Vladimer Narsia - Canon Lawyer, Cardiff University, UK. Chairman of Religious Dialogue for Peace in Georgia.
This policy brief analyzes the role of the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) in Georgian society, particularly in the context of promoting the European integration process. The paper consists of three sections: sermons and preaching that influence European integration policy; the Church-State nexus as a non-secular alliance; and the weak international links of the GOC. All three sections look at the GOC from the perspective of its level of support for Georgia’s European integration policy. While Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II can be considered an ecumenical and equivalently a European minded leader based on some of his statements, his position has not been shared by all Georgian primates 1 and, in this paper, this ambiguity is considered a threat for the state’s European policy. Overall, the paper assumes that the GOC is in the primary stage of developing a clearer and more lucid positive role, which would allow it to avoid polarizing the society over the critical question of the European policy.
Georgia’s European integration policy is more than a political agenda; it also impacts social and cultural issues in the country, areas that traditionally fall under the influence of the GOC. The position of the Church is widely acknowledged and accepted in public debates in Georgian society, which makes it an important factor in the European integration process, as voters 2 may be influenced by anti-Western primates’ moods and their sermons against Europe.
This policy brief examines the GOC as a civil institution, which can serve the purpose of social consolidation or integration. That means that the Georgian government’s policy toward the Church, as well as the role of the Church as a supporting institution in the country’s European integration policy, are viewed as decisive in order to achieve the level of social harmony required to achieve the government’s aspiration to join the European family. Any delayed response to these sensitive issues could lead to the grievous result of splitting and polarizing society.
Sermons and Preaching
In Georgian society clerics carry considerable weight. Their commands are respected by
thousands of believers and quite often are taken as “priestly” advice without question. This tendency has been warmly welcomed by government officials. In this context, it is necessary to pay special attention to the sermons 3 that cultivating fears in Georgian society and present Europe as a threat for Georgian spiritual traditions. 4 The Holy Synod does not refute these sermons or clerics, which gives critics a basis to claim that GOC officially supports this position. Patriarch Ilia II follows the ongoing discussion 5 concerning the European integration process and, at times, speaks in favor of Georgia’s alignment with the EU. But not all of his statements support the integration process. In 2014 he strongly opposed the anti-discrimination law, which was viewed as a necessary step to secure the Association Agreement between EU and Georgia. 6 Primates are also concerned about the growing tendency of Georgians receiving their higher education in Europe. It was rather confusing when the Patriarch Ilia II expressed worries for young people receiving an education abroad. He called on Georgian parents to not send their
children abroad by pointing to Canada, and implicitly Western culture, as a threat for Georgian traditions. 7 Metropolitan Ioane Gamrekeli echoed the same concerns in 2015: “Instead of the verbal promises Europe demands from us, morally unacceptable relationships are to be acknowledged as a legal norm .” 8 The effective EU and NATO introductory programs organized by the Center for Development and Democracy (CDD) can be considered as a successful policy in response to the Church’s antagonist position toward Europe, illustrated by the Primates’ sermons. 9 But the locum tenens for Patriarch Illia II, Metropolitan Shio Mujiri, is still vague about his position on European values, based on his sermon concerning post-modernism and the European scholarly tradition. 10 To sum up, Georgian primates appear to offer tepid support for the government’s Euro-integration policy. The Holy Synod has made dozens of offensive sermons about Europe, 11 however, which may negatively impact on the European Integration process rather than support it due to the Church influence over the Georgian society.
