Statement by the Prime Minister of Georgia on the occasion of the presentation of Georgia at the Europalia festival

Statement by Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia, on the occasion of the presentation of Georgia at the Europalia festival.

“Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends and dear guests, dear Minister, dear Commissioner Varhelyi, my dear friends, first of all I would like to express my gratitude and the gratitude of the Georgian people and the Government of Belgium and yours Excellency Minister for the support and the warm hospitality.

I would also like to thank everyone who helped organize today’s event.

A grand journey of Georgian culture in Belgium and beyond is upon us. It is a great honor for us that this year’s Europalia is dedicated to Georgia. The ancient history and rich culture of Georgia is represented by dozens of exhibitions, concerts, theatrical performances and literary evenings.

Never before has Georgian culture been represented so extensively abroad. This makes it an excellent opportunity for us to introduce one of the oldest histories and cultures in Brussels and many other beautiful cities in Belgium and beyond.

This is particularly important for us today, when all our efforts are aimed at joining the European Union. Many generations of Georgians have dreamed of reclaiming our place among European nations and we are ready to do whatever it takes to make that dream come true.

In fact, over the last decade we have managed to achieve historic milestones, including signing the Association Agreement and the Free Trade Agreement, granting a visa-free travel regime with the European Union, and becoming one of the frontrunners among countries who have done so are aspiring to join the European Union. Last year, the European Union granted Georgia the prospect of EU membership, marking the greatest foreign policy achievement in Georgia’s modern history.

Since that landmark decision, we have spared no effort to achieve EU candidate status by the end of this year and open a whole new chapter in Georgia’s western integration. With full responsibility, I want to reaffirm our commitment to implement all the priority recommendations of the European Commission and to achieve candidate status. We have never deviated from our chosen path and will ensure that nothing stands in the way of Georgia’s democratic, European and prosperous future.

Dear friends, we believe that our history, culture, values ​​and recent achievements have prepared us to face the challenges on the way to the EU. The geography of Georgia ensures that Georgians have a very rich history. At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Eastern and Western civilizations, close to the Great Silk Road, at the epicenter of struggles between great empires and often the target of those confrontations, our nation over the centuries has only strengthened, shaping our identity and ours Values. Our desire to join the European Union is rooted in this unique historical experience and it gave us the confidence to continue down this path when few people thought we could do it.

Ancient Colchis – the bearers of the Golden Fleece – the early Christian Georgians in the IV century or the masters of the early Georgian Renaissance in the XII-XIII centuries. Century laid the foundation for the nation that withstood many catastrophes of history, but not only survived but to give the world many masterpieces of our architecture, goldsmithing and literature. Shota Rustaveli’s epic 12th-century poem “The Knight in the Panther Skin” further shaped our worldview and, not least, helped us preserve our unique language—the same language we spoke in Roman times and still speak; the language we use to write with the unique and ancient alphabet that dates back at least to the 7th century B.C. existed. The three writing systems of the Georgian alphabet are now part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

As our Ambassador has already announced, tonight we will have an opportunity to hear Georgian polyphony. This polyphony – secular, ritual, religious, amateur or martial – arguably best represents the spirit and creativity of the Georgian people.

Whenever I talk about Georgia’s European identity, I cannot ignore one of the most important elements of our bond with all other Europeans – the wine. I say this with caution, knowing that we are in the country that elevated beer, not wine, to the realm of the arts! Georgia is considered the birthplace of wine. One of the oldest traces of eight thousand year old wine production was found on the territory of Georgia. The ancient tradition of making Quevri wine has been declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of the World by UNESCO.

The cultural life of the early 20th century was one of the most remarkable expressions of Georgian culture. Our capital, Tbilisi, became one of the most important centers of modern and avant-garde art at a time of great political, cultural and social changes in the world. Modern Georgian theatre, cinema, opera, ballet, fine arts, literature and poetry are still not widely known in a larger part of the world and it is our generation’s privilege to share it with all of you.

The reason I created this humble overview of Georgian history and culture was to tell you what we will be bringing to Belgium this fall during the four months of the Europalia-Georgia Arts Festival.

My dear friends, today we also commemorate the 105th anniversary of Georgia’s independence. 105 years ago, when Georgia regained its independence from Russia, our first democratic republic adopted the first constitution. This constitution, on which our current constitution is based, reflected the most progressive tendencies in Europe at the time. The young but short-lived Georgian democratic republic already upheld values ​​such as freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Being in Belgium, I cannot help but mention that this Constitution was particularly appreciated by the Belgian members of the European Socialist delegation that visited Georgia in 1920.

In this regard, I would like to recall Mikhail Muskhelishvili (Michel Muskheli), a Georgian scholar and co-author of the draft European constitution. He was a man ahead of his time, passionate about the idea of ​​a united Europe, predicting its emergence. He once said: “Georgia knows that it belongs to Europe. It is necessary for Georgia to take its rightful place in Europe, and Western countries should welcome Georgia into their family.” These words were uttered almost a century ago. Today we are already welcome in the family of European nations, and we want to celebrate that together with you.

My dear friends, let me point out that our meeting takes place at a dangerous juncture in European history. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens the modern values ​​and fundamental principles of the rules-based international order. Georgia stands firmly with our friendly nation – Ukraine and the Ukrainian people – and the free world as we face today’s major global challenges. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked a war that affects us all. Georgia has seen Russian aggression too many times. You all know that in 2008 almost 15 years ago we had an all out war. Our country suffered heavy human losses and 20% of our territory is still occupied by Russian troops.

In conclusion, my dear friends, I would like to thank you for being here tonight and to share with you the firm belief of Georgians that we are achieving the goal of many generations of Georgians, to take our rightful place in the family of democratic nations that lies in Europe not only in the interests of Georgia, but will also make this family stronger and more united. Thanks very much!”