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.