“Lobby Georgia in NATO Countries”
10 April, 2014
“Lobby Georgia in NATO Countries”
NATO Week in Georgia and Crimea’s Annexation in the Background

NATO Week has started on Monday in Georgia, at the Courtyard Marriott hotel. “The Road to NATO – Integration and Membership Experience” was opened by Alex Petriashvili, Georgia’s State Minister of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, and Mrs. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy. The agenda was busy and the participants were diverse.
At the press conference, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy noted that
although Georgia has progressed, there are challenges that should be overcome and it is of utmost importance that the forthcoming local self-governance elections should be conducted in an appropriate way. “We had a very open and transparent conversation about a number of issues. We talked about Russia’s intrusion into Crimea and its annexation. We also discussed the ongoing reforms in Georgia. I want to stress that the Bucharest Summit decision is in force and Georgia will become a member of the alliance. We appreciate your efforts and reforms, but there is still much to be done.”
The conference was divided into panels. In-between, Irakli Alasania, Minister of Defense of Georgia, commented to the press: “There is great progress in Georgia in terms of approximation to NATO, as well as in terms of defense reforms, and development of political institutions. Everyone confesses that Georgia is in a state where it can present itself at the next Summit as a new instrument to NATO. In the coming months, we will have very intense multilateral diplomatic and military-diplomatic activities to perform in order to mature the NATO Summit to which a great majority of the Georgian society looks forward to. We will have bilateral relations with separate countries at concrete directions as well as with the representatives of NATO. A final document of assessing reforms in the defense sphere is planned to be published in June and should become one of the fundaments of our qualification at the summit. Therefore, the defense component is very important.”
Attila Demko, head of the defense policy department of Hungary’s Ministry of Defense, commented exclusively for Georgian Journal: “I will speak about the Hungarian views of enlargement, the open-door policy and our policy towards Georgia. Of course, we are only one of 28 NATO countries, so it does not quite depend on us whether Georgia will be invited to the Membership Action Plan at the next NATO Summit or not. But we are in the group of the pro-open-door policy and pro-enlargement nations. Thus, we support the invitation of Georgia to NATO MAP at the next Summit. The Membership Action Plan must come first and then, if the process is successful, NATO membership is possible. There are some countries that are a little bit reluctant. Even one country with a no-vote is enough. I think that Georgian diplomats are highly professional. I have heard them many times at NATO-Georgia Councils in Brussels. I think you have all the talents to convince the countries and your results as contributors to operations are extremely impressive. I would recommend you to continue lobbying those countries who are still hesitating. We believe that enlargement is good for stability and it is not against anyone. We don’t believe that we should have blocs of countries. We don’t believe that it hurts others’ interests. That’s our view. You have a professional diplomatic corps. In my opinion, Georgian diplomats are constructing their strategy very well. You have a good strategy. Of course, the result, which is the invitation to MAP now or later, does not depend only on strategy. It depends on how the lobbying with NATO Members goes on.”
After his presentation, Georgian Journal also spoke with David Zalkaliani, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia: “This week is important to outline our expectations from our partners before the NATO Summit. It is important that on the background of the events in Ukraine, they should show more consolidation as well as more timeliness in a decision-making process. We have felt their readiness for support that is really important for us. We expect from the NATO to give us MAP. We expect the speeding-up of the process of signing the Association Agreement as well as the Visa Liberalization Action Plan.” As for the Ukrainian events, the Deputy Minister noted that it happened quite unexpectedly and the international community did not expect such a speed of aggression from Russia and therefore, the reaction came late. “It is possible that they make appropriate conclusions and be more mindful of timeliness in the future,” Zalkaliani concluded.
During the discussion that followed the speeches of panelists, the first question from the audience was as follows: “What do you think, was the first: NATO membership or the set-up of the working and functioning civil society law in order to assist the country the set-up of training and education?“ The addressee of the question - Nino Evgenidze, Executive Director of Economic Policy Research Center of Georgia - replied: “I am representing the civil society. It should be a well-functioned society and a developed country to reach the membership of NATO, but as you know, in some other countries, which are already NATO members, civil society and democracy were not so well-developed, but it was rather a political decision at that stage to welcome them. I think that in Georgia’s case when the situation is complicated by our neighbor’s willingness to occupy our country, for us it is not a political decision to enter the EU and NATO, but the Georgian people’s aspiration for centuries to become part of the developed west. I think we - Georgians - can do a lot to achieve this overarching goal.”
Then Mr. Zalkaliani’s asked to the first three enlargement countries: which of them have relations with the Russian Federation after they became the NATO and EU members. The first to answer was Mr. Iakub Kulhanek, Deputy Minister of Defense of the Czech Republic: “It was a slightly different time. Russia was in a slightly different situation. It was not easy to convince Russia for the Czech Republic. NATO said loudly that it wanted a free European country. We made some concessions so that we could be partners.” He also mentioned one significant phrase for us: “It is not only that Georgia should make important steps towards NATO but NATO too has to do the same towards Georgia.”
Andrzej Cieszkowski, Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary of Poland to Georgia, said that the trade with Russia was multiplied after the accession to the EU and NATO, and the country became more competitive. So, sometimes the Ambassador noted that integration into western structures also helps in such cases. Probably, he meant that it should not be a hampering thing for us – the economic levers. “We had problems with Russia, but if we look from today’s perspective, I think, it was rather smooth.” The Polish diplomat also mentioned that the European Euro-Atlantic integration has brought the conviction to Poland that it is an economically stable country.
One of the main topics of discussion was getting ready for the next NATO Summit which is planned to be held in Wales in September. “This Summit will shape the future of our Alliance. We will make sure that NATO has the equipment and skills we need to deal with the threats we face, such as terrorism, unstable states, piracy, missile and cyber attacks,” said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General. Let us hope that, as Deputy Foreign Minister Jalaghania noted, NATO and the European Union will show more consolidation and clearer position in terms of Ukraine, Georgia and the whole region. Who knows… Maybe at least now Georgia will learn a lesson from the example of our friendly country?
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