The concept of secularism demands the separation of church and state at the institutional level. Even though the Georgian constitution stresses the principle of separation, its practical implementation is problematic and such founding principles are often misinterpreted by the Georgian authorities. Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili criticized secularism in its classical sense in 2017: “We believe that our nation features a unique model [of church-state relations] in the world.” 12 The medieval model known as “Church-State Symphony” is still alive in the modern theo-political discourse in Georgia and is often used by religious and political leaders to strengthen their established power. Previously, the Patriarch of Georgia also emphasized the role of religion in Georgian politics as an immutable fact and important for democratic society. 13
Since 1990s the stagnancy in Church-State relationships defends the status quo for GOC to become involved in the Georgian politics. For example, in 2017 the Patriarch’s proposal to discuss the idea of reinstituting the constitutional monarchy was immediately endorsed by Georgian authorities, 14 just as the debate over the decriminalization of drugs 15 was suspended following a proposal by the Church. 16 In both cases, the GOC has managed to exert influence on Georgian politics.
Since 2012 clerical interference in political affairs has become increasingly obvious. Clergies expect the authorities to make decisions in accordance with their confessional viewpoints, mainly anti-Western, arguing that: EU is an attack against Orthodoxy; if we are Orthodox, we should be aligned with Russia, not Europe, etc. 17 Even the Patriarch himself has praised the Russian President Vladimir Putin by saying that “Putin is a wise man who will remedy the situation in Georgia.” 18 Furthermore, in 2014 the Georgian government created the precedent of restoring a soviet-like institution, the State Agency for Religious Issues. The institution is keen to conduct oversight on religions, mainly minorities—an approach, which has been repeatedly criticized by religious communities and civil society 19 .
To summarize, the Church-State relationship in Georgia is closer to the medieval concept of partnership than the secular principles of institutional separation. Political and religious thought is of a particular concern of Church-State overlap. The Georgian government still lacks the readiness to exercise decision-making freedom, especially on issues where religion has a place but not legitimate power. In democratic states government officials separate their personal opinions about religious leaders from public policy. Their viewpoint can be taken along with others or simply rejected.
Weak international links
For the GOC, international links are essential to escape from Russian isolationism. Furthermore, it will be helpful for the Georgian government as well if the GOC makes supportive statements in various international religious forums regarding the state’s European integration policy. However, on May 20, 1997 GOC left the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Conference of European Churches (CEC), two of the leading European church forums and subsequently became a victim of Russian propaganda. 20 Today the GOC is reluctant to actively participate in any ecumenical or inter-faith dialogue formats. For instance, primates from the GOC are taking part in the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue, as one of the ecumenical forums today. This commission issues official theological documents, which have been signed by all its participants including the GOC 21 , but the documents are never easily accessible if at all on the Church official web-pages and the events are not publicized. Furthermore, the Patriarch of Georgia has issued an extraordinary supportive call for Georgian Catholics living in the southern part of Georgia, stating: “Don’t forget that we are the same as
we believe in one God, the Farther, Son and Holy Spirit,” 22 but this position has not been supported by the official position of the GOC. For example, when fundamentalist GOC groups accused the Roman Catholic Pope of being a heretic during his 2016 23 visit to Tbilisi, the Church did not punish any member of the group.
The pan-Orthodox relationship is one of the main concerns of the GOC. In 2016 the GOC suddenly refused to participate in the Crete Counsel without providing a real explanation. 24 This came as a surprise to many Orthodox leaders and the Constantinople Patriarchate, 25 because the inter-faith and even pan-Orthodox relationships are assumed as a way of separating from Russian isolationism in which the GOC has been living for centuries.
Besides, the GOC does not promote Western theological studies. Those who receive diplomas from leading Western theological universities are denied positions in the GOC.
In brief, interfaith dialogue promotes the European values of mutual cooperation to come together across lines of faith and culture. This is a courageous call for religions in 21 st century, which breaks isolation and creates opportunities to learn how to coexistence. If it does not accept this dialogue, the GOC would be isolated from rest of the Christendom and abandoned only to the Russian Theo-imperialistic ideology, that employs the eschatological concept of the Russian state featuring as the “third (and the last) Rome”.
