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Jose Manuel Barroso

President of the European Commission

Opening of the International Donors' Conference for Georgia

Georgia Donors Conference
Brussels, 22 October 2008

Prime Minister,

Mssrs les Ministres


Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my great pleasure and honour to open this joint EU/World Bank Donors conference for Georgia. That representatives of so many countries and international organizations should be united today, at a time when we are facing a grave financial crisis which requires attention at home, sends a strong signal to the world. The international community believes in and upholds certain values and norms of conduct, and those include the peaceful resolution of disputes. More, we back our beliefs with action. We are here today to show solidarity with the people of Georgia. In doing so through the aid pledges we make today, I believe that we will also show that the international community walks its talk, not only on the financial aspects of global governance as we have seen in recent days, but also on Conflict stabilisation.

I am proud of the leadership which the French Presidency and European Commission have shown in seeking peaceful resolution to the Russia/Georgia conflict. To recall key action undertaken:

  • Within days of the outbreak of hostilities the European Union brokered a ceasefire;
  • The Commission rapidly provided humanitarian aid to the victims of the conflict and put in place a preliminary needs assessment mission, concentrating on Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and infrastructure damage. This was immediately followed by a World Bank/UN Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) mission, in close cooperation with the Commission, focused on reconstruction and Georgian economic recovery.
  • The General Affairs Council of 15 September authorised an ESDP EUMM which has since deployed;
  • it also endorsed measures to provide political and economic support to Georgia, all of which the Commission is following up;
  • Georgia/Russia talks mediated by the EU and UN were launched in Geneva last week. Given strained relations, we are satisfied that all parties agreed to come to Geneva, had a chance to express their views and agreed on the need to continue talks on November 18th;
  • Last but not least, the holding of today’s international donors conference to seek the necessary funds for post-conflict recovery.

So why does what we decide at this conference matter? I’ve already mentioned showing commitment and leadership in global governance. I’d like to give two more reasons.

First, and simply, is what I would describe as the moral imperative to help a neighbour in need. European Neighbourhood Policy is not just a pretty face. We want to continue supporting our neighbour’s up to now successful transition to democracy.

Second, is that the costs of violent conflict are enormous, and in a globalised world where “abroad” is at home, these costs are borne by us all. To give just a couple of examples:

  • The average cost of one conflict is nearly equivalent to the value of annual development aid worldwide;
  • For every year of civil war, a country's growth rate falls by an estimated 2.2%.

Any conflict on Europe’s borders clearly has implications for European security and stability. This particular conflict also has potential costs for Europe in terms of our energy security and diversification strategy. The same goes for all the unsettled conflicts in the Caucasus. New pipelines through more politically sensitive areas raise risks that have to be addressed. In Georgia, all three main transit routes were temporarily disrupted as was oil product transportation by rail. Giving ourselves the means to help increase economic, political and infrastructural security in Georgia, is not just a way of helping Georgia therefore, but ourselves too

In sum, we need to give ourselves at this conference the means to deliver.

I am therefore delighted to announce that the Commission will provide a package of up to EUR 500M over three years for Georgia’s post-conflict recovery.

In closing, if I may, I’d like to take you back to the origins of our Union. Some of you may remember the opening words of the 1950 Schuman declaration:

“World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it...”

I am of course not suggesting that we’re going to create world peace at this conference today, but I believe, Ladies and Gentlemen, that we can make a contribution towards it.

Thank you for your attention.

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