May 25, 2019

Georgia and the Netherlands

By H.E. Mr. George Sharvashidze, Ambassador of Georgia to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

It is my immense pleasure and privilege to represent my country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands and to have the opportunity, but huge responsibility at the same time, to facilitate further development of Georgia-Netherlands relations.

I am delighted to note that cooperation between Georgia and the Netherlands is developing in the right direction. This cooperation is not limited only to the political, economic and cultural dimensions but includes wide range of priority areas such as jurisdiction, finances, environment, education, healthcare and other areas that have an outmost importance for my country.

The Netherlands appears to be among top investor countries for Georgia for last few years. Dutch support to my country focusses on improving the quality of life of Georgians in a tangible and visible manner. This support has facilitated implementation of projects related to reforms, civil society, strategic communications, economic development and education.

However, there is still a huge untapped potential in Dutch-Georgian cooperation. I will try my best to ensure that friendly and partnership relations between the two countries further deepens in the years to come.

It should be highlighted that the Dutch Government has always supported Georgia’s European aspirations. The role of the Netherlands in reaching our main foreign policy objectives – becoming fully-fledged member of the EU and the NATO – is crucial.

The King of the Netherlands, His Majesty Willem Alexander and H.E. George Sharvashidze, Ambassador of Georgia during the ceremony of presentation of its credentials. Photography by Jeroen van der Meyde.

Georgia’s Western Path:

In 1999, the late Georgian Prime Minister, Zurab Zhvania, concluded his milestone speech at the Council of Europe with the following historically significant words: “I am Georgian, therefore I am European”. That time it was very difficult to imagine that Georgia would stand so close to the European family as it does today.

In fact, Georgia has always been a part of European civilization. All our cultural achievements belong to the European heritage. Moreover, historically we, as an ancient Christian nation, have contributed a lot to the development of this civilization. Though our western development was hampered for centuries due to multiple invasions and aggression, we have always been gazing towards Europe. Even today, when 20% of our territory is still under Russian occupation, I firmly state that our European integration as well as Euro-Atlantic aspirations are irreversible.

Since the day we regained our independence in early 90s, Georgia has been aspiring to join – or rather re-join – the European and Euro-Atlantic community of nations, with whom we share the common history, culture and values. These aspirations, which were defined by the resolute choice of the overwhelming majority of our people, manifested in Georgia’s declared foreign policy goal of fully-fledged integration into the NATO and the EU.

Georgia is using all the existing mechanisms of cooperation to ensure more comprehensive and transparent integration process with the EU. Today, five years after signing the Association Agreement with the DCFTA, we enjoy a qualitatively new stage in our partnership with the European Union. Trade has picked up with many items of Georgian agriculture and other products finding their way to the European market, as have people-to-people contacts. All this lays the solid groundwork for further stages of Georgia’s European integration.

Apart from concrete practical benefits, visa-free regime bears a tremendous symbolic and political value for Georgia as it brings us even closer to the European family and manifests EU’s strong political support to Georgia’s European path. It is both – a result of Georgia’s extensive efforts and a well-deserved response to the European choice of Georgian people. Due to those efforts, Georgia has established itself as a leader in the region in terms of consolidated democracy, human rights protection, rule of law, good governance, transparency and economic reforms.

Every Georgian understands that European and Euro-Atlantic integration is a lengthy process full of challenges but huge opportunities at the same time and we are fully committed to continue our close cooperation with our western partners using all existing cooperation formats.

George Sharvashidze, Ambassador of Georgia presenting credentials to The King of the Netherlands also present during the ceremony the diplomatic personal of the embassy. Photography by Jeroen van der Meyde

10 Years Anniversary of Eastern Partnership:

When we are talking about cooperation formats, we should refer to the Eastern Partnership (EaP) foremost. This is indeed a partnership for stronger economy, connectivity, stronger society and governance. In the course of the past decade, the Partnership matured into an effective political project, advancing the relations between the EU and Partners (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine) to a new level.

Since its inception, all the stakeholders – the EU, member states, EU institutions, governments and civil societies of participating countries – have invested in and gained from the EaP initiative. We have built differentiated bilateral partnerships with the EU and developed a multilateral cooperation format. And this was done, based on inclusiveness and differentiation. We believe that the firm and continuous adherence to the differentiation and “more for more” principles is extremely important to maintain the attractiveness of the EaP for all partner countries.

2019 marks the 10th anniversary of the EaP providing an excellent opportunity to take stock of the past 10 years and focus on its future perspectives. The EU, its member states and partner countries are organizing the whole range of events to celebrate the EaP 10th anniversary and Georgia will be part of these activities. One of the events planned by Georgia is a traditional Batumi International Conference (11-12 July, 2019) which this time will be fully dedicated to the EaP. Along with high officials from EU, member and partner states, academia, non-governmental sector and business representatives are invited to participate in the Conference.

Georgia remains committed to contributing to the success of the EaP, including through the effective implementation of the milestones of 20 Deliverables for 2020. It is worth of mentioning that the Dutch Government has always underlined the leading role of Georgia in implementing the reforms envisaged by the EaP Program.

Georgia – a Reliable Partner for the EU:

As we are talking about Georgia’s further integration into the EU and our ambition to become its full-fledge member, we should concentrate not only on the benefits my country will get out of this process but also on mutual benefits. Through years, Georgia has proved to be a reliable partner for the EU and its member states. Georgia has a crucial importance and a huge potential as energy, transport and logistical hub linking Asia with Europe. Being situated in the region bridging the Caspian energy resources with the Black Sea provides Georgia with the multitude of opportunities. That is why Georgia multiplies its efforts to play an important role for the long-term diversification of energy supply of Europe and promoting regional and international projects like Belt and Road, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, Anaklia Deep Sea Port, number of international transit routes and corridors and many more.

Undoubtedly, strong and united Europe has never been as vital as in today’s globalized world, full of challenges. Only together, by common efforts, we are capable to overcome all problems we face and Georgia is ready to continue be a trustworthy partner for the Western institutions in the region.

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