Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Republic of Georgia to Ukraine, Gela Dumbadze, exclusively for the FD, talks about the common economic, political and cultural orientations of our states and about the celebration of the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Kyiv and Tbilisi.
WE HAVE MUCH IN COMMON AND WHAT I CONSIDER TO BE THE MOST IMPORTANT – WE HAVE THE COMMON SPIRITUAL WARMTH AND HOSPITALITY, WE LOVE FREEDOM, WE HAVE OPEN HEARTS.
This year witnesses the centenary of diplomatic relations between our countries. Which memory events are planned by your embassy due to this occasion?
– This is a very important date and its celebration has already been discussed at the highest political level. In January, during the visit of the Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia at the meeting with the President of Ukraine Mr. Poroshenko, the issue was also raised. Thus, this jubilee date will be celebrated in both our countries at the level of governments and parliaments. There will be special protocol events, cultural and scientific events. The Centenary of the establishment of diplomatic relations will be celebrated on the fourth of July. Last year we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between our countries. Also, this year we celebrate the centenary of the founding of the first Democratic Republic of Georgia, and I must note that all these glorious anniversaries have been celebrated, are celebrated and will be celebrated at an adequate level in Georgia and Ukraine.
Tell us, please, about the start of Ukrainian-Georgian bilateral relations after the collapse of the USSR?
– After the collapse of the USSR, when the new independent states arose, there was a necessity to establish direct diplomatic relations and we celebrated this anniversary last year. But we both in Georgia and Ukraine remember that the independence of our states and their foreign policy activity did not begin 25 years ago. Immediately after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, we signed all the necessary agreements and treaties that made possible the further development of those traditionally good relations that we had in the USSR time. We have much in common and what I consider to be the most important – we have the common spiritual warmth and hospitality, we love freedom, we have open hearts.
Which directions would you prioritize in the relations between our two countries?
– As one of the priorities I would define understanding of the political course, understanding of our movement. This is the basis. This is a direction towards the Euro-Atlantic structures. This is an identical issue of temporarily occupied territories. It is our cooperation on the international level. Proceeding from this, many branches – economy, culture, science, education – have common ground. For many years, we were walking side by side. When Georgia had problems in 1992 – 1993 (I mean the Abkhaz war), the Ukrainians, along with our fighters, were standing side by side against the enemy and we are constantly trying to emphasize this.
Now the Georgians fight, defending Ukraine. So, we have many common priorities. For many years, we have been trying to send identical impulses to Kyiv. We showed that your life and your problems are close to us. In 2014, I was the Diaspora Minister and when tragic events broke out in Ukraine, then the Georgian government called for help for the Ukrainians. A charter flight was organized, I personally arrived and took 120 children whose parents were killed in Donetsk and Lugansk regions and a special recreation program on the Black Sea coast was set up for these children. They enjoyed wonderful vacations and then I said that Georgia had just got 120 new ambassadors.
Six months ago, a group of Georgian parliamentarians, representatives of the Ukrainian-Georgian friendship group visited Ukraine. Me, the military attaché, the adviser of our Embassy, together with our parliamentarians, visited the front-line zone in the Donbass Region, the settlements of Shirokine and Volnovakha and we underlined by this fact of our visit that we are with Ukraine – and on the front line either. The main thing what is between our peoples is that when the Ukrainians arrive in Georgia, they are always met with a good wide smile. And I hope that the Georgians are met in the same way in Ukraine.
How would you describe the Ukrainian-Georgian cooperation in the economic sphere?
– Economic cooperation is extremely important for our countries. The intergovernmental economic commission has been operating for many years. There are many branches that are involved in this cooperation – first of all, I mean agriculture. From the Ukrainian side to Georgia the metallurgical products are delivered – iron, fittings and more. Currently, trade turnover has grown by 4.6% – in fact in recent months. These economic contacts have been influenced by the visits of senior political leaders – in particular, the visits of your president, prime minister and head of the parliament of Georgia and our parliamentary delegations.
