On October 10, 1997, in Strasbourg, the Leaders of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine signed the Joint Communique on the establishment of the new regional initiative widely known by its acronym as GUAM.
While taking this decision, they stressed the necessity of developing quadrilateral cooperation for promoting stability and strengthening security in Europe based on principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of state borders, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.
This decision was a collective response to the growing challenges and threats to their independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty posed by spreading extremism, belligerent separatism, terrorism, ethnic tensions, military conflicts, wars, and occupations, all inspired, instigated, and supported by outside the countries.
At the same time, the 1997 Joint Communique contained a strategic, visionary component that made a projection pursuing the integration of the region into the global economy and international community through economic cooperation and implementation of common projects and initiatives, including creating the Euro-Asian Transport Corridor and the GUAM Free Trade Area.
The GUAM initiative proved successful and inspiring, so it expanded its institutional setup by adding business (GUAM Business Council) and parliamentary (GUAM Parliamentary Assembly) dimensions in 2001 and 2004, respectively.
At their subsequent 2005 Summit, held in Chisinau, the Heads of State decided to upgrade cooperation to the level of a full-fledged regional organization. So, the culmination of the initial phase of cooperation in the framework of GUAM was the Declaration on the establishment of the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development-GUAM (ODED-GUAM) made at the Summit in Kyiv on May 2006. The Summit also adopted the GUAM Charter and decided to locate the Headquarters with the Permanent International Secretariat in Kyiv.
At the Kyiv Summit, the Heads of State also expressed their confidence that establishing the ODED-GUAM would ensure the achievement of the set objectives and deepen and enhance the cooperation of its Member States. They stressed that the priorities of the future Organization would consist of strengthening the democratic values, the rule of law, human rights and freedoms, stability, and security, combating international terrorism, aggressive separatism, extremism, and transnational organized crime, deepening the European integration and achievement of sustainable development and well-being of their peoples.
The new dynamic regional organization was quickly recognized by the international community. It became a regional partner to the UN and its specialized organizations and agencies. GUAM was also recognized by the OSCE and COE and established partnership relations with regional organizations.
The number of partner countries supporting GUAM was also growing, including the USA, Japan, Poland, the Czech Republic, the Baltic and Nordic states, and others.
Progressive and successful development was ensured further by the 2007 Summit in Baku, Azerbaijan, and the 2008 Summit in Batumi, Georgia.
The first years of activities of the Organizations were the most efficient and productive. The organizational setup was completed with instruments and mechanisms of cooperation developed, the legal framework was developed, providing grounds for cooperation in a wide spectrum of activities, and strategic concepts were initiated and put in motion, setting clear agendas for cooperation.
The dynamics of cooperation and development in the region have been severely hampered by the Russian aggression against Georgia in August 2008, just a month after the July Summit in Batumi. The aggression resulted in the occupation of two regions of Georgia – Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region (also known as South Ossetia). The war has deeply shaken the whole region. The shock waves spread across the region, affecting the internal politics of the GUAM MS.
It must be acknowledged that the consequences of this aggression, coupled with the smear campaign aimed to discredit GUAM, had an adverse effect on the GUAM activities during the next eight years. No GUAM Summits were held, no important decisions were taken, and significant advancements were registered. Nevertheless, the GUAM continued its activities on a low-profile, less effective, and less resultative level.
This period lasted until the next bloody aggression of the Russian Federation, this time against Ukraine in 2014. The result was – the occupation of the Eastern regions of Ukraine, and the occupation and annexation of Crimea. Moreover, the Eastern borders of Ukraine have been blocked, cutting transport and transit connections with main international export markets.
The new situation with more serious challenges has mobilized the GUAM member states (MS) and spurred the activities of the Organization. In 2017 the GUAM Summits have resumed their work providing needed impetus to the functioning of all institutions and working bodies. The implementation of two GUAM flagship initiatives – the GUAM Transport Corridor and the GUAM Free Trade Area, have been identified as the priorities for activities, without diminishing the cooperation in other fields.
Subsequent Summits in 2018 and 2019 contributed to the substance and the dynamics of cooperation, emphasizing the importance of engaging the EU in the realization of main projects. These years also witnessed increasing interest in the GUAM from different countries and organizations, expanding the geography of cooperation. Parallel to the current activities, the GUAM has also embarked on the process of elaboration on the strategic perspective, more clearly articulated in the preparation of the draft of the Vision Paper.
We were about to regain lost dynamics in our activities and results. But then the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world with all known effects and consequences, transferring the functioning to the virtual domain.
In 2020 we witnessed yet another war in our region. The 44-day victorious war of Azerbaijan to liberate illegally occupied for nearly 30 years almost fifth of its territory. As I mentioned in my last year’s Address, «this milestone event has profoundly shifted the region’s balance of forces and interests in favour of peace, constructive dialogue, cooperation, and sustainable regional development. It can mark the beginning of the reversal process across the wider region in restoring the territorial integrity of the GUAM MS and the norms and principles of international law».
