Bidzina Ivanishvili, Chairman of Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia Party delivered a speech at the activity “Georgia’s Way to Europe” organized at Freedom Square in Tbilisi by the Youth Organization of the ruling Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia Party and dedicated to Georgia’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe (CoE).
As Ivanishvili said, Georgia has always been a part of Europe and faithfulness to the European choice united Georgian citizens today.
‘Seven years have passed since the most unprecedentedly populous gathering in the history of Georgia, when half a million citizens gathered here, on this very square! On this square, which bears the name of freedom. Seven years ago on this square, we – practically the entire country – came together precisely to restore freedom and dignity! And today, we are once again united at the same place by our unconditional commitment to the European choice!
What does Europe mean to us? Europe primarily is the democracy that was conceived in ancient Greece, “righteous justice,” and a Christian soul; Europe is tolerance and diversity. We, the nation that organically shares these values and possesses a continuous culture that spans numerous centuries, boldly and proudly declare that we are Europeans, and we will not return to the great family of Europe empty-handed.
Georgia is the civilization of The Knight in the Panther’s Skin, where the acceptance of that which is foreign and the coexistence of different cultures is a part of our identity, rather than something that has been established through declarations. Christianity was brought to us by Nino of Cappadocia, who was joined by the Armenian Shushanik, the Arab Abo, and the Persian Eustathius.
Georgia is the homeland of wine and, most likely, of wheat as well, since it was precisely us that Greece, the first European civilization, named as “Georgia,” or the country of agriculture; it is precisely a Kartvelian tribe, the Chalybes, that are linked with the first production of iron; it is precisely in our country and nowhere else that Jason arrived in order to obtain the Golden Fleece, or the sacred knowledge of the Georgians.
Among us, “the cub was equal to the lion” from the outset and this is what made us Europeans in the first place.
As early as in the 12th century, we were first in Europe to make a woman king, we conceived the first signs of parliamentarianism, and it was precisely in Georgia that Shota Rustaveli rocked the cradle of European humanism for the first time.
Powerful regional centers of European education such as the academies of Gelati and Ikalto emerged here, on our land, from the roots of the Kolkheti Academy.
Later on, historical whirlwinds separated us from our common family; however, just as a well-raised person retains his or her dignity in any environment, so our nation has been able to retain its European culture and values.
And even when there was no hope to be found, Sulkhan-Saba was still stubbornly yearning westward, while creating Europe in Georgia with his Sitkvis Kona.
He was yearning not because he could not understand geopolitical realities but because he could not do otherwise since his Georgian nature was European.
Precisely this Georgian nature gave birth to Vazha-Pshavela, a thinker and humanist of European scale, in a small village in eastern Mtianeti, and precisely this Georgian nature gave Aghaza the right to mourn Zviadauri.
It is precisely this nature, these values that make each and every Georgian European, and Georgia a natural part of Europe!
Therefore, let no one think that we are returning to Europe empty-handed. We have always made our own, important contributions to European civilization.
Our homeland – it is a European culture. However, the state, which differs from the homeland like the kvevri differs from wine, has not always been of a European type. Now, the time has come to pour the Georgian, European wine – European culture – into a similarly European type of state.
Georgia should not simply return to Europe formally but rather it must attain its rightful, brilliant place in the constellation of Europe.
I have faith in this and I believe in it strongly! I believe because I can see that the Georgian people, the Georgian state and the church of Georgia – the entire nation is united and steadfast in this choice!
I believe because I know and I can see what the European civilization is founded on! Democracy, the rule of law, equality, and tolerance – these are the values that serve as the foundation for Europe and the values that are so deeply rooted in the Georgian spirit. Precisely this nature, these values make Georgia a natural part of Europe!
To be the son of multiethnic, multi-confessional Georgia, that is, to be a Georgian, means to sing the Mravalzhamieri, to create polyphony, to dance the Khorumi, and to write The Knight in the Panther’s Skin; To be a Georgian means to lead the Georgian feast and to carry Vazha-Pshavela in your head;Therefore, do not be afraid of anything, the pain will not beat us and no enemy will ever defeat us! Because Georgia is immortal! Immortal is its culture, its restless soul, which has always yearned and still yearns toward its European family.
And today, at a time when we, who stand at the roots of great history, have obtained freedom; at a time when some recall my words concerning the creation of an amazing democracy with irony – in fact, in many ways, we are already living in a European democracy, which we were able to achieve on the basis of our values, rather than through violence or by imposing something foreign on the people.
It is with precisely such an approach that we achieved association with Europe and the signing of the Free Trade Agreement; it is with precisely such an approach that the Georgian citizen was granted the right of visa-free travel within the European Union;
It was precisely our commitment to the European choice that brought us the unprecedented, bipartisan support of our strategic partner, the leader of the free world, the United States of America!
I’m sure that the day will come when we will celebrate Georgia’s accession to the European Union at the same location, at this symbolic place on Freedom Square, and we will all say that historic justice has been restored and that we have achieved our goal!
Let us not forget, however, that first of all, Europe is moderation – the ideal balance, the ideal intersection of freedom and responsibility. Unfortunately, we have to return to European space from a low benchmark because we failed to fully realize our responsibility while being dazed by the scent of freedom at the dawn of independence, and we practically destroyed our country.
Our political team, the Georgian Dream, received a legacy that was doubly difficult. In addition to rampant poverty, our inheritance from the previous authorities included occupation, authoritarianism, and state institutions that were seized by one small group and used to repress free thought and free people.
And the cynicism of today lies in the fact that those who signed off on the occupation are precisely those who assumed the mantle of patriotism and blame us for the occupation;
Those who trampled fundamental human rights, tortured and massacred their brethren in the streets, seized businesses and the media, practically abolished free speech, abolished the street – you may remember that coming out into the street was forbidden – it is precisely they that accuse us of lacking democracy while addressing us from televisions haphazardly opened using money obtained from looting;
The person who has virtually become the paragon of bribery over the last 30 years is talking to us about corruption from the rostrum of Parliament and wants to be presented as the standard-bearer of a fair judiciary.
The temptation to respond to them in the manner that they deserve is great.
However, I and our political team, the Georgian Dream, remain committed to the ideals of 2012 and even now, we will treat them not in the manner that they deserve but rather in the manner that our people and our great culture deserves.
We will overcome all difficulties; we will reunify our country and revive our economy! And, most importantly, we will continue to walk on this path in a way that will retain the human being as the most important value, and very soon we will put even our aggressive opponents in service of the country – once they themselves have become convinced of the futility of a policy that is based on lies and violence. Because this is what they sign in the Georgian Mravalzhamieri: “Love has rebuilt what animosity has destroyed!”
And finally, as Ilia Chavchavadze used to say: “Our country needs European experience, science, and education. This must be its weapon.”
Precisely this is our way! This is Ilia’s way, this is the European way!
We follow this star because we know for certain that in the modern world, the way to salvation lies through education. For this reason, we allowed ourselves to make the largest and most ambitious investment in the future of the country – in its education!
Not many countries, even those with economies superior to ours, would have dared to spend 25 percent of the budget on education. And meanwhile, we dared to do so, and we did it! The unprecedented education reform that was launched this year is simultaneously the crown of our country’s seven-year peaceful and democratic development, as well as an ambitious statement regarding our inevitable future success!’ Ivanishvili stated.