Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili

  • 07 Sep. 2016 -
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  • Last updated: 07 Sep. 2016 21:25

(As delivered)

Thank you so much, Mr. Prime Minister Kvirikashvili, and thank you for hosting not only me but the whole North Atlantic Council here in Tbilisi today. And we are very much looking forward to the program today and tomorrow; and I think that the presence of the North Atlantic Council representing all 28 Allies and also Montenegro which is now in the process of joining NATO, the presence of all of us here today shows the strong commitment and the strong partnership between NATO and Georgia. We have, as you just said, held a very productive and successful meeting of the NATO- Georgia Commission and we had in-depth and productive discussions on Georgia’s contributions to our shared security, on your reform process and the process you are making. And on the security situation in the region.

NATO and Georgia have a remarkable, mutually supportive relationship. Our partnership is strong. And our partnership is getting even stronger.

NATO is very grateful for the service of Georgia’s soldiers:

  • In Afghanistan.
  • In the NATO Response Force.
  • And in our efforts to tackle terrorism in the Mediterranean.

Georgia has made substantial sacrifices in service of our shared Euro-Atlantic security. And while contributing to international security, Georgia has also carried out ambitious defence reforms here at home. You are continuing to strengthen your democracy and civic institutions. And this has helped Georgia move closer to NATO. You are not walking alone on your reform path.

Georgia has all the necessary tools to move towards NATO membership:  

  • The NATO-Georgia Commission.
  • The Substantial NATO-Georgia Package, which is delivering results.
  • The Joint Training Centre we inaugurated last year, which is now up and running.
  • This Training Centre is increasing the modern combat skills of Georgian soldiers, and our ability to work together.
  • And Allied experts here in Tbilisi, helping bolster defence reform.

All of these tools are important for Georgia, all of them are also important for NATO. And I welcome that you are making progress in all these areas together.
These are key building blocks for Georgia as aspirant to NATO membership.

At the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July, NATO leaders welcomed the impressive progress Georgia has made. And I trust that this progress will continue.

Including on constitutional and electoral reforms. In line with Georgia’s steady progress, we look forward to the upcoming elections meeting the highest democratic standards and free and fair elections.

This is important for NATO. Because NATO is a community of values, including democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

But reforms are even more important for the people of Georgia. And for your nation’s security and prosperity.

So Prime Minister,

In Warsaw, NATO leaders expressed strong political and practical support for Georgia. Today, the North Atlantic Council is here in Tbilisi to confirm our commitment to your nation once again.

We will continue to count on Georgia.  And we will continue to support you.

So thank you very much for hosting the whole North Atlantic Council. Thank you.


MODERATOR: The Prime Minister and the Secretary General will now take questions from the press. Nino Abruliani, Medi-TV (sp?).

Q: [Interpreted] On the Bucharest Summit it was announced that Georgia will become NATO member in Bucharest. Also we are an inspiring country which was estimated by NATO as a reliable partner. When do you see some reasonable timeframe when Georgia can receive invitation to become NATO member? This goes to Secretary General. And also a question to the Prime Minister, Prime Minister you often times spoke that Georgia stays devoted and committed to Euro-Atlantic course of development. What were the messages that Georgia received from the NATO Secretary General in this regard? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): We decided in Warsaw at the NATO Summit in Warsaw to reaffirm the decision we made in Bucharest that Georgia will become a member of NATO. But to become a member of NATO Georgia has to meet the standards, the requirements for membership and that’s exactly why we’re working together with Georgia on implementing reforms that enables Georgia to move closer.

I will not give you any exact timetables because this is based on merits, it’s based on results and it’s based on the progress Georgia is making. But we have seen a lot of progress, we have seen a lot of reforms both when it comes to institutional reforms, electoral reforms, freedom of press but also of course defence and security reforms. This is important for the efforts of Georgia moving towards NATO membership but it’s also important in itself.

