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President's remarks at the debate held by EURONEWS

President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili attended a debate held by EURONEWS - "Europe: Popular or populist"
- Hello!
I have the impression of being a little bit of a UFO because the Europe that I will be telling you about isn’t the Europe of populism, it isn’t the Europe of discontent, it isn’t the Europe with the rise of the different movements that try to dismantle or weaken it, but rather, it is a Europe that we await, that we are enthusiastic about. Georgia is a small country that still dreams of Europe, a dream that you all dreamed of years or decades ago, a dream that we are living now. That’s why if you come to Georgia, if you come to Tbilisi, you’ll see that many of our public buildings have European flags, you’ll see that we essentially look toward Europe.
Georgians vote with their feet for Europe every day. They are, unfortunately, among the migrants, legal or illegal, that come to Europe because that’s the future they perceive. We, the authorities, are building a country as European as possible specifically so that tomorrow, the youth will be able to find in Georgia what you have here -European standards of life, the European social protection, European environmental protections, and the security that you have, this European peace that was instituted as a founding reason of Europe, that survived all challenges, and that sometimes, today, for European populations, seems so natural that there is no need to defend it daily and that thanks to which we can afford the luxury today in Europe to be populist, to be skeptic, to be anti-European, as everything is granted. Georgia is viewed as a little far in the vision of some Europeans and on the other side of Turkey, but perceives herself very differently and on the other shore of the Black Sea, a sea that is becoming more and more European, closer and closer to Europe.
She also feels very European, even sometimes European before the Europeans, given her ancient status, given the fact that she is, with Armenia, the cradle of Christianity, the cradle of wine, the cradle of very European values that she has continued to incarnate for a very long time, such as tolerance, which is disappearing a little bit everywhere (including with us, sometimes with the goal to attack us), but which is a value that she has maintained across the centuries. We are, for example, a country that has seen the coexistence between the first Jewish diaspora and the local population for 27 centuries without any incident; and the State of Israel tells the Georgian state that you are the only state that does not need to apologize.
That is a great lesson of history and is in itself a European lesson, a lesson that Europe forgets or neglects, but that is the base itself of this European coexistence that founded Europe. Because Europe isn’t just legislation, it’s not just the space of exchanges or the fiscal space, it’s not only the European defense and security of today, it’s this ensemble of values, which is what Georgia claims belonging to.
Europe is not only the past for Georgia, it’s also its present, which is very strongly felt. Georgia has known what vassalage is, having come out of the Soviet empire, an empire of vassalage. She knows the price of freedom and reconquered independence. And if she looks at Europe, she looks toward a space that allows the country to exist without reducing it to a new vassalage and a new dependence. She has known war until not too long ago, just ten years ago, and she knows the price of defending her borders. She has today two occupied territories and a line of occupation that runs some 40 km away from the capital. So some things that are ancient for European minds are, for us, very actual and we know the world we live in, which is a world of immediate neighborhoods. There is Russia to our north, a source of daily threats, seeking to weigh on the internal consensus and on the internal democracy, seeking to force its values, practicing, just as in Europe, the use of fake news and different forms of pressure, direct or indirect. And what is very important in today’s Georgia is that she has made her European choice, she has entered the European neighborhood, in what was the then-policy of neighborhood fifteen years ago, and since then has progressed step-by-step, joining the Partnership, which today celebrates its ten year anniversary, and, five years later, the Association Agreement, the free trade agreement, and the visa liberalization and free circulation agreement, all of which make Georgia feel like it advances toward Europe.
Georgia also feels that Europe is approaching itself, notably through the fact that the Black Sea has become a sea of communication, a sea of transportation, and that is notably one of the grand new European projects. And what is most important is that all this has been done despite the war, despite Russia, despite Russia’s ambitions to specifically prevent Georgia’s road toward Europe and toward NATO (since it’s this ensemble that has been targeted, but particularly the European ensemble), and despite the fact that Russia has done everything it could to block, slow down, prevent this movement. But this movement is irreversible, it has been inscribed in the Georgian constitution since last year. My election is the election of a European, something that was entirely evident during the whole electoral campaign, and that choice was made because I was who I was, which is someone coming from France, a European bringing this European project, that’s what was accepted and voted on by Georgians last November.
