The Role of Georgia on the Crossroads of Asia and Europe (Dialogue and Development)

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Introduction

I’ll start the blog with a question: and yet, why should we be interested in a small state named “Georgia”? I will try to answer the question posed by me clearly in the following pages. The short answer lies in the following: Georgia ranks 7th on the list of safe countries according to the International Crime Index, and 12th on the list of economically free countries. The country is exceptionally rich in various natural resources – forests, manganese, iron, gold, copper, coal deposits, small oil reserves, for processing of which the investors are actively being sought. In addition, water resources remain unused, which can bring huge benefits for both the country and potential investors. The geographical location of Georgia on the map of the world is politically significant, since the corridor connecting Asia and Europe passes through its territory.

And now I will try to show you this country from another angle. Georgia is a small, diverse country in the Caucasus region, located on the crossroads of Europe and Asia. It should be noted that many interesting facts are known about Georgia, such as its unique alphabet, a language that represents a completely different language group, which is called a Kartvelian language group. It does not belong to either Semitic or Indo-European groups, although this time my topic of discussion is something quite different. This is the future potential of Georgia considering the past and present and the importance of the country to Asia and the West in both political and socio-economic contexts.

Georgia gained independence again after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but Georgia’s history and geopolitical need originate in a very deep past. There are a lot of records about Georgia in the history textbooks of different countries that it has been a crossroads of world civilizations for centuries. Indeed, on the political map of the World, Georgia is located in the central part of this region, and therefore the state in this area has particular importance. That is why Georgia has always been and remains an object of interest of world civilizations and is such to this day. Ancient Greece, Roman Empire, Byzantium, Sasanid Iran, Arab Caliphate, Mongol Empire, Ottoman Empire – all of them were interested in Georgia. From that, we can conclude that Georgia’s role in today’s international politics has great potential.

Geographical significance

For centuries, Georgia was intersected with the most important international trade route called the “Silk Road”. It connected Asia and Europe, stretching from China – to Mediterranean states. This road was joined by Sasanid Iran, Arab Caliphate, etc. Today, the government of Georgia participates in the discussion related to the restoration plan of this road. An example is the Silk Road Forum held in Tbilisi in 2019, which was attended by representatives of 60 countries of the world. However, this does not necessarily mean that Georgia does not have significant relations with these countries today. By 2014, China made $ 217 million direct foreign investment in Georgia; a close economic cooperation link is between India and Georgia. India was the first country to recognize Georgia as an independent state on December 26, 1991. This listing will take us far, so I will say a few words about one of the biggest future projects“

We should definitely mention the issue of Anaklia Deep Sea Port, which was planned to be built by the government of Georgia. It will be the largest port in the Black Sea region, which will allow Georgia to strengthen its position as a major regional hub and reinforce its strategic location in the new Silk Road project. Even with the most pessimistic forecast, the port will attract 600,000 ship containers each year. The port will receive the largest ships passing through the Bosphorus. Georgia will strengthen its independence in the international arena, and a new port will create an alternative corridor for Europeans that will make it easy to connect western and eastern trade routes. Therefore, it is clear how important free, close and mutual trust-based diplomatic relations with Georgia are for Asian countries as well as for the rest of the world.

Agricultural opportunities:

As for the abovementioned natural resources, I could not finish the conversation on this topic without mentioning the agricultural potential of Georgia, which would expand the new Silk Road and the port of Anaklia. Georgia stands out for its abundance of harvest. Many varieties of fruits, citrus fruits, vegetables, nuts, or berries are cultivated fruitfully in Georgia. There is almost no place in Georgia, land of which is not abundant, and the products grown are especially tasty. Unfortunately, this most important resource is not used fully. In Agriculture, 39% of working resources are employed. The precondition for the successful development of agriculture lies not in human resources, but in technology. Unfortunately, in addition to the unproductive land processing mentioned above as of 2018, 33% of the lands are not treated at all. At the same time, we have the example of the Netherlands, which is 1.7 times smaller than Georgia, but not surprisingly, as a result of proper investment and technological development, it has become the second biggest food exporting country in the world after the USA. Therefore, it is safe to say that in light of the increase in the volume of cultivated land, Georgia has a huge potential.

Why does Asia need Georgia? (In economic and political contexts)

“Entrepot”[1] – this word might not tell you much. In fact, it had great value in the past and it has today. Entrepot is a port or city having a central location in the region and serving foreign exporters and importers. Entrepots were constantly an important part of global trade, it facilitated logistics and the exchange of information between Foreign Trade parties. Such intermediaries were needed and existed as early as in 2000 BC and also today. You might ask, why I am trying to interest you in explaining this not-so-common word in this article. The answer is simple! Georgia has all the characteristics to become an Entrepot, in addition, it has played this role for a long time.

The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU is a crucial part of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement. The latter ensures Georgia’s rapprochement with Europe. On the basis of this Agreement, Georgia can easily carry out trade with EU member states. Without any bureaucratic obstacles and taxes, it is possible to trade large amounts of cargo by land, sea or air. Also, the governments of Georgia and India conducted a feasibility study of the Free Trade Agreement, according to which the conclusion of this Agreement is quite profitable and will be implemented in the nearest future.[2] Georgia has active trade relations with the countries of the Middle East, the states of the former Soviet Union, with which it has also concluded free trade agreements. Such agreements, geographical location and close diplomatic relations with states in the region, allow Georgia to play the role of mediator, take responsibility for negotiating, logistical issues and carry out a large number of re – export-purchase products in one country and sell them to another, and/or simply assist in communication with representatives of different countries. It is noteworthy that the share of re-export in the total export of Georgia is quite high and it ranges from 28% to 48%; It buys different types of goods in Europe and sells to countries such as Iran, Russia, or buys in Japan and exports to neighboring states – Armenia and Azerbaijan, etc. That is why I think it is necessary to increase Georgia’s awareness in the world in this regard, in order to fully exploit its potential in this field.