Conclusion and Recommendations
This policy brief presents a bird-eye view of the main problems on a specific set of issues. Based on this analysis, several conclusions can be drawn. First, GOC does not have a well-structured position toward the country’s Europeanisation process. This may negatively impact public opinion about the State’s euro-integration policy. Second, the modern practice of church-state relations in Georgia does not follow the principles of the separation of church and state that are guaranteed by the Georgian Constitution. These principles are abrogated by government officials who accept the Church’s position as “priestly” advice. Finally, the Georgian Orthodox Church’s isolationist, inter-faith policy negatively affects the European integration process, inter alia promoting western values in the Georgian society.
Recommendations for the GOC:
The Holy Synod should respond to inappropriate sermons.
Ecumenical cooperation of the GOC should be publicly reported.
Cooperation with advanced European universities should be improved.
A social doctrine, created in cooperation with the public sector, should be considered a
Recommendations for the government:
The “awkward marriage” between the Georgian Orthodox Church and the government
should be modified according to secular principles.
The Soviet policy regarding religious control, which is conducted by the State Agency for
Religious Issues, must end. The State Agency must only function as a promoter of inter-
religious activity and a facilitator of state-religion affairs.
The government needs to take steps to make sure that inter-religious study is taken
seriously at schools and universities to promote the cultural and religious mediation
process and support tolerance in Georgia's multi-religious society.
Recommendation for civil society:
The social doctrine, a manual for the GOC that outlines its relation with the “outer realm,” (the state and civil society) should be written in cooperation with the public sector. The document should cover the following issues: Church-State relationships; Church and Nationality; Christian Ethics and Human Rights; Church and Secular Education;
Christian Family and Morality; Church and Culture; Church and Inter-Faith/Inter-
Religious Dialogue; Church and Bioethics and etc.
Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP) is a Tbilisi-based non-profit, non-partisan, research and analysis organization. GIP works to strengthen the organizational backbone of democratic institutions and promote good governance and development through policy research and advocacy in Georgia.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Georgian Institute of Politics.
HOW TO QUOTE THIS DOCUMENT:
Vladimer Narsia. "Church and Politics or Church in Politics: How does the Georgian Orthodox Church Impact Georgia’s European Integration Policy?", Policy Brief No. 14, Georgian Institute of Politics, May
Georgian Institute of Politics, 2018
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1 Primates are priests of very high rank in the Christian Church.
2 National Democratic Institute‘s poll (2017, June). Available at: https://new.ndi.org/sites/default/files/NDI%20poll_June_2017_Political_ENG_final.pdf
3 DFWatch. (2014, April 30). Orthodox Church against EU in Georgian parliament, Available at: http://dfwatch.net/orthodox-church-against-eu-in-georgian-parliament-57404-28332
4 (2018). მეუფე სპირიდონი 17 მაისის შესახებ. [Online Video]. (2018, May 23). Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYcAd0AwOxQ. (Accessed: 16 January 2018).; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21Kq0HypGX4
5 Patriarch’s response to Mr. Stefan Fule: “...I want to tell you that I am convinced in that for a long time already. See: Civil Georgia. (2014, March 4). Patriarch: 'Church Will Do Everything to Make Georgia EU Member. Available at: http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=27008
6 Civil Georgia. (2014, April 28). Georgian Church Speaks Out Against Anti-Discrimination Bill. Available at: http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=27175
7 Civil Georgia. (2010, October 3). Patriarch: 'Refrain from Sending Kids Abroad for Education. Available at: http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=22722
8 Social Media: Facebook account- The Georgian Way.
9 CDD. (2017). Georgian Orthodox Church visits in Brussels. [Online Video]. 2 January 2017. Available from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btES1DiotG8&feature=youtu.be. (Accessed: 16 January 2018); See also:
“Georgia: Project Aims To Boost Orthodox Church’s Support For EU Integration”. Available at: http://gip.ge/georgia-project-aims-to-boost-orthodox-churchs-support-for-eu-integration/
10 Patriarch’s meeting with clergies and psychologists. 09 Mar 2018. See: http://patriarchate.ge/geo/katolikos-
patriarqis-shexvedra-samghvdeloebastan-da/ [Accessed: 11 March 2018]
11 Lekso Gelashvili. (2018). About Anti-Discrimination Law. [Online Video]. 1 May 2014. Available from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxwDmzoWihU&t=1432s+&+https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv=diu_PDIllvw. [Accessed: 16 January 2018].
