It is a great honor to represent again my beloved
nation at this rostrum.
During the past decade, as I had the privilege to
address this hall, Georgia has moved from a failed state to a market
democracy. We have experienced both advances and setbacks, both
breakthroughs and mistakes. But the world has been able to witness the
constant commitment to freedom of the Georgian people.
I ask you today to once more hear the voice of a
nation that transcends political, social, and religious differences in a
common love for freedom. A voice that-·despite all the problems we have
encountered and the challenges we still have to overcome-is full of hope.
And, looking at our world today, I do think that this
voice of hope is needed.
The optimism ofthe early
1990s-when the spread of liberal and democratic values seemed natural-when
the End ofHistory had been proclaimed -and when
the United Nations was set to become the heart and the soul of a world
finally at peace -this optimism of the 1990s has been crushed by a wave of
pessimism and cynicism.
The world is not at peace. Humankind has not
reconciled with itself. And the UN did not become the soul or the heart of
a united globe.
Western civilization, once triumphant, is now trying
to tackle a deep economic,social,
and mental crisis.
In Eastern Europe, the colored revolutions are
challenged by the forces they had defeated a few years ago.
In the Middle East, the glorious images of the
cheering crowds of Cairo and Tunis have been replaced by the horrendous
videos ofthe gassed children of Damascus.
There are many good reasons to be disillusioned.
But should the dogmatic optimism of the 90s be
replaced by an equally dogmatic pessimism-by a sense of resignation that
Should the fact that the expansion of democracy and
freedom turns out to require profound struggle -should this lead us to
renounce our beliefs and our principles?
I came here today to share the hopes of my nation,
and to speak out against this ambient fatalism.
I came here to address those who doubt, those who
hesitate, those who are tempted to give in.
If the West is outdated, then why do millions of
Poles, Czech, Estonians, Romanians, and others cherish so much the day they
entered NATO? And why are millions of Ukrainians, Georgians, Moldovans, and
others desperately knocking on the doors of the European Union?
If freedom is no longer fashionable, how do we
explain that the suicide of an unknown citizen in a remote Tunisian town
has changed the map of the world?
did not come to an end in 1989 or 1991 and it never will.
But freedom is still its motor and its horizon.
Everywhere, men and women who want to live in freedom are confronted by the
forces of tyranny.
The question is: are we going to be actors or
spectators in this confrontation?
Ladies and gentlemen,
As I speak, the Eastern European countries aspiring
to join the European family of free and democratic nations are facing
constant pressures and threats.
Armenia has been cornered, Moldova is being
blockaded, Ukraine is under attack, Azerbaijan faces extraordinary
pressure, and Georgia is occupied ...
Because an old Empire is trying to reclaim its bygone
borders. And "borders" is actually not the right word, since this
Empire -be it the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation,
or the Eurasian Union - never had borders. It only had margins.
I came today to speak in the name of these margins.
Unlike most nations, the Russian Federation has no
interest in having stable states around it. Neighboring countries in
constant turmoil is what the Kremlin is seeking. It rejects the very idea
of strong governments in Georgia, Ukraine, or Moldova, even ones that try
to be friendly to its interests.
I was never a great fan of what the French call
"La langue de bois", but as my second term nears its end, I feel
more than before the urge to speak my mind.
So let us be concrete.
Do you think that Vladimir Putin wants Armenia to
decisively triumph over Azerbaijan, for instance? No. This would make
Armenia too strong and potentially too independent.
Do you think then that the contrary is true, that
Moscow wants Baku to prevail over Erevan? Obviously not. The current rise
of a modernized Azerbaijan is a nightmare for the Russian leaders.
No, they do not want anyone to prevail and the
conflict itselfis their objective, since it keeps
both nations dependent and blocks their integration into the European
Do you think that the electoral defeat of the forces
that led the Orange Revolution in Ukraine has led the Kremlin to take a
softer approach to this country?
To the contrary. The government lead by Viktor Yanoukovich is under permanent attack, a commercial war
has been launched against Ukraine ahead of the European Summit of Vilnius
and Russian officials now speak openly about dismembering this nation.
Do you think the Kremlin would agree to discuss the
de-occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, now that the government has
changed in Tbilisi? Far from it! The annexation of Georgian lands by
Russian troops continues!
Yesterday, the occupants have expelled again Georgian
citizens from their homes and villages, the homes and villages of their
parents and grand-parents. In daylight and in total impunity.
