Today, 24 years ago, the leaders of four nations – the Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine have launched the initiative known by the acronym of GUAM to join their efforts in combatting challenges that young states confronted after regaining their independence following the collapse of the USSR. Located on the South-Western periphery of the former Soviet empire, all four encountered belligerent separatism instigated and supported from outside, and territorial claims followed by the illegal occupation. These challenges severely hampered economic and social reforms, slowed down political transformations aimed to strengthen their independence and sovereignty, and ensure integration into the international community.
In all subsequent years, the GUAM has served as a useful platform to collectively raise concerns of the member states at the international arena and promote and defend common interests. Later, in 2006, the GUAM initiative was transformed into a full-fledged international organization with political, economic, parliamentary, and business pillars of cooperation and Headquarters housed in Kyiv, Ukraine. With the expansion of activities, the organization has received a new title – “Organization for Democracy & Economic Development – GUAM”.
During these years, we also observed landmark projects and developments in the GUAM area that profoundly altered the geopolitical landscape of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea region. New pipelines and roads infrastructure crisscrossing the region laid the basis for the new role and place of the region in international energy and transportation architecture, thus enhancing its geostrategic significance.
Parallel to that, through the years, we also have witnessed the raising of tensions and escalation of hostilities across the perimeter of the frontiers of the GUAM member states, continuing to this day.
Even so, this year’s GUAM Anniversary, we are celebrating together with a significant event for the whole region – the victorious liberation of the illegally occupied lands of the Republic of Azerbaijan. 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 is difficult to overestimate the importance of this shift. It can mark the beginning of the reversal processes across the wider region in restoring the territorial integrity of the GUAM member states and the norms and principles of international law.
As the region is entering a new paradigm of its evolution, in the rapidly evolving geopolitical context, the role of GUAM as a regional stakeholder is exponentially increasing. Today, the GUAM as a unique, cohesive regional framework uniting four friendly nations and strategic partners can be instrumental in shaping this region as the zone of peace, stability, cooperation, and prosperity. The organization is equipped with a diverse functioning institutional framework, developed instruments and mechanisms of cooperation, strategic vision. Implementation of two flagships initiatives – the GUAM Transport Corridor and the GUAM Free Trade Area will contribute to the integration of the region into emerging new connectivity architecture linking East and West, thus serving the interests of the wider international community.
Today, while projecting the GUAM into the future, we would like to pay tribute to the organization’s founding fathers for their courage, political wisdom, and strategic vision! We are also remembering and thanking all those who contributed to the development of the GUAM during these years through cooperation and partnership.
Happy 24th Anniversary!