12 Civil Georgia. (2017, July 26). CSOs: PM Kvirikashvili’s Church Statements ‘Irresponsible’, Available at:
13 “Kviris Palitra” N31 (224) 2-8 August 1999, p. 8.
14 Jam News, (2017, June 19) Long live the king! Possible restoration of monarchy considered in Georgia! Available
15 First Channel. (2018, January 12). Patriarchate believes that discussion on drug decriminalization should be
suspended. Available at: https://1tv.ge/en/news/patriarchate-believes-discussion-drug-decriminalization-suspended/
16 First Channel. (2018, January 12). Irakli Kobakhidze - Discussion on drug policy should be continued with
everyone, including the Patriarchate. Available, at: https://1tv.ge/en/news/irakli-kobakhidze-discussion-drug-
17 MDF Georgia.See: Ant-Western Propaganda: http://mdfgeorgia.ge/uploads/Antidasavluri-ENG-web.pdf
18 Zviadauri Ilia, (2013, April 15). The Georgian Orthodox Church: Some Aspects of Its Rhetoric and Practice.
Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 70 Available at: https://jamestown.org/program/the-
19 Human Rights Education and Monotoring Center (EMC) Review: Available at: https://emc.org.ge/uploads/products/pdf/February_July_2016.pdf
20 World Council of Church. (2004, January 1). Country Profile: Georgia. Available at:
21 Ecupatria. (2016, October 16). International Commission for Anglican–Orthodox Theo-logical Dialogue
Communiqué. Available at: https://www.ecupatria.org/2016/10/06/international-commission-for-anglican-
22 Journal Jvari Vazisa. Ed. 1998 (1). p.4. (Sermons taken in the villages, called: Ude and Araly)
23 Euronews. (2016). Pope Francis takes first trip to Georgia, but not everyone is happy. [Online Video]. 16 January
2018. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iX_GPNKsV0o. [Accessed: 16 January 2018].
24 Holy Council. 2016. Official Documents of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. Available at:
25 Interview of the Constantinople Patriarchate on TV Imedi. (2017, December 17) Available
Speech by the Rt.Hon. Lord Robertson, Secretary General of NATO
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here. I have often heard of Georgia's wonderful reputation, for its thermal springs, its excellent wines, and its legendary hospitality. I am very pleased to be able to confirm for myself that these treasures are indeed worthy of their reputation. And I am not at all surprised that Jason and the Argonauts found the Golden Fleece here in Georgia!
Georgia's international reputation is growing in another area as well: as a newly independent country that is making a serious and successful transition into a modern European state. The reforms that this country has undergone -- sometimes painfully, but always with determination -- are paying off. Georgia's economy is recovering. Investment is increasing. And your democratic credentials are admirable. Elections are run fairly, people come out to vote in significant numbers, and the press is free and lively.
Much of this success is due to the leadership of President Shevardnadze, who retains the respect and affection of the international community. I congratulate him, and all the Georgian people, on the progress you have made until now in building a more democratic, more prosperous and more stable country.
Georgia's success in building for the future is a key test for broader European security. Why? Because we realise, that our security is inseparably linked with that of other countries. We believe that security is only possible, if, within Europe and its surrounding area, there is stability and a commitment to solve problems together. In short: the more secure our neighbours are, the more secure we are.
That is why co-operation and dialogue between states and institutions have become central planks of European security. Co-operation is no longer just a peripheral activity; in the 21st Century, it is the foundation of a sound foreign policy. Security is something no single nation can provide completely on its own. Only co-operation - both regional and international - offers the possibility to create the kind of long-term security and stability any nation seeks. Only nations that remain outward-looking, that connect to the wider world, will prosper.
