The Speech of the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, Mr. Zurab Zhvania at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 27 January, 1999, Strasbourg

Mr. President, Dear Colleagues,

I am extremely excited and overfilled with emotions at the moment. It is my honor to address you on such a historic day for my country. It would not be an exaggeration to say that every Georgian, all Georgian citizens look forward to an important message from this hall of the European palace.

I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all who helped Georgia become the member of the Council of Europe. Their work is invaluable.

We express our gratitude to Mrs. Leni Fischer, the former President of the Parliamentary Assembly for the considerable efforts she took in the process of starting and developing Georgia’s cooperation with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

I would like to welcome the election of Lord Russell-Johnston President of the Assembly. Mr. President, thank you for your support.

I would like to express my gratitude to Mr. Terry Davis and Mr. Andras Kelemen, for their speeches.

Since the very first visit to Georgia they have been the most upright and strictest evaluators of the on-going processes, not sparing their efforts and energy to study every detail of the existing circumstances in Georgia.

Now our country has true friends who know exactly what is going on in Georgia and around it. I would like to thank everyone who voted for Georgia’s membership in the Council of Europe, all political groups and the representatives of state delegations. All of you sincerely have taken pains to study and understand our problems and reality, to share our hopes.

I would like to thank those, who on the threshold of a new millennium reflect on this part of the world in the context of Russia’s imperial political geography of the XIX century. I am grateful that they did not impede the Assembly’s ballot, that the also welcomed Georgia join the Council of Europe.

From the very first year of its independence, Georgia occurred in such a chaos and lawlessness that hardly anyone would have put faith in the future of our state – we have undergone through the bitterness of civil war, economic collapse and have witnessed the hardest social crisis.

Today Georgia is a completely different country. In August, 1995, we adopted the Constitution as a result of political consensus and this is why the Constitution has become the starting point in the unification of the nation and national concord.

The results of Parliamentary and Presidential elections having taken place on the basis of the new Constitution gave way to radical reforms in all spheres of our life: We have adopted over 500 fundamental legislative acts in three years; we have initiated cardinal judicial reforms, held local elections.

Today, political life of Georgia is driven by pluralistic polyphony. Strong and dynamic public sector is being developed on the basis of influential and independent mass media, along with likewise strong and influential non-governmental organizations. More importantly, Georgia plays the key role in the development of new regional architecture in this part of the world. Our vision of the region’s future is based on the belief that plentiful resources of the Caspian and the Black Sea regions, causing endless confrontations, that are less likely to be beneficial for anyone, not only allow, but offer everybody to take advantage through cooperation. The new concept of a “new silk road” leads us to a new regional order which means welfare and stability in this part of the world. This will be our contribution to the cause of building up European security. Not a single country should be isolated from this wonderful prospect.

I take the opportunity to appeal to our dear colleagues to expedite granting the membership of the Council of Europe to our brothers, our close neighbors – Armenia and Azerbaijan. I am confident that this will deepen regional cooperation and make it warmer and stronger in the whole region.

We, as a country of new democracy, are still facing many problems and challenges. I do share the remarks of the speakers and members of the Political Affairs Committee as well as of the authors of the addenda. We do our best to handle all these problems within the context of internal policy. The terms and conditions offered by you are acceptable for us, since these terms and conditions are a part of our working program.

I am positive that Georgia will fulfill every obligation the Parliamentary Assembly lays on it. The president of Georgia, Edward Shevardnadze made a big contribution to the formation of a new European order, the order which enables us to speak about great Europe without any demarcation line or a wall. His personal belief and efforts to make Georgia a part of this new architecture is obvious to all.

Joining the Council of Europe is not the priority of only Georgia’s President or its political establishment. This is the fundamental priority reflecting the wish, consciousness and aspiration of Georgian people. We believe in the future of Georgia, which is now returning to its natural habitat, back to its home – the European family of free nations.

By joining the Council of Europe we declare our political choice and state that the values which the Georgian society is based on – pluralism, respect for social diversity, traditional tolerance, dignity of a person and the supremacy of rights of each individual – represent the genuine values for the Georgians.

Throughout centuries we have been struggling for the maintenance of our independence and national individuality, we have been dreaming of the time when we would return home.
I think you can understand the emotions of my friends, the members of Georgian delegation and mine, how happy and proud we feel to have the privilege fallen to our lot to declare in this hall “I am Georgian and therefore I am European”.