German Embassy Contributing to Trade Relations with Georgia

German Embassy Contributing to Trade Relations with Georgia

The FINANCIAL --  The FINANCIAL interviewed Patricia Flor, the German Ambassador to Georgia regarding the prospects of the future business-economic and trade relations between the two countries.


Georgia can see for itself a growing role as a partner in supplying energy to Europe. The energy sector has been one of the top topics of the two recently held visits of German businessmen to the country. Germany is Georgia’s second-largest provider of bilateral development aid after the United States. Georgia remains Germany’s only priority partner country for development cooperation in the Caucasian/Central Asian region.


Q. Since the foundation of the German-Georgian Economic Union in Tbilisi on September 13, visits have already been paid by German businessmen to our country. How will these types of face-to-face meetings assist trade relations between the two countries, as Germany is the 5th trade partner for Georgia currently?


A. For any businessman, before making a decision on establishing trade relations or investing in a foreign country, it’s essential to know the country and find business partners there. From my point of view the best way is to travel to the country and establish direct contacts with your counterparts there.

First of all a businessman intending to put money in a foreign country must be well aware of where he can get useful information for starting up his business in the new environment. It’s always better to see a thing with your own eyes. It might also be the case where you have to travel to the country not once but several times in order to be completely convinced of the success of your intentions.

We have made a start but, indeed, it will take a while to improve the investment and trade activities between the two countries.

We have made a start but, indeed, it will take a while to improve the investment and trade activities between the two countries.

For Georgia it’s still true that the regulations and laws here change frequently. In terms of the development of the country the pace is very fast, therefore many business people from Germany have an urgent need for fresh information and evaluation on a regular basis. That is true of the type of information service that the German Embassy offers. We try to find the answers to any questions they might have and therefore find the right contacts so that they themselves can contact the relevant Georgian organizations competent in the specific issues.


Q. As for German technical and financial cooperation with Georgia, how close are your relations with KfW and GTZ offices in Georgia?


A. The money given to KfW and GTZ comes from the German government. The decision-making and financing is provided by the German government and it’s up to these organizations to execute the projects. Therefore, we have very close relations with them.


Q. Germany was the first country to recognize Georgia after independence in 1991 and to open an embassy here in 1992. The former Soviet Foreign Minister, later Georgian President Shevardnadze has contributed much to Germany’s national reunification. What’s been the core basis for the close and trusting relations between Georgia and Germany, looking back over a tradition of nearly 200 years?


A. We have found that there are many Georgians who speak fluent German. At the beginning of the previous century there were cases of young German women living with Georgian families who were there to educate the children. So, Georgian-German ties have long-term personal relationships. The German language is well spoken in Georgia, which is a very good basis for future cooperation between the countries.


The task today is to maintain this very good foundation - that’s the major goal for us. Though I also believe that Georgians have much sympathy for Germans and so it’s all a mutually driven process of friendly relations.


In Germany the contribution of Mr Shevardnadze is really highly appreciated to this day. Without his active support maybe German unification would not have been possible.

In Germany the contribution of Mr Shevardnadze is really highly appreciated to this day. Without his active support maybe German unification would not have been possible.

Relations between the two countries and between the two governments go beyond individuals though. I have very close contacts and regular meetings with the current Georgian government at all levels. I must say that many of them are of a younger generation and the President himself studied in Strassburg, which is an old German-French city.


Q. Germany is actively seeking to develop the South Caucasus region. Within the European Union, Germany is supporting closer ties between Europe and Georgia and the entire region. Could you please describe the developments on the ENP Action Plan agreed on with the three South Caucasus countries on 14 November 2006?


A. Germany has always looked toward Eastern Europe because we are located in the middle of Europe and it’s been always clear for Germany that it’s essential to have friendly relations with all of our neighbours, among them Eastern European countries including the Black Sea coast region and the Caucasus.

That’s why Germany has supported the strengthening of ties with the European neighbourhood. I’m sure that Georgia especially can benefit from this as the country is making progress in terms of reforms.

Germany has a long tradition of bilateral relations with Georgia. This is a country with a high level of knowledge of German. It’s natural that Georgia should be a special priority for Germany.


Q. The current Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s first official foreign visit on 29/30 January 2004 took him to Berlin. He visited Germany again at the beginning of 2006. How effective are such kinds of high-official visits?


A. It’s extremely important because it’s essential to establish personal relationships as it’s not enough to merely have correspondence and remote driven relations. In order to really understand each-other and moreover make Germany better aware of Georgia’s goals and why the country wants to get closer to Europe or become a NATO member.


These types of issues should be discussed at all levels, right up to the presidents.


Q. How would you evaluate the efficiency of the new double-taxation agreement that is to replace the one still in force from the Soviet era?