Georgia has clearly understood this lesson -- and your approach has been exemplary. Georgia has been a member of the OSCE since 1992. In 1999 it became a member of the Council of Europe. And it has signed a Partnership and Co-operation Agreement with the European Union.
NATO, too, believes fundamentally in the importance of cooperation when it comes to security. The peacekeeping operations in the Balkans stand as vivid testimony.
As you all know, in Bosnia and in Kosovo there are currently two major peacekeeping operations, involving almost 70,000 troops. The core of these troops is provided by NATO member states. But there are many more nations who participate. Indeed, troops from Europe, North America, Africa, Latin America and even Asia are operating under the same command -- including, of course, the Georgian infantry platoon. Slowly but surely this unique international coalition is pushing the Balkans towards a sustainable peace.
Indeed, nothing illustrates better the fundamentally changed nature of European security than this coalition. Countries which were once adversaries are now natural partners. For the first time in modern history, European countries can ensure peace and security with each other, rather than against each other. For the first time there is a genuine common interest in working together to find solutions to shared problems.
The fact that NATO and non-NATO countries are co-operating so closely and so frequently also reflects the fundamentally changed nature of NATO itself. It is no exaggeration to say that since the end of the East-West confrontation NATO has changed beyond recognition.
Instead of being focused on a single mission -- collective defence against an adversary -- NATO has turned into a motor of Euro-Atlantic security co-operation and a catalyst for political change. It has adopted a new approach to security based on the principle of co-operation with non-member countries and other institutions. And the benefits of what NATO does extend throughout the Euro-Atlantic area, including the Caucasus.
The Partnership for Peace programme, launched six years ago, is the main framework through which the Alliance promotes cooperation. In essence, it is a programme of bilateral military co-operation between the Alliance and individual non-NATO nations. Behind this initiative was the desire of Allies to share their experience and expertise with the countries to NATO's East.
After the break-up of the Soviet Union, many of these countries were establishing, some of them for the first time, national security policies and defence ministries. We did not want to impose our views on anyone. But we believed that these countries could usefully draw on the wide experience of NATO members. That way, we could help these countries during a critical phase in their transition. Because it was in our very own security interest to see this transition succeed. Again, the more secure our neighbours are, the more secure we are.
Now, more than 6 years after the start of PfP, the number of Partners has grown to 26, involving countries coming from all points of the compass and from a range of security traditions. It is thus no exaggeration to say that the Partnership between the 19 NATO-members and the 26 Partners provides the most intensive programme of military-to-military co-operation ever conceived.
This programme has provided added momentum to the reform processes of many Partner nations, particularly concerning practical questions of how to organise and control military forces in democratic societies. And it has led to a degree of technical and conceptual interoperability among our forces that is unprecedented. In short, PfP has marked the beginning of a new security culture throughout Eurasia - a culture based on practical security co-operation.
As PfP has evolved, so the opportunities for Partners to have a say in this programme has constantly increased.
In the early days of PfP, for example, NATO would essentially offer its Partners a menu of activities, which they could choose from. Today, Partners are much more self-confident and eager to shape the programme together with Allies. The Partners contribute to the establishment of the Partnership Work Programme. In other words, they have understood that it is they who decide how far and how deep co-operation should go, and that, therefore, it is they who bear a certain responsibility for the future of these ndeavours. That is why they have remained so interested - and so active.
Georgia joined PfP in 1994 and since then has become one of its most active members. Our common activities focus on Civil Emergency Planning, civil-military relations, Defence Policy and Strategy, and defence reform. And there is potential for an even more fruitful partnership.
On a political level, NATO's co-operation with Partners finds its expression in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). EAPC provides a platform for Allies and Partners to discuss issues of common concern. It is also the political "roof" of Partnership for Peace.
