by President Saakashvili of Georgia at the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Batumi
Mr. Secretary General, esteemed guests, dear Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen, your presence in Georgia, your visit in Georgia is particularly important for our country. I would like, on behalf of the people of Georgia to extend my thanks to the Secretary General Rasmussen for the support you show to us in all your statements during recent times to our young democracy.
A few years ago it would be hard to speak or even dream about such a level of cooperation, and such closeness between Georgia and NATO. This is an instinct of our multi-ethnic Georgia nation and this is our instinct to be close with great civilized European Union. And this situation I'm speaking about, Euro-Atlantic Organization, and we have common civilization, common history, common values with this organization.
For many centuries we, in the history of Georgia, saw different periods in our life, but anyway, there was one thing in common at all times, this was our aspiration towards Europe, this was our aspiration towards stronger and greater friends, and we were always aspiring to those nations who were driven by the same values as we shared.
This has never been as critical and topical as today, and I would like to say that during our long history, many century history, we have never been so close to our European (inaudible), European house, and North Atlantic Alliance as it is today.
Whatever is happening during recent years, during recent times, and especially when in 2008, in September, we have hosted the North Atlantic Council meeting in Tbilisi. This was a demonstration of the North Atlantic solidarity towards the resilient Georgia nation. And now, three years from then, the NAC has visited us for the second time, and I received an invitation to travel to Brussels and to attend the North Atlantic Council meeting there.
This is an unprecedented cooperation and of course we are happy about it.
Integration within NATO, integration within the European Union is a fundamental choice of the Georgia nation. Our citizens aspire towards these principles, not only during the past times, but especially after 2008 when with absolute majority our people supported the membership aspiration to NATO and they supported this principle at the referendum.
This is an aspiration which can never be limited by boundaries that exist between different political groups. Of course, like in many other democracies, even in our country, we have different parties. Some of these parties claim that they are not interested in NATO et cetera, but if you carefully look at the situation these parties really have no future, but among major players there is still common political consensus. And this consensus cannot be affected by current political economic factors, nor by international climate change. This cannot be even affected by changing the prices in gas, but this is nonetheless the aspiration of myself and the whole Georgia nation.
After eight years of transformation we have come very close to this Alliance. Eight years ago Georgia was a failed state without any future, without any prospect, and Georgia was an object of manipulation by external forces. We have not been seen as a subject of the political environment. And today I am proud to welcome you in Georgia, which is really a quickly-developing democratic state. And I'm happy to welcome you in the country, which despite occupation and pressure, is still standing firm on its feet, and we are becoming a reliable partner of an Alliance.
I am proud to welcome you here in Batumi where five years ago there was nothing, and you now see all those pictures of those hotels which are being built very quickly, and we are building different brands, different hotels, five star hotels. And there are more hotels being built here than in many other European capitals where 10, 15 million people live.
And not only the hotel business is developing in Georgia, but we are developing infrastructure. We're providing jobs to the people and tourism is developing and we're also developing other sectors of the economy.
We are proud of our soldiers, of our military, because they know what they are fighting for in Afghanistan. This is also a part of our instinct that we are there, and I also hope that our reforms and our readiness to defend stability and peace, our effort to take efforts in different direction will be instrumental in making Georgia a reliable partner of the Alliance.
Of course, there is a long path to go through. This way is not easy and there is still a lot to be done, but this is a non-return point and no one can make Georgia go backward. And your presence here really supports us even stronger and our aspiration is really reached a non-return point.
You are now among your friends, and people of Georgia are hospitable people in general, but I doubt that we have hardly ever been happy to see any other guest as the representatives of the NAC in this land of Georgia.
Many thanks to all of you.