Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honor and real pleasure to be here today and to have the opportunity to address such a distinguished audience.
Let me thank first the founders of Concordia, Nick Logothetis and Matthew Swift.
They have done an amazing job and have chosen an especially accurate and timely topic for this inaugural Summit.
I am especially delighted to meet once again my very good friend President George W. Bush.
Through the prism of history, we can see even more clearly now that he responded with courage and determination to the horrific attacks that targeted New York, Washington, and beyond-a way of life, freedom, and democracy.
Hard times require great and bold leaders, and I am sure that everybody here recognizes that he was such a leader.
Concordia - this is for sure a beautiful and challenging name looking at the turbulent times of ours.
A beautiful name and an essential initiative.
Because the war that extremism has launched against us all is far from being over.
Because freedom and democracy remain more than ever our best weapons against extremism-which is precisely why the extremists loath them so much.
Because History is far from its End, contrary to the illusions promoted by some analysts in the 90's.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to speak today about this universal call for freedom.
This call is the basis on which we have to build our strategy against extremism and terrorism.
This call is the motor of History and today this call is allover the Arab world.
Major historical events almost always take us by surprise.
Nobody predicted or planned the revolutions that swept across Eastern and Central Europe in 1989, or the colored revolutions that came 15 years later.
Now again, History has caught all of us by surprise with the wave of revolutions in North Africa and the tectonic shifts taking place in the Arab world and beyond.
Revolutions have this amazing ability not only to transform the countries in which they take place, but also to force us all to rethink and reshape our vision of the world.
If you allow me, I'd like to share some thoughts about the Arab uprisings from the perspective of our own experience of revolutionary transformation in Georgia.
As most of you know, seven years ago, Georgia was basically a failed state, an dying economy, a country shackled by corruption.
As you may know as well, a peaceful, popular revolution brought to power a young team of reformists that I was fortunate enough to lead.
From one day to the next we were in charge of a fragile country-in a hostile geopolitical environment, with an increasingly revisionist Russian Federation at our door.
Slogans, roses, flags, and policy papers-the tools we used as opposition and civil society leaders-would no longer suffice.
We've quickly discovered that revolutions are not only, not even mainly about the crowds gathered in the streets, they consist essentially in the long and difficult process of reforms that follows the uprising.
This is the main challenge that Tunisia, Egypt or Libya are facing now:
The fantastic pictures on CNN of people celebrating their victory in Tahrir Square or of Libyan citizens dancing in Gaddafi's palaces are inspiring, but the success of the Arab revolutions will depend on what happens after the Western TV lights have been turned off.
And our help will be more needed than ever when FOX and CNN will be out.
In Georgia, when Western TV crews left, we initiated this radical and comprehensive transformation of our society that was described recently by The Economist as a "mental revolution".
Of course we did not succeed in everything-we had significant shortcomings and we made mistakes.
But, as the father of European cosmopolitism-Emmanuel Kant-wrote more than 200 years ago: "You cannot be ready to be free until you are free."
What Kant meant is that there is no book to teach you in advance how to govern or even behave in freedom, that you can only learn this from your own successes and failures.
He also meant that the pursuit of freedom brings uncertainty and risk-but that such a risk should be seized if you want to be an actor in your own life and in your nation's destiny.
Kant was right.
In Georgia, we found no handbook to guide us. And there will be no operating manual for our Arab friends, either.
But there were experiences, successes, and failures that we could study and that we did study.
And today, regional policy or opinion makers-including some Russians, as surprising as that might sound-come to Georgia in search of ideas on new ways to address old problems.
Recently, we had Tunisians and Egyptians coming to Tbilisi to explore our transformation, starting with the first comprehensive reform we have launched: the complete transformation of our law enforcement bodies.
Indeed, we started by firing our entire traffic police forces and Georgians lived for three months without traffic police. Amazingly, during this very period, crime rates went down by 70%. Why?
Not only because police was responsible for most of the crimes, but also because people felt that they were part of a common adventure, that they had a stake that they were living this very specific moment of one nation's history, when everything seems possible, when values become the basis of politics, when you have the feeling of inventing your own future.
This feeling is the true motor of History and I am sure it can be found in any newly liberated place in the world.
This feeling is our best ally against extremists. But it is a fragile feeling and it has to be entertained.
In Georgia, we managed to maintain alive this feeling till now and got tremendous results thanks to that.
Thanks to radical changes in our police and in all our other bureaucratic structures-and thanks to this widespread feeling among people that they owned these transformations - we have made greater progress on Transparency International's Corruption Index since 2003 than any other state in the world.
We have built a highly favorable investment climate and we are now ranked as one of the easiest places in the world to do business, according to the World Bank: 12th in the world and first in Central and Eastern Europe.
The 2011 EBRD survey on countries in transition singles out Georgia as the most successful country in our region in terms of institution building , at par with Baltic States.
There is still a lot to be done, obviously, and we are more committed than ever to pursuing our path of reforms, to keep building a democracy at gunpoint.
Our model is neither perfect nor necessarily transferable to Arab nations or even other countries of our region, but everybody can find in our experience a general message of hope: radical changes are possible.
And I do think that it is our duty to share our experience of transitional democracy with our friends in the Arab World and elsewhere.
If I had to sum up:
First, as I said, no matter how beautiful and moving the popular uprisings are, the real revolution consists more in the long and difficult process of reform that follows.
Second: only a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to reform can bring tangible, enduring results. The reforms of the judiciary, police, tax collection, customs, political class, electoral code, or education system should not be implemented individually, but as part of a complete project of social transformation.
Third, and here we might encounter differences with the Middle East, one of the things that mattered most in Georgia is this: Our people were and remain united around the common goal of joining the transatlantic, democratic community of states-of membership in NATO and in the European Union.
US help was and is still crucial in consolidating our democratic process and this help has only strengthened our national consensus on our pro-Western orientations.
This underscores how important it is for America and the West in general to have an active foreign policy that supports emerging democracies-in the Caucasus, North Africa, the Middle East, or elsewhere, by deterring those who want to suppress freedom and by helping those who took the risk of freedom. Despite all their flaws, their shortcomings, their hesitations.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The promotion of freedom is the only long-term policy that will save us from our enemies and allow us to create the conditions for the Concordia to which we all aspire.
Our fight against those who want to suppress freedom is going on and this is why such initiatives as Concordia are fundamental...