The EAPC agenda covers a wide range of issues, such as regional security, energy security, and civil emergency planning. Georgia seized the opportunities offered by the EAPC, and has become one of the most active participants. Indeed, the first ever EAPC regional security co-operation event was held in Georgia.
Over the years, Georgia has hosted a significant number of EAPC activities. For example, an important seminar on Regional Security Cooperation in the Caucasus took place in Gudauri in October 1998 and an EAPC Seminar on defence budgeting was held here just a few months ago. The number of activities Georgia has initiated or offered to host in 2001 is equally impressive.
These conferences are very good examples of the EAPC potential to contribute to dialogue, and to help promote the conditions necessary for regional stability. Of course, NATO cannot and does not claim a lead role in facilitating the peace processes in this region. That responsibility rests first and foremost with the parties of the region, who must find a way to agree on a peaceful way forward.
And of course, the OSCE and the United Nations play a vital role, as does the GUUAM. Through PfP and EAPC, NATO stands ready to support these efforts. The Alliance firmly believes that this region deserves peace and stability -- and the economic investment and prosperity that go with it.
It is also a reality that there will be no comprehensive settlement of the disputes in the region without the participation of the region's major powers -- including, of course Russia. The Georgian relationship with Russia is, obviously, a vital one.
NATO considers it a positive step that the withdrawal of Russian military equipment from Georgia is underway and hopes that it will be completed, as was foreseen in the agreement reached at the Istanbul OSCE Summit. This is a sign that we can achieve progress; and that issues can be resolved through negotiation.
This same principle underpins NATO's relationship with Russia. Our disagreements during the Kosovo crisis made it obvious that the NATO-Russia relationship is still burdened by Cold War stereotypes. But we are getting beyond them, because we know that in the long run we will not be able to achieve increased security in Europe or the Caucasus without Russia, let alone against it.
Russia, in turn, knows that co-operation with NATO is essential if this large country is to successfully manage its challenging political and economic transition. Let us not forget: for several years now, NATO and Russian troops are working side-by-side on the ground in the Balkans. This shows that NATO and Russia can work together where it counts -- and that they simply cannot afford to ignore each other.
It is this logic of inclusion and co-operation that also characterises the other co-operative ties NATO has developed over the past decade: the distinct NATO-Ukraine relationship, for example, or the Dialogue with countries of the Southern Mediterranean. The specifics of our co-operation may differ in each case, but the rationale for our co-operation is always the same: the more secure our neighbours are, the more secure we are.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me conclude. What I have tried to convey to you in my short remarks today is a sense of the importance we attach to the logic of partnership. I wanted to convey to you how pleased we are to see co-operation develop here, in the Caucasus, just as it has developed successfully in Europe. The relationship of the Republic of Georgia with NATO is dynamic, evolving -- and rewarding, for both NATO and Georgia.
Of course, the countries of the Caucasus have their own specifics, and their own dynamics. NATO does not have the solution to all the problems here, nor elsewhere. But policies of co-operation will strengthen security for us all. We have a unique chance to turn Europe into a region of co-operation and stability, in which every country has its say, and none considers itself threatened. NATO is determined to work with Georgia, and all the countries of the region, to make this ambitious goal a reality.
Dear Conference Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to Georgia. I am happy that such an esteemed audience has gathered at a Conference dedicated to discussing the role and place of Georgia in our world. We are an integral part of the international community, we share the same problems and pains, victories and defeats felt throughout the planet. It has taken the efforts of many generations of Georgians to make this truth, so self-evident to every Georgian, apparent to the rest of the world. This is why we attach such a great importance to holding today's Conference where the presentation of the strategic document "Georgia and the World: a Vision and Strategy for the Future" will be held. This document sets forth in detail those necessary reforms and measures that are essential for strengthening Georgia's security and harmonizing our security system with international norms.
Georgia is one of the world's ancient countries. During our 30 centuries-long history of statehood, the Georgian people managed to preserve their unique language, culture and identity.
