Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili at AEI
About This Event

On July 6, AEI will host President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia for his only public address in Washington, D.C. The president will discuss Georgia's efforts to join NATO, as well as energy security, Georgia's deployment of troops to Iraq, relations with Russia, and U.S.-Georgian relations.

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Agenda
12:45 p.m.
Registration and Lunch
1:00
Introduction:
Christopher DeMuth, AEI
Address:
Mikheil Saakashvili, president of Georgia
2:00
Adjournment

Event Summary

July 2006

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili at AEI

On July 6, AEI hosted President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia for his only public address in Washington, D.C. The president discussed Georgia's efforts to join NATO, as well as energy security, Georgia's deployment of troops to Iraq, relations with Russia, and U.S.-Georgian relations.

The Honorable Mikheil Saakashvili
President of Georgia

Eastern Europe is going through some very interesting fundamental transformations that will affect the environment in the Black Sea region for generations to come. Georgia and Ukraine disprove the long-existing myth that an Eastern European government cannot be both democratic and efficient. In recent years, both Georgia and Ukraine have become democratic, and both are becoming increasingly efficient.

Three years ago, Georgia was essentially a failed state. Public servants sat unpaid for months; no new construction projects had been undertaken since independence; people were cynical about their government and institutions and pessimistic about the future of the country. But the citizens of Georgia took responsibility and decided to make a democratic change, which brought the current government to power.

Our state budget increased from $350 million to almost $3 billion this year. Georgia has been attracting hundreds of millions of dollars in investments. New sectors of economy are emerging. A new class of entrepreneurs is emerging as the government is offering conditions for their development. Construction is increasing: Georgia is currently constructing two new international airports. More roads, hospitals, and schools are being built today than had been built in Georgia in the last twenty-five years.

Georgia has been transformed from being one of the most corrupt countries in the Black Sea region into what the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development says is one of the three non-corrupt countries in Europe. A culture of non-corruption was introduced by eliminating bribes, increasing government officials’ previously low pay above medium wage, and prosecuting corrupt officials from the previous government. Whereas under the Soviet system citizens were not allowed to choose their educational system, recently Georgians went to the polls to elect their school boards.

The police have gained respect--the public’s confidence in their abilities increased from 5 percent to 70 percent. Georgia made significant achievements and changes in a short period of time. Georgia is on the right track, but it still has a long way to go. Georgia’s success served as an inspiration for Ukrainian democrats as well as the Belarusian opposition. But it has also attracted unwanted attention, and there are those who would like to see it fail.

Georgia is a key player in a new emerging energy system that will enable Europe to have an alternative supply of oil and gas. If Georgia fails, there will be a bottle-neck of energy flows, leading to a monopoly with few alternative energy supplies. If Georgia succeeds, there will be an alternative which will keep stability, safety, peace, prosperity, and development in Europe.

AEI intern Georges Sassine prepared this summary.

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