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Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Address by the President of the Republic of Poland at Freedom Square in Tbilisi

Honourable Madam President,

Honourable Prime Minister,

Honourable Speaker of the Parliament,

Honourable Ministers, Members of the Government,

Honourable Members of Parliament,

Distinguished Guests,

Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Dear Georgian Friends,

Ladies and Gentlemen!

 

It is my great honour to address you today, at Freedom Square in Tbilisi. This day is such an important holiday as it commemorates the Declaration of Independence of 1918. At the time, the Georgian nation made a fundamental choice - it opted for self-determination, for freedom, and for democracy.

 

See also: President tells Georgians Poland will back their EU, NATO bid Even though Bolshevik Russia, with its aggression, thwarted the dreams of a modern and independent Georgian state just a few years later, the memory of those momentous events has been permanently engraved in the collective memory of the nation. Therefore, at the point of the collapse of the Soviet Union, several decades later, Georgians knew exactly that they wanted independence, that they wanted their own state. And this is why, in 2021, we are also able to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Georgia's independence.

 

Commemorating these events makes me realise how very close, indeed fraternal, are the relations between the Georgian people and the Poles. Although Warsaw and Tbilisi are more than 2 000 kilometres apart, there are few countries and nations as close to each other as ours. We share the same values. The most important of them being love of freedom and love of sovereignty. These values have been deeply etched into our souls for centuries.

 

After 1921, Georgian émigrés, members of the Georgian elite of the time, contributed enormously to the life of Poland as it was reborn in 1918. We all remember perfectly well the name of Saint Grigol Peradze - an eminent scholar and theologian, a lecturer at the University of Warsaw, chaplain of Georgian diaspora in Poland, who perished in the Auschwitz concentration camp at the hands of the German Nazis. To this day Grigol Peradze continues to be the only saint among the lecturers of the University of Warsaw. Georgian officers, who joined the ranks of the Polish Army wrote a splendid chapter in our common history. It is now 100 years since the first cadets and officers from Georgia availed themselves of the opportunity to serve under contract in the Polish Army. Georgians soon established a reputation for their military prowess and heroism, and their devotion and loyalty to Poland was amply demonstrated during the dramatic years of World War 2.

 

I pay homage to the Georgian heroes who were fighting and falling in defence of our Home Country in September 1939, and who battled and died in the Warsaw Uprising, as well as to the Georgian victims of the Soviet massacre of Katyn, murdered alongside Polish officers.

 

In 2007, the Presidents of our two countries unveiled a memorial to Georgian officers in the Polish army located at Freedom Park of the Warsaw Uprising Museum. We shall always hold them in grateful memory.

 

Dear Friends,

 

We, the Poles and the Georgians, mutually recognise and invariably respect this great and deep love of freedom. Time and again we fought together 'for your freedom and ours'. We should remember, however, that the freedom we have achieved is not given once and for all.

 

As my great compatriot, Saint John Paul II, proclaimed, freedom is given to man, but it is also 'assigned' to him, and we must, therefore, cherish and protect it with the utmost sense of responsibility. I believe that this is equally true for states and nations. Unfortunately, there are also countries which behave and think in entirely different terms, and which define their freedom by dominating others and depriving them by force of their freedom.

 

The late President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, was well aware of this. During his heroic mission, on August 12,  2008, he made a speech just a few hundred metres from here - in front of the Parliament building - shortly after the invasion of Georgia by Russian troops had begun.

 

On that day, he said: "This is the first time since long that our neighbours to the north, and for us also to the north and east, have shown a face that we have known for hundreds of years. These neighbours believe that the nations around them should be under their control. We say no! This country is Russia. This country believes that the old days of the empire that collapsed less than 20 years ago are returning, and that domination will once again be the hallmark of this region. Well, it will not. Those days are over once and for all”.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Georgian Friends,

 

Thirteen years have passed since that day, a long 13 years for us, though only 13 years for history. And still we cannot allow for any country in the 21st century to continue its imperial and aggressive policy with no respect for international law. In order to counteract this, we must safeguard the strength of international institutions and insist on solidarity between states. Our unity and solidarity must stand in the way of any imperial march!

 

This is why I am here with you today and I would like to reiterate, loud and clear, that there is enough room in the United Europe and in the NATO to accommodate our friends from the eastern part of Europe, to accommodate: Georgia, Ukraine or Moldova.

 

In particular, given the current situation, European Union's 'open door policy' and NATO 'open door policy' must be upheld.

 

I would like to emphasise that you always have a dependable ally in Poland and in the Polish people, an ally who will use all their abilities to stand up for Georgia and to promote Georgia's integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.

 

We know from experience how much effort is required for reforms and that the path towards the European Union and the NATO is a difficult one, and that it often seems to stretch on endlessly. Several days ago, we celebrated the 17th anniversary of our country's accession to the EU, and in retrospect I can say that the final stretch often turned out to be just another bend, after which we had to summon up more strength to eventually reach the desired finish line.

With the benefit of hindsight, however, I can assure you that every step, even though it required profound reforms, was worth it. That is why I appeal, as your friend, to persevere on the path of reform and to uphold European standards.

 

We must remember, and everyone should do so, above all in the West, right there in the countries of the EU, particularly the so-called old Union, that European culture has been part and parcel of local civilisation for millennia. This is where ancient culture flourished, and this is your Georgian legacy.

 

This European culture today is about respect for fundamental values such as democracy, human rights, freedom of speech and the right of assembly. When we speak of a common Europe, we must also have regard for these values, and we must do our utmost to ensure that they are respected both by law and by the authorities.

 

Dear Georgian Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Guests,

 

Freedom, independence, democracy, respect and solidarity underpin our cooperation.

 

Georgians, we look forward to seeing you in the united Europe, for you have been part of its heritage for centuries.

 

Georgians, we are awaiting you in NATO, because you are a proud and brave nation which deserves to be secure and to be able to build its prosperity in peace.

 

Let me reiterate that in Poland you have a friend who will continue to support you on this path. And as the great Shota Rustaveli once put it, centuries ago, 'there is nothing more precious in the world than a faithful friend'.

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