After gaining independence, Georgia set off on the irreversible track toward building a democratic society. During the initial years after independence, the course of Georgia's foreign policy was often discussed. Heated debate on this topic could be heard in all strata of Georgian society - including the halls of Parliament. Reasons for this are clear. We had to clarify our attitude toward the external world - one which would be in place for many years to come, and based on which the external world would then form its attitude toward us.
Georgia is a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional country. Orthodox Christian faith always played a leading role in our history and development. Each of us has internalized from the cradle that Georgian stability and well-being depends on the harmonious coexistence between different ethnic and religious groups, and protection of their reasonable interests. The finest years of Georgia's long history - our golden age so to speak - where characterized by this very same tolerance and harmony. The lessons of our domestic peaceful co-existence show that the foreign relations of today's Georgia would be similarly cloudless provided our country enjoys good relations with all countries, and therefore if our course is oriented towards friendship with all our neighbors both near and far - rather than toward any one geographic area. Today, we can say that we have achieved success in this direction.
Even as impoverished Georgia teetered on fragmentation and economic catastrophe, she began to implement this course since we believed that it would prove to be an enormous resource. Otherwise, the newly emerged Georgian state simply could not exist. We have so far put this resource to maximum use without loss to anyone, and we intend to stay the course. It was thanks to this course that the decisive support our friends gave us became possible. It is not difficult to imagine what we would have had there not being this assistance. Who can forget that through the decisive stage of our modern history the United States of America, in fact, practically gave us a grant of 650-700 million dollars, Germany - 320 million Deutsche mark, EU - 300 million Euro. Georgia, facing hunger and cold, was helped on several occasions by Turkey, UK, Japan, France, Italy, Netherlands, Greece, Ukraine, and others. This is not even including the food, training and technical assistance in the agriculture, energy, and military sectors. The role of our friends in establishing Georgia's transit function, opening the gateway to Europe, and the development and implementation of hydrocarbon projects has been invaluable. The help extended by international financial institutions must be given special note. Thanks to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Georgia has one of the essential necessary attributes of statehood - a national currency. The Lari, compared to the currencies of neighboring states, withstood the shock of the recent financial crisis relatively well.
As we seek good relations with all states, we remain committed to those fundamental principles which shape our identity - the closest and most dear to us being European, the Western values. We share very clearly democratic values and strive to attain a full fledged integration in European structures. We regard such integration and rapid economic growth based on market economy to be the key means of achieving our national goals as many our neighbours do in South and North, West and East.
Georgia actively participates in developing the model for European security architecture for the 21st century. Our accession to the Council of Europe is evidence of this. Under extremely difficult conditions, Georgia has managed to demonstrate to the international community that such universal values as the respect for human rights, pluralistic democracy, religions and ethnic tolerance represent Georgian state's policy priorities. We are sure that by joining the Council of Europe, a qualitatively new phase of Georgia's participation in European integration processes began.
Despite all this, however, Georgia's full participation in building our common future is unimaginable without finding its place in the process which is known today as globalization. This represents one of the cornerstones of our vision and foreign strategy. At the Millennium Summit, globalization was named among the primary shapers of the future. For us, globalization means Georgia's participation in global and regional alliances, international distribution of labor, development of modern information technologies, elaboration and management of the world economic system, equal participation in such charters and conventions which promote and facilitate Georgia's contribution to protecting human rights and those of ethnic minorities. One of the best exapmles of our participation in globalization is the New Silk Road, which is already functioning and embraces three main directions -Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA), the Strategic Energy Corridor, and the telecommunications network. I am sure that in the nearest future we will be able to speak about not only East-West but also North-South cooperation.
Globalization means mutual enrichment of cultures through permanent dialogue and contact between them, and by no means does it imply the diminishing of cultural distinctiveness or the leveling celebration of differences. This, too, is a significant part of our vision for the world's future, and Georgia's place in it.
