President of Georgia, addressing UN Assembly, calls for unity in Eastern Europe
As he gave his address to the General Assembly today, Mikheil Saakashvili, the President of Georgia, urged the emerging countries of Eastern Europe to unite under the Eastern Partnership arrangement of the European Union to consolidate progress toward freedom and democracy.
“Unity should be our rule in Eastern Europe, including in the divided Caucasus,” he told the high-level plenary on the second day of the Assembly’s General Debate.
“By launching the Eastern Partnership as a response to the 2008 invasion of Georgia, the EU has offered to our nations a platform to cooperate under its benevolent umbrella. We should invest much more in it,” he said. “We should develop common projects, first and foremost focusing on the necessary reforms that we should carry out together,” Mr. Saakashvili added.
Fighting broke out in August 2008 between Georgian forces and South Ossetian and Abkhaz separatists and their Russian allies. South Ossetia and Abkhazia each subsequently declared their independence from Georgia, and those declarations have been recognized by Russia and several other countries.
In his statement today, Mr. Saakashvili maintained that reforms represented statehood and independence and drew Eastern Europe toward the EU.
He argued that Eastern European countries aspiring to join the EU were facing constant pressures and threats: “Armenia has been cornered, Moldova is being blockaded, Ukraine is under attack, Azerbaijan faces extraordinary pressure and Georgia is occupied,” he said.
Through those efforts, the Russians, he said, were trying to destabilize countries in Eastern Europe to prevent the building of strong democratic institutions, so as to block their integration with the West.
There were many reasons to be disillusioned with the progress of freedom and democracy since the “dogmatic optimism of the 90s,” he acknowledged, but the struggle must continue.
“If freedom is no longer fashionable, how do we explain that the suicide of an unknown citizen in a remote Tunisian town has changed the map of the world?” he asked.
Scores of the world’s heads of State and government and other high-level officials are expected to present their views and comment on issues of individual national and international relevance at the Assembly’s General Debate, which ends on 2 October.