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Rasmussen praises Georgia at meeting with Saakashvili

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Wednesday, April 4
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has praised Georgia’s reforms and its aspirations to join the alliance at a meeting with Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili on April 3. The meeting was held in Brussels prior to a NATO-Georgia commission session at the organization’s headquarters.

He highlighted that Georgia contributes the second largest non-NATO contingent to ISAF operations in Afghanistan, adding that the “relationship goes far beyond Afghanistan".

“Georgia has demonstrated that [it] is not just a consumer of security; Georgia is also a producer, a provider of security,” the Secretary General stated. "Your troops are doing an outstanding job, shoulder to shoulder with NATO troops, under challenging circumstances,” he remarked.

“Firstly, reflect that Georgia is one of the major contributors to our operation in Afghanistan. Secondly, reflect that Georgia in general is a major contributor to the trans-Atlantic cooperation within the special NATO-Georgia Commission, and thirdly, that Georgia is also considered an aspirant country, a country that aspires to become a future member of NATO,” Rasmussen stressed, adding that the Allies had not yet made a final decision about the development of the Georgia-NATO partnership prior to the Chicago summit in May.

Speaking at a joint news conference, Rasmussen called Georgia “a model partner” committed to NATO operations, to NATO accession, and to reform. “Georgia has become a model of commitment, cooperation, and connectivity with the Alliance and we encourage you to continue that way. This is a long road and we are taking it one step at a time,” he said.

The Secretary General also stressed the importance of the upcoming parliamentary elections this fall, stating that “those elections will be an important test for Georgia’s democracy and a chance to show how far you have come.”

Responding to Rasmussen’s statement, Saakashvili affirmed that the international community is welcome in Georgia, to observe not only the election day, but the entire electoral process.

“We have elections this year and we call strongly on the international community, on the EU, the European parliament, the OSCE, our partner countries including alliance members, to send not only short-term but long-term observers, to do polling of public opinion for all this period, to monitor Georgian media coverage, to monitor party financing mechanisms, in order to ensure that not just the day of the elections but the whole process is transparent, predictable, from the point of view of observing standards, and to exclude any kind of surprises, bias and not such well wishing pressure on the whole process, from outside or from any destructive elements from any sides. So from that point of view, we really need help from you this year,” Saakashvili stressed.

In his concluding remarks, Rasmussen noted that NATO has seen clear progress when it comes to democracy in Georgia, which is appreciated. “So all in all, NATO has given a very positive assessment to Georgia,” he affirmed.