Despite the friendly statements made by the new
Georgian government in the recent weeks and months, the Russian military
keeps advancing its positions, dividing communities with new barbwires,
threatening our economy, moving towards the vital Baku-Supsa
pipeline, approaching more and more the main highway of Georgia and thus
putting into question the very sustainability of our country.
The hostility of Vladimir Putin and his team towards
the government I had the privilege to lead for almost a decade was not
based on personal hatreds or cultural misunderstandings. Any such
interpretation was just a smokescreen.
My predecessor, President Shevarnadze,
came from the highest Soviet nomenklatura. He was
returned to power in Georgia with direct Russian help in the 90s, through a
military coup. He was well known for his Soviet diplomatic skills unlike
me. And yet, Russia has constantly undermined his authority and even tried
to assassinate him several times.
This is not about Gamsakourdia,
Those names actually do not matter when the stakes
are so high.
This is about the possibility - or not - of true
statehood in Georgia, and beyond.
Because the current Russian authorities know
perfectly well that-as soon as strong institutions are built in Ukraine,
Georgia, Moldova, or any other places soon as functioning states
emerge-such institutions, such states will reflect and enforce the will of
their people, which is to become fully independent and move towards Europe.
The Georgian experience of successful reforms and the
creation of a functioning state was therefore
considered to be a virus ---a virus that could and would contaminate the
whole post-Soviet region --- a virus that should be eliminated, by every
This is why the Georgian nation has suffered an
embargo, a war, an invasion, and an occupation-all since 2006.
But this also is why the resistance of the Georgian
people and the resilience of the Georgian democracy are of the outmost
importance for the entire region.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The efforts to roll back the advances of the EU and
NATO in our region progress based on the will of our people -are becoming
ever more intense.
These efforts have a name: the Eurasian Union.
The Eurasian Union has been shaped as an alternative
to the European Union and unveiled by Vladimir Putin as the main project of
his new presidency.
Because European and Euro-Atlantic integration take a
lot of time and require tremendous efforts-because there are moments when
you might think you are pursuing a mirage-because the threats become so
strong, the pressures so direct, while the promises seem so far away-some
people in our region might fall victim to fatigue and ask themselves: why
Today, I want precisely to explore this "why
Much more than with a choice of foreign policy or of
international alliances, our nations are confronted with a choice of
society, a choice of life.
Our people have to decide whether they accept to live
in a world of fear and crime // a world in which differences are perceived
as threats and minorities as punching bags // a world in which opponents
are facing selective justice or beatings // a world, Ladies and gentlemen,
that we all know very well in our region since this is the world from which
we are coming.
The Eurasian Union is both our recent past and the
future shaped for us by some ex-KGB officers in Moscow.
On the opposite side, our revived traditions and our
centuries old aspirations lead us towards another world called Europe.
European 'societies are far from perfect and there
too, you can have fears, doubts, angers, hatreds even.
But there, meritocracy prevails over nepotism,
tolerance is a fundament of public life, current opponents are the future
ministers and not the prisoners to be or the enemies to beat.
The choice -when it is put like that -is so obvious
for the people of Eastern Europe that some Kremlin strategists (they call
themselves politechnologists) have decided to
cancel the truth and have shaped lies that they are spreading throughout
Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and many other places.
Their mouthpieces in our respective countries -this
conscious or unconscious 5th column -identify the European Union with the
destruction of family values, the erosion ofnational
traditions and the promotion of gays and lesbians.
Strangely, in recent years and even more in recent
months, we hear in Tbilisi, Kiev, or Chisinau the same ugly music that was
first orchestrated in Moscow we hear that our traditions are collapsing
under the influence of the West, that Christian holidays will be replaced
by gay pride events, and Churches by multicultural Disney Lands-we hear
that our orthodox identity is under threat. ..
And after all -here we come -we hear that we share with
our former masters a common respect for decency and traditions.
Are we so naive to believe these lies, as other
generations did, allowing our sovereignty to be kidnapped?
Are we so unfair to our ancestors to think that their
memory would be honored by attacks on mosques or some pogroms?
Are we so unaware of our own History that we allow it
to repeat itself endlessly?
When we hear the fake music of the orthodox
brotherhood sung by Russian imperialists, can't we hear the true voice of
the Patriarch Kirion who was assassinated or the
eternal voice of the Patriarch Ambrosi Khelaya who was tortured during days and weeks only
because he appealed to the Geneva Conference against the invasion ofhis country? Are we so deaf as not to hear the voices
of the killed bishops and priests? Are we so uneducated that we do not
recall who has repainted our churches and erased our sacred frescos?
Are we so blind today not to see the destruction of
our churches in the occupied territories?
