Georgian president promotes ‘Discos for Peace’
At a February 26 event in Brussels, hosted by GMF's Brussels office, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili touted "Discos for Peace" as a way to resolve tensions in the frozen conflict area of South Ossetia.
Saakashvili said that the Georgia started by building a disco on the outskirts of Tskhinvali where young people from both sides of the conflict can mingle. Community leaders hope this innovative undertaking will improve local cooperation and foster mutual understanding.
Entitled "Europe is on Georgia's Mind," the event also featured Estonian President Toomas Ilves, and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt speaking before an audience that included ambassadors, European Union officials, journalists, and members of the business community.
Saakashvili acknowledged that EU membership is not currently on the agenda for his country, but that Georgia is definitely thinking about Europe. Saakashvili spoke at length about recent developments in the region, noting that Georgia has been ranked by the World Bank as the top global reformer for its accomplishments.
Just a decade ago, Estonia was in a similar position and Ilves played a key role in the successful democratic transformation of Estonia. In his remarks, Ilves emphasized that embracing NATO and the Euroatlantic community at large aided the Estonian democratization process, rather than waiting for EU approval.
Debate with the audience touched upon Georgia-Russia relations and Georgia's approaches to conflict resolution. Carl Bildt, an active Balkan conflict mediator, was heralded by the panelists as the godfather of Baltic integration and encouraged the EU to restrain Russian influence in a changing Central and Eastern Europe.