Wednesday

11th Dec 2019

Opinion

Georgia moves ahead, but consequences of war remain to be dealt with

  • Tbilisi: Russian tanks in 2008 were poised to roll into the Georgian capital (Photo: Thomas Depenbusch)

In August 2008, thousand of Russian troops and armour rolled into Georgia, as Russian aviation pounded the country's military, infrastructural and civilian targets.

Four years on, Georgia stands strong in asserting its identity as a liberal, democratic state, its economy is surging ahead and the government is working hard to take care of people displaced during the conflict.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Our friends stood by us in 2008. We need their support still so that those residing in 20 percent of our territory occupied by Russia can partake in and benefit from the progress Georgia has achieved.

Pictures of war on major news networks mean destruction, devastation and despair for those embroiled in conflict.

If the eye of an international reporter ever returns to those areas as the years go by, one usually sees a grim reality, where human suffering prevails with no hope in sight.

This was one possible scenario for my country as well, after it was invaded by a neighbour which is vastly superior in size and military capabilities. Still worse was the threat of obliteration of our very statehood and of our way of life.

Yet neither of these came to be.

Georgian people defended their homeland. Our friends and allies stood by us on the international arena to rebuke the invasion.

Georgia has kept its identity as a free nation and is moving ahead, though ever-mindful of the ongoing threat from the two Russian military bases that were set up on occupied territories, in violation of the ceasefire agreement and fundamental principles of international law.

The country withstood the shock and managed to rebound into steady economic growth. Real GDP increased by 6.4 percent in 2010 and by 7 percent in 2011. Later this year, we expect to open a major railway route linking Central Asia with Turkey and Europe.

Georgia still remains one of the safest, buisness-friendly and least corrupt countries in Europe.

The UN World Tourism Organization recently singled out Georgia for its remarkable growth in tourism - arrivals have almost tripled in the past five years, from just below 1 million in 2006 to close to 3 million in 2011.

The UN also gave it a prize for quality of public service - the key way citizens interact with government on a daily basis.

Our democratic choice remains unshaken. Citizens will vote on 1 October to elect a new parliament and to rejuvenate our democracy.

Our nation is also negotiating an Association Agreement and free trade agreement with the EU, implementing reforms to strengthen our justice system, local governance and our penitentiary.

While we are proud of our success, we call attention to the plight of the thousands who were displaced during the war and whose homes were often razed to the ground in an act of ethnic cleansing.

The Georgian government made sure that most of these families had a new roof over their heads for the winter of 2008. But their rights are far from being respected and their loss is far from compensated. Justice is yet to be restored.

As we work to advance our nation, we need the help and support of the international community to condemn and reverse the occupation and to make our successes available to those who reside on the 20 percent of Georgian territory currently occupied by Russian troops.

In the 21st century no power can afford to lock people behind barbed wire, to raze villages in order to build military bases, to deprive children of the right to study in their mother tongue and to make carrying a gun the only available employment.

We have reached out to all those who reside on occupied territories. We have tried to build confidence with them by offering services in order to restore the social fabric that linked our communities for centuries.

Georgia keeps neighborly relations with the Russian people - we cancelled visa requirements for all Russian citizens in March and the tourists have poured back in, despite a propaganda of fear by the Kremlin.

We are ready to engage in constructive talks with Russia. We made a unilateral pledge not to use force. There has been no reciprocity, but we hope, often beyond hope, that hearts and minds in Moscow will slowly change.

Georgia has achieved a lot, but we still need a friendly hand so that all of our compatriots may live in peace, dignity and security.

The governments and civil society of the free world should continue to deliver a loud and clear message to the government of the Russian Federation that the military occupation cannot be tolerated, that systematic abuse of human rights cannot be window-dressed as nation-building and that ethnic cleansing has no place in modern society.

Four years after the war, the Georgian nation stands tall, looks to the future and demands justice for all its residents.

Grigol Vashadze is the foreign minister of Georgia

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

EU rewards Georgia with 'deep' free trade talks

After having lifted its veto against Russia joining the World Trade Organisation following a Swiss-brokered deal, Georgia will start "deep" free trade negotiations with the EU in December.

EU preparing snap summit on Russia-Georgia war

Updated 13:30 The French EU presidency is preparing to call an emergency EU summit on the Russia-Georgia conflict, following a Polish request. A snap gathering of EU foreign ministers has already been organised in Brussels for Wednesday.

European shipping's dirty secret

As the EU launches its flagship Green Deal, the Greens call for shipping emissions to be included in carbon targets. Ships carrying goods to and from the UK emitted more CO2 than all the cars in Britain's 15-largest cities.

Does Malta's Labour Party now belong in S&D?

The Maltese Labour Party is a curious creature. No minister, MEP, MP, president, or former president has yet criticised Joseph Muscat publicly and outright over the killing of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

Europe needs a greener Common Agricultural Policy

Two Danish ministers - for environment, and for food and fisheries - call on the EU to reconsider the unintended consequences of zoning rules and income support in the Common Agricultural Policy.

News in Brief

  1. Czechs protest against PM Babis over EU subsidy 'fraud'
  2. EU disbursed €2.7bn for Turkey refugees
  3. UK ports set to host EU border checks for Northern Ireland
  4. EU puts tech giants in crosshairs
  5. Faroe Islands under pressure to chose Huawei
  6. Hungary asked to apologise after council leak
  7. MEPs: Finnish budget proposal 'impossible to implement'
  8. EP committee supports 'Future of EU Conference'

EU investment bank 'wide open to abuse by fraudsters'

Fundamental reforms are needed if the EIB is to become more accountable, democratic and transparent. Establishing a firm grasp on corruption to ensure that public money no longer feeds corrupt systems is a vital first step.

European beekeeping in crisis

Europe's bee population is dying. The number of pollinator species threatened by extinction is increasing each year, and human activity is the main cause.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us