It is important for Georgia because it makes Georgia a safer, a stronger country and it makes Georgia a stronger democracy and it also creates the best possible framework for prosperity and economic growth. So I think it is important to remember that the reforms are important because they take Georgia towards NATO but they are also important because they are of high value for Georgia regardless of NATO.

You are making progress, we are supporting you. We adopted the substantial package; we have increased and enhanced the substantial package. We are delivering, we have advisors in Georgia. We have inaugurated a training centre, we have opened a new school for defence institution-building; and we are showing again and again our political support for Georgia, for instance with the presence of the North Atlantic Council in Georgia today. I’m not able to give you any exact timetables but I can once again recognize the progress you are making and I very much appreciate the close partnership between Georgia and NATO.

GIORGI KVIRIKASHVILI (Prime Minister of Georgia) [Interpreted]: Thank you very much distinguished Secretary General. Allow me to field the question meaning what sort of messages we received from NATO. And allow me to single out the fact that after Warsaw Summit this, for NATO and North Atlantic Council, is the first international summit that, and the fact that it is being held in Georgia it has huge importance in terms of the message of furthering and supporting Georgia.

All the members announced their staunch support of the Georgian territorial integrity and sovereignty and it was very deeply emphasized the importance of the Georgian sovereign will to be the member of the Euro-Atlantic family which is irreversible and every ally announced their support to Georgia in terms of attaining this important aim. We have also conversed on the different aspects of enforcement of the requirements in delivering on the substantial package and the strengthening of defence capabilities will be the centrepiece and we will be emphasizing in this direction. You must be very well aware that in ... back in the past we shifted the accent on preparation of Georgian servicemen to participate in international mission and currently our interoperability with NATO military forces has attained quite higher threshold.

We will be right now shifting the emphasis to the strengthening of Georgian defence capabilities and additional components; we’re going to ensure that in this field to aim at the directional strengthening Georgia’s defence capabilities. Allow me to one more time salute the statement by the Secretary General that the military reform, the democratization of the country, economic development, rapprochement with NATO standards - this first and foremost serves the interest of the Georgian population. It is done for ... [inaudible] rating, living conditions in Georgia.

To have more security and better conditions for the general development of the country. It’s also very important that the many countries attending summits are providing assistance to Georgia in bilateral formats and we also discussed this bilateral packages of assistance which is of significance for us and also it is important that Georgia’s involvement in the Black Sea security dialogue which also brings closer with the NATO family which yields additional opportunities to Georgia, thank you.

Q: Thank you Reuters News Agency. Mr. Stoltenberg, my question is very quick, very precise, very short. What role do you think Russia plays in political decision making over Georgia’s membership in NATO because we know that Russia is opposing NATO’s enlargement, and especially to these ex-Soviet countries? And I would appreciate if our Prime Minister will also add a couple of words about that whether the Georgian government feels that Russia, Russia’s political factor plays role in this process in NATO, in Georgia’s future membership with NATO? Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG: For NATO it is a fundamental principle that every nation has the right to decide its own path including, what kind of security arrangements or military alliance it wants to be part of. And this not the only principle that NATO has subscribed to but it’s actually a principle that also Russia and all other European nations have subscribed to many many times starting with the Helsinki Final Act back in the 1970s and then repeatedly done so in different international treaties. So for every sovereign nation, for every independent nation as Georgia it is a fundamental right to choose whether it wants to be a member of the Alliance or whether it don’t want to be a member of the Alliance.

That’s the independent decision of an independent nation. So whether Georgia is going to become member of NATO or not is up to NATO, the 28 allies and Georgia to decide, nobody else has the right to interfere or try to veto or try to intervene in that process. And this has been underlined by NATO again and again and NATO’s door remains open and that has been shown many many times despite protests, despite expressions from Russia that they dislike the enlargement of NATO; NATO has continued to enlarge.

