Left without long-sought membership action plan (MAP), Georgia was instead offered at a two-day summit of NATO leaders in Wales, which was concluded on September 5, with “substantial package” which, the Alliance said, will help Tbilisi advance its preparations towards NATO membership.
Repeating wording of previous summit declarations, the new one again reiterates 2008 NATO Bucharest summit decision that Georgia will become a member of the Alliance and also reaffirms “all elements” of that decision in 2008, as well as subsequent decisions.
Among “elements” of the 2008 Bucharest decision was that MAP should be the next step for Georgia on its “direct way to membership”; references to the need of going through MAP phase before joining the alliance are also made in NATO’s subsequent decisions in respect of Georgia and the same reference was again made at this recent summit by declaring that NATO reaffirms all elements of the 2008 summit decisions over Georgia.
The Wales summit declaration of NATO leaders says that since Bucharest summit in 2008, “Georgia has made significant progress and has come closer to NATO by implementing ambitious reforms and making good use of the NATO-Georgia Commission and Annual National Programme.”
“We note that Georgia’s relationship with the Alliance contains the tools necessary to continue moving Georgia forward towards eventual membership,” it reads.
“Today we have endorsed a substantial package for Georgia that includes defence capacity building, training, exercises, strengthened liaison, and enhanced interoperability opportunities. These measures aim to strengthen Georgia’s defence and interoperability capabilities with the Alliance, which will help Georgia advance in its preparations towards membership in the Alliance,” reads the declaration.
According to Georgian and NATO officials, the package for Georgia also include launching of NATO training center in Georgia, as well as “occasionally” holding of NATO exercises in Georgia. According to Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania after the package would then be followed by its “implementation plan”.
At the summit in Wales, NATO leaders have also decided to launch, what they called a Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative aimed at reinforcing NATO’s “commitment to partner nations” and to help the Alliance “to project stability without deploying large combat forces.”
The initiative, which will be extended to Georgia, Jordan and Moldova, involves providing expertise, advice and assistance in defence and security capacity building.
In the Wales summit declaration NATO leaders also said that they recognize “Georgia’s significant efforts to strengthen its democracy and to modernise its military forces and defence institutions.”
“We welcome the democratic development of Georgia, including through the peaceful transfer of power following parliamentary and presidential elections in 2012 and 2013, respectively. We encourage Georgia to continue implementation of reforms, including consolidating democratic institutions, taking forward judicial reforms, and ensuring full respect for the rule of law,” reads the declaration.
It also reiterates Alliances appreciation for Georgia’s “sizeable contribution” to the Afghan operation and says that together with Georgia’s offer to participate in the NATO Response Force from 2015, “these contributions demonstrate Georgia’s role as a contributor to our shared security.”
The declaration reiterates NATO’s “continued support to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia”, welcomes Georgia’s “full compliance” with the EU-mediated 2008 cease-fire agreement, as well as its commitment not to use force and calls on Russia to reciprocate.
“We continue to call on Russia to reverse its recognition of the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia as independent states and to withdraw its forces from Georgia,” reads the declaration.
At a news conference on September 5 outgoing NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that Georgia is also among the group of five nations, who seek “enhanced opportunities” of cooperation with NATO. Four others are Australia, Finland, Jordan and Sweden.
The summit declaration says in this regard that NATO defence ministers met with counterparts from these five partners - Australia, Finland, Georgia, Jordan, and Sweden - which "make particularly significant contributions to NATO operations to discuss further deepening dialogue and practical cooperation as part of the enhanced opportunities within the Partnership Interoperability Initiative."
“Georgia’s participation in that group represents an acknowledgment of progress Georgia has made in its relationship with NATO. Georgia wants to further improve its ability to work and operate with NATO forces,” Rasmussen said.
On the sideline of the summit, NATO foreign ministers met their counterparts from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Montenegro, and Macedonia – countries, which aspire to join the Alliance.
“Ministers discussed the progress made by these countries, the Euro-Atlantic integration process, and other key Summit issues, including the international security situation. NATO is grateful to these partners for the significant contributions that they continue to make to NATO’s objectives and to international security and stability,” reads the summit declaration.
President Giorgi Margvelashvili, who led the Georgian delegation, held bilateral meetings with his French, Czech, Polish, Bulgarian and Latvian counterparts on the sideline of the summit.