Dear Katrin, Dear Colleagues, Dear Friends, first of all, I have to say that I am honoured to participate in the 4th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe and would like to thank the host country for the hospitality and excellent organisation of this very important event.
Let me start by reaffirming Georgia's commitment to protect and promote fundamental principles of democracy, rule of law and human rights, as enshrined in the Statute of the Council of Europe and in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Today, Europe is undergoing one of the most challenging periods caused by the Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, in breach of fundamental norms and principles of the UN Charter, Helsinki Final Act and the Statute of the Council of Europe.
Georgia firmly supports Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, drawing from its own experience of the Russian aggression in 2008, when we had a full-scale war with Russia. As you know, our country suffered a lot from this war and 20% of our territory is still occupied by Russia.
Therefore, we - Georgians - know very well the price of war and price of peace. Since we regained our independence, we have witnessed several wars in our country. We are conscious of what a war brings and we do everything for peace.
In our post-independence history, for the first time during our government’s tenure in power we have safeguarded the long-term and uninterrupted peace in Georgia. It is obvious that today the global order is changing. The world will never be the same and no one can find a way out of this difficult situation alone. Therefore, we need unity and global consolidation for a new, just order. Only by standing together will we achieve this goal.
Dear Friends, In recent years, democracies around the world have faced a number of challenges testing the very essence of their foundations. Despite such challenges, the state of democracy in Georgia is strong and resilient, as our Government stands committed to the values that underpin it, including: freedom, equality and the rule of law.
My Government has a vision for a strong Georgia committed to democratic institutions and a free market economy. The above is reflected in our multi-dimensional approach in strengthening public bodies that are essential to democracy, such as the judiciary, electoral system and independent media; in protecting human rights, as well as in ensuring overall stability, sustainability and predictability for the Georgian people. Since coming to power in 2012, our Government has been developing effective and efficient policies and solidifying our vision through dynamic actions.
Reforming the judiciary, improving the electoral system and ensuring media independence have been key elements of Georgia's development agenda. With four waves of the reforms in the judiciary, instrumental changes in election legislation and media legal framework provides for a solid basis for ensuring protection of rights and freedoms of individuals, as well as freedom of expression and media rights. Today, the trusted environment in the above areas have been commanded by renowned organisations such as Transparency International, World Justice Project, Freedom House, etc., ranking Georgia as a leader among Eastern European and Central Asian countries.
Overall, Georgia has evolved into an exemplary, democratic country in the region and our efforts have been given positive appraisal internationally.
Considering all the progress we have made, today, like never before, Georgia aspires to become a member of the European Union. As you are well aware, on 3rd March 2022, Georgia submitted an EU membership application as a concrete response to the longstanding choice of the Georgian people. Last year the European Council recognized the European Perspective for Georgia, which reaffirmed that Georgia’s future is in the European Union.
We are determined to swiftly progress on the EU accession path, and the candidate status is our next immediate milestone. Taking this into account, we have truly worked diligently to address almost all of the 12 recommendations outlined for granting Georgia the candidate status.
Our common history proves that multilateral cooperation and a rules-based international order has no alternative for the peace, prosperity and stability in the world. Georgia remains steadfast in upholding and promoting our shared principles and values, and we look forward to continued collaboration and progress within the Council of Europe. Thank you very much!