Regardless of the outcome, the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest will reinforce Georgia integration into the alliance, President Saakashvili said in a televised address to the nation on April 1.
The president's claim came just before his departure for Bucharest, where, among other issues, Georgia's application for a Membership Action Plan (MAP) will be decided. The omens, however, are not good, with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier telling the Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper that both Georgia and Ukraine would not be offered MAP and instead would be offered “a whole range of very practical and concrete steps to deepen ties” with the alliance, according to Reuters. Georgian hopes were further dashed with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon coming out against offering MAP on April 1. U.S. support for Georgia's MAP remains strong, however, and the Georgian leadwership is hoping that American pressure will lead to a last minute decision in its favor. The summit opens on Wednesday evening with a working dinner for member state leaders.
President Saakashvili said in his televised address: “We do not know what particular steps NATO will take to maintain our pace towards membership. But we know that the Bucharest summit will result in an important declaration emphasising Georgia is successfully on track for NATO.”
The president's address was mostly addressed to explaining why Georgia should join the alliance. He pointed out, however, that MAP did not mean membership and, even if it were offered, much more needed to be done before Georgia could enter the alliance.
He also linked NATO membership with two key domestic concerns for many Georgians. “NATO membership will create a fundamental guarantee for Georgia’s territorial integrity and stability - a guarantee, which will attract to Georgia great economic interests and huge investments that will help Georgia out of nightmarish unemployment and bring prosperity to our families.”
“A safe Georgia means not only Georgia without poverty, but also Georgia without fear and this is the key precondition to achieving our economic goals.”
Saakashvili also said that a normalisation of relations with Russia was, along with NATO membership, a priority for him. “Russia is our greatest neighbor, with whom we are linked by a great history – a history that simultaneously is our great teacher,” Saakashvili said.
He said that he was ready to work with Russian president-elect Dimitry Medvedev “to improve trade and political relations between our countries and to resolve conflicts through cooperation.”