Independence Day of Georgia – a narrative of misplaced and regained freedom –

On May 26, when Georgia celebrates Independence Day, David Zalkaliani, the country’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, describes what this day means for his compatriots.

David Zalkaliani is a Georgian professional diplomat who has served as Georgia’s Foreign Minister since June 21, 2018.

2021 is a milestone for our country: On the occasion of the 103th anniversary of the First Democratic Republic of Georgia on May 26th, we will also celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Soviet occupation and 30 years of restoration of independence from this brutal regime.

A little over a century ago, Georgia developed into a rather unique independent republic, described as a remarkable experiment in social democracy. Indeed, between 1918 and 1921 Georgia was a functioning democracy with a multi-party system based on the principles of freedom, social justice and equality.

The newly elected parliament, which passed the most progressive constitution of 1921, repealed the death penalty, guaranteed rights of conscience, religion, opinion, assembly, minority and equal voting rights.

During a visit by a prominent European social democratic delegation, the first social democratic government was born in a rather unfavorable environment.

The short-lived democracy has strongly shaped the perception of the Georgians and the assessment of the subsequent invasion of Georgia by the Red Army. Through the vicious Soviet totalitarianism, the nation still remembered the origins of the history of democratic statehood, violently but temporarily disrupted.

Regaining freedom after seventy years of communist rule is not effortless, but with an invaluable sacrifice of our heroes whom we honor today.

The subsequent 1995 constitution established a political and legal link between modern Georgian democracy and the First Republic of Georgia. However, there were significant differences between 1918 and 1991.

Today the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia is supported by the international community, even if it has been called into question by its northern neighbor (as it was a hundred years ago). Today Georgia is gradually building a free, democratic and value-based state and is successfully striving for integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic institutions.

This achievement is shared by our friendly nations around the world because of their continued and unwavering support for Georgia.

Today, on the occasion of Independence Day in Georgia, we are also fighting the global pandemic, enduring the Russian occupation and addressing the new security situation in the region.

However, the overwhelming public support and near consensus among the political parties on Georgia’s foreign policy, combined with years of democratic reforms, have earned our country the reputation of yet another success story in Eastern Europe.

Today Georgia is the EU’s associated partner. This association is based on historical connections and shared values ​​on which the EU is built and on which Georgia is obliged to implement and promote.

The association agreement contains conditions that lead to the creation of a common economic area between the EU and Georgia, as the country achieves economic integration into the EU internal market on the basis of a comprehensive legal and regulatory approximation enshrined in the agreement.

Economic integration is only possible with strong and reliable connectivity, which has become an increasingly important element on Georgia’s European agenda. Georgia, along with other partners from the east, is part of the TEN-Transport network and is improving the important physical infrastructure in road, rail, port facilities and logistics centers as part of the TEN-T Indicative Investment Action Plan.

Georgia itself invests in various infrastructure projects: transport, energy and digital, which support the country’s economic development. With a recognized role in connectivity, we are ready and able to participate in the implementation of the EU strategy to connect Europe and Asia as an active participant in east-west transport and energy projects over the Black Sea.

Georgia’s determined pursuit of a peaceful policy of conflict resolution to vacate the two Russian-occupied indivisible regions of Georgia and the reconciliation between the divided communities aim to extend the benefits and opportunities of the country’s European integration to the entire population, including those under Russian occupation with the ultimate goal of peace, security and stability in our country.

In our pursuit of ever closer integration with the EU, we are committed to increased cooperation and coordination with two other associated partners – Ukraine and Moldova, who, like Georgia, are striving for EU accession.

A little over a week ago in Kiev, together with my Moldovan and Ukrainian colleagues, we signed a memorandum of understanding in which an “associated trio” was set up as a format for increased cooperation and dialogue between the three countries and with the European Union has been. on questions of European integration. Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are on their way to earning their right to join the Union for Peace, Freedom and Democracy.

Against a background of mutual interests, the EU and Georgia must seek to deepen the bilateral agenda, while Georgia continues to advocate a renewal of the Eastern Partnership to broaden areas of cooperation and increase EU support.

The progress made also requires a long-term vision and action on both sides. Therefore, Georgia’s goal is to officially apply for EU membership by 2024.

According to NATO, Georgia, an emerging country, has all the practical tools to integrate into the Alliance, including such a unique instrument for enhancing defense capabilities and interoperability as the substantial NATO-Georgia package.

Georgia is a NATO Enhanced Opportunity Partner, speaking of its recognition of its reliability as a NATO partner, its commitment and its ability to share the burden of Euro-Atlantic security and its level of interoperability.

Traditionally, Georgia has made one of the largest per capita contributions to NATO operations. As Georgian units complete the NATO Resolute Support Mission and leave Afghanistan, they continue to be proud of having served with the Allied Nations and to continue to work to contribute to collective security in the future.

Since the Black Sea is of particular importance with a direct impact on European security, Georgia’s cooperation with NATO in the area of ​​security on the Black Sea has deepened through strategic discussions, frequent port calls, regular exchange of information, joint training courses and exercises.

Due to the substantive and forward-looking NATO 2030 Agenda, which deals with the challenges of today and tomorrow and the increasing geopolitical pressure in our region, Georgia is waiting for decisive political steps by the allies and remains undeterred on its chosen path into the Euro-Atlantic future .

103 or 30 years ago, on the verge of independence, the Georgian people had two priorities – strengthening their sovereignty and returning to the European family. Georgia has been improving the rule of law, state institutions and a robust market economy for three decades.

We have vigorously pursued our European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations as we sought peace on this journey. As history shows, when Georgia is free and independent, it strives for democracy and advocates the values ​​of human rights and equality.

This is the same aspiration that has underpinned Georgia’s drive to integrate into the European and Euro-Atlantic institutions.