Dignity at the Heart of Our Identity: Georgian PM Speaks at PACE Spring Session

"I am here to affirm Georgia’s commitment to the vision of a Europe whole and free, at a point in time when everyone’s faith in this vision is being put to the test. For Georgia, the ships have long been burned. We have made our choice. We have come a long way to be part of a whole and free Europe," said the Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashili at the spring session of the European Parliamentary Assembly held 18-22 April.

The Assembly covered such relevant topics as the prevention of the radicalization of children by fighting root causes, frameworks of democratic citizenship, fighting anti-Semitism in Europe, strengthening the European response to the Syrian refugee crisis, Human rights of refugees and migrants in the Western Balkans, the EU-Turkey agreement, Intellectual property rights in the digital era, Women’s political participation, and the Cyber Security Act.

On 20th April, PM Kvirikashili met the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, and on the 21st he met PACE President, Pedro Agramunt. After the meeting a press conference was held during which both Agramunt and Kvirikashvili claimed the meeting was very productive. Among the topics discussed were the achievements of Georgia in new reforms of the justice and legislative system in Georgia, as well as the conflicts in the South Caucasus region, including those in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorni Karabakh.

The same day PM Kvirikashvili also addressed the Council of Europe, telling them that Georgia maintains its historic roots, aims to strengthen individual citizens and that, despite both internal and external problems and difficulties, Georgia is moving forward.

“The idea that citizens have inalienable rights that are not subject to the tyranny of a majority is at the heart of Europe’s democratic experience,” the PM said. “We are drafting a social contract of European quality. That is a contract not subject to ratification, veto, conditionality, approval or negotiation by anyone else. Being European is not a geographic statement. It is chiefly a sense of security, dignity, freedom, and opportunity that reflects a particular social contract. My country will not be free unless its citizens can live in dignity.”

This last in particular addressed questions raised about Russian propaganda in Georgia, media freedom and the TV Channel Rustavi 2 case. The PM underlined the importance of media independence and said there is work in progress to counter Russian Propaganda. He added that he supports Rustavi 2 being as critical as it is at present.

The PM also highlighted that one of the main tests for democracy in Georgia is the forthcoming election. “Since 2012, we have delivered free elections in a level playing field, local and Presidential. This year we will complete the circle with parliamentary elections,” the PM told those at the Assembly. “We need competitive but also uneventful elections, of the kind in which accounts are not frozen, no one controls what kind of news people watch, and each candidate has his or her day in the ballot box.”

The Prime Minister concluded his speech by encouraging his listeners to be critical, but helpful.

“We understand that PACE is a partisan forum, about politics as much as about policies…Help us build on the foundations we have laid together. Help us be all we can be in a country that is partly occupied but fully European.

“Georgia has responded to expectations. We are proof that democracy promotion, institution building, civic empowerment, conditionality, and reforms work.

“We hope that together we can set a faster pace towards democratic consolidation; together, against the odds, against the forces that want to take Europe apart, stand on the right side of history.

“For everything that Europe stands for, let’s stand together. We are European, which is the essence of dignity at the heart of every Georgian. European is the dignity of a citizen that every Georgian deserves. And dignity is at the heart of our identity.”

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe finished on 22nd April.

By Katie Ruth Davies

Photo: PM's Press Office

21 April 2016 21:06