Joint press point

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

  • 02 Dec. 2016 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 03 Dec. 2016 10:48

(As delivered)

Prime Minister Kvirikashvili, it is a great pleasure and a great honour to welcome you once again to NATO Headquarters. And I think that your visit here just reconfirms the very strong partnership we have developed over several years, and also the friendship and the partnership that you and I have developed over the years, meeting in different formats in Brussels, in Tbilisi and also other places and always expressing strong support together to enhancing the partnership between NATO and Georgia.

I would also like to start by thanking Georgia and the soldiers in the quick reaction force in Resolute Support in Afghanistan for the way they reacted very quickly in defence of the German consulate that was attacked in Mazar and where the Georgian soldiers were very brave and professional in defending the consulate. And luckily no one was wounded and there were no casualties, so this is just yet another example of how Georgia contributes to our shared security and how Georgia contributes to NATO and the important role and the professionalism of your soldiers when they conduct operations in NATO, in Resolute Support in Afghanistan.

NATO’s partnership with Georgia is something we really appreciate and we attach very great importance to and it’s a partnership which we have developed over many years.

We discussed during our meeting how we can strengthen that partnership and how we can develop it further. The North-Atlantic Council visited Georgia in September, there we met with you and many of your ministers and we also assessed the progress we are making when it comes to the implementation of the substantial NATO-Georgia Package which we agreed at the Warsaw Summit.

I would also like to congratulate you on the elections in Georgia. Your reappointment as Prime Minister but also the way you conducted the elections in Georgia, free and fair elections which have been conducted in a way which has been highly recognised by the international community and it just expresses the progress you are making on the reform path and NATO will continue to support you in implementing those reforms and we will continue to provide both political support and practical support for Georgia. We will provide strong political support for your independence, for your territorial integrity and sovereignty and we will continue to provide practical support for both the importance of implementing the reforms but also to continue to conduct exercises, to make sure that we fill and strengthen the Joint Training Centre and also that we make sure that the NATO-Georgia Commission continues to be an important platform and tool for political dialogue but also for practical cooperation.

As we have stated many times before, Georgia has all the practical tools for membership, we will continue to support you in your aspirations and in your efforts to strengthen your ties with NATO and we are here to provide that kind of support and that kind of help.

So we will also continue to work with Georgia on the challenges we see in the broader Black Sea region, we have made an assessment of the security situation in the Black Sea region and of course Georgia being a little state, Georgia is one of the countries which are important for NATO to work closely with because the Black Sea region is of strategic importance for the whole NATO Alliance and the partnership with Georgia is an important part of that.

So once again I welcome you to NATO, it’s always a pleasure to meet with you and I look forward to continue to work with you and your government and the ministers that you had with you in your delegation today. So welcome.

MODERATOR: Okay, we have time for a few questions.

Q: Georgian Public Broadcasting Mr. Secretary General, I have three topics. First, you mentioned about Black Sea region security; we want to hear more if it is possible about involvement of Georgia, for example, formats, and so on. Second, Russia today signed a decree approving Russia’s new foreign policy concept, and there is talk about NATO expansion, future expansion and it is considered by Russia as a threat. What is your main message; and third, upcoming NATO Summit in Brussels in 2017 - what Georgia should wait for? You always tell us during the interviews don’t concentrate only on summits but still we want to hear from you. Thank you very much for shedding light on these three issues.

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): First on the Black Sea region, we are working with Georgia in addressing the, and assessing the security situation in the Black Sea region. That’s something we do regularly in the different meetings we have with Georgia on different levels. Our military committee will visit Georgia, the plan is to do it early next year and I expect them also to then discuss and address the security situation in the Black Sea region and also the Committee of the Deputy Permanent Representatives at NATO will meet with Georgia next year to discuss our partnership, our cooperation but part of that is also to of course address the security situation in the Black Sea region. Because as the Prime Minister said the security and the stability in the Black Sea region is important for the whole of Europe and of course for NATO. So this is one of the reasons why I so much appreciate the close partnership with Georgia because that’s one way to contribute to stability in the Black Sea region. NATO is of course concerned about the significant Russian military buildup in the Black Sea region especially in Crimea and one of the issues we addressed at our Summit in Warsaw in July was of course the increased presence of Russian forces in the Black Sea region and we decided also to have what we call tailored forward-presence in the southeast of the Alliance which is also then relevant for the Black Sea region.