In addition to geographical importance, which, of course, is already linked to politics and economy, friendly and peaceful relations with East and South Asian countries are necessary for Georgia.

As you know, there are a lot of conflicts in the world, especially in the Middle East and Asia region – some short-term and finished, some long-term and/or frozen. In such cases, focusing on the solution is the most important thing. The only way to resolve conflicts is through peaceful negotiations and dialogue. Often thinkers are skeptical of this view, but Europe is a clear example of this. Perhaps a man from another world would hardly believe that such a peace-loving Europe, where citizens of European countries cross borders as if strolling through a neighboring settlement, has suffered major wars conquests and confrontations just in the last century.

In the early 20th century, many states in the world sought to self-establish and fight for survival. The war, in addition to economic and political disastrous consequences, brought the world to the destruction of 125 million people. After all this, Europe decided that wars should prevail over the past and take care of the future, realizing that the success achieved as a result of hostilities hinders neighbors in peaceful relations with each other, and sooner or later the desire to take revenge still lights up. States themselves play a major role in resolving the conflict. This is evidenced by the words of Winston Churchill, pronounced at the University of Zurich on September 19, 1946, according to which they had to complete all types of retaliation and after the conviction of the perpetrators, each country had to help each other to revive, including Germany. They did this, which laid the foundation for the peaceful life of Europe, which continues to this day. In addition to the states involved in conflicts, neutral states often play the role of “conciliator”, such as, for example, Switzerland, Sweden, Portugal and several other European states during World War II. I can safely say that in some cases, in our region, Georgia has all the resources to take responsibility for itself. A successful example of this is most recently the peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia held in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. In September 2020, with the partnership of the USA and support of the facilitation process by the Government of Georgia, an agreement has been reached on the prisoners’ swap between Armenia and Azerbaijan[3].

Currently, such conflicts abound worldwide, especially in Asia and the Middle East. There is a constant confrontation between Israel and Iran, a proxy confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinians, often referred to as the epicenter of the West and East standoff. In such cases, it is necessary to select a neutral country that has experience of mediation and close and friendly relations with different civilizations culturally or religiously different-Georgia has diplomatic relations with 185 countries. Georgia’s advantage is that, despite the less good reputation of some countries in the international arena, all of them can maintain reliable trade or political relations so as not to upset the second larger, strategic allied country. Georgia is a country in the midst of opposing sides, famed for its cultural and religious diversity. Although Christianity is still dominant by number in the secular state, there are also many representatives of different religions. There are about 300 Muslim mosques in the country, here you will also meet synagogues or shrines of other religious minorities. This makes it clear that any nationality, religious beliefs or worldview in the national psychology of Georgian citizens is acceptable and respectful. The facilitator state must meet this condition unequivocally.

As I mentioned, trust-based diplomatic relations are key in the long road to solving each conflict or problem, although what else can smaller players (compared to states) do to achieve this goal?

New tools in international relations and diplomacy

The century that has passed, and especially the current one, has made it clear that diplomacy and international relations are undergoing a transformation involving the proliferation of new mechanisms, tools, processes and norms worldwide. At the initial stage – business (commerce) chambers. Various non-governmental economic organizations bring together entrepreneurs, businessmen, or investors from different countries, which further contribute to the development of interstate relations. At the next stage, international and regional organizations will present a bridge and communication channel to both societies and governments, as well as to strengthen relations between countries. The spread of capitalism and free trade through the efforts of international organizations such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the International Chamber of Commerce creates an open, market-based international economic system. This situation is mutually profitable, since high levels of trade between states reduce the risk of conflicts and the origin of hostilities. As it is known, war is the biggest impediment to receiving benefits from trade, and trade is a precursor to the country’s development. Based on the need for peace and stability, which, of course, each state has, Georgia and other non-profit international organizations aim to promote the formation of such business relations between Georgia and other countries. One of these key organizations is the Business Chamber of Asian & Gulf Countries, focused on working with the aforementioned countries.

A clear example of this is a festival called “Spring on the Silk Road”, planned for March 21, 2022, organized by the Business Chamber of Asian & Gulf Countries. Important and gratifying is the fact that the guests of the festival will be the official representatives of Silk Road countries – embassies. The event will allow the representatives of the countries to demonstrate their culture, economic potential, share with each other future plans and opportunities for cooperation between the countries.

Although my blog didn’t come up a little, it went long, but I hope you still remember the first question asked by me: “and yet, why should we be interested in a small state named “Georgia”? – The answer is extensive, and the arguments are numerous, but succinctly so I can answer for myself: this country will give every person the opportunity to make their own, yet unfulfilled, or future plans; adventurous tourists will discover many interesting and low-budget places, starting with UNESCO World Heritage sites, ending with the beautiful resorts of winter and summer; diplomats and politicians can take advantage of Georgia’s geopolitical location and use it for their benefit, citing mutual benefit, while investors are interested in and explore the cheap and free business environment and many opportunities in Georgia. A small country located between Europe and Asia, the Christian and Muslim worlds has always been a vital link physically, economically or intellectually for East and West. With global trade and new markets emerging in Central Asia, Georgia could become a key factor in the exchange of goods, human resources, or information between East and West. Georgia itself is ready to develop itself with its natural, agrarian or human resources and contribute to the improvement of the world formation.

Author: David Tsirdava


[1]   https://en.wikipedia.org/

[2] http://www.economy.ge/?

[3] https://www.euractiv.com/, https://imedinews.ge/

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