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Foreign Minister N. Kotzias' speech at Tbilisi State University (7 March 2017)

Wednesday, 08 March 2017

Mr. Rector, thank you very much for the invitation. If there is something that I miss as a University Professor, it is my students. I believe that the profession of University Professor is the best poorly paid job in the world. But even if it is poorly paid, it is the best. And so it is my very great pleasure to be here in Tbilisi, after 18 years, to talk to you and share my thoughts.

I am particularly pleased about the programmes of study you have at the Institute of Classical, Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies -- an institution that shows the interest of young Georgians in Greek culture and the Greek language.

Interest in a culture and language that has been linked to the people of Georgia for thousands of years now. This afternoon, I asked that Prometheus be forgiven for stealing fire and iron-working methods from here, from the Caucasus. I hope it doesn't happen again.

I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to talk to young people.

I would also like to express my great satisfaction at the fact that, through our joint efforts, we managed to bring about visa liberalisation, to overcome the difficulties in the Schengen system for young Georgians.

Allow me to share a few thoughts that link my academic capacity with my capacity as Foreign Minister of a state that is one of the oldest members of the European Union.

We live in an era when the world is changing in two directions. One direction has to do with globalisation. Globalisation is combined with another trend -- that of fragmentation.

So on the one hand we have globalisation, accompanied by fragmentation, and on the other we have the fact that society is moving on to a new productive structure, a new manner of production, which one portion of the international bibliography refers to as the "second machine age," with the other portion calling it the "fourth industrial revolution."

What is the fundamental characteristic of this change in production? It is that physical power is being replaced, to a great extent, by intellectual power. That humankind are no longer in the first machine age, when the machine was an extension of their physical strength. Man is now in the second machine age, where his intellectual attributes are being adopted, replaced, used by new types of machines associated with informatics and other new technologies.

And what capacity do these digital machines have? They reproduce intellectual wealth and knowledge, and they reproduce it in a special way.

We have the digital machines themselves, which reproduce knowledge. After the era of the industrial revolution, when large industrial units were built, we have the opposite trend, which is the trend towards nanotechnology. A tiny robot circulates in your blood or in your intestine, and it can even photograph or alter what it finds in front of it, if it finds it to be strange.

Even in the most widespread medical treatment, you can swallow a tiny chip and it can film the body's whole medical record. So, next to the trend we had in the first machine age, which was expressed in the large machine, we now have the small machine. And this small machine is associated with new materials. New materials, let's say, like titanium. Older glasses would break if I opened them in this way. This is titanium, and it can return to its original shape. It is very simple to use.

We have the big old photocopy machine that your professors send you to for photocopies, and now we have the 3-D printer, which can produce anything from buildings to weapons. It can be very useful in construction, and very dangerous when used for terrorism.

What is more interesting to me about this new era we are living in is that machines are gaining the capacity to reproduce like natural phenomena, organic beings. You will see many machines reproducing, like plants that climb and weave themselves, like parasites, around a tree. Or machines that can replicate the movements of animals. Scientists know that one of the most interesting living things is the ant -- what we once walked past and ignored as something insignificant, unworthy of our interest.

Ant societies, which can weigh as much as 30 or 40 kilos, with considerable power when they move, with unique systems of communication, with formidable internal organization of work, with the lazy queens -- which produce an egg every second or two -- are part of this replication of nature's systems. We don't have just the replication of one movement of the hand, as in the industrial revolution. We have the replication of whole systems or whole systems of teamwork.

We have robotics, the technology that produces robots, even replicating the movements of the human being. Today, the largest producers of robotics are the Chinese. I say this for anyone who has not realised what the new technologies are producing. So this increases the importance of investments in these sectors.

On the other hand, we have the first trend; that is, the trend of the 'unification' of the world: globalisation. But there is no pure trend of globalisation. There is also the trend of fragmentation. Look at how the Soviet Union and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia broke up.

In the 1990s, a debate began at the universities in California as to whether or not the nation state will survive. In fact, there was a significant trend that said that the nation state is obsolete and that from now on there will be globalisation, or at least regional integration. There was another outlook, which said: "No, the nation state can grow stronger."