So, we are constantly assessing, constantly adapting to the security challenges we see in the Black Sea region and we appreciate very much the dialogue with Georgia on this and I expect that dialogue to also take place when the military committee meets in Georgia early next year. The second question, well NATO enlargement is something which has contributed to stability and peace in Europe. NATO enlargement is something which has been an important building block together with E.U. enlargement to create a Europe whole, free and at peace and we will continue to strive for that and I think it’s extremely important to underline that every nation including Georgia has of course the right to decide its own path including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be part of. So whether Georgia is going to become member of NATO or not is something which is up to Georgia and NATO allies to decide. No one else has the right to intervene or try to interfere in such a process and NATO is a defensive alliance, everything we do is proportionate and defensive and no one - we don’t pose any threat to no one - because we are a defensive alliance. And again Georgia is an independent sovereign nation and therefore the aspirations of Georgia to join NATO is something everyone should respect and no one should try to intervene or to interfere in those aspirations. The last question was about NATO Summit.

 I would just say that we have decided to have a Summit next year but that will be a Summit with a smaller format than normal because it’s a Summit which will provide the platform for the newly-elected President - for the incoming President – President-elect Donald Trump to meet with NATO. We had something similar back in 2001 when Bush was newly elected, then he met actually here in this building at a small Summit which we then convened and we had something similar again in 2009. So, it’s too early to say when the Summit is going to take place and it’s too early to say exactly anything about the format, but this is going to be most likely a Summit with not many meetings because there’s one main purpose and that is to have a meeting between NATO and the incoming U.S. President.

MODERATOR: One last question.

Q: (inaudible) Secretary General you always talking that NATO not only military union, this is union for democratic values. So what do you think how important for Georgia to have critical media. I mean our Rustavi-2 case because we are still waiting court final decision, thank you?

JENS STOLTENBERG: Free media and the freedom of speech is a core part of any open democratic society and NATO’s core values are democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law and of course free media is part of democratic society. When it comes to this special case then this is an ongoing court case and I think it is important to now leave to the courts to decide on the legal issues but it is of course important that the rule of law is fully applied and fully respected and NATO attaches great importance to the rule of law which is one of our core values. The Prime Minister told me that the government will continue an inclusive dialogue with the opposition and the civil society and I welcome that and the Prime Minister has also strongly underlined the importance of strengthening the democratic institutions in Georgia and I also congratulated him not only the election victory but also that elections in Georgia were conducted in a free and fair way which has obtained a strong international recognition.

GIORGI KVIRIKASHVILI (Prime Minister of Georgia): Thank you Secretary General. Once again I would like to mention why NATO is important for Georgia because this is a family with shared values and principles and of course for Georgia it matters a lot. For Georgia the decision to build democratic state is irreversible. For Georgia the decision to move Georgia towards this family again with institutions in full compliance with European western standards is very important. It is a strategy defined by the Georgian nation and as Secretary General mentioned this is a sovereign decision of Georgia. And I would like to touch the issue of new strategy of Russia. Of course on one hand there is an expression of willingness to normalize relations with Georgia in the areas possible and of course we join that desire; but on the other hand there is talk about new realities in Georgia, about new independent states which can never be acceptable for Georgian people and Georgian government and any desire to normalize bilateral relations between Russia and Georgia should be based on the respect of Georgia’s territorial integrity in internationally recognized borders and based on the respect of sovereign decisions of Georgian nation to be a member of one or another family and the decision is clear as I already mentioned. On the media freedom I would like to echo your comments, media freedom is fundamental for Georgia.

I should mention that just several years ago we had only three nation-wide channels, unfortunately managed by the Administration of the government. Today we had one of the most successful reforms - it is called a digital switchover reform where we have more than forty channels nation-wide. And registering new TV station only takes ten days and there is no licensing requirements, there is only very technical process of authorization so it tends to take only maximum ten days to register a new nation-wide TV station. But on Rustavi-2, again it was mentioned this is a court case. On our side we will ensure maximum transparency of the court process and again notwithstanding of the result of the outcome of this court process that any attempts to intervene in the editorial policy of independent TV stations will be excluded from our agenda. This is very important to note and by the way we have public broadcasting representative next to (inaudible) I want to mention and they are not less critical than other independent stations which shows again the degree of freedom of media in Georgia. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. This concludes this press point. Thank you.