David Bakradze, Georgia’s State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, described his country as “an island of stability in a turbulent region,” to an audience at IPI Vienna, September 13th.
Dennis Sammut, Director of LINKS, provided some historical context to Georgia’s rise. Georgia was the fourth Soviet republic to organize a referendum on independence in the early 1990’s, following Baltic states Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Since then, “Georgia has risen from the ashes,” he said.
Mr. Bakradze described his country’s relations with neighbors like Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as the policy of pragmatic cooperation with Russia. He noted Georgia’s good relations with the European Union, as well as efforts to open up to new markets like China.
He said that Georgia has moved from a process of democratic transformation to one of democratic consolidation. He highlighted reforms like universal health care and improvements in education that have been introduced, as well as freedom of the media and the independence of the judiciary.
There was considerable discussion about Georgia’s aspirations to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO,) as well as its interest in stability in the Black Sea.
The Minister also spoke about the government’s efforts to promote confidence-building measures in relations with the break-away regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Parliamentary elections will be held in Georgia on October 8th. It was noted in the discussion that the elections are expected to be the least polarized in recent Georgian history.
Several participants underlined the potential example that Georgia’s democratization, economic development, and constructive engagement could provide to other countries in the region.
The event was co-organized with LINKS.