My view, which I made public in a discussion we had at Harvard at the beginning of this century, was that each nation state has its capabilities, based on which -- and depending on how it uses them, depending on how proactive it is – it can survive or not.

After all, as you know from history, 6,650 nations and political entities have become extinct, and no one mourns them anymore. Life is tough, and the nation state, despite what they said, is surviving. But the nation state that is more proactive -- that has a proactive foreign policy and develops capabilities -- survives better. What capabilities? Three.

First, to perceive problems in a timely manner, which also concerns our personal lives to a degree. So, perception of the problems.

Second, production of alternative scenarios, alternative solutions. Looking for what might happen. No one being afraid or censoring himself, so that we can think outside the box.

Third, to be able to choose the best possible solution. As you know from game theory, the 'best solution' is one thing, and the 'best possible solution' is another. You may remember -- if you have seen it -- a scene from the movie "A Beautiful Mind", which was about the Nobel Laureate who made a fundamental contribution to game theory: Four men are in a bar, and five women walk in. They pair off. Four couples form. Which women is left out? The most beautiful. Why? Because each man believes that "the most beautiful woman is not for me," and they go to the second best choice. This is a classic scenario in game theory. This is why I say: "Always the 'best possible', and not the best of all."

In this new era of ours, with its new technologies, its new industrial revolution, the second machine age – which has globalisation, fragmentation – the special role of a proactive nation state and foreign policy -- I say this about us -- requires certain things. It requires a focus on the protection of the rights of the individual and of personal liberties.

Why does it require strong personal liberties? Because it is an era that needs creativity. It is an era when there should not be self-censorship. It is an era when one has to be able to put forward ground-breaking proposals. So it is not just a moral right. For me, and this was first said by the great Nobel Laureate of the poor, Amartya Sen -- "the main thing is that this freedom is also an economic necessity."

But this personal liberty must be disciplined. It must be integrated into collective efforts. We can't each of us create a foreign policy, a nation state. This freedom is manifested and protected within a framework.

This freedom of action also gives us the freedom to think about the future. We must have the right to dream. Neither individuals nor nation states can thrive without dreams, without vision, without values.

One of the problems the European Union has today -- yesterday I was at the Council of Foreign Ministers, in Brussels -- is that we limit our thinking. We are constantly thinking about whom to impose sanctions on, where we will impose an embargo, how we will force a memorandum on a country. We didn’t' think of the memorandum in Greece. They imposed it on us. We are among the countries it happened to -- who suffered the memorandum. We have lost the ability to reflect on what Europe we want in the 21st century, what we want its role to be. How a young person can dream of it, and how we can make it attractive to those who want to come to our European home.

But the development of collectivity and personal liberty are not the only things we need. We need to secure our countries economically. We need to think about high technology as a social good.

We need to dream that Georgia and Greece will become energy hubs in our region. That -- beyond gas and oil -- we will develop new forms of energy, renewable energy. From wind to sea energy, of which Georgia and Greece have more than they can use.

What else do we need? Investment in education and research. The most decisive element of the new society of knowledge is the individual. Whoever cuts spending on people -- and we do this often, and it is a mistake -- is cutting into his prospects for the new era.

When I say "we invest in the individual", I don't mean cosmetics or plastic surgery. I mean education and research. Investment in the mind of the individual, in his culture, so that we aren't just "idiot specialists", as they said in the 19th century. We need to open the individual's horizons, not be afraid of 'the new', and we need to learn from history.

As I often say, if we want to look forward, history has to be a school. It mustn't be a prison. For it to be a school, we need to learn -- especially in the European Union -- that we need cooperation. We are working with the leadership and the people of Georgia to open up its European perspective and join the European Union.

In the morning meetings I had with your country's leadership, I said that when Prometheus brought fire from the Caucasus to the rest of Europe, no one asked for passports or visas. And this region of the Caucasus of Georgia was a fundamental region of what we call Europe. And don't just think of Western Europe. I remind you of the myth -- that Europa was the most beautiful woman in the world at that time, under the god Zeus, but she was born and lived in Libya, in Africa. The first time the name "Europa" appeared in history, it belonged to a beautiful woman from Africa. Not from Scandinavia, not from the Baltics, not from Germany.