In January 2018, the visit of the head of the parliament, which I have already mentioned, took place. An official visit of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia has been scheduled. Such visits, such meetings are resulted by the signing of the documents that strengthen our strategic partnership and all these aspects influence the development of business relations between our countries as a positive factor. Of course, not all opportunities are still used and we have all the conditions to double the turnover. We have everything to do that.
What is the greatest achievement of Ukrainian-Georgian bilateral cooperation in your opinion?
– I would call an agreement on a strategic partnership between our countries and the growth of the trade turnover. The number of Ukrainian tourists that visit Georgia is increasing.
In the tourism sector, this growth has reached 10%. Last year, 193 thousand of Ukrainian tourists visited Georgia. But there is also the humanitarian side of our cooperation. There are many common families. All this will have positive effects in the future. The biggest achievement is that when we, the Georgians, have certain problems, we know that Ukraine will always support us at the international scene.
I hope that the Ukrainians have the confidence that Georgia will always stand for Ukraine. A similar solidarity can be characterized as the greatest achievement. I can say with certainty that if Georgia had a poll on what country is the most popular for and then Ukraine would definitely rank first.
Is Georgia interested in Ukrainian culture? Is Ukrainian language studied in your country?
– Yes, of course, this kind of interest exists. The cultural landmarks of both countries are Lesya Ukrainka and David Guramishvili. In the city of Telavi, where Lesya Ukrainka lived, during the visit of Mr. Groisman, a magnificent monument to this brilliant Ukrainian writer was opened.
Many people from Georgia come to Ukraine – either as tourists or come to work. It is hard to find at least one region of Ukraine in which our citizens would not live. Ukraine for the Georgians is an understandable and friendly country.
Is there an exchange of students between our countries?
– Of course, but it’s not too big, unfortunately. In November 2017, I collected all Georgian students studying at universities of Kyiv – there were about 100 people. In previous years, there were more Georgian students in Ukraine, of course. In the educational sector, in recent years, the private universities have begun to actively develop in Georgia, and the mechanisms and schemes of education are starting to differ from the Ukrainian educational system. Therefore, our main goal should be to seek common standards in this area.
Many countries are developing medical tourism nowadays. What can Ukraine and Georgia offer to each other in this sphere?
– In Georgia, all tourist destinations, including medical ones, are developed. We have many resorts that were well-known in Soviet times and now require serious investment. I mean Borjomi, Nabeglavi, Sairme, Abastumani and Tskhaltubo. This sphere has remained and is an attractive area for attraction of investments. Truskavets is very popular in Georgia.
Many Georgians visit this resort in the Lviv region. Ukraine is very rich in the natural aspect. The Carpathians are worthy of admiration. There is still a lot to be done in this sphere, but there are traditional areas of cooperation in the field of medical tourism, that, unfortunately, are not yet known in Georgia. So there is something to work on.
Which regions of Ukraine do you like most of all?
– I love Kyiv very much. Six years ago, I worked at the Embassy of Georgia in Ukraine and spent four years in Kyiv. I really like the Lviv region – especially I like the ancient part of this town. Also, I have to note the very beautiful nature in the Kherson region. Recently, I have visited Sumy region. I saw your biggest park in Uman. I have not reached the Carpathians yet, but I plan to go there necessarily. Well, of course, I must mention Odessa. We have a consulate there. There is a large Georgian Diaspora in this city. There are many Georgians that have contributed to the development of Ukraine. Among them there are many wonderful winemakers. Last September I visited this wonderful city.
What would you like to wish the readers of our edition?
– I would like to wish peace and stability to the friendly Ukrainian people, because this is the main foundation for the development. I want the Ukrainians to come to visit Georgia more often. I wish that air connections between our countries would become more accessible to as many people as possible. We must find the points of contact so that relations between our countries serve as an example for the other states – how people should be friends, how people should develop. Georgia is always opened for your country and this is what I consider to be the main thing…