Georgia's aspirations for NATO membership are realisable. This was the clear message that emerged from the deliberations.
Three other related themes dominated the proceedings. Firstly, the Georgian government and the Georgian people are very focused on Euro-Atlantic integration. President Saakashvili told participants that joining NATO is now the government's and, indeed, the public's highest foreign policy priority; even the political opposition in parliament has endorsed this goal. Having nearly completed the Individual Partnership Action Process (IPAP) and now engaged in Intensified Dialogue (ID), Georgian officials are optimistic that the Alliance will be prepared to initiate a Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the next NATO summit. This would put Georgia on the road toward NATO accession. For their part, NATO officials stressed that membership of NATO is performance based. The determination by NATO members to extend a MAP to Georgia will be based on a collective judgement that Georgia has made sufficient progress in a broad range of reforms.
Secondly, Georgia has made good progress in implementing a range of economic, political and administrative reforms which have not only helped reconstitute state authority since the Rose Revolution in 2003, but which have also moved the country closer to the Euro-Atlantic Community. Last year, the World Bank rated Georgia as the most successful reformer among the world's developing countries and it moved to number 35 in the world rankings of best business climates. Government officials stressed that they are determined to continue pushing radical liberal reforms and administrative modernization. To achieve these ends, they are employing best practices learned from other transition cases and, in particular, are drawing many lessons from the Baltic States, which have strongly supported the Georgian reform process. Both NATO and the EU have also offered very important support for the transition process.
Thirdly, although Georgia's progress across the board is indeed impressive, its transition is far from complete. There are concerns about democratic and judicial practices that elicited admonitions from several speakers. They reminded Georgian participants that their government must adhere to best democratic practices not only to fulfill their ambitions for Euro-Atlantic integration, but also to ensure the sustainability of the political, administrative and economic reform process. The message here was that concrete actions are needed to ensure that national elections in two years are fully fair and transparent and that judicial reforms, in particular, are implemented to ensure both the independence and incorruptibility of Georgia's judges. Although the economic outlook is very positive, there are still outstanding problems including price volatility, the management of government surpluses and the current account balance.
Finally, the Seminar also focused on the problem posed by break-away regions in Georgia, the role of Russia in these conflicts and the possible implications of failing to advance the reconciliation process. Here too there was a sense that more can be done on both sides of the divide to foster a climate of trust that might advance reconciliation. At the same time, Allied countries will not accord any country in the region a veto on Georgia's membership aspirations nor are they prepared to allow intransigence on the part of the leaders of break-away regions, or their sponsors, to become an excuse to thwart Georgian goals, particularly if Georgia is acting in good faith to resolve the conflicts.