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Interview with H.E. the Ambassador of Georgia, Ioseb Nanobashvili

 

DIPLOMATIC PROFILE

 

“The decision of the EU Member States to open the European Union borders for Georgian citizens is an acknowledgment of the effectiveness of Georgian reforms in many spheres, be it strengthening of democratic institutions, fundamental freedoms and human rights, or economic freedom and sustainable development…

We see membership to the EU as a powerful tool for modernising our country and its economy and further strengthening democratic institutions, opening for Georgian citizens new opportunities related to education, tourism, science and culture which have already become accessible for European citizens.”

 

GDL: Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, along with Cabinet Ministers, MPs and a group of students and tourists travelled to Athens on March 28th to celebrate the launch of the visa-free travel to the European Union. Was that a symbolic gesture to mark the country’s ‘return to Europe’?

IN: March 28th has truly been a remarkable day for my country. The visa-free travel throughout the Schengen zone is a privilege which, so far, no country from our region enjoys, except Georgia. The decision of the EU Member States to open the European Union borders for Georgian citizens is an acknowledgment of the effectiveness of Georgian reforms in many spheres, be it strengthening of democratic institutions, fundamental freedoms and human rights, or economic freedom and sustainable development.

Indeed, if you think of Europe, the capital which symbolises the roots of European Democracy and European thinking is Athens and a place for deliberations on Europe’s present and future is Brussels.

Therefore, the first “visa-free group” from Georgia visited these two cities – Athens and Brussels. Needless to say that Greece is a country which for many Georgians symbolises “Europe”, per se, as they moved to Greece in the early 90s after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

 

GDL: The opportunity given to Georgian citizens to travel without a visa to the Schengen countries is a milestone for the relations of Georgia with the European Union. What are the aspirations of the Georgian people with regard to the European Union?

IN: Georgia’s eventual membership to the European family of nations enjoys nationwide support and is an expression of the will of the Georgian people.

We see membership to the EU as a powerful tool for modernising our country and its economy and further strengthening democratic institutions, opening for Georgian citizens new opportunities related to education, tourism, science and culture which have already become accessible for European citizens.

 

“Such intensive exchanges of visits are fully in line with the spirit of the 25th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between our two States which we will celebrate this year.

I am convinced that these visits will trigger more intensive dialogue between respective ministries and agencies and deepen cooperation in all areas of mutual interest.”

 

 

GDL: This month marks the 25th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. During the last period we noted a busy schedule of high-level visits between the two countries, paying special attention to the visit of Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias to Georgia and Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili in Greece.

Both sides reaffirmed that their relations have become strategic. Can you elaborate on this further?

IN: Recently, the relationship between our countries has significantly been activated. Since the beginning of the year we had a number of high level visits to Georgia including the very important visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic, Nikos Kotzias.

The Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili also paid his first working visit to Greece.

There are several other high level visits already planned for this year, both to Greece and to Georgia. Such intensive exchanges of visits are fully in line with the spirit of the 25th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between our two States which we will celebrate this year. I am convinced that these visits will trigger more intensive dialogue between respective ministries and agencies and deepen cooperation in all areas of mutual interest.

 

“One of my main missions in Greece is to open up the opportunities which the Georgian market offers for the Greek business sector and at the same time, encourage Georgian companies to establish cooperation with their Greek counterparts.

Indeed, Georgia has become a place for making a profitable business.”

 

GDL: Georgia is a rapidly developing country and its entrepreneurial expansion is a positive challenge for Greek companies. What are the sectors that both sides should invest in?

IN: One of my main missions in Greece is to open up the opportunities which the Georgian market offers for the Greek business sector and at the same time, encourage Georgian companies to establish cooperation with their Greek counterparts.

Indeed, Georgia has become a place for making a profitable business. It is 16th among 189 Countries in Easy to Make Business Ranking, 13th in Economic Freedom, 1st among the 19 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia in the anti-corruption index. Georgia is the 4th least tax-burdened country (2015) and the 3rd safest country in the world. Georgia also enjoys free trade with the European Union, EFTA countries, all its neighbours – almost 1 billion customers marketplace.

It is also worth mentioning that this year we will re-activate the joint intergovernmental economic commission which will take stock of current trade-economic relations between the two states and discuss future steps.

 

“Our two nations have been enjoying strong cultural and religious ties throughout centuries.

It is interesting that the Georgian word for “Greek” – “berdzeni” means “a wise man”, thus paying tribute to the notion that philosophy and thinking originated in Greece.”

 

GDL: Are there any current Georgian-Greek cultural exchanges taking place and what initiatives should be undertaken to enhance cultural ties between the two peoples?

IN: Needless to mention that our two nations have been enjoying strong cultural and religious ties throughout centuries. It is interesting that the Georgian word for “Greek” – “berdzeni” means “a wise man”, thus paying tribute to the notion that philosophy and thinking originated in Greece. I believe that there is room for boosting the Georgian-Greek cultural exchange and we are working intensively together with the Hellenic side to this end.

The Tbilisi State University – established back in 1918 it is the first university in the Caucasus with a Century-old tradition of research and teaching – home to the Institute of Classical, Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies.

 

TSU – the first university in the Caucasus. The Century-old tradition of research and teaching. Established in 1918.

 

There is a very active cooperation between the higher education institutions of our two States in the field of education and science. As you may know, the Institute of Classical, Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies at the Tbilisi State University is operating successfully.

Here in Greece, last year the Greek Government gave its consent on launching a pilot project on a non-compulsory study of the Georgian Language in the public schools of Greece. On April 6th 2017, the project was launched in the No 50 primary school of Athens.

 

“Indeed, the existence of Greek and Georgian Diasporas in our countries underline our historic, spiritual and cultural closeness, our loyalty to the principle of tolerance and mutual-respect.”

 

 

GDL: How can both the Greek diaspora in Georgia and the Georgian community in Greece contribute toward this goal?

IN: This is the issue that we are going to pay special attention to. Many Georgians already make their important contributions to the development of Greek athletics, science, culture and other spheres. I am convinced that in the future even more local Georgians will become useful members of the Greek society.

We are very proud to have the Greek diaspora in Georgia and the Georgian Government ensures that local Greeks preserve their mother tongue and traditions. I would also like to mention here that the Modern Greek language is taught as a foreign language in 15 public schools throughout Georgia. Indeed, the existence of Greek and Georgian Diasporas in our countries underline our historic, spiritual and cultural closeness, our loyalty to the principle of tolerance and mutual-respect.

 

 

Interview by Nicolas Boutsicos
Editor, Greek Diplomatic Life

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