Georgian Parliament Speaker, Davit Usupashvili, said that Georgia is now as ready for NATO membership as some of its members were at the time they were invited and NATO should either give Georgia a Membership Action Plan (MAP) during the next NATO summit in Warsaw in 2016 or declare that MAP is no longer a precursor to eventual full membership.
Addressing delegates at a NATO Parliamentary Assembly session in Budapest on May 18, Usupashvili said that such a decision at the NATO Warsaw summit next year would be a “decisive step” and “the most adequate response” to Georgia’s NATO aspirations.
Speaking at the same event in Budapest earlier on May 18, NATO Deputy Secretary General, Alexander Vershbow, said that although Georgia currently has all the tools to prepare the country for membership, previous decisions that MAP should be the next stage on Georgia’s path towards eventual membership still stand.
“But in substantive terms, Georgia can advance very far towards the threshold of [NATO’s] open door with the NATO-Georgia Commission, with ENP [Annual National Programme] process and with substantial package agreed in Wales,” Vershbow said, referring to those main instruments through which NATO-Georgia relations are currently carried out.
At the NATO summit in Wales in September, 2014 Georgia was again left without long-sought MAP; instead the Alliance offered Georgia “substantial package” of cooperation, which, among other components, includes establishing the joint NATO-Georgia training and evaluation center in Georgia and deploying team of resident advisers at the Georgian Ministry of Defense.
Vershbow also said that NATO is giving “active support” to Georgia and the Alliance cannot be considered passive. However, he added that he “cannot give any timeline for when the open door will be reached.”
Georgian parliament speaker Usupashvili told NATO parliamentarians that although Georgia is not a NATO member, “legally, politically, and practically we have been a valuable and willing contributor to the collective security”, noting that Georgia is the second largest troop contributor to NATO-led operations in Afghanistan.
“NATO’s open door policy has proven to be a real success story,” Usupashvili said.
“However, it is critical that the open door policy does not become a revolving door policy – where aspirant countries are stuck in a rotation,” he said, adding that the aspirant countries would not be the only ones who would suffer from such approach.
“During the Bucharest summit [in 2008] NATO sent out a strong message – Georgia will become a NATO member,” he said. “Today, politically and tactically, Georgia is as prepared for the Alliance as several current full members have been when they were invited.”
“In 2014 we heard in Wales that Georgia’s relationship with the Alliance ‘contains the tools necessary to continue moving Georgia forward towards eventual membership’. Many in Georgia interpreted these words as Georgia being given de facto MAP,” the Georgian parliament speaker said.
“After more than 12 years of journey I do not want those people to be disappointed with prolonged talks [on] whether Georgia deserves MAP or not,” he said.
“Russia must be engaged, but for the Euro-Atlantic security architecture to retain its integrity there must be deterrence,” Usupashvili said, adding that upholding the open door policy should be the one such deterrence.
“The time has come for another step to be made on Georgia’s NATO integration process, but it has to be a decisive step in this direction and the upcoming [NATO] summit in Warsaw [next year] is the right place for that. The time has come for responsible political decisions about Georgia,” he said.
“Therefore during the Warsaw summit we expect very clear decision about giving Georgia a MAP or making it clear that Georgia does not need a MAP anymore and the membership is not preconditioned to MAP – that is our expectation,” Usupashvili said.
“MAP or declaration that there is no need for MAP – I believe this will be the most adequate response of the NATO not only to Georgia’s NATO aspirations, but also to the challenges that we are facing now worldwide,” he added.
Usupashvili also told NATO parliamentarians that the Alliance “cannot afford not to be engaged in our region.” He said that a glance at the map is “enough to realize… that Georgia is vital for keeping Europe and Asia connected without Russian permission.”
In the end of his speech Usupashvili reiterated Georgia’s invitation to host NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s session in 2017 and said: “There is no MAP or any other conditionality attached to this invitation.”
Last year NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which unites lawmakers from the Alliance member states and associate delegates from the NATO partner countries, accepted Georgia’s invitation to hold its spring session in Georgia in 2017.