Pushing ahead with reforms is the best way for Georgia “to foster greater consensus” among NATO allies on the timing of extending MAP, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in Tbilisi on September 16.
Speaking with students from Tbilisi State University, Scheffer said although NATO allies agreed that Georgia would one day be a member of the bloc, it was no secret that “there are different views on how fast Georgia should be admitted into our Membership Action Plan [MAP].”
NATO foreign ministers will gather in December to make “a first assessment” of Georgia’s application for the MAP as it was agreed by the leaders of NATO member states in Bucharest this April.
“I sincerely believe that - by continuing on the reform course, acting responsibly, working with international institutions, pursuing the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and contributing to security both at home and abroad - Georgia will be able to foster greater consensus among the NATO Allies on the timing of its entry into MAP and its eventual membership in NATO,” Scheffer said. “While the final decision will always rest with the NATO Allies, there is much that Georgia can and should do to influence that decision.”
He noted that as a result of the August war Georgia had “suffered a major shock.”
“But the way to respond is not to stop your democratic reforms or to engage in a polarized stand-off between government and opposition,” Scheffer continued. “That might be the easy course but it would be the wrong course. The way ahead for Georgia – for its security and increased engagement with its Western partners – is to push ahead with reform and to improve further its democratic institutions and practices.
“When others are acting irresponsibly, Georgia must be a predictable, responsible partner.”
He also said that Georgia had made “remarkable progress in democratic, judicial, economic and defence reform;” he, however, added: “there is more that Georgia must still do to meet NATO’s democratic standards fully.”
He said that although the August war “may have been a setback, the road to NATO is still wide open for Georgia.”
Scheffer also reiterated – referring to Russia – that no other country would have a veto over that process.
“Nor will we allow our strong ties to Georgia to be broken by outside military intervention, and pressures,” he said.
He also reiterated NATO’s call on Russia to reverse its decision to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Scheffer at the same time said NATO’s criticism of Russia’s moves did in no way mean closing doors with Moscow.
“No, punishing Russia is not the way forward,” he said. “The way forward really is to help Georgia. Your country is located where it is – it cannot pack up and move to a quieter part of the world. Ultimately, Georgia and Russia will have to co-exist. But this will only work if Georgia is sufficiently confident, stable and secure – and seen as such by all its neighbours. And we in NATO want to help Georgia move forward again in that direction.”