It is a great honor to represent again my beloved nation at this rostrum.
During the past decade, as I had the privilege to address this hall, Georgia has moved from a failed state to a market democracy. We have experienced both advances and setbacks, both breakthroughs and mistakes. But the world has been able to witness the constant commitment to freedom of the Georgian people.
I ask you today to once more hear the voice of a nation that transcends political, social, and religious differences in a common love for freedom. A voice that-·despite all the problems we have encountered and the challenges we still have to overcome-is full of hope.
And, looking at our world today, I do think that this voice of hope is needed.
The optimism ofthe early 1990s-when the spread of liberal and democratic values seemed natural-when the End ofHistory had been proclaimed -and when the United Nations was set to become the heart and the soul of a world finally at peace -this optimism of the 1990s has been crushed by a wave of pessimism and cynicism.
The world is not at peace. Humankind has not reconciled with itself. And the UN did not become the soul or the heart of a united globe.
Western civilization, once triumphant, is now trying to tackle a deep economic,social, and mental crisis.
In Eastern Europe, the colored revolutions are challenged by the forces they had defeated a few years ago.
In the Middle East, the glorious images of the cheering crowds of Cairo and Tunis have been replaced by the horrendous videos ofthe gassed children of Damascus.
There are many good reasons to be disillusioned.
But should the dogmatic optimism of the 90s be replaced by an equally dogmatic pessimism-by a sense of resignation that suffocates hope?
Should the fact that the expansion of democracy and freedom turns out to require profound struggle -should this lead us to renounce our beliefs and our principles?
I came here today to share the hopes of my nation, and to speak out against this ambient fatalism.
I came here to address those who doubt, those who hesitate, those who are tempted to give in.
If the West is outdated, then why do millions of Poles, Czech, Estonians, Romanians, and others cherish so much the day they entered NATO? And why are millions of Ukrainians, Georgians, Moldovans, and others desperately knocking on the doors of the European Union?
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?
No. History did not come to an end in 1989 or 1991 and it never will.
But freedom is still its motor and its horizon. Everywhere, men and women who want to live in freedom are confronted by the forces of tyranny.
The question is: are we going to be actors or spectators in this confrontation?
Ladies and gentlemen,
As I speak, the Eastern European countries aspiring to join the European family of free and democratic nations are 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 ...
Because an old Empire is trying to reclaim its bygone borders. And "borders" is actually not the right word, since this Empire -be it the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation, or the Eurasian Union - never had borders. It only had margins.
I came today to speak in the name of these margins.
Unlike most nations, the Russian Federation has no interest in having stable states around it. Neighboring countries in constant turmoil is what the Kremlin is seeking. It rejects the very idea of strong governments in Georgia, Ukraine, or Moldova, even ones that try to be friendly to its interests.
I was never a great fan of what the French call "La langue de bois", but as my second term nears its end, I feel more than before the urge to speak my mind.
So let us be concrete.
Do you think that Vladimir Putin wants Armenia to decisively triumph over Azerbaijan, for instance? No. This would make Armenia too strong and potentially too independent.
Do you think then that the contrary is true, that Moscow wants Baku to prevail over Erevan? Obviously not. The current rise of a modernized Azerbaijan is a nightmare for the Russian leaders.
No, they do not want anyone to prevail and the conflict itselfis their objective, since it keeps both nations dependent and blocks their integration into the European common space.
Do you think that the electoral defeat of the forces that led the Orange Revolution in Ukraine has led the Kremlin to take a softer approach to this country?
To the contrary. The government lead by Viktor Yanoukovich is under permanent attack, a commercial war has been launched against Ukraine ahead of the European Summit of Vilnius and Russian officials now speak openly about dismembering this nation.
Do you think the Kremlin would agree to discuss the de-occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, now that the government has changed in Tbilisi? Far from it! The annexation of Georgian lands by Russian troops continues!
Yesterday, the occupants have expelled again Georgian citizens from their homes and villages, the homes and villages of their parents and grand-parents. In daylight and in total impunity.
Despite the friendly statements made by the new Georgian government in the recent weeks and months, the Russian military keeps advancing its positions, dividing communities with new barbwires, threatening our economy, moving towards the vital Baku-Supsa pipeline, approaching more and more the main highway of Georgia and thus putting into question the very sustainability of our country.
The hostility of Vladimir Putin and his team towards the government I had the privilege to lead for almost a decade was not based on personal hatreds or cultural misunderstandings. Any such interpretation was just a smokescreen.
