Ambassador of Georgia Tamar Beruchashvili looks back to the first democratic Republic of Georgia and forward to modern day vibrant Georgia and its standingon the international stage
THE FIRST DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA
On 26 May 2018, Georgia celebrates its 100th anniversary of its independence and the first Democratic Republic of Georgia. In 1918, from the ruins of the Russian empire, the Georgian Republic emerged as a unique experiment of democracy, progress and human liberation. Despite the complex regional and international environment, the government managed to conduct impressive market economic and land reforms, develop a progressive constitution and made steps toward integration with the West. Founders of the Georgian Democratic Republic already advocated values such as liberty, democracy and rule of law at the highest standards. One hundred years ago, Georgia was among few countries in the world where elections were held by universal suffrage, and gender equality was widely promoted by the Constitution. Moreover, six women were elected at the first legislative body of the Georgian Democratic Republic.
Unfortunately, the Georgian Democratic Republic lasted only three years before it was crushed by the occupation of Bolshevik Russia’s Red Army on 25 February 1921, and 70 years of Soviet rule then followed.
GEORGIA ON ITS 100TH BIRTHDAY
Today, the world is rediscovering Georgia as a country of vibrant democracy, old history, but a modern and competitive outlook. Today’s Georgia is not a post-Soviet country anymore, it is a European democracy, with checks and balances, a level electoral playing field, the rule of law and a free media. Georgia is a role model of democratic transformation in the region with effective civil society and a corruption-free attractive business environment.
Located at a historically vital crossroads, between emerging and developed economies, Central Asia and South-eastern Europe, the Caspian and the Black Seas, Georgia links economies and cultures. As a natural hub on the Silk Road, we bridge countries and regions with free trade and modern infrastructure to facilitate all kinds of flows: goods and services, data, energy, talents and even fashion. Last year we welcomed 7.4 million visitors – almost double the country’s population!
GEORGIA’S EUROPEAN AND EURO-ATLANTIC ASPIRATIONS
Georgia’s future lies within the European and Euro-Atlantic communities. Joining the EU and Nato is not only a priority, but a civilisational choice that is supported by over 70 per cent of the population and all major political parties. The reason is clear: we want to build a country that ensures higher standards of democracy, security, peace and prosperity. At its core, Georgia’s foreign policy is aimed at building strong, mutually beneficial partnerships with the countries of the region and beyond.
Since 2016, Georgia has been harmonising its policies, institutions and market rules with those of the EU, based on the fully operational EU-Georgia Association Agreement. Today, Georgian citizens enjoy visa-free travel and free trade with the EU, making it one of our largest trade partners. As an aspirant country, Georgia is a responsible partner making its contribution together with Nato and the EU promoting peace and stability worldwide. In per-capita terms, Georgia remains the largest non-Nato contributor, and the fourth-largest troop overall contributor, after only the US, Germanyand Italy, to the Nato-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, with 870 troops deployed.
GEORGIA’S SECURITY CHALLENGES
Currently, 20 per cent of Georgia– the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/ South Ossetia regions– are occupied by Russia since their invasion in 2008. Despite continuous challenges, our position is clear: this conflict must be resolved peacefully with strong engagement from our strategic partners based on the full respect of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders. We stay firm and carry on with our reform agenda, our rational, prudent, and consistent policy based on Georgia’s national interests.
GEORGIA IS AN ATTRACTIVE LOCATION FOR DOING BUSINESS AND INVESTMENT
When it comes to a pro-business regulatory framework, Georgia has a world-class outlook as a business destination: sixteenth in the world (out of 190 countries) on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index; thirteenth in the world and fifth in Europe on the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom. These factors, together with its strategic geographic location make Georgia the frontier for investment opportunities, an unavoidable link on the new Silk Road, and a window to the wider markets.
The UK is a devoted supporter of Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration aspirations. We are united by our shared values, have common interests in international security and stability and face common challenges.
Our relations started in 1919 when the UK’s Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon appointed a skilful diplomat and connoisseur of Georgia Sir Oliver Wardrop as the UK’s first Chief Commissioner of the Transcaucasus. Sir Oliver Wardrop was a strong supporter of Georgia’s independence and made special contributions to the de-factorecognition of Georgia’s independence on 12 January 1920. Following the restoration of our independence in 1992, the UK was one of the first countries to rebuild diplomatic relations with Georgia. Today, we are genuine and worthy partners in many areas of cooperation, including in the promotion of peace and stability globally through Nato and other international missions, our exemplary partnership with British Petroleum for 22 years and active cooperation in business, culture and education. To further promote this successful partnership, we initiated a new political format: the Georgia-UK Wardrop Strategic Dialogue.
In terms of Brexit, Georgians respect the democratic choice of the UK population, and as Britain forges its new role in the world, Georgia is ready to use every opportunity to further deepen and widen our strategic relations.
GEORGIA IS AN ATTRACTIVE TOURISM DESTINATION
Georgia is on everyone’s lips these days for its rich culture and history, excellent food, unique wine and rugby. And also, for its new opportunities for business and travel. Georgia indeed has a lot to share and show! From the highest mountains in Europe (the Greater Caucasus), to skiing resorts and the fabulous coasts of the Black Sea, Georgia today is an attractive destination for all tastes because it combines the qualities of so many countries in one. As the birthplace of wine with an 8,000-year history of winemaking, Georgia offers amazing wine tours showcasing Georgia’s legendary hospitality. In 2017, Georgia welcomed 26,852 visitors from the UK – a 40 per cent increase on the year before largely due to new direct flights by Georgian Airways and Wizz Air.
We have announced a series of festive events to celebrate the 100th anniversary. Whether in the UK or Georgia, all are welcome to attend and enjoy the celebrations.