Toppling ‘New Berlin Wall’ with Democracy – Saakashvili’s UN Speech

The Georgian authorities remain committed to deepen democratic reforms, as “vibrant democracy is one of the best ways to topple new wall” dividing Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the rest of Georgia, President Saakashvili said in a speech to the UN General Assembly.

In his address, Saakashvili mainly focused on Russia’s occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, drawing parallels between the Berlin Wall and “new artificial dividing line… built by the very people whose ideas were collectively and decisively defeated and rejected just 20 years ago” when the Berlin Wall collapsed.

“This new wall tells us that once again the rule of force has trumped the rule of law and the rule of reason,” he said.

Speaking about the road ahead, Saakashvili said he wanted “to state outright” that Georgia did not expect this “new wall” “to disappear overnight.”

“We understand the need for patience,” he said. “But the history of the Berlin Wall teaches us that patience must not be passive.”

“The Berlin Wall only fell because passionate, disciplined, energetic partisans of freedom, both behind and outside that wall, worked with focus, discipline, and courage, to remind the world continually of the illegitimacy and illegality of that wall, and to take actions to hasten its demise,” he added.

Saakashvili said that he was following through on the promises made at the General Assembly a year ago to strengthen Georgia’s democracy.

“Already, we have set reforms in motion, which within the next year will advance the progress of the Rose Revolution and irreversibly deepen our identity as the freest state in our region,” he said.

He said that the Georgian authorities’ “deep commitment” to pluralism and “respect for dissent” was reflected in allowing opposition’s unhindered three-month street protest rallies, “even though they closed down the main street and paralyzed government buildings.”

Saakashvili said that the government had already given “opposition-controlled broadcast stations license to transmit across the nation” – a Tbilisi-based Maestro TV obtained a satellite broadcast license in July.

“Already, we have brought opposition parties into meetings of our national security council, basically making no secrets from them, giving full access to state information to ensure our security policies reflect the unified will of the nation, beyond faction, beyond party,” he said.

On local elections, expected to be held on May 30, 2010, Saakashvili said that the government “committed to the direct election of all mayors.”

He also said that the development of new electoral rules “based on consensus” between the political parties had started.

Saakashvili said that adoption of laws “to penalize any government official or other outside party” from interfering with the judiciary was planned.

“And we will adopt constitutional reforms to transfer power from the presidency to a stronger parliament,” he added.

In his speech he also said that although much had been achieved since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, “we must admit our present remains bittersweet.”

“For there is a real danger that rather than building on this great chapter of idealism and progress, states and leaders will allow a return of the dull complacency and cynical power politics that led to so many of the worst moments of the past 100 years,” Saakashvili said.

“It may be unpopular - but I am obliged to speak the truth. And the truth is that this wall's existence mocks the progress we seemed to have made since that bright shining day in Berlin 20 years ago.”

“I take no comfort that those who thought the Wall's destruction was the single greatest tragedy of the 20th Century now lead these deplorable efforts,” he said referring to now Russian PM Vladimir Putin’s remarks made in 2005 in which he described collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century.”

He also said that so far, ethnic cleansing carried out is breakaway regions, “have gone unaddressed.”

“Those who unleashed war in my region and led ethnic cleansing campaigns in my country - said yesterday in this very hall - that they had to do it to, ‘implement the principle of indivisibility of security’,” Saakashvili said referring to remarks of Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian President, during his address to the UN General Assembly.

“They said they had to do it... As their predecessors had to invade Poland in 1939, Finland in 1940, Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and Afghanistan in 1979. And they had to erase a capital of 400,000 inhabitants - Grozny, to destroy and exterminate the proud Chechen nation and kill tens of thousands of innocent women and children.

In his speech, Saakashvili also raised the issue of climate change and said that Georgia “is in the vanguard” in the battle against climate change, producing 85% of our electricity from green and renewable sources,” Saakashvili said.

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