By Ioseb Chakhvashvili, Georgian ambassador to Tehran

Georgia maintains persistent foreign policy guided by predictability

May 30, 2021 - 16:8

2021 marks 103 years of the Democratic Republic of Georgia as well as 30th anniversary of the restoration of independence from the Soviet Union. On 26 May 1918, Georgia’s independence was declared by the First Meeting of the National Council of Georgia.

Despite the short period of its existence (1918-1921), the Democratic Republic of Georgia had a significant impact on the development of the Georgian statehood in a long run. The Act of Independence laid out the basic principles of state organization and country policy: state sovereignty; democratic republic as a political form of independent Georgia; neutrality; goodwill with all states, especially neighbours; civil and political freedom; free development for national minorities. Georgia at a time became one of the pioneer countries where women had the right to vote and stand for election. This was organically linked to the 1921 Constitution, which focused on democratic values and principles as well as establishment and strengthening of democratic institutions in Georgia;

In 1991, the country gained back its sovereignty which was a turning point in Georgian history-altering country’s future. At the referendum of 31 March 1991, 99.08% of the population voted in favour to one single question: “Do you support the restoration of the independence of Georgia in accordance with the Act of Declaration of Independence of Georgia of 26 May 1918?” Consequently, Georgian Supreme Council unanimously passed Act of Restoration of State Independence of Georgia on the second anniversary of the Soviet army crackdown on peaceful protests in Tbilisi on 9 April 1989;

Today Georgia continues to fight for its territorial integrity through peaceful approaches and based on international law.

In April 2018, the government of Georgia presented a peace initiative – A Step to a Better Future – aimed to facilitate trade, provide educational opportunities and give access to the benefits of European integration for the residents of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia;

Despite the challenges, through the past 3 decades, step by step, Georgia has once again laid the extensive groundwork for building an independent state. Today and everyday work of the State continues. 30 years of independence has brought significant changes to the country as well as its citizens. Determination and dedication have allowed to overcome obstacles as a state and as a society, resulting in strength and resilience;

Georgia has become a reliable partner in the international community to which world also presents differently. Country’s geopolitical, economic, and cultural interests have spread across the globe while its security, political and economic stability are in the interests of the majority of the countries in the world. In pursuit to bridge Georgia and the world, country has built and continues to maintain a persistent foreign policy and conduct proactive diplomacy guided by predictability, sustainability, and continuity. During 30 years Georgia demonstrated success in many regions and directions:

The Government of Georgia always expresses its appreciation to the Islamic Republic of Iran, which among the first states recognized Georgian independence. As a serious regional power, Iran has always been supportive of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.

Advancing its European agenda, Georgia pays attention to regional countries. Development of constructive relations with Iran is one of the priorities of the Georgian Government.

In October of 2017, the Joint Georgian-Iranian Economic Commission met in Tbilisi. There are frequent political consultations at Deputy Ministers’ level of MFA, consular departments, parliamentary friendship groups, Chambers of Commerce, regular meetings of the Joint Commission on International Transporting, and business delegations.

On the side-lines of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani met with his Iranian counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif, on September 23, 2019.

Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandre Khvtisiashvili and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Abbas Araqchi held the third round of political consultations in Tehran on December 8, 2019.

Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani had a phone conversation with his Iranian counterpart, Zarif, on May 5 of 2020.

Foreign Minister Zarif paid an official visit to Tbilisi on January 28, 2021.  He met with President Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia and held a phone call with Zalkaliani.

Beside official relationship, there is good people-to-people interaction between our countries, including the exchange of cultural and art groups, a good partnership between our academia. The Georgian language is taught in Iran and Persian – in Georgia. Thousands of Iranian citizens of Georgian origin have a respected place in Iranian society and serve as a friendship bridge between our countries.

Thousands of Iranians visited Georgia in the last years and trade turnover between Georgia and Iran reached hundreds of millions of US dollars. Unfortunately, our achievements are significantly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, but we hope it’s temporary.  

The experience of the past period gives us an optimism that the relationship between our countries will continue developing in a positive atmosphere for the peace and prosperity of our nations.

During the past 30 years, Georgia has established diplomatic relations with all the European countries. Excellent bilateral relations with European partners have been upgraded to strategic partnership and created different formats of high-level dialogues.

The top priority of Georgian foreign policy is the Euro-Atlantic integration and in this process of integration with NATO and European Union we reached important results.

At the Bucharest Summit in 2008, the Allies made an important decision on Georgia – they explicitly stated that “Georgia will become a member of NATO" (2008, 3 April);

Georgia is a substantial contributor to NATO-led operations safeguarding the shared Euro-Atlantic security, one of the largest contributing nations to International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2014; since 2015 up till now participating in the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) in Afghanistan;

EU-Georgia relations in recent years have been characterised by historically unprecedented dynamism, effectively underpinned by the EU-Georgia Association Agreement (signed in 2014) that allows solid political association and far-reaching economic integration. Since starting implementation of the AA including DCFTA, Georgia together with European partners has been continuously building institutions, judiciary, economy, education, trade relations, investment climate, transport, energy, digital economy, etc., leading to the country’s accession into the European Energy Community Treaty in 2016.

Georgia’s continuous progress in political and economic reforms resulted into visa-free regime for the citizens of Georgia (since 2017), thereby offering new opportunities for business, research, academic work, or cultural exchange.  Georgia is acknowledged as a top reformer in the Eastern Partnership region. Georgia has expressed its political commitment to officially submit membership application in 2024.

In 2009 the U.S. and Georgia signed Charter on Strategic Partnership (Areas of cooperation: Democracy, defence and security, trade, energy and economy as well as people to people contacts and cultural exchanges).  The U.S. has been one of larges donors of Georgia. Since 1999, the USAID provided approximately $1.657 billion supporting democratic reforms, free market economy, strengthening of civil society, public service, healthcare, education, economic growth, and Euro-Atlantic integration.

Over the last three decades, Georgia developed dynamic relations and cooperation with the countries of Latin America, the Caribbean region, and Asian Nations as well.

During the three decades of independence, Georgia successfully joined and positioned in major international organizations, including the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in 1992 and the Council of Europe in 1999. In the midst of global pandemic, Georgia for the first time took over the Presidency of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers (27 November 2019 - 15 May 2020), which was highly praised internationally;

During the past three decades, Georgia has demonstrated significant progress in economic diplomacy. Country became a member of the World Trade Organization on 14 June 2000. As of now, country has free trade with 2.3 billion-consumer market - FTAs with UK, Turkey, CIS countries, EFTA countries, China, and DCFTA with the EU; while GSP regimes with 490 million-consumer market - the U.S., Canada, and Japan. Georgia is a leader in the region in terms of stability and investment attractiveness which is proved by Bilateral Investment Treaties in force with 34 countries (as of March 2021), while country has Double Taxation Avoidance Treaties in force with 56 countries. Georgia successfully created four Free Industrial Zones (FIZ) in Poti, Kutaisi (two FIZs) and Tbilisi (capital city).

Development of transit and transport potential has translated into participation in Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasus-Asia (TRACECA) since 1993;

Georgia’s candidate was elected twice as a Secretary-General of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) in 2000-2005; twice as a Secretary-General of the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development (GUAM) in 2007-2015; twice as a Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) 2018-2023.

Rich and diverse Georgian culture has made its mark on the global landscape.

Georgia’s participation as the Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2018 created a unique opportunity to demonstrate country’s rich and diverse culture. Its long tradition of book publishing and literary heritage and at the same time made international community familiar with contemporary Georgia. In 2021 Tbilisi become UNESCO World Book Capital for a year.

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