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Sunday, April 24, 2011

From Popular Revolutions to Effective Reforms: The Georgian Experience

On March 17, the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings (CUSE) hosted President Mikheil Saakashvili to discuss Georgia’s approach to these challenges. A leader of Georgia’s 2003 Rose Revolution, Saakashvili was elected president of Georgia in January 2004 and reelected for a second term in January 2008.

Vice President Martin Indyk, director of Foreign Policy at Brookings, provided introductory remarks and Senior Fellow and CUSE Director Fiona Hill moderated the discussion. After the program, President Saakashvili took audience questions.

PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: To set the backdrop of our discussion, I wanted to share a few thoughts about the extraordinary developments in North Africa and the Middle East in the perspective of our own experience back in Georgia. Ladies and gentlemen, great events in history almost always take players by surprise. They come as a surprise to their hosts, but also a surprise to their protagonists very often. And those who observe these events from afar really understand the scope of what is transpiring. Such eruptions to the world politics require from all of us a capacity of radical astonishment that Aristotle was putting at the beginning of philosophy and an ability to abandon usual schemes. 

Nobody predicted or planned the revolution that swept across Eastern and Central Europe in 1989, or a bit further on the East the kind of revolutions that came a few years, 15 years later. Now again, as the wave of popular up rise has taken hold in the Middle East, politicians, analysts, and editorial writers all have been utterly surprised. The Tunisian and the Egyptian revolutions is part among all of us essential gape and wonder, and we still look at them without a clear understanding of what really happened and now most of all, what will follow. 

Revolutions have this amazing ability not only to transform the countries in which they take place, but also they force us all to rethink and reshape our region of the world. I didn’t come here, of course, with ready answers to the questions raised by these events. I do not have these answers. I don’t think anybody really has them. I came here to explore these questions with you and to share some of the lessons I have learned from Georgia’s own revolution and transformation, and let’s begin the debate. I’m very much braced for a lively, interactive debate.
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