We need to know our History. And our History teaches
us that tolerance is the basis for sovereignty in our region. It is not
only a moral duty: it is an issue of national security.
We need to know our History and understand that the
same old imperialistic principle - divide to rule - is applied today as it
was two centuries ago.
Looking at our region today, those who have some
knowledge of the Caucasian history might remember the Armenian -Azerbaijani
bloodshed of 1905, directly created by the tsarist administration, and
compare it to the beginning of the conflict in the Karabach
in the late 1980s.
They might recall -as I do too well -the beginning of
the war in Abkhazia in the early 1990s, when Georgian paramilitary groups
were getting their weapons from the same Russian troops who were actually
leading the Abkhaz militia and bringing in Chechen mercenaries in order to
kill any form of solidarity between nations of the North and the South
Just as they were sending – for the same reason -
more than one century before Georgian officers at the forefront of their
wars against Chechens, Ingush or Daghestani.
We could also look at other margins throughout the
times, we could look at Poland or Ukraine, and we would see the same
pictures. Everywhere, the Empire has always inflamed the relations between
subjugated people and separated them by a wall of fanatical antagonism.
It used to work, unfortunately. But what is even more
unfortunate is that it is still working today.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The European Union -the greatest political success of
recent decades - has been built on three pillars, which also could be
characterized as three rejections: the rejection of the extreme nationalism
that had led Europe to the collective suicide of two world wars and the
horrors of Nazism -the rejection of communism that was threatening to
spread throughout the continent-and, in the end, the rejection of
colonialism and imperialism.
It took time for the French and British Empires to
accept this third rejection, but giving up their colonies was the price to
pay for the modernization of their economy and the development of their
democracy, and also for the European unification to actually be realized.
The Eurasian Union is based on the exact opposite
premises. It is fuelled by intolerance, it is lead by old KGB structures
and it is shaped to revive an old Empire.
Of course, joining the Eurasian Union is therefore
very easy. There are no social, economic, or political criteria to be met:
becoming a colony, in fact, requires no effort at all. Passivity and
mediocrity are the only requirements.
On the other hand, to get into a real Union, there is
no alternative to making a Herculean effort and meeting exact criteria
-because such principles are precisely what create the Union.
So, to those who doubt, I tell that it is precisely
because the EU demands effort and imposes criteria-it is precisely because
it does not seek to absorb us (while the other one is dreaming about it)
-that the choice should be obvious.
But there is an even better reason for saying that
the choice is obvious.
The choice is obvious because the Russian project is
doomed to fail.
No Empire is sustainable today, and certainly not the
Ifwe look at History, France and UK
have lost their colonies not only because these colonies fought for their
independence, but also because people in Paris and London ultimately did
not believe anymore in their Empire.
Exactly the same is happening in Russia nowadays.
The imperial dream is being rejected first at its
margins as we have seen.
But, most crucially perhaps, the idea of the Empire
is rejected at its very center.
Such a rejection does not manifest itself only in
public protests or in the rising polls of the opposition in the main cities
It expresses itself in the universal cynicism of
Russian elites towards Putin's Eurasian Vision.
The very people who are supposed to serve it do not
believe in the viability of this project.
Rejected at its margins, rejected at its center, the
imperialistic path will come to a dead end, the Eurasian Union will fail
and Russia will-after all-become a nation state with borders instead of
Then, it will start to seek stable relations with
Then, cooperation will replace confrontation.
It will happen, and much sooner than people think, to
the benefit of the margins, but most of all to the benefit of the Russian
It will happen because the imperial project is absurd
for a generation of Russian citizens who are among the most enthusiastic
users of Internet in the world.
It will happen because the endless resources provided
by the revenues of oil and gas are challenged by the perspectives offered
by the exploitation of shale gas and shale oil.
It will happen because gas alone does not replace
It will happen because of the corruption and the
absence of justice.
It will happen because entire regions have been
alienated by discriminations and violence, because the people of Chechnya, Ingushettia, Daghestan, Tatarstan and many other places have been so much
persecuted that they do not feel part of any common project with Moscow.
It will happen because frustrations, angers, hatreds
are too strong and the unifying ideal too absent.
It will happen. Not in the coming decades, but in the
Few years from now, Vladimir Putin will have left the
Kremlin and vanished from the Russian politics.
Russian citizens will remember him as a ghost from
the old times, the times of the Empire -the times of corruption and
Nobody knows whether this process will be calm or
violent, whether his successor will be nationalistic or liberal, or both
together, but what matters is something else: Russian will no longer be an Empire, it will become finally a normal nation state.
