Foreign Policy Priorities of Georgia Remarks by H.E. Tamar Beruchashvili, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia

22 June 2015

Esteemed colleagues, 
Dear students and future leaders, 
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honor and a great pleasure to be here with you today. I would like to thank the hosts for this wonderful opportunity to talk to you, students of the Foreign Service Institute. I know this center of excellence enjoys much admiration around the world for supreme educational standards and prominent alumni.

While the unique history and exceptional culture of Georgia undoubtedly deserve a series of lectures, I will focus on the most befitting theme for you, as future diplomats; namely, our foreign policy endeavors. The relations between Georgia and Argentina are full of symbolism and content. Historically, Argentine Republic has always been a supporter of the independence of my country. Let me underline with much appreciation that when the Democratic Republic of Georgia declared independence back in 1918 the Argentine Republic was the first country of the western hemisphere to recognize our independence on 15 September, 1919. Unfortunately, our independence was short-lived. Three years later it was forcefully overran by the Russian Bolsheviks.

My special appreciation goes to my dear colleague, H.E. Hector Timerman. Quite symbolically, he was the first Foreign Minister from the Latin American region to visit Georgia, back in September 2012.

Today, I come here to bring Georgia closer to you discuss our achievements, prospects, challenges, and the significance that my country holds regionally and globally.

I come from a European country that lies between the Black and Caspian Seas, in the South Caucasus region, and on the ancient Silk Road. Due to its unique geostrategic location, Georgia not only bridges East and West, North and South since ancient times, but has long become a powerful hub, where cultures and civilizations met, merged and coexisted for millennia. The small Christian country (religion adopted in 337 A.D. brought by a missionary Saint Nino of Cappadocia) has been in a constant battle for independence throughout its history. And I am delighted to say that Georgia rightfully prides itself for historical, time-tested respect for plurality and diversity.

After regaining its independence in 1991, Georgia has been through a turbulent period due to the difficult transition period to the market economy as well as growing unrest in its breakaway regions. Under these circumstances, our resources of reaching out to the rest of the world were limited. Today Georgia is opening up to the world as a committed, responsible and reliable partner. Our foreign policy is based upon more engagement with different regions of the worlds through political dialogue, strengthening trade and commercial ties, education and scientific exchanges, people-to-people contacts, cultural partnership, etc. 
Our foreign policy priorities serve the purpose of consolidating a secure, prosperous, liberal-democratic state. To put it shortly, our foreign policy priorities are: 
•    Ensuring de-occupation of our occupied regions and restoration of the territorial integrity; 
•    Integrating into the European Union and NATO; 
•    Promoting sustainable economic growth, including via enhancing our role as an economic, energy and transportation hub;
•    Building partnership relations and diversifying the existing formats of partnership with the countries of Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Rim.

We firmly believe that cooperation – and not confrontation – should be the name of the game in international affairs. Especially in the globalized world of ours, we are looking forward to new partnerships that are based upon a lasting, mutual benefit – geographic distances notwithstanding. 

European and Euro-Atlantic integration:

We place a special emphasis upon our European and Euro–Atlantic integration efforts. The integration into European space of security, prosperity and stability is a cornerstone of our foreign policy. Georgia has always belonged to the European civilization and today we are making significant steps to return to the European family of nations. 

The concept of the European Union, “united in diversity”, is particularly important for Georgia as a long-term guarantor of our national uniqueness and traditions, rich historical and cultural heritage, and sustainable development. It is our national idea and a civilizational choice, which enjoys broad public and political consensus. This is our way to return to the family of European nations, to which Georgia belongs culturally, historically and mentally. And nothing can derail us from this track. 

In June of 2014 the EU-Georgia Association Agreement was signed, which represents the beginning of a very important and qualitatively new process that makes the European integration our domestic policy. Successful implementation of the Agreement will have a major transformative effect on our state as a whole, influencing the quality of democracy, governance and the rule of law. DCFTA, which is the main component of the Association Agreement, opens new prospects for Georgia to gradually integrate into the EU internal market and increase our attractiveness for foreign direct investments, which will usher in modern technology and know-how, create new jobs and prospects for our citizens. Since 1 September 2014, the AA including the DCFTA component is applied on the provisional basis. 

Overall, present-day security challenges, especially in our region, determine Georgia’s choice to form part of the collective security arrangements. It is natural that Georgia can better safeguard its freedom, security and prosperity by being a part of political and military alliances of democratic, successful nations. Therefore, eventual membership in NATO remains one of the main priorities of our foreign policy agenda.

Transportation & Energy Hub

Georgia provides the shortest route between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea basins, and their vast adjacent regions, and is uniquely positioned to transit the increased trade flows between Europe, Central Asia and China.

