By Natali Petriashvili
On March the 8th I had the honor and pleasure to attend a seminar in the International Relations Institute of Rome that was dedicated to a discussion about Georgia’s European Way. The institute hosted Georgia’s Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, and the Georgian delegation. The Prime Minister delivered an opening speech discussing the country’s future intentions regarding its European way and also referred to Georgia’s current struggles and challenges.
“Georgia is a stable country in a challenging location,” said the Prime Minister.
As the seminar progressed, the Prime Minister emphasized the distinctive importance of Italy for Georgia, as it has been 25 years of successful, diplomatic relations between the two countries, as well as underlined the importance of Georgia’s associations with the European Union.
“Georgia is coming closer to Europe, but we already are European,” the Prime Minister stated as he further discussed the importance of Georgia’s Euro integration. He emphasized that Euro integration is not only shaping foreign principles, but also internal values and ideologies.
The Prime Minister briefly described Georgia’s future Four-Pillar Agenda regarding the development of the education system, governance reforms, further improvement of the economic conditions, and social development.
As Mr. Kvirikashvili delivered his speech, the Prime Minister accepted various questions from diplomats from around the world attending the seminar. The attendees were interested in the future plans of Georgia, following the Visa-liberalization. EU granted Georgia Visa-free movement into the Schengen area that was a result of the Association Agreement, approved in 2014. He discussed that Georgia’s ambitions would be gradual: “there will be a window of opportunity for Georgia for EU and NATO, but it needs gradual development and we need to be consistent.”
Along with Georgia’s relations with Europe, attendees were curious on what the Prime Minister thought about the fact that certain political forces identify Georgia and Ukraine as ‘dangerous’ because of the tense situation between the two countries and Russia.
– “A discussion is necessary for the conflict resolution, rather than a military solution. We have organized a format where discussions are held between Georgia and Russia, which obviously cools down the temperature from the boiling point. We believe that it is possible to resolve the tense conflict, but it takes patience. We are also supporters of Ukraine and their sovereignty. We believe in a diplomatic conflict resolution.”
The Prime Minister was also asked to express his opinion about the recent results of the elections of the United States of America, and his expectations of how President Trump’s will of maintaining a good relationship with Russia will affect Georgia. “Is it an opportunity or a risk?” the attendee asked.
Mr. Kvirikashvili responded that Georgia does not intend to be a reason for animosity between Russia and the West. “We don’t want to be a problem but the core of this should be Georgian sovereignty. I cannot predict what sort of relationship the USA will have with Russia, but I can only say that we will try to solve our problems. Russia unfortunately violated Georgian territorial integrity, but we believe this problem can be resolved eventually.”
As the segment of questions went on, an Italian diplomat raised the topic of the current issue regarding a Georgian nationwide network, Rustavi 2. She was curious whether the Prime Minister thought this affected the Freedom of Speech in the country and how the issue of the changing ownership was developing. Mr. Kvirikashvili reassured that Georgia has free media, in fact, 13 nationwide networks, that have been criticizing the government as well as the opposition. “Rustavi 2 was completely politicized since the beginning,” as he stated; “however this is an ownership case, nobody is going to intervene in the editorial part of the TV network. The threats of freedom of media have been extremely exaggerated. We are following the order of the Strasbourg Court. Nothing threatens the freedom of media, or speech, in Georgia.”
Overall, the seminar was really interesting and informative. It was an honor to have the opportunity to discuss Georgia’s future intentions with the Prime Minister, as well as European diplomats.