Interactive Theme Hosted by GMF: Spotlight on the Wider Black Sea Region
Tbilisi, 25 May 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to address you at the 10th Georgian Defence and Security Conference. I would like to thank the Atlantic Council, The Royal United Services Institute, the German Marshal Fund and Conrad Adenauer Foundation for partnering and making this conference a success. Yesterday, as I heard, there were very interesting discussions and it once again showed the importance of the conference.
Today’s world faces many challenges, economic, environmental, social, which affects the global security, but the most dangerous threat we are witnessing is a challenged international rules based order. Peace and prosperity after the World War the second has been achieved through the respect of the international rules, which existentially important for the small states especially.
After being hidden behind the iron curtain, 25 years ago, Georgia regained its independence and has firmly decided to join the community which respects the international rules based order, shares same values and interests.
Today, it is symbolic to reiterate that we consider membership in European and Euro-Atlantic institutions as a return to the European family of nations where Georgia belongs historically and mentally. It is a firm choice of the people of Georgia and a matter of broad consensus among the major political forces.
With the historic signature of the Association Agreement, including the DCFTA, Georgia has moved to a qualitatively new level of cooperation with the EU by launching an ambitious process of political association and economic integration. We firmly believe that the Association Agreement is not the final stage in our progressive relations and there is more we can strive for to achieve our goal of building a truly European democracy. Currently, the Georgian society is awaiting for another historic step on its path towards Europe, which is a visa-free movement for Georgian citizens into the European Union.
At the same time, Georgia aspires to join NATO, the most successful alliance in history. Membership will provide Georgia with the opportunity of peaceful and sustainable development as NATO’s main goal is to ensure security, peace and prosperity of its members. Along with NATO’s military might, it is the commitment to the shared values of freedom, democracy and respect of human rights that cements together the allies and attracts other European democracies, including Georgia.
Our relations with the Alliance are solid and dynamic. We are successfully implementing Substantial NATO-Georgia Package adopted at 2014 Wales Summit. Its primary aim is to strengthen Georgia's defence capabilities and help the country to advance in its preparations towards membership.
I would like to touch upon the issue that over the years Georgia has gradually become an important security provider.
Through its participation in NATO and EU missions Georgia has proved its political determination and ability to contribute to common security and stability. We have demonstrated that we are not looking just for the security guarantees, but stand ready to share the burden of collective security.
At the same time Georgia has joined and is actively engaged in the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL/DAESH. The degree of violence and brutality that terrorism brought to the world is of the greatest concern. Addressing this challenge, especially taking into account its transnational and cross-border nature, requires well-coordinated international efforts.
Now let me draw your attention to the security environment in the Black Sea region.
Today nobody questions it any more that the Black Sea is the indispensible element of Euro-Atlantic security architecture. NATO enlargement has largely contributed to strengthening security in the Black Sea region, considering that three out of six littoral states are now members of the Alliance. The successful development of those states is a perfect example of the stabilising effect of NATO enlargement.
Peace and stability in the Black Sea region can generate numerous opportunities for successful cooperation. East-West energy corridor is one of such opportunities.
Energy security is becoming critically important in the context of growing hybrid threats the Euro-Atlantic community is facing. Today, it is crystal clear that energy dependence could be a major challenge for the national security of many of the democratic states.
The Black Sea and the South Caucasus have a tremendous importance for the energy security of Europe. One of the most promising and effective routes for the long-term diversification of energy supply of Europe lies through this region.
Stable functioning of existing energy transit projects and successful development of the new initiatives in this field bears serious importance for future security of Europe and is directly linked with stability in our region. Besides, our region has the potential to become a hub linking Europe with the growing East Asian countries. The revitalisation of the historic "Silk Road" with the Silk Road countries cooperating in the fields of transport, trade, industry and communications brings its benefits not just to the region but to the whole Europe.
However, it is no secret that major challenge to the full-scale regional cooperation is a military aggression against two Black Sea littoral states. Occupation of Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali in 2008 and illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 have significantly increased security challenges and disrupted the balance in the Black Sea region.
We all know that the aggression against Ukraine was a continuation of 2008 Russia’s occupation of the Georgian territories. August 2008 was the first time since invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 when Russian forces marched into a sovereign country. Regrettably, the aggressor did not feel serious international pressure for its deeds in Georgia, and continued its destructive policy towards other neighbours.
As a result, the large parts of the Black sea region have become the grey zones, which are beyond the control of the legitimate authorities. Recent killing of an innocent citizen of Georgia is one of the examples of the fragility of the situation. It is of utmost importance to establish credible international monitoring mechanisms within the occupied territories as soon as possible.
I must stress that notwithstanding the very complex security environment Georgia steadily continues its development. It has become a role-model in the region in carrying out fundamental institutional reforms and transformation. We launched a new wave of reforms, including in the areas never tackled before, as the reforms in the local government, judicial and economic spheres, etc.
It goes without saying that for us, the main objective of the reforms is to modernise the country and to put Georgia irreversibly on the path of freedom, democracy and prosperity. These values are a foundation of modern Georgian statehood, while European and Euro-Atlantic integration will provide the best guarantee that those values are protected and respected.
We firmly believe that embracing the European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations of the regional countries will send a strong signal that re-emergence of the spheres of influence and attempts to limit the foreign policy choices of sovereign states are unacceptable in the 21st century. At the same time, we are certain that NATO’s increased engagement and visibility in the region, re-assurance of members and the partners will be critical.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
NATO Summit in Warsaw is the best opportunity to address the challenges described above. For Georgia, It is essential that the outcome of the Warsaw Summit is a clear-cut and evident step forward in the direction of membership which is our ultimate goal. In our view the Summit outcome should have two dimensions – one is political support of Georgia’s integration process and the second dimension is deepening of the practical cooperation.
It is obvious that the agenda of NATO Summit in Warsaw will be mostly focused on security of the Member States and reassurance of the Eastern Allies.
At the same time it will be essential to avoid misperception that the Alliance is not concerned about the security or stability of the Eastern European nations (NATO Partners and the Aspirants) that are outside of the Article 5 umbrella.
We understand that it is not an easy time and Euro-Atlantic community is facing multiple challenges. However, we have to make sure that this situation does not divert our attention from the other equally important issues.
Thank you for your attention!