The strategic location of Georgia, macroeconomic stability, accomplished reforms and developing transport infrastructure has enhanced our ever-growing role as a transit country of energy resources coming from the Caspian Sea and Central Asia. Georgia has proved to be a reliable transit route for transporting Caspian energy resources to international markets and plays an important role in ensuring energy security of Europe. By diversifying its energy sources, many EU states will reduce their dependence on the Gasprom monopoly, which does not have a stellar record of being a reliable partner.

Success stories of Georgian energy transit capacities include the highly efficient projects, such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Supsa oil pipelines, and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline that deliver Caspian hydrocarbons to the West. 

The completion of the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway will strengthen commercial ties between Europe and Asia by providing the most cost-efficient route for transportation. Thus, by the end of 2015 we will have the shortest railway line between Europe and Asia, which will be a part of transcontinental transport corridor and integrated freight railway network.

During last year’s UNGA Session, Prime Minister of Georgia H.E. Irakli Gharibashvili proposed an idea of revitalizing the historic Silk Road and voiced an initiative to establish the Tbilisi Silk Road Forum, an annual highest-level meeting, which Tbilisi will host in October 2015. The forum will be a place for deliberating on revitalization of the historic Silk Road by enhancing our partnership in four spheres: transport, energy, trade and people-to-people contacts. The initiative has already attracted quite significant interest of many of our partners, including the EU, the US, and China. 

Georgia and its neighbors:

Because of the geographic location that I have just mentioned, the stability and security in Georgia and the South Caucasus remains of utmost significance not only for my country but also for the whole European and Euro-Atlantic security architecture. Endangering Georgia’s security would mean for Europe risking losing the hold of vital Central Asian energy resources along with the Trans-Caucasus transport corridor. 

From the very beginning of regaining our statehood in 1991, we aspire to have good relations with all neighbors based on common values and mutual respect. We believe that lasting peace, prosperity and sustainable economic development in the region will best serve the interests of both regional and outside states. Unfortunately, the Russian Federation’s expansionist policy in its neighborhood, including in our region, aspires exactly the contrary.

Let me briefly overview Georgia’s relations with our immediate neighbors - Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. 

Georgia and Azerbaijan enjoy strategic partnership. The two countries play a decisive role in ensuring energy security of Europe. Cooperation on the realization of the Southern Gas Corridor is a priority. We also place a particular emphasis on the cooperation in the field of transport. 

Georgia has strategic partnership with Turkey. It is our largest trade partner and one of main investors. Georgia offers the shortest and most reliable route for Turkey to access Central Asia; on its part, Turkey provides the possibility of direct land access to the rest of Europe. The transportation arteries make Georgia an important, unavoidable hub that will further solidify its role of a global gateway and interconnector.

In terms of regional cooperation, we also enjoy active trilateral cooperation within the Georgia-Azerbaijan-Turkey format, which convenes on various levels and has become a successful mechanism of regional cooperation. We have a multidimensional format of cooperation including defense, trade and economy, transport, culture and etc. Azerbaijan is Georgia’s second largest trade partner. It is remarkable that trilateral cooperation has expanded to new levels. Cooperation encompasses Summit at the level of Presidents, meetings among the Foreign Relations Committees of the Parliaments and Ministers of Defense and Economy of the three countries. 

Georgia traditionally enjoys good neighborly relations and close cooperation with Armenia in all areas of mutual interest. Armenia is an important trade partner of Georgia. Georgia aspires to further strengthen trade and economic ties with Armenia. In the light of Georgia’s EU integration and Armenia’s integration into the Eurasian Economic Union, particular importance is attached to the preservation of existing liberal regimes in bilateral trade. Georgia continues to be an important partner for Armenia in terms of transportation and transit. People-to-people and cultural contacts between the two countries are successfully developing and Georgia intends to further encourage them. 

Relations with the Russian Federation/Occupied Regions/IDP Resolution

Despite our efforts to build good, partnership relations with all of our neighbors we continue to face significant challenges, emanating from Russia’s destructive policies vis a vis Georgia. Unfortunately, Russia has been practicing expansionist policies towards Georgia for more than two decades. We are under this aggression since early 1990’s, from the very moment of regaining independence. Russian actions of fomenting and fueling separatism, beginning already during the final days of the Soviet Union, did cost us a great ordeal in Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Georgia, which erupted in the waves of ethnic cleansing of Georgians. This culminated in 2008 with a full-scale Russian invasion and occupation of Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia. Unfortunately, reaction of the international community was not adequate enough and business as usual with Russia continued too quickly.

Georgia and Ukraine share common values and aspirations and face identical challenges. It is obvious that Russia`s aggression against Ukraine and attempt to forcefully alter borders undermines the whole European security architecture, and endangers the alienable right of every sovereign state: to be free in its pursuit of peaceful domestic and foreign policies. 

