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Celebration of 70 years of Council of Europe

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Thursday, April 11
In 2019 the Council of Europe celebrates its 70th Anniversary, this year also marks 20 years since Georgia became the member of the Council. Georgian Prime-minister Mamuka Bakhtadze attended the celebration in Strasbourg. The Prime-minister’s first meeting was with the president of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Liliane Maury Pasquier and leaders discussed the interoperation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and stressed the important steps of democratic consolidation and reform-making that Georgia has made. Sides also considered Georgia’s future presidency of the committee of ministers of the European Council and the challenges that the organization is facing. The attention was also drawn to the harsh humanitarian situation and the facts of human rights’ violation on the occupied territories of Georgia. Pasquier stated, that another proof for a strong partnership with Georgia will be her visit to Tbilisi on April 29-30, where she will participate in the celebration of 20 years of Georgia’s membership in the Council of Europe.

Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland also held the meeting with Georgian prime minister. Officials emphasized the results of intensive partnership in the last years. Bakhtadze thanked the Secretary-General on behalf of the whole council for preparing a consolidated report concerning the conflict on the territory of Georgia and for forming the action plan for Georgia. After the meeting secretary-general also stressed the importance of Action Plan in his comment for the media stating that it was crucial for Georgia’s transition to the system of parliamentary democracy and posed Georgia as an example of fruitful partnership and experience-sharing. By the end of the meeting, Georgia’s prime minister made a memorable record in the book of honorable guests of the Council of Europe.

Mamuka Bakhtadze started his speech after Georgian ensemble “Rustavi” performed a polyphonic song “Chakrulo” in the Council of Europe. After stressing out the importance of diversity for Georgian national identity, Bakhtadze remembered April 9, 1989, when a small nation unified against soviet aggressors to protect freedom and sovereignty and 1991 when Georgia gained independence. He dedicated his speech to the heroes, who sacrificed lives to the freedom of Georgia. Prime-minister stated, that the success achieved in the last 20 years belongs to both, Georgia and the Council of Europe. “Together, we managed to form a country that evolved as a democracy between two continents and connects Europe with Asia. In the region full of challenges, Georgia has the ambition to create the rules of peaceful existence and the model of democracy” – said Bakhtadze.

Later in his speech prime-minister referred to the obligations that Georgia has successfully fulfilled and thanked the Assembly along with the Council for their contribution. He praised the progress that Georgia has made since joining the Council of Europe 20 years ago, citing constitutional reforms, more independent justice and better control of human rights. Stressing that there is still work to be done, he pledged to significantly increase the resources devoted to education. "The success of my country, accomplished over the last 20 years, belongs to both Georgia and the Council of Europe, and we can both be proud of it," he told parliamentarians. "Georgia has managed to make a profound transformation, and today we are a country in full swing."

Elaborating on the Russian aggression, Bakhtadze said Georgia still faces a major challenge in the occupation of parts of the territory. While deploring the gravity of the humanitarian and human rights situation in these areas, he pledged that Georgia would resolve the conflict only peacefully. Minister highlighted the significance of new peaceful initiative “Step to Better Future”, through which Georgia is trying to provide access to organized healthcare and educational services to the population, living on occupied territories. ”Today, from this tribune I was to tell our Abkhaz and Ossetian citizens – our success is your success” – referred Bakhtadze.

Mamuka Bakhtadze also brought up the topic of membership fee that Russia has been refusing to pay. “Georgia supports the efforts directed to the solution of financial difficulties, however Georgia’s position is unchangeable towards Russia’s refusal to pay the membership fee – this shouldn’t become the factor to change the procedure rules or Parliamentary Assembly or the regulation of the Council of Europe”- said Prime Minister and as the move of appreciation for the support and help that organization has been providing Georgia with, voluntarily contributed 500 000 Euros to the Council of Europe.

The Prime Minister concluded his speech by recalling the words of the former Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia Zurab Zhvania, when the country joined the Council of Europe 20 years earlier: "I am Georgian and therefore I am European”. These are the words inscribed on the Zurab Zhvania’s star that was opened in front of the Council of Europe Palace in Strasbourg on the same day - April 10, 2019. This phrase was delivered By Georgian politician Zurab Zhvania 20 years ago at the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly after the Assembly unanimously supported Georgia’s accession to the Council of Europe. He served as Prime Minister of Georgia and Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia. From 1993 till 2003 along with other opposition leaders Zhvania fought against Eduard Shevardnadze's government. Zhvania became prime-minister and served the post until his death in 2005. “We are very proud that Zurab Zhvania’s star will be opened in front of the Assembly Palace. The stars are usually opened for special people who have played a special role in the Council of Europe and it is a big event for us”, Stated First Deputy Chairman of the Parliament, head of the parliamentary delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Tamar Chugoshvili.