The European Union is a core of states that created a socio-political model. But this socio-political model is in multifaceted crisis. It is a crisis that concerns the management of the refugee problem, enlargement and the Brexit. It is an economic and monetary crisis. The European Union has difficulty defining/determining its relationship with the rest of the world. In other words, it has trouble managing its crises, and this is because it does not have the right mechanisms – the perception of what it wants its future to be.

In our opinion, this means that the debate on the future of Europe must open up once again. And the participants in this debate must include citizens and politicians and scientists from countries linked to Europe, like Georgia.

In our foreign policy, beyond the European path and support for European integration, we follow a geometric policy, let's say. A policy of triangles. Relationships, that is, between European and non-European states. We have developed systematic cooperation, on all levels and in the most diverse political regions, in sectors that concern everything from culture and education to economy and industry. With countries like Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon. And we created this cooperation with Cyprus. That is, in each case there are two European states -- Greece and Cyprus – and one non-European state.

In this context, we agreed to promote such a relationship with Georgia, Bulgaria and Greece. A relationship that is supportive of Georgia's preparations for its European course.

We are also promoting a cooperation platform between six European countries and the Arab world -- twelve Arab countries. If you look at a map, Southern Europe -- the Balkans, Italy -- forms a continuous region with the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. This continuity existed in the past in a region of wealth and cooperation, with major trade networks and exchange of knowledge and culture.

With the passing of time, this was lost, like the Caucasus. When you talk about the Middle East today, you think only about the conflicts in the region. We are now making an effort -- with what we call the "Spirit of Rhodes" -- to develop a positive agenda in the region. That is, a positive outlook on relations. Youth relations, cultural relations, from cultural festivals to exchange of cultural goods. Forming networks between Universities and Research Centres. So I hope that we will be able to do the same with Georgia.

We have also maintained an alliance -- in a manner of speaking -- of the EU member states of the south: Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Greece and Cyprus. The Euromed. This "alliance" was on the level of Foreign Ministers. Now it is on the level of heads of state and government. And its political outlook on where Europe needs to go coincides with the Georgia's interests as well.

We have also developed a cooperation platform for the protection of the religious communities in the Middle East. As you know, the West is always talking about its pluralistic societies, but pluralistic societies existed and exist beyond the West. In the Middle East, Judaism, the Muslim world, Christianity -- they coexisted for 2,000 years. This is now being destroyed.

Today I saw, on the hill opposite the Presidential Palace, the Christian, Orthodox, Armenian, Catholic churches. I saw a synagogue. This has also been a multicultural region for centuries now. So multiculturalism isn't something we discovered.

Finally, we formed a number of other cooperation schemes, like the one we are launching with China in April. This is a cooperation scheme that I initially called the GC10 -- ten great cultures. Ancient cultures that have influence on today's world.

Culture is a great power, you know. Next to the hard power of guns, there is culture, which is smart or soft power. And this power has an economic dimension. So we are taking the initiative to bring together ten countries. Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, China, India, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Italy and Greece. And we are coming together to shape this association of states with great, ancient cultures that are still playing an important role today.

In any case, in the age of globalisation and the new technological possibilities, we are following a proactive foreign policy. We are putting together cooperation schemes and alliances, new institutional systems. And gradually we want to welcome Georgia and to facilitate its participation, first of all in the European Union itself.

The Georgia we love twice over: first, because we have relations that are not just old, not just ancient, but prehistoric. But also because Georgia is a country whose territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty we must defend, together with Europe. And this is because through Georgia we are defending the highest good for the Greek foreign policy, which is international law.

If we don't want states to end up in anarchy, we need to defend international law everywhere and for any state that is in need of such defence.

Greece is not supporting Georgia's just demands because it is hostile to some third country. It isn’t doing it because it doesn't "like" other countries in your neighbourhood. It is doing so because it "loves" international law more than any other country.

And we are doing it because we believe in the need to consolidate peace and stability in this region and resolve any disputes by peaceful means, based on international law.

Mr. Rector, once again, thank you very much for your invitation. Thank you for your attention. It is a joy for a teacher, who is temporarily a Foreign Minister, to talk with students. Because my gravestone will read "Professor", not "Minister".

Thank you very much.


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