Georgia moving to the west, to the Euro-Atlantic Community
I had frequented Brussels often in my capacity as an Eastern Partnership Coordinator of the European Association of Local Democracy - ALDA yet my recent visit within the framework of the EUVP last year proved to be one of the most memorable. The EU Visitor's Program facilitated a deeper understanding of the EU Institutions. Comprehending its functionalities stands as a crucial aspect for fostering a clear vision and integration.
Also in 2022, I was honored to be selected as a Marshall Memorial Fellow under the auspices of the German Marshall Fund. This esteemed leadership program aims to strengthen the transatlantic relations between European and American young leaders. Created in 1982, to introduce a new generation of European leaders to the United States, it now prepares leaders from both sides of the Atlantic for transatlantic relations. The program relies on 6 months of distance learning and 24 days of first-hand experience to facilitate knowledge and network development for effective transatlantic engagement.
Commencing in October 2023 from Washington DC, the fellowship afforded an encompassing exploration of the diverse landscapes across various states, from Utah to Louisiana, Minneapolis to New Orleans. Observing the intricacies of politics, culture, civil society, local governance, and academia proved profoundly enlightening. Engaging with inspirational figures, hearing their narratives, and witnessing stakeholders' endeavors to enhance the nation - left a lasting impression. Subsequently reconvening in Brussels provided an opportunity for collective reflection on our observations and gleanings from the program. We unveiled numerous common challenges transcending our respective countries, such as polarization, climate change, social injustice, and divergences, alongside shared concerns including conflicts in the region, in Ukraine and Israel, global peace initiatives, economic development, and the advocacy for democracy.
For me the fellowship was a step forward in understanding the West, the US and its functionalities and crucially, understanding ourselves in a global context. The need to strengthen transatlantic cooperation resonates vividly, the need for enhanced mutual comprehension- is crucial. Fight for democracy and democratic development never gets easy and in times of crises, many things including institutions and relations – becomes tested. Yet, returning with a renewed sense of hope stems from the enriching network of astute individuals united in the pursuit of a more prosperous world.
After residing in the United States for three weeks, In Brussels, I already sensed a close affinity, akin to being at home. As the capital of Europe, it holds familiarity for me due to my previous experiences.
I used this opportunity to reconnect with the EUVP representatives in Brussels, engaging in discussions where I repeatedly highlighted my origin from a small country. I emphasized that my thoughts and reflections stemmed from this perspective. A notable moment during these conversations was when the EUVP Head of Unit aptly remarked that, within the EU context, distinctions based on the size of a country were inconsequential. He emphasized the equality of voices and influence regardless of a nation's size, capacity, or abilities. This resonated deeply with me and left a lasting impression.
Notably, on my way to Georgia, we received the recommendation from the EU that my country be granted its long-awaited candidate status, an essential step to future membership of the bloc. Why do we need it? Because we need hope, we need chance to become better, we need support, we need to be back to our home, home where everybody is treated equally – no matter of size and influence, where diversity is safeguarded and esteemed, where we can bring our values and contribute as we did for centuries; As it was said in 1999, in the premises of the Council of Europe by Zurab Zhvania – “I am Georgian, therefore I am European”. I eagerly anticipate a new chapter in the EU-Georgia relations characterized by diligence, dedication, and mutual comprehension.