Georgia celebrates 25 Years of Independence
Address by H.E. Mr. Beka Dvali, Ambassador of Georgia on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Restoration of the Independence of Georgia (26 May)
20 May 2016
Pretoria, Republic of South Africa
Honorable Representative of South African Government: Dear Mr. Firoz Patel, Deputy Director-General: Technical and Vocational Education and Training, Department of Higher Education and Training,
Dear Colleagues from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO),
Dear Colleagues from South African Governmental Departments,
Your Excellency Mr. Bene L M'Poko, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador of the Democratic Republic Congo,
Excellencies: Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Mr. Marius Heyns, the Chairman of South Africa-Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the members of the Chamber
Dear compatriots – Georgian citizens present here
ძვირფასო თანამემამულეებო, გვიხარია, რომ დღეს ჩვენთან ხართ!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We, the Embassy of Georgia in Pretoria, are so much delighted to host you today at this landmark venue, and to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Restoration of the Independence of Georgia.
Georgian statehood dates back to millennia and this last 25 years of restored Independence has been as turbulent and marked by the struggle for liberty, for the preservation of our unique cultural heritage and identity, as the entire Georgia chronicle, developing on the backdrop of edgy geopolitical crossroads and historical challenges of epic proportions.
For me, for the first Georgian Ambassador in South Africa and in the SADC region, it is so much tempting, on this festive occasion, to focus only on positives, but the very essence of this day, that we so heartily celebrate, compels me:
- to remember those heroes, who fell in struggle for restoring the Independence of Georgia and for preserving it;
- to remember that the territorial integrity of my Nation remains breached and Georgia’s two provinces – Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia – remain occupied, after the brutal foreign intervention;
- to remember that, as we enjoy this evening, hundreds of thousands of my compatriots, predominantly Georgians, remain internally displaced, after the ethnic cleansing undertaken by foreign power throughout occupied territories of Georgia;
- to remember the latest victim of brutal foreign occupation Mr. Giga Otkhozoria, a civilian Georgian young man: YESTERDAY, he was shot point blank and killed by the representative of the occupation regime.
BUT, DESPITE THESE EXTERNAL SHOCKS that my country endures as we speak, it is ever more EXTRAORDINARY the progress we have made during these 25 years of Georgia’s restored Independence.
25 years ago, we started to rebuild our Statehood - its political as well as its economic fundamentals, having only futile wreckage of Soviet totalitarian political and economic system. And 25 years after, here we stand:
- Having a Rule of Law-based democratic State and liberal, free market economic system, exemplary in our region and beyond;
- Having corruption free, people-oriented state institutions, world renowned efficient state services, open society, easy-to-do business environment and one of the safest countries to live in and to visit;
- Having increasingly featured in the premier league of various international ratings;
- Having in place Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with European Union and the visa free travel into Schengen for Georgian citizens to be launched in the coming months;
- Having the privilege of being an essential part of East-West strategic transport corridor and key participant of the “New Silk Road”;
- Having global partnerships and diplomatic reach worldwide.
We would not have benefited from these achievements if not the solidarity of the international community, including our African peers, unambiguously supporting Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity – ultimate principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter. WE BELIEVE: as long as these fundamentals are mutually honored, our relationships will go only from strength to strength for the benefit of our peoples.
Photo: New-York Based renowned Georgian pianist Mr. David Aladashvili performed international and Georgian classics including by Lagidze and Kvernadze, marking the 25th Anniversary of the Restoration of the Independence of Georgia, at the reception hosted by the Embassy of Georgia in Pretoria, South Africa, 20 May 2016
And we are so proud and privileged to be in a position to forge our partnership with South Africa as well as with Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe – the countries that our Embassy in Pretoria, by current status, is accredited to.
We deeply value the political dialogue and interaction that evolved between Georgia and South Africa during recent years. Last year in June, bilateral Georgia-South Africa dialogue acquired inter-parliamentary dimension with the first ever visit to Cape Town-the Parliamentary capital of South Africa of Mr. Tedo Japaridze, the Chairman of Foreign Relations Committee of the Parliament of Georgia. A value-based cooperation between our Nations has also gained special momentum in the framework of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Specifically, during 3-4 May 2016, the South African Chairmanship hosted the OGP Steering Committee meeting in Cape Town and Georgia was elected as the OGP Co-Chair. At that meeting, Georgia was represented by H.E. Ms. Thea Tsulukiani, the Minister of Justice of Georgia. South African side, represented by South African Special Envoy to the Open Government Partnership, H.E. Ms. Ayanda Dlodlo, Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, accorded outstanding hospitality to visiting Georgian Delegation and showed invaluable support to Georgia.
I also have the privilege to report that soon, the delegation from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) of the Republic of South Africa, chaired by Deputy Director General (DDG) Ms. Yolisa Maya, with the participation of Chief Director Mrs. Linda Shongwe as well as South African Ambassador Mr. Christian Basson will be visiting Georgia’s capital Tbilisi and holding the Second Round of South Africa-Georgia Senior Officials’ Political Consultations (SOCP) with Georgian colleagues. Apart from political dialogue, our relationship with South Africa in recent years has seen much needed dynamism in the economic sphere, marked by: increased business interactions; productive activities of South Africa-Georgia Chamber of Commerce (SAGCC) and the launched process of concluding the memoranda of understanding (MoU) between Georgian National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GNCCI) and various South African Chambers of Commerce. We have also managed to promote very important links between Georgian and South African universities as well as kick-start various initiatives through cultural diplomacy.
Last several months also marked three important milestones in Georgia’s outreach to our African partners: (1) On 5 November 2016 Georgia established diplomatic relations with the Republic of Namibia; (2) On 25 February 2016 I, as the first ever Georgian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, with residence in Pretoria, had the honor and privilege to present the letters credence to H.E. Mr. Robert Mugabe, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. With this, we have opened a new and a very important channel for promoting Georgia’s bilateral relations with yet another friendly nation on this continent; (3) and finally, just HALF AN HOUR AGO, in New York, Georgia signed a Memorandum on the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Swaziland.
Georgia has a genuine desire and readiness to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with South Africa as much as with the Nations that we also cover. Our approach is to leave not a single stone unturned in the process of tapping opportunities of cooperation in various spheres with all our African brothers and sisters.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,
We are far away from Georgia now. In fact, here, this evening, Georgians are in a dramatic minority. But, despite these odds, we deeply hope that your take-away from this memorable evening will be the first-hand experience of internationally acclaimed Georgian hospitality and the warms that we – Georgian Embassy and Georgian people are so much eager to extend to each and every of you, through our friendship, through our music, through our paintings and obviously, through the iconic Georgian wine! I thank you!
Embassy of Georgia in South Africa