Paris '07 Workshop
Georgia’s Role in Euro-Atlantic Security
His Excellency Giorgi Baramidze
"Georgia saw the largest reduction in corruption among all transition countries... 95% of Georgian citizens surveyed...reported that they had not paid or heard about anybody paying a bribe to receive a public service..."
It is a distinct honor and pleasure for me to share with you my vision of Georgia’s role in Euro-Atlantic security, the process of Georgia’s integration with NATO, and the impact of the Riga Summit. Obviously, at such a challenging time for NATO, the Riga Summit, at which Allies agreed on NATO’s future key priorities, main goals, and objectives as well as its future role in contributing to peace and stability, was very important.
THE IMPACT OF THE RIGA SUMMIT
The Riga Summit was rather significant in terms of observing the development of the organization that we aspire to join. As you are aware, Georgia has been trying to contribute to global security. Hence, the challenges and priorities identified at the Riga Summit have been incorporated into our objectives. For example, the summit emphasized the importance of the success of NATO’s Afghan operation. Georgia deployed soldiers in Afghanistan during the 2005 September presidential elections and is also ready to contribute during the current crisis approximately 50 Special Forces servicemen in cooperation with the U.S. A Georgian medical group will also operate under Lithuanian command and additionally we are examining the possibility of sending a contingent for French, German, or U.K. brigades. Furthermore, Georgia has already demonstrated its ability to be a reliable and credible partner of the Alliance. At the moment Georgia has 850 people deployed in Iraq and 184 people deployed in Kosovo. The decision has been made to increase our contingent in Iraq to 2,000.
The Riga Summit reiterated the importance of ratifying the CFE Treaty, which is a cornerstone of European security. It is of the utmost importance that this decision not be questioned by any country. Russia should certainly fulfill the commitments it made at the Istanbul Summit in 1999 regarding the withdrawal of its military from Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, and we very much appreciate the fact that ratification of the adapted treaty depends on the fulfillment of these obligations.
The increasing threats of terrorism and instability due to failing states and regional conflicts, so familiar for my country, have been properly assessed as having global implications. Unresolved conflicts in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia, however, have been wrongly perceived as maintaining the status quo by a number of politicians. The situation continues to destabilize because of events that continue to take place in these regions, though we constantly demonstrate our peaceful intentions by undertaking unilateral actions. However, securing sustainable peace and stability in our region will require the collective efforts of international organizations and countries that have the political will and the capability to partner for security.
At the Riga Summit, promoting energy infrastructure security was declared one of NATO’s new priorities; it has been widely acknowledged that global security is impossible without tackling the energy security issue. Naturally, it is important that NATO, as a security organization, be involved in these matters. Georgia has already experienced the impact of using energy supplies for political reasons and is advocating for raised awareness of the dangers of such policies. The issue of energy security deserves to be addressed at international fora, including at NATO, in order to forge sustainable solutions. Georgia, with its potential to link the oil-rich Caspian region to the outside world, can be not only a contributor to European security in general but a contributor to the field of energy security as well.
GEORGIA’S INTEGRATION WITH NATO
Although the Riga Summit did not focus on enlargement, it did include very clear and important signals regarding enlargement that were encouraging to aspiring countries including Georgia. Membership in NATO is clearly a driving force of democratic transformation. Georgia has been working toward this goal since the Revolution of Roses in 2003, when it set itself the objective of becoming a self-sustaining, democratic state capable of handling its own affairs and contributing to global stability.
Naturally, integration with NATO is a top foreign policy and security priority for my country, and I am glad to say it is based on a national consensus not only of the major political parties but the public as well. In March 2007 all parties represented in parliament signed the memorandum in support of Georgia’s NATO membership and, consequently, voted on the relevant declaration. Public opinion polls conducted in December 2006 by the Gallup organization once again demonstrated overwhelming public support of NATO membership, with 83% of the population in favor.
We also have been successfully utilizing the instruments provided by NATO for undertaking democratic reforms. In October 2004 Georgia was the first country to be granted Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), which has proved to be an effective mechanism. Through the successful implementation of IPAP and the political support of Allies, in September 2006 Georgia was granted Intensified Dialogue (ID) on membership issues. We consider this an important step toward NATO membership and are very successfully utilizing all formats for cooperation provided in the ID framework.
In May 2007, the NAC-Georgia meeting was held in Brussels, where we once again demonstrated—and the Allies recognized—our strong progress in all fields and our serious commitment to democracy. With the ID framework and the IPAP instrument, Georgia has all the mechanisms needed for successful cooperation with NATO, and which, in due course, should lead us to the next stage: a Membership Action Plan (MAP). However, we are well aware that MAP does not necessarily guarantee membership in the Alliance, although this is crucial for reinforcing the process of democratic reforms and making them even more sustainable and irreversible.
Cooperation with the EU within the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) framework is another factor reinforcing Georgia’s reformation process and that is in full compliance with NATO integration processes. Here I would like to briefly elaborate on a number of important and necessary political, legal, and economic reforms that have been carried out:
1. Tackling corruption was one of our highest priorities and needed to be addressed urgently if other democratic reforms were to be implemented. The government of Georgia launched a vigorous campaign to eradicate corruption, which has led to an enormous decrease in bribery, nepotism, and other such ills. This is one of our most successful areas, a fact that has been recognized by key international organizations. For example, according to the 2006 World Bank report “Anticorruption in Transition 3,” Georgia saw the largest reduction in corruption among all transition countries between 2002 and 2005. In addition to this, 95% of Georgian citizens surveyed by the International Republican Institute in February 2007 reported that they had not paid or heard about anybody paying a bribe to receive a public service in the previous 12 months.
The extremely corrupt fields of law enforcement, energy, public administration, and education underwent thorough reforms with exemplary results: public trust in the Georgian police rose from less than 2% to more than 70% and remains high. As part of the reform, the number of taxes and the tax rates were reduced and measures were undertaken to fight corruption, resulting in an eight-fold increase in the budget between 2003 and 2006 and reducing the shadow economy from 80% to less than 10%. At the same time, the government elaborated a comprehensive strategy for criminal justice reform that aims at establishing sound procedures and ensuring fair treatment before the law.
Despite the very evident success in all fields, we are well aware that achieving positive results in the most troubled areas does not only involve changing laws or personnel. It requires transforming habits, attitudes, and cultural approaches and it takes time. But the most important point is that we have demonstrated our irreversible commitment to making comprehensive changes that should eventually lead us to success.
2. As you may know, in the fall of 2006 Georgia’s economy experienced enormous pressure: the ban on Georgian wine and mineral water by Russia was followed by an embargo of all Georgian products, the cutting of all transportation links, and other such hardships. However, despite the scepticism of international experts and our economic advisors, we managed to demonstrate incredible results, namely:
- Real GDP growth reached almost 10%
- Trade turnover saw a 40% increase
- Foreign direct investments increased by 155%
- According to the World Bank, in 2006 Georgia ranked number one in the world for the intensity of its reforms
All of these results prove that our economy is developing in the right direction and that we have made very difficult adjustments.
Georgia is quite rapidly evolving as a democratic nation and playing an increasingly important role not only in countering global challenges but spreading the values of democracy. We are committed to further enhancing our contribution to the development of a strong Euro-Atlantic security architecture.