And yet, on 24 February 2022, the Russian Federation started another illegal, unjustified, and unprovoked full-scale war against Ukraine to subjugate and annihilate the nation. While counting on the blitzkrieg of the military campaign, this war is now entering its 8th month with no clear vision of ending soon, sowing death and destruction across Ukraine. Nevertheless, the Ukrainian people, the leadership, and the armed forces have manifested unprecedented unity, resilience, decisiveness, unbroken spirit, and the iron will to defend their right to exist and preserve their national identity. Moreover, this war should not be viewed only as an existential fight of the Ukrainians but also a Missionary battle between Good and Evil, Light and Darkness, and between the Future and the Past, aimed at breaking once and forever the ambition and desire to restore the empire.
Clearly, the GUAM nations by manifesting their firm resistance and resilience to all the above challenges, are passing through profound transformations asserting their rights to freedom, and independence, and deciding on their future by themselves. They are paying an extremely high price for that. And using this opportunity we would like to express our deep heartfelt sympathies and our unwavering support and solidarity with all the member states.
Today, as we are marking the 25th Anniversary of GUAM, we can look back into the history of its evolution which is inextricably linked with the history of its Member States and draw some conclusions that should serve as the guiding principles for future regional cooperation.
Perhaps, the most important conclusion that can be drawn from the history of GUAM described above, is that the Organization withstood the test of time, has survived in an extremely harsh environment, remains true to its foundations, and is ready to further serve the interests of the member states.
The member states stay united, committed, and resolute in pursuing common and shared goals and objectives. And the ODED-GUAM remains the only inter-state regional framework with developed instruments and mechanisms of cooperation to achieve those objectives. What is needed is to enhance consolidation and coordination among MS, to upgrade and strengthen the organizational and institutional capacities of the Organization to fulfil its job.
The GUAM geography is becoming of ever-growing strategic significance for the international community and should become an essential integral part of the new international connectivity and security architecture covering the space between Europe, Central Asia, and beyond. Therefore, the MS should act as the true owners and main stakeholders in the region. And the GUAM is the only viable tool in their hands to achieve these goals. Only together and united we can be stronger.
We should more actively engage in international cooperation with our partners and the willing. New strategic energy and transportation infrastructure in our region has profoundly altered the geopolitical landscape and provided a unique opportunity for closer integration. Among other, most recent, and critical developments we can name granting of the EU candidacy status to the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, developing strategic dialogue and partnerships with Georgia and Azerbaijan, more active engagement of the EU in cooperation and conflict resolution, peaceful settlement, and reconciliation in the region. This is development is important and should be actively utilized for mutual benefit.
Perhaps, the most disturbing and disappointing conclusion that can be drawn from the last decades of our region is – the complete failure of the system of international relations designed to ensure the peaceful coexistence of nations based on declared values, norms, and principles of international law. It exposed its complete irrelevance in preventing and resolution of the most protracted and dangerous conflicts in Europe that flared up on the territories of our countries.
The war in Ukraine and eventually its victory most likely will trigger profound changes in the system of international relations and recalibration to fit the new reality. We are already witnessing new attempts in that direction. But this might lengthy and complicated process. What is clear, is that in the new architecture of security and cooperation the role of regional organizations that proved their viability will exponentially increase. And I’m confident that the GUAM stands the historic chance to unleash its full potential and to contribute to regional and international security, stability, cooperation, and prosperity. A new dawn is arising over the region, and we must be ready to utilize the opportunity to the full.
In conclusion, as usual, we want to pay tribute to all those who stood at the foundations of the GUAM and contributed to its development. We want to also thank our partners who supported and contributed to the cooperation. As the GUAM Secretariat, we want to assure all that we will spare no efforts in advancing our cooperation further and implementing our objectives.
Happy 25th Anniversary, GUAM!
I’m very sorry for the delay in posting the Jubilee message. It was due to the barrage of rocket attacks by the Russians today, October 10, 2022. Imagine, on the GUAM Jubilee. I think this is just a coincidence. Nevertheless, they spoiled the celebration. But they cannot and will not break our spirits and will! We stay strong and united with our Ukrainian friends!
Today they’ve launched a massive rocket attack on major cities of Ukraine, about a hundred! Of them, a few landed in the centre of Kyiv, not far from my Residence. 11 dead and over 40 injured only in Kyiv! Our thoughts are with their families. These are not just rocket attacks, these are pure acts of terrorism and perpetrators should be brought to justice! Shelling at cities, civic infrastructure, roads, pedestrian bridges, playgrounds, museums, etc. is a CRIME! They lose on battlefields and as acts of desperation targeting cities and innocent civilians. The pure manifestation of agony!
Today I’ve spent about 6 hours in the underground shelter, as a measure of safety. Therefore, lost some fruitful hours completing the text started early in the morning. I count on your understanding.
Be sure that Ukraine will win and will be free. With this Victory, a new world will be born! Glory to Ukraine! Glory to their Armed Forces! I can’t wait to see this Day!