A. The problem with the old double-taxation treaty was that it was from soviet times. So there was also a certain concern of insecurity about whether it could still be applied. Indeed, Georgia, emerged from the Soviet Union, nevertheless it was not on a firm legal basis.

Secondly, the Georgian government wanted to have a new agreement as the old one did not correspond to the criteria of the International Monitory Fund. We should all comply with international standards.
Q. So far major German-Georgian joint projects include: legal advice, the introduction of a land register, the rehabilitation of the water-supply and wastewater-treatment systems in the country’s second-largest city Batumi and the setting up of ProCredit Bank, what is this commitment due to?


A. I would mention the two main sectors where German development money has gone to. First of all is the energy sector as the installation of electricity was the biggest project of the past. In order to have reliable energy distribution you need to have the financing.


The second one is the cadastre project; land registry is a basic requirement for the sound economic development of the country. For instance, if you want to get credit from ProCredit Bank they’ll ask you for security, that might be an apartment, a Dacha, or a plot of land and in order to give property as security to the bank, you need to have a legal title registered at Cadastre- the land registry.

This system is crucial for the development of the capitalization of the economy. I’m very proud that in Georgia it was implemented with German assistance. 


Q. Georgia sees for itself a growing role as a partner in supplying energy to Europe. Are there any joint German-Georgian undergoing or planned projects in this respect?


A. It’s important to know that among the business people who visited Georgia recently, some of them came from the energy sector and their interests might be directed to building new major electricity lines from Georgia toward Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan.


Q. As for the town-twinning arrangements: Tbilisi and Saarbrücken, Telavi in Eastern Georgia and Biberach (Riß), what’s the concept of these arrangements?


A. In the case of Saarbrücken, it goes back to a long-standing tradition of town-twinning which was established in Germany after the Second World War.


We found that in order to overcome the barriers which existed historically, it was important to have direct contact between towns and cities of countries. It’s really about the very people who might have suffered from the war, and their reconciliations with each other. Direct mutual aid and exchange was therefore established between cities and regions. That was the case between Saarbrücken and Tbilisi.

As for the Telavi case, the situation is different as the latter is part of the Caucasian city network. That’s one of the most prominent development projects by GTZ within the Caucasus Initiative, which envisions allowing information and experience exchange to be distributed among different German and Caucasian cities. In the frame of the project Biberach chose Telavi, maybe they were attracted to Kakheti as a wine region.


Lots of citizens in Biberach are ready to give their own funds to the Telavi project. The Biberach population has even helped to renovate a music school in Telavi.


Q. Could you please remember a couple of interesting stories about these cultural societies: in Germany- the Berlin Georgian Society and the Brandenburg-Georgian Society; and in Georgia-the Georgian-German Society in Tbilisi and the Georgian-German Centre in Kutaisi.


A. The Georgian-German Society in Kutaisi was established in 1996 and it functions as a friendship house. Lectures about Germany are delivered to people there. German language courses are also conducted there.


The centre also functions as a guest house and people coming from Germany enjoy staying there. It’s a place where the Germans interested in Georgia and the Georgians interested in Germany have the opportunity to meet and exchange views.


Q. You have a Magister’s degree in Eastern European history and political economy. What’s been your motivation for getting engaged in Eastern European issues?


A. I spent many holidays and long periods of my youth in Western European countries and also in the U.S. At that time we still had the Berlin Wall and these were the times of the Cold War. Back then I had understood the western approach of life but still knew little of what it felt like to live in Moscow and what the East looked like. It’s been my motivation to decide to learn Eastern European history and write a dissertation and degree research on the subject.

At that time I didn’t manage to come to the Caucasus but everyone back then was drinking Georgian wines and I thought Georgia must be a wonderful country known for its fruits, citrus and ancient traditions.


Q. You’ve also worked as the chairperson of women’s rights for the UN in New York. Furthermore you’ve professional journalistic experience as well. How would you define the CSR concept for an embassy?

A. The mass media is very important for Georgia’s development because no democratic, free and liberal society can emerge without having free media and exchange of opinions. A conflict of opinions is normal. In Georgia I see that the local press and the whole media is being developed day-by-day.


It’s also very important for a journalist to have a good education because journalism is not only about writing down people’s quotations. It takes time and requires experience to make a difference about reporting and commenting on the news.


The Deutsche Welle (German Wave) is giving seminars to journalists in Georgia as we’re committed to contributing to the educational growth of the local media.


As for the CSR concept for an embassy, considering my UN background, I happened to attend a big CSR discussion of corporate entities in New York. Indeed, it’s true that you cannot regulate everything by law but there should be a clear understanding of CSR as of the essence of fairness among corporations.

The same goes for embassies. We are trying to assist different organizations in implementing small projects and it’s a direct linkage to the assistance for the society. In former times there were cases of exploitation of local people and it’s not what the future should look like. CSR is a very interesting debate of all times.