This is the horizon we should prepare for, all
Meanwhile, as our region will remain an area of
confrontation, the formerly captive nations should unite their strengths
instead of cultivating their divisions.
Some leaders, some countries in the past had
understood that the freedom of one was depending on the freedom of all
subjugated nations, like the Poland of Pilsudski that was inviting all the
oppressed people to unite under the flag of polish independence.
But never had our ancestors benefited from a vast and
powerful enough force that had understood its strategic interest was to
preserve the sovereignty of each of our nation. Today, this force exists:
it is the European Union.
As we come closer to the Vilnius Eastern Partnership
Summit, I would like to reiterate a call that I have made several times in
the recent years.
By launching the Eastern Partnership, as a response
to the 2008 invasion of Georgia, the ED has offered to our nations a
platform to cooperate under its benevolent umbrella. We should invest much
more in it. We should develop common projects, first and foremost focusing
on the necessary reforms that we should carry on together.
Because reforms mean - for all of us - statehood and
Catherine the 2nd knew it well and - when Poland
started to implement successfully an ambitious program of reforms following
the precepts of the French or British Enlightment
- she wrote a long and secrete letter to Friedrich the Great.
This letter was and remains one of the most
impressive expression of the nature and the strategy of the imperialistic
It reads that ongoing reforms are dangerous both for
Russia and Prussia because they will tum Poland
into an true State, that they need to be stopped
and that Poland should be attacked and dismembered before they are fully
This letter will not sound unfamiliar to those who
know how much Vladimir Putin was loathing the Georgian experience
throughout this last decade.
For the first time, an efficient nation State was
being built in the Caucasus and the reforms had to be crushed before they
would bear all their fruits.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Unity should be our rule in Eastern Europe, including
in the divided Caucasus.
I have spoken about the beginning of the war in Abkhazia, I could have recalled an older scene that is
very symbolic ofthe History of the Caucasus.
At the end of the rebellion lead by Shamyl against the Russian Empire, after Shamyl had surrendered himself, the last Chechen leader
still fighting - named Baysongour - had been
wounded and captured.
As they were going to hang him, the Russian officers
gathered a crowd of Daghestani men to witness the
execution. They ordered one of them to remove the chair on which Baysongour was standing in order kill him.
By doing so, they wanted to fuel the local vendettas
and oppose the people.
Seeing this, Baysongour
moved the chair himself, committing a forbidden suicide and preserving the
relations between neighbors.
But for one failure, how many successes this strategy
has encountered among the Caucasian nations?
It needs to come to an end. And this is why I have
launched several projects during my Presidency reinforcing the
people-to-people contacts between North and South Caucasus, projects
focusing mostly on education and on University exchanges.
We need to build on those small efforts.
We need to prepare for the times when the Empire
collapses. So that its legacy of hatreds is swiftly overcome.
And we, as citizens of Georgia, need to prepare for
the times when Russian troops will leave our occupied regions, when Moscow
will withdraw from Tskhinvali and Sukhumi.
We need to prepare ourselves to welcome back our Ossetian and Abkhaz fellow citizens as brothers and
sisters, and not as enemies.
Because these times will come sooner than we think.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As my second term nears its end, I take pride in the
many accomplishments that Georgia achieved during my tenure in office.
We took Georgia literally out of darkness, brought
unprecedented transparency into our public service, put our children back
to schools and took the gangs out of them. We have brought our nation closer
than ever to its European dream and worked tirelessly to renew the spirit
of tolerance that guided Georgia in our glorious past.
We did many good things. But I realize that some of
these things were done at a very high cost. In our rush to impose a new reality,
against the background of internal and external threats, we have cut comers
and made mistakes.
We went sometimes too far and other times not far
I acknowledge fully my responsibility in all these
shortcomings and I sincerely care for all those who have felt that they did
not benefit enough from our work-or even that they were victims of our
I want to tell to all Georgian citizens-to those who
supported our project, our policies and our party and to those who rejected
them-I want to tell them how proud I am of their maturity and their
bravery, how humble I feel looking at the sacrifices and the efforts they
We are and should remain a nation united in a common
love for freedom and dignity.
We are and should remain a nation united in the
deepest respect for the sacrifices made by our soldiers in Afghanistan, a
nation sharing the same sorrow when they lose their lives and taking the
same pride in their bravery.
We are and should remain a nation united in our historical
destiny to join the European family of democratic nations, the family we
should never have been separated from, our family.
The path ofthe Georgian people towards freedom,
regional unity and European integration is far from over and I will continue
to dedicate every day of my life to its success, as a proud citizen of a