And we are now in the process of moving from 28 to 29 members because Montenegro is in the process of becoming the 29th member of NATO, showing that the door is open. NATO’s door to enlargement is still open and it’s still functioning. So, this of course also applies for Georgia and that’s the reason why we made a decision we made in Bucharest. I was there myself and that’s the reason why we have also reaffirmed that decision as late as at our Summit in Warsaw in July.

GIORGI KVIRIKASHVILI: Thank you. I think speaking about Russia’s influence upon Georgia’s potential accession to NATO would not be correct. I think what we need to do is that we need to do our own homework in order to approximate, harmonize Georgia’s military standards to the NATO standards and I think we need to wait patiently and move consistently towards NATO accession and of course what we are doing right now before, reforming Georgia’s military, reforming Georgia’s democratic institutions is exactly what we need for NATO membership.

The fact that Montenegro was attending this very important Summit speaks about open door policy of NATO and this is big encouragement for all of us in order to consistently continue what we are doing. We believe that there will be a window of opportunity for Georgia but we need to be patient and we need to be consistent.

Q: [Interpreted]: Greetings, as you might be aware on Warsaw Summit there was a decision made that the Alliance will get more active in the strengthening of the Black Sea security system. What will be the role of Georgia? This goes to the Secretary General. And the question to the Prime Minister, in a month’s time we will have the Parliamentary elections and our allies evaluate this forthcoming election as the test of democracy. What anticipations do you have, how do you vision that?

JENS STOLTENBERG: The Black Sea region and the Black Sea itself is of great importance for Euro-Atlantic security and we have seen increased Russian presence in the Black Sea region and we have also seen a substantial military buildup in Crimea by Russia. NATO has decided to increase our presence in the Black Sea, we have already increased our presence in the Black Sea region but we will further step up our presence in the region and also in the Black Sea itself. We made decision - as you referred to - at the Warsaw Summit to enhance our presence in the Black Sea region.

We are working on that with our military planners now to decide exactly how that is going to take place and we also continue to support regional efforts by the Black Sea literal States to ensure security and stability in the region. And for NATO and NATO Allies it is important to have close dialogue, close contact with partner countries like Ukraine and Georgia - being non-NATO members - but NATO partners, and to talk with them, to have dialogue with them regarding our increased presence in the Black Sea.

GIORGI KVIRIKASHVILI [Interpreted]: October elections have a lot of significance. We are trying to retain the high standards which were demonstrated during the Presidential and local government’s election. Although proceeding from the fact that Georgia is a Parliamentary Republic the essence of this election are higher, the stakes are higher subsequently and we’re fully apprehend the responsibility which is put on the government and the ruling party. It goes without saying in terms of the democratic nature of the elections and the transparency. We have input a lot of efforts to have these elections one of the best in the contemporary history of Georgia. We have invited international observers, and their number is unprecedentedly high to observe the run-up to the elections.

It is also worth mentioning that four months prior to the elections the decree, the Presidential decree on the holding of the election was published and it was sort of countersigned by the government. So, meaning that the standard in terms of the, like pre-election standards in Georgia also occurred. We have enforced the legislative changes to further like, strengthen the requirement of the criminal penal code in terms of altercations, in terms of violence, so to curb violence and entertaining all this that we are the incumbent government quite well understand that our responsibility is the highest in the course of the forthcoming elections. And it’s quite eloquent (sic) and a test to this that we have unprecedentedly free media space which was not the case at all in the course of the previous elections or like the high reputation organizations confirm that and we have all the precursors to have the best elections.

What are my forecasts? My forecast is, my anticipation is that we the ruling party will win, bearing in mind that our political force provided and attained a breakthrough in the Georgian political life, introduced a higher political standard without the pressure on media, pressure on businesses, the index of freedom is a way higher, like actually double and that has been acknowledged by many international organizations. And that’s why we reckon that people will evaluate this and will make a good decision and we are waiting for quite strong landslide support.