Thus, as I have mentioned, de-occupation and restoration of the territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders represents the greatest challenge for Georgia. We believe that strong and unanimous position of the whole international community is essential to make Russia respect its neighbors and comply with the norms and principles of international law.. 

Despite the unabated policy of aggression, since October 2012 the Government of Georgia has opted for deescalating tense relations with Russia, based on full respect of Georgia’s national interests, primarily, the inviolability of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. Through the appointment of the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for the relations with Russia we created a channel of communication to discuss possibilities of restoring trade, transport and humanitarian links. We continue to pursue diplomatic means to end the occupation of Georgian territories. Georgia has pledged the non-use of force on multiple occasions, Russia, on the contrary, has been refusing to reciprocate. And we remain constructive and cooperative in Geneva International Discussions, despite the attempts from the de facto authorities to disrupt the process of negotiations.

Unfortunately, Russia has not been particularly responsive to our constructive approach. In November 2014 and March 2015 Russia and its occupation regimes in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali signed the so-called treaties providing for de-facto integration of these regions into Russia. In case the provisions of those treaties are fulfilled, the occupied regions of Georgia will be effectively annexed into social, economic, administrative, military and security institutions of Russia. The process of installing barbed wire fences and other artificial obstacles along the occupation line, including on the Georgian-controlled territory, is ongoing as we speak – effecting thousands of people still living there, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of displaced people. In addition to that, Russia keeps thousands of military personnel and advanced weaponry of offensive nature in these occupied regions.    

Therefore, we count on the international community’s support to undertake effective measures to prevent further violations of fundamental principles of international law. We hope growing support from international community will help us prevent the current deterioration of the situation in the conflict zones, which has a negative impact on the whole region’s security. 

In this regard, the Resolution on the “Status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia”, which we annually roll over at the UNGA remains one of the priorities of our diplomacy. It should be emphasized that 75 countries supported the Resolution this year, attesting to the right for the safe and dignified return of the hundreds of thousands of the IDPs and refugees and reaffirming the inadmissibility of the forceful demographic changes. 

Georgia and Latin America, relations between Georgia and Argentina:

The 21st century is a truly global age, bringnig about both global opportunities and global challenges. Georgia is approaching the Latin American region with a clear vision and based on the principles of shared values of peace and prosperity. In today’s world there is no concept of distant regions or players, but instead integration and cooperation are the key to mutual success. The integration processes in the Latin American region are inspiring for us in their magnitude and promises they hold for the region’s future. 

I do believe that Georgia’s geopolitical location and its vigorous reforms and proactive foreign policy will bring it even closer to the Latin American region. We have intensified our efforts to engage, both politically and economically, with all nations of the region, and have established diplomatic relations with 29 countries (out of 33 ). Since 2010 Georgia has opened three embassies in Latin America: in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. 

We are active within regional organizations such as the Organization of American States, Central American Integration System (SICA), and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). We offer our friends and partners experience-sharing in many fields, wherein Georgia has excelled in recent years, such as: police reform, combating corruption, public sector transparency, e-governance, ease of doing business, etc. In the framework of my visit, we will exchange views on the prospects of Georgia’s cooperation with UNASUR and CELAC and we will continue to actively engage with the region through bilateral and regional formats. 

Both the executive and legislative branches of our governments have done a great deal to deepen the partnership bonds. This is the second ministerial visit since Georgia established the Embassy in Buenos Aires; the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia paid the first official visit to Buenos Aires last year; we already conducted several rounds of political consultations on the levels of Deputy Foreign Ministers, 

On a more people-to-people level, our embassy has again been instrumental in promoting Georgian culture, language and traditions in your beautiful country, which has always been a source of great admiration and inspiration for Georgians. We have similar passions such as football, rugby, wine, traditional songs and dances, love of literature and poetry. I am therefore convinced that the entry into force of the agreement on visa waiver will further facilitate people-to-people contacts, through educational, scientific and educational exchanges, and increased tourism.   

Concluding Remarks:

In conclusion, I would like to extend my cordial gratitude to Ambassador Juan Valle for active cooperation with Levan Mikeladze Diplomatic Training Center of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, which was initiated in April of 2013. Since then, we have witnessed the dynamic development of cooperation, manifested by the visit of Ambassador Valle to Tbilisi in November 2013. I would also like to express my gratitude for the enrollment of a Georgian diplomat in your academic programme in 2013 for a semester. She serves with distinction here, at our Embassy in Buenos Aires. We hope Georgian diplomats will have more opportunities to expand their horizons by studying here. 

Dear students, I thus firmly believe that the education you receive here prepares you well to enter the complex world of diplomacy and international affairs, full of both outstanding challenges and promising opportunities. It will also allow you to become a successful member of the diplomatic community and make your own contribution to the benefit of your great nation and to the world.

Thank you and I am open to your questions.