On her country’s 30th anniversary of independence, Ambassador of Georgia Sophie Katsarava MBE reflects on a momentous year
This year, Georgia marks the 30th anniversary since its restoration of independence. This is truly a momentous year, and an opportunity to reflect on the three decades of challenges and progress.
Georgia’s road since the restoration of independence has been bumpy and full of challenges. Yet, at the same time, we have seen a tremendous achievement for a country that has only been independent for 30 years. A drive to reform the country, strengthen its democracy, build a free society, improve its economy and ensure equality are just a few of the priorities that remain the key drivers of present-day Georgia.
Today, Georgia is proud of its close ties with the European Union and NATO, and its strategic partners such as the UK and the US. Georgia’s foreign policy trajectory was determined 30 years ago by the Georgian public, and this irreversible path will not change as we continue to strive for EU and NATO memberships.
In recent decades, Georgia’s economy has undergone a significant transformation. Our success story has been widely recognised and has gained the country the name of a ‘top Reformer’ many times over the years. As a result, our small country on the crossroads of Europe and Asia has become one of the best places to do business. Georgia boasts the world’s third-lowest total tax rate, is ranked seventh in terms of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business annual index and is in eighth place
on the OECD’s FDI Regulatory restrictiveness Index.
Georgia is a great believer in the benefits of free trade. Having established 19 free-trade agreements (FTAs) around the world, Georgia now has access to a market of 2.3 billion consumers in the UK, the European Union, China, Turkey, the CIS and EFTA countries. FTAs with Israel, India and the US are also underway.
Georgia has become a favourite tourism destination. Before the pandemic more than nine million tourists visited our country, which is almost three times its population. Despite the existing challenges, boosting trade ties, increasing the flow of goods and services and gradual reopening of the country for safe tourism remain key priorities for the Georgian government.
Georgia, however, is still facing challenges, such as the consequences of the Russian-Georgian war in 2008, when our territory was invaded and occupied. This illegal occupation of 20 per cent of our territories remains in place. Ongoing creeping annexation and grave human rights violations in the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali remain the most serious security challenge for Georgia, as well as for the wider Black Sea region. Therefore, strong and unwavering support from our strategic allies is vitally important.
The UK was one of the first countries which recognised Georgia’s independence. Since then, the relations between our countries have prospered and got stronger. Today, Georgia and the UK enjoy close bonds on a wide range of areas and I am looking forward to contributing to expanding these ties.
Embassy of Georgia in London will not be able to host the event with our friends this year either. Instead of a traditional celebration, we will mark it virtually.