''NATO Week in Georgia'' marks progress in relations
The annual “NATO Week in Georgia” kicked off with an event in the capital Tbilisi on 11 June. This year, the programme of events at various locations all over the country is celebrating the progress achieved in NATO-Georgia relations, most recently at the Chicago Summit. 2012 also marks twenty years of Georgia’s ever deepening cooperation with the Alliance.
Georgia’s Vice Prime Minister, Giorgi Baramidze, and NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General of Political Affairs and Security Policy and Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, James Appathurai, spoke at the opening event. The Lithuanian Ambassador to Georgia, Jonas Paslauskas, also gave a keynote speech. (The Lithuanian embassy is currently the NATO Contact Point Embassy in Georgia)
The NATO Week aims to raise public awareness about the Alliance. “Georgia is a country aspiring to NATO membership and working to become a NATO member and it’s very important that the people of Georgia understand not just what the goal of NATO membership is, but also what NATO is and what it does,” said Mr Appathurai.
This year, NATO Week is taking place within weeks of NATO’s summit meeting in Chicago, where Allied leaders reiterated their commitment to support Georgia as a future member of the Alliance.
“Georgia is steadily moving closer to NATO,” said Vice Prime Minister Baramidze. “NATO welcomes the steps we’ve made, the outcomes achieved through successfully implemented reforms. […] However, there is still a lot to do,” he added. “We are looking forward and we should continue the process of reforms.”
The outcomes of the Chicago Summit, Georgia’s remarkable contribution to the NATO-led stabilization mission in Afghanistan and the country’s progress towards NATO membership will be high on the agenda during this week’s discussions with mainly students, academics and journalists.
Most events are taking place at universities and academies, including the National Defence Academy. The week concludes with a discussion at Telavi State University about NATO-Georgia relations with the participation of Vice Prime Minister Baramidze and Ambassador Kęstutis Jankauskas, Lithuania’s Permanent Representative to NATO.
The road to integration
Just after independence in 1992 Georgia joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (later renamed the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council).In 1994, Georgia joined the Partnership for Peace programme which fosters practical bilateral cooperation between NATO and partners.
Over the years, Georgia has provided valuable support to NATO-led operations, and deployed peacekeepers to Kosovo in 1999. Today, Georgia is the second largest non-NATO-troop contributor to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
Following the “Rose Revolution” in 2003, the focus on supporting Georgia’s domestic reform process increased and Georgia was granted an Intensified Dialogue on membership aspirations in September 2006. At the summit meeting in Bucharest in April 2008, NATO leaders agreed that Georgia will become a member of NATO.
At the recent Chicago Summit, Allied leaders reaffirmed all elements of their decision made in Bucharest, as well as subsequent decisions. They welcomed Georgia’s progress since the Bucharest Summit to meet its Euro-Atlantic aspirations through reforms, implementation of its Annual National Programme and active political engagement with the Alliance in the NATO-Georgia Commission. They also stressed the importance of conducting free, fair, and inclusive elections in 2012 and 2013.