We are very clear also in the same time with the concerns that we have. The joining of the EU is not just a political objective. It requires very practical steps of adjusting the country, its legal system, its justice system, its law enforcement system, and many others to the European standards and that is not an involvement in internal politics, that are European standards that we all had to fulfill, while joining the EU. So its nothing anti-Georgian, its nothing anti-Government…” – she added.

Regarding the law, Minister Braže noted that the European countries don’t comprehend why this law was necessary to be passed, adding: “Yes we heard the message of veto and we do hope that it is used and this time is used for a full reconsideration of what it requires to be a member state of the EU. So, this is our message today, it is also the package of other laws that we have a concern, we have a concern how the demonstrators are treated, the right to peaceful assembly is a basic human right and all the governments have to ensure that.”

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