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President of Georgia attends the Lennart Meri Conference

By Nika Gamtsemlidze
Tuesday, May 21
The President of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, participated in The Lennart Meri Conference, a high-level annual meeting, where security policy issues are discussed from the perspective of the Northern and Eastern parts of Europe.

Lennart Meri Conference is organised by the International Centre for Defence and Security and is named after the famous Estonian writer, director, and public figure, Lennart Meri, who was the President of Estonia in 1992-2001.

Salome Zourabichvili participated in an open panel discussion titled One Past, Many Futures, with the President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid and the Minister of Defence of Germany, Ursula von der Leyen.

President of Georgia opened her speech by remembering the ex-president of Estonia and said that Europe still suffers from the loss of people like Lennart Meri. Zourabichvili also talked about Russian aggression, occupation, Georgia’s integration into the European structures, and the Black Sea security issues.

As she says, Georgia thinks that its past is European and it has come a long way in the past years and still faces various challenges: “EU has some challenges too, it is unclear how the EU will develop, or with whom it will be able to have the future,” noted Zourabichvili.

According to the president, the biggest challenge that Georgia faces is the territorial integrity, saying, “Russia has not changed its attitude, and we don’t see the willingness for change. Russia continues its aggression and provocation.”

“Russia was also threatened when Georgia launched joint military exercises with NATO on its own territory. ...All of this does not look very promising. So, the future seems very unclear,” stressed the president in her speech.

According to her, if NATO or the EU didn’t have their power, the 'world would be a dark place.' The President also talked about the future of EU, and as she said, Europe needs to stand together, "in contrast to your panel name, I think we have no other future. We have only one common future, which is our only alternative and our only prospect."

“We are small enthusiasts outside your boundaries, and we are ready to be part of you,” noted Zourabichvili.

The Minister of Defence of Estonia, Jüri Luik talked about Georgia’s relations with the EU, saying “in the name of European Union, I am very ashamed that we could not give Georgia a European perspective,” while Ursula von der Leyen talked about the strong and rich military cooperation between the countries.

"It is a great honor for us to be together in Afghanistan, along with 600 Georgian military servicemen, it would be impossible to do this job without them. When you are there, you have common values, feel the same roots, culture, enthusiasm, knowledge and general vision of why we are there, defending these values and peace," said Ursula von der Leyen.

To mark president Meri’s continuing legacy in foreign and security policy thinking, this year the conference panels were named after quotations from his speeches.

Leaders of different countries, as well as the representatives of international organizations and media, attended the conference.