My predecessor, President Shevarnadze, came from the highest Soviet nomenklatura. He was returned to power in Georgia with direct Russian help in the 90s, through a military coup. He was well known for his Soviet diplomatic skills unlike me. And yet, Russia has constantly undermined his authority and even tried to assassinate him several times.
This is not about Gamsakourdia, Shevarnadze, Saakashvili, or Ivanishvili.
Those names actually do not matter when the stakes are so high.
This is about the possibility - or not - of true statehood in Georgia, and beyond.
Because the current Russian authorities know perfectly well that-as soon as strong institutions are built in Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, or any other places soon as functioning states emerge-such institutions, such states will reflect and enforce the will of their people, which is to become fully independent and move towards Europe.
The Georgian experience of successful reforms and the creation of a functioning state was therefore considered to be a virus ---a virus that could and would contaminate the whole post-Soviet region --- a virus that should be eliminated, by every means possible.
This is why the Georgian nation has suffered an embargo, a war, an invasion, and an occupation-all since 2006.
But this also is why the resistance of the Georgian people and the resilience of the Georgian democracy are of the outmost importance for the entire region.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The efforts to roll back the advances of the EU and NATO in our region progress based on the will of our people -are becoming ever more intense.
These efforts have a name: the Eurasian Union.
The Eurasian Union has been shaped as an alternative to the European Union and unveiled by Vladimir Putin as the main project of his new presidency.
Because European and Euro-Atlantic integration take a lot of time and require tremendous efforts-because there are moments when you might think you are pursuing a mirage-because the threats become so strong, the pressures so direct, while the promises seem so far away-some people in our region might fall victim to fatigue and ask themselves: why not?
Today, I want precisely to explore this "why not?"
Much more than with a choice of foreign policy or of international alliances, our nations are confronted with a choice of society, a choice of life.
Our people have to decide whether they accept to live in a world of fear and crime // a world in which differences are perceived as threats and minorities as punching bags // a world in which opponents are facing selective justice or beatings // a world, Ladies and gentlemen, that we all know very well in our region since this is the world from which we are coming.
The Eurasian Union is both our recent past and the future shaped for us by some ex-KGB officers in Moscow.
On the opposite side, our revived traditions and our centuries old aspirations lead us towards another world called Europe.
European 'societies are far from perfect and there too, you can have fears, doubts, angers, hatreds even.
But there, meritocracy prevails over nepotism, tolerance is a fundament of public life, current opponents are the future ministers and not the prisoners to be or the enemies to beat.
The choice -when it is put like that -is so obvious for the people of Eastern Europe that some Kremlin strategists (they call themselves politechnologists) have decided to cancel the truth and have shaped lies that they are spreading throughout Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and many other places.
Their mouthpieces in our respective countries -this conscious or unconscious 5th column -identify the European Union with the destruction of family values, the erosion ofnational traditions and the promotion of gays and lesbians.
Strangely, in recent years and even more in recent months, we hear in Tbilisi, Kiev, or Chisinau the same ugly music that was first orchestrated in Moscow we hear that our traditions are collapsing under the influence of the West, that Christian holidays will be replaced by gay pride events, and Churches by multicultural Disney Lands-we hear that our orthodox identity is under threat. ..
And after all -here we come -we hear that we share with our former masters a common respect for decency and traditions.
Are we so naive to believe these lies, as other generations did, allowing our sovereignty to be kidnapped?
Are we so unfair to our ancestors to think that their memory would be honored by attacks on mosques or some pogroms?
Are we so unaware of our own History that we allow it to repeat itself endlessly?
When we hear the fake music of the orthodox brotherhood sung by Russian imperialists, can't we hear the true voice of the Patriarch Kirion who was assassinated or the eternal voice of the Patriarch Ambrosi Khelaya who was tortured during days and weeks only because he appealed to the Geneva Conference against the invasion ofhis country? Are we so deaf as not to hear the voices of the killed bishops and priests? Are we so uneducated that we do not recall who has repainted our churches and erased our sacred frescos?
Are we so blind today not to see the destruction of our churches in the occupied territories?
We need to know our History. And our History teaches us that tolerance is the basis for sovereignty in our region. It is not only a moral duty: it is an issue of national security.
We need to know our History and understand that the same old imperialistic principle - divide to rule - is applied today as it was two centuries ago. (To be continued here)