So what is Georgia seeking toward Europe? She seeks this perspective, she seeks especially this peace and security, she seeks everything that is today forgotten by Europeans because when we are from the outside, there are things we can see better than when we are in the inside and are taken by these daily problems, which are sometimes very serious problems. And we look questionably from the outside at this Great Britain that wants to leave this European Union that we are so eager to join one day. We look at the rise of populism with some incomprehension because if we look at fear and worries as the motivations of these populisms, Georgia is, after all, a country that has known all the shocks of the 20th and 21st centuries in a very short period: the shock to exit an empire that was entire closed off, an Iron Curtain that isolated us from the whole word, the shock, once having left, for a small country with less than 5 million inhabitants to end up in the immensity of a world that had become globalized, the shock of encountering exterior cultures. All those things that worry European populations today were things that we went through entirely without being ready for them.
But our response to this fear, our response to these worries that everyone knows, such as facing today’s environmental and ecological threats, for this small country that may be tomorrow’s laboratory of experimentation of the European Union due to its biodiversity (which may become very useful in this sense), is that all of this is a very big shock. But our response to the shock is a unanimous response, which is to say our only possible solidarity, our only perspective is to get as close as possible to Europe. And this response is interestingly not only delivered by the Georgian authorities and by me, but by the Georgian population, which responds by 80% that it wants Europe, and has done so in a constant way for the past fifteen years. There is no change in opinion polls and the population may stay the last enthusiast of Europe and it can be useful to have a small enthusiast country that brings back this envy of Europe that you are sometimes forgetting.
The populism that we are seeing developed in Europe can, however, worry us on different aspects. It can worry us because it is very encouraged, sometimes even financed by Russia, a country which we know well, and of which we know the will to weaken Europe from within, to weaken everything that is around it and that may constitute some other power, a different form of attraction with different rules and different values. So today, Russia, which it hadn’t done in the previous years as it wasn’t as capable to utilize the developments in its surroundings, has understood that it could use these populisms at its advantage and does so. She does the same in Georgia but only limitedly because of our previous belonging to that empire and thanks to our knowledge of the diverse tactics of propaganda and of what Russia calls soft power (even though Russia does not know what soft power really is because soft power is supposed to be attractiveness, which Russia does not know how to project, she knows only how to divide and pressure in a very controlled manner its surroundings, especially in Central Europe.)
Populism is a danger because it propagates a real pessimism on the future, pessimism based on the fact that Europe as it exists is imperfect and the whole argument of populists is that Europe hasn’t managed to do this, or that. And to some extent it’s true, Europe isn’t perfect. But the problem is that there is no alternative that is more perfect than Europe, and there is no alternative to Europe. And that is for us a prime reality because of where we are, where we are located on a land that we consider anciently European and still European, the land where Jason kidnapped Medea (so we have this kidnapping story linking us at the beginning).
This European land is surrounded by what are all the dangers and instabilities of today’s world, whether it is Russia at its north, a Turkey that has become today very uncertain and of which we don’t know what will be its evolution, Iran more to the south, with even more uncertainties about what will happen with the tensions that may develop there, an ancient neighbor with who we always had secular relations, sometimes of war, sometimes peaceful, and the Syrian world and terrorism, all of that is around us and much closer to us than to you.
That’s why we see with much more clarity the European perspective, this Europe that is neither the most populated continent, nor the most militarily powerful, and that doesn’t respond to all the questions of the world, and despite this, we see this European imperfection as our perspective, our only perspective and if you have any doubt, as we don’t have any, let’s try to imagine what the world would become if there was no more Europe.
When we imagine this, we see the emptiness that the world would face without a Europe that inspires certain values, that inspires a great amount of stability, and that threatens and defines no one, which is what we have done in our region on a very small scale in the 27 centuries of Georgian history that I recalled before. Georgia never invaded foreign borders and Europe is exactly that at the scale of this great planet. It’s today an ensemble for peace and prosperity with a lot of problems. These problems need to be resolved, this is your challenge, and we are ready to do our part progressively, as we are realists and we know that there are questions on enlargement.
Our will isn’t to force the doors but to penetrate by all the doors that will open and we have already entered some, we have already very much entered Erasmus, all our students enter Europe thanks to Erasmus and Erasmus Plus. We have entered the Europe of culture, we have entered the Europe of transportation, we have entered some parts of the Europe of agriculture, or rather, we are helped by the Europe of agriculture. And we will continue in this direction step-by-step. Everywhere we will be let in, we will be there and we will be there at your side. We need you, but you also need the enthusiasm that is delivered by the very small Georgia, at the doors of Europe.

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