Small Georgia can be proud that it has been among the pioneers of this movement. It was in Tbilisi that the first forum on the Dialogue of Cultures, held under the auspices of UNESCO, laid the foundation for the movement which found continuation during the course of the Millennium Summit. Georgia, as a crossroad between civilizations, is a good lab for researching these issues. It was for this reason that in New York we proposed that the Center for the Dialogue between Cultures be established in Tbilisi.
When talking about our role and place in the world, we take into account those obstacles which regrettably abound along the road - specifically, separatist regimes, unresolved conflicts, foreign military bases, and threats at our borders. The successful removal of these obstacles, which I am sure will happen, is a necessary precondition for providing a stable political, economic and social environment in the region.
In this context, the most severe wound over which we all agonize is the conflicts. The UN Secretary General noted that the total number of casualties from local conflicts can be compared to the numbers lost in both World Wars.
This is particularly relevant to us. Unresolved conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as in neighboring countries, impede economic development and growth in investment and trade, thereby endangering stability throughout the entire region.
We consider that deepening of regional cooperation in concert with the vigorous efforts of the international community will be an effective mean to address the challenges of our times. Elaboration of a regional approach to political, economic, and security matters is one of the necessary conditions for the prosperity of the region. Georgia is doing everything possible to promote regional cooperation across a wide spectrum of issues. The Peaceful Caucasus Initiative, co-authored by Azeri President Alyev and later supported by Armenia, was born five years ago and was followed by the historic Kislovodsk Declaration, and many other statements. It also prompted the involvement of the European Union in sponsoring the development of the Caucasus Stability Pact, the idea which was first voiced in Tbilisi by President Demirel of Turkey.
In terms of regional cooperation, we have several priorities. One of them is GUUAM aimed at facilitating economic projects, and enhancing cooperation in security field and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
We also attach great importance to the development of cooperation within the framework of BSEC, to which the EU shows growing interest.
Further development of the cooperation within the CIS framework remains significant. It must be well understood that the CIS is not a single country. I believe that it holds promise, both for bilateral and multilateral development. As many other organizations, CIS is experiencing both positive and negative trends, the latter exemplified by Russia's withdrawal from the Bishkek Treaty, the talks on the possible visa regime, and the fact that many important decisions remain merely on paper. This does not mean, however, that we should give up on this alliance of sovereign states. To the contrary. We should rather make every effort to tap into the positive potential that the organization undoubtedly has. We believe that priority must be given to the expansion of economic ties and creation of a free trade zone within the CIS. Also, we deem it necessary to activate the peacekeeping function of the CIS and facilitate its close cooperation with organizations having wider experience in these matters.
Georgia attaches the greatest importance to the further development of bilateral ties with individual countries, based on mutual respect and promotion of close collaboration in the area of bilateral interests. Our priorities are also deepening co-operation with the neighboring countries, including Russia and the countries of the Euroatlantic community, as well as developing close ties with the states of Central Asia, the Pacific and the Mediterranean basin.
In the process of ensuring national security, the country's economic strategy assumes major significance. In this area, too, Georgia must not be left outside the mainstream of globalization. Becoming a member of the World Trade Organization was only a beginning on the road. Our aim is to attract investment and enhance Georgia's viability as an arena for free competition of the latest scientific achievements and advanced technologies, as well as to establish our place on the international market for our competitive goods.
We will continue to work closely with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the EBRD, whose help and recommendations play a crucial role in the successful implementation of economic reforms. We also continue cooperating with the specialized agencies of the United Nations, who are also making a major contribution to the economic reforms in the country.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Georgia's goal is to establish her place in the family of free nations. Nobody can dispute that this course is correct. Democracy and the right of free choice are those fundamental principles that allow our citizens to fully realize their potential. As we seek our niche in the global community of nations, we are working hard to create a better future for our citizens, as well as make our contribution to universal well-being as we have always striven to do in the course of our centuries-old history.
In closing, let me wish every success to the participants of the conference, and thank you for your attention.