Joint press point
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Georgia, Salomé Zourabichvili
Welcome to NATO. It is a great pleasure and honor to welcome you to NATO headquarters. And Georgia is really a highly valued partner of NATO. And let me start by congratulating you on your recent elections. It’s a great honor to meet with you at the headquarters of our Alliance. Georgia makes strong contributions to our shared security. You are one of the largest troop contributors to our training mission in Afghanistan. You also contribute to the NATO Response Force. And in March, you will host a joint NATO-Georgia exercise. With the participation of 17 NATO Allies. All of this demonstrates that Georgia is a unique partner of the Alliance. And that our partnership is getting even closer.
At our meeting today, we agreed to continue working together to prepare Georgia for NATO membership. The Substantial NATO-Georgia Package is already strengthening your country’s defences. Including with our Joint Training Centre.
We also welcome the progress you are making on reforms. Including on more effective security and defence institutions and modernising your armed forces. I encourage you to continue on this path. And I welcome your commitment to match the NATO guideline of spending 2% of GDP on defence.
NATO fully supports Georgia’s territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders. Which includes the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We call on Russia to end its recognition of and withdraw its forces from both regions.
NATO and Georgia also share concerns about Russia’s military build-up in the Black Sea region. And we are stepping up our cooperation at sea, including with:
- Training for Georgian Coast Guard boarding teams;
- More cooperation between Georgian and NATO naval forces; and
- Cooperation between Georgia’s Joint Maritime Operations Centre and NATO’s Maritime Command.
So Madam President, thank you again for being here. NATO’s partnership with Georgia makes us all safer and all more secure. And I look forward to working with you as Georgia moves closer to NATO membership.
So once again welcome.
President Zourabichvili: Thank you very much Mr Secretary General. This is my first foreign trip to Brussels and my visit here during this first foreign trip is another demonstration of how important our links with NATO are. Our path towards integration into NATO is – that’s not only my choice, this reflects the choice of the Georgian nation of the Georgian population. It is why we have enshrined in the Georgian constitution this Georgian commitment to enter NATO and the EU and that remains a top foreign policy priority and it will be one of the priorities of my mandate for six years.
So, I am very hopeful that during that mandate I will be as successful as one of my woman predecessor in the Baltic region. I am very thankful for all the support that Georgia has received from you Mr Secretary General, personally. And from this organisation. Our path towards integration has been a very successful one, which has provided Georgia with more security, more readiness for its armed forces. Modernisation - what you have mentioned now, what is going to be done for the coastguards is something that is extremely important in the new environment that is the one of Georgia.
Also it is very important the support that we received to the territorial integrity to the sovereignty of Georgia at a time when we have two territories that are occupied - when we have this occupying line, which is a constant reminder of a very tense situation. One that is constant pressure on the population that is living on this close to the occupying line but, also for the rest of the population because it cannot be forgetting what is there so close - even so close from our capital city. Georgia has proven not only its determination but, that it is a very reliable partner. And a very capable partner of NATO. We are delivering sometimes more than other members on the requirements of the requisites of the two percent. We are also spending now twenty percent on modernisation of our equipment, which is another request.
So, Georgia is really trying to be a model partner for NATO and we are also taking note of the increased professionalism and dedication of our military servicemen. And thanks also to the operations we are contributing to because that is a two-way road. We are contributing, we are financially also contributing but, we are getting also quite a lot in exchange. We are actively engaged on the issues of Black Sea security; it is so close to us and we need certainly more security, more stability in the Black Sea. We have enough of having one border that is a border of tension and sometimes confrontation so, it’s very important for us that Black Sea be a sea of stability and security and one that unites us with the European Union and our partners on the other side of the Black Sea.
We have discussed the very intensive programme that we have this year in 2019. We are going to receive, as you mentioned, the Georgia-NATO exercise, the military community, your visit. All of that is extremely important to making NATO very visible in Georgia for the Georgian population and also for all the issues that we are going to discuss at that occasion. So, thank you also for these very concrete signals that we are receiving in that matter. I hope that Georgia will be able to celebrate together with NATO in Washington – the 70th Anniversary of NATO. And we are standing ready to do more, to be more cooperative and to progress together with you in the path that will lead to our further integration and to our final integration. Thank you very much, Mr Secretary General.
OANA LUNGESCU [NATO Spokesperson]: Okay. First question, Georgian Public Broadcasting?
GEORGIAN PUBLIC BROADCASTING: Thank you so much, Georgian Public Broadcasting. Mr Secretary General, as you said before you were going to visit to our country in March. Can you tell us more about your visit? About the importance of this visit, and also joint exercise which will be held in March? What is the main message of this exercise: for our partners and for those who always say it is unacceptable for them NATO enlargement. And Madam President, your also plans for future – how are you going to help and convince partners that we really deserve NATO membership? Not in the future but now. Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Well, I am going to visit Georgia in March and I am very much looking forward to that because I have been in Georgia several times before and I know that to visit Georgia is to visit a country which is so nice and shows so much hospitality when they have guests, especially from NATO. And the purpose of the visit is of course to, once again, sit down with the leadership in Tbilisi to discuss how we can further strengthen the partnership. I will also be there during the NATO exercise and the message we are sending both through frequent visits both from Georgia to NATO but, also from NATO to Georgia is that we are strengthening our partnership; the way we work together and that’s to the benefit of Georgia and to the benefit of NATO. The exercise will help us to further integrate to increase improbability between Georgian forces and NATO forces.
Again, good for Georgia and good for NATO because we get better when we exercise together. And it also highlights the importance of the NATO presence in Georgia and the training centre we have already established in Georgia. The NATO Heads of State and Government, at the NATO Summit in July, reiterated the Bucharest decision that Georgia will become a NATO member, and, for us, this is important to highlight that this is the right of every sovereign nation to decide its own path. And, of course, Georgia has the right to join NATO. It’s for Georgia and the 29 Allies to decide when that happens. No-one else has any right to try to interfere or to deter such a process because Georgia has the right to decide its own path. That’s a fundamental principle and we will never accept that big nations – Russia - try to establish some kind of sphere of influence where they have a right to decide what neighbours can do or cannot do. So, this is a question of respecting the sovereignty of Georgia and their sovereign democratic decision to strive for a NATO membership.
PRESIDENT ZOURABICHVILI: Thank you. I will add to that just the fact that Georgia has made the decision and again, has inscribed it into its constitution so there cannot be a stronger signal of its willingness and its political will. And it is shared. And that is what is very important by all political forces, by the population, by today’s authorities in Georgia but, also by tomorrow whoever will be in charge of the – leading the country politically. So, that’s very important to have this consensus. That is the consensus that will be portraying to all the partners that will be meeting on a bilateral level to reiterate that Georgia wants, that Georgia is ready that Georgia, has accomplished all the reference that were expected from her.
And at the same time so that it’s not just a verbal declaration of willingness, I will be asking what I’ve been asking today is that, we are ready to be waiting. There are realities that maybe will imposed to wait a bit longer but, at the same time, we are waiting. We need to have more NATO, more cooperation, more security and that’s the gist of our cooperation with NATO itself and with NATO Allies. Black Sea security is a model of that of what we can get today. More today even if we are not today a member.