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Speech of President Zourabichvili at the 8th Ordinary Session of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

We can probably never enough thank, first of all, our Swedish and Polish partners for the initiative that has been incredibly successful, but also the European Union and the Parliament here represented, for allowing this to go through this path that has led us and brought us much closer to the European Union. Much closer politically, institutionally, economically. Much closer in terms of our societies, our cultures. It has consolidated our democratic development, our stability.
 
We are now enjoying a visa-free regime, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area and, last but not least, we have become associate members, which allows us to associate ourselves to major foreign political decisions of the EU, to feel ourselves part of a large community that is sharing identical values and aspirations.
 
It is this sense of belonging and of commitment, of solidarity which drives us to take our share when it comes to responding to security challenges, whether it is in the framework of NATO peacekeeping missions, or EU peacekeeping missions.
 
But for the same reason, and because the path to more democracy, more stability, more prosperity has to be consolidated every day, because the efforts have to be reinforced when reaching the more challenging stages of reform in the judicial, political, or economic field, we need to look at a clear and bright future, we need a clear perspective.
 
I don’t think we have to wait ten more years, at least that is my personal intuition and conviction. We have to, and when I say ‘we’, that means, in the first place, our citizens, look at the next stages to be achieved, the next instruments that will serve these stages, the next steps to be taken toward the only ultimate goal, that of integration, and for that, we cannot only repeat that we are happy of the success that we’ve had, we have to start thinking outside the box. We have to find new ways, we have to find new instruments and we have to make more efforts.
 
Our goal is set in clear terms in our new Constitution, and that is the document that I am in charge of defending and guaranteeing. That goal is without alternative for Georgia, without alternative neither for the authorities of this country nor for its population, that is immune until today, and I hope for a very long time, to the wave of Euroskepticism. The European Union is where Georgians recognize their values, know they have their roots, share the culture and see their future.
 
That is not to say there are not challenges. There are challenges facing the European Union itself that we understand very well. They are both internal and external challenges and we are convinced, because that was the case during all the crises that the European Union went through, that they will face these challenges and overcome them with lots of imagination and forward-looking perspectives. We, of course, share these challenges that today are common to all countries of the civilized world. The gravest internal challenge, and Georgia is not the only one in that, is the polarization of the society. I am trying to combat this polarization since my inauguration as President. We have to combat the polarization, all of us, the different political parties, the society itself, the media, and, of course, the authorities of the countries. We have to overcome the polarization because no society that is so divided and antagonistic can find resources to overcome the other challenges of today’s world, whether they are economic, whether they are political, and, in our case, no society that is so utterly divided can overcome its main existential challenge:  that of the occupation of part of its territory by the Russian forces.
 
A divided society cannot solve the issue of occupation, nor can it get the necessary full support of its partners. A divided society cannot engage in the necessary search of a political solution that can only be reached through political dialogue.
 
Dialogue within the society, between the political forces, as well as dialogue with all relevant actors of the conflicts is an absolute necessity. Raising the level of the existing formats to deal with and negotiate the solutions to a conflict to a political one is without alternative.
 
As it is shown today when, with the situation of Dr. Vazha Gaprindashvili, which was already mentioned, not even in such a shocking humanitarian case when a doctor is arrested and detained when doing his medical duty for no other reason than to practice medicine without borders or without any delimitation or administrative lines, neither the Geneva nor the IPRM formats have been able to provide an answer, because they remain still at a very bureaucratic level.
 
Partnership also means that we have to look for more political solutions involving EU political levels to discuss and solve issues that if left the way they are can create grounds for possible escalation. And, since our stability is essential for Georgia, for the region as a whole, as well as for Europe, no one needs neither escalation nor additional spots of tension in the world.
 
We all have to design more effective ways to overcome the Russian occupation.
 
We have to give the citizens living in Georgia, and that means including in the occupied territories, access to equal rights and possibility to benefit of the four central freedoms that are the symbols of the European Union.
 
And last but not least, I couldn’t conclude my speech here today, without presenting you with a request that I presented to all international organizations I wrote to in the past weeks and I want today, on the 9th of December, one month after the arrest of Dr. Gaprindashvili, to urge this assembly gathered here in Tbilisi to join the many humanitarian appeals that have been made in support of Dr. Vazha Gaprindashvili’s immediate release and I am confident that my plea will be heard by you here and hopefully by those who have to take the one and only sensible decision, that of release.
 

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