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Georgia can rely on our full support to strengthen its relationship with NATO, the German Ambassador says

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, October 5
Georgia has a new female German Ambassador, Bettina Cadenbach, who replaced Ambassador Ortwin Hennig in the position after five years of serving in Georgia. HE Cadenbach has been in our country since July 2015 and consented to grant an exclusive interview to The Messenger.

How would you assess current Georgian-German relations?

Georgian-German relations are excellent. We have close political relations. We share strong cultural ties that have grown over the past centuries. Take for example the German settlers who came to Georgia at the beginning of the 19th century and who left a lasting legacy – among other things – in Georgian architecture and arts. Another example of our close cultural and academic ties are the approximately 2,300 Georgian students who are currently studying at German universities. The German business community in Georgia is very active. The German business club has already over 150 members; bilateral trade grew by 2.4 % last year. Another sector is development cooperation. Together with our Georgian partners we implement a variety of joint projects, especially in the areas of sustainable economic development, energy and environment, and governance. Since establishing bilateral diplomatic relations in 1992, Germany has supported Georgia with approximately 700 million Euros. Just last week, we agreed on providing up to 156.3 million Euros more over the coming two years – a clear sign of our strong commitment to supporting Georgia on its way closer to the European Union. Additionally, the Embassy every year finances up to ten projects in the fields of culture and human rights. We are also very active in the field of rule of law. It goes without saying that I hope to continue all of these activities.

How can our countries cooperate more effectively in the future?

Georgia and Germany are already cooperating quite effectively. Take our development cooperation: The overwhelming majority of projects are being implemented with tangible results – the renewal of the water supply and sewage system of Batumi, the rehabilitation of the electric sub-station in Zestaponi or the support of the protected areas in Javakheti, Borjomi-Kharagauli and Vashlovani come to mind. In security policy Georgian and German soldiers support Afghan security forces. Germany takes a leading role in the implementation of the Substantial NATO Georgia Package that was agreed upon at the NATO summit in Wales. Maybe we – Germans and Georgians – could be even more active in communicating the wide scope of our cooperation.

Do you believe that Georgia is ready to be granted visa-free travel within the European Union?

The EU Commission just this week sent four teams to Georgia to assess progress in the areas that had previously been identified as requiring further modification. Now we have to wait for the Commission’s final report which is scheduled for mid-December.

Can the current migrant crisis affect Georgia’s visa-liberation chances?

The refugee crisis and Georgia’s possible visa liberalization are two different issues. The majority of the people coming to Europe these days are refugees fleeing from unstable countries and regions that are in a state of civil war. Another group are migrants who leave their home countries because they, as a rule, seek a better economic perspective. Both are unrelated to the regular travel activities that are at the heart of the visa-free regime being discussed with Georgia. In practical terms, visa liberalization means that Georgian citizens entering the Schengen area with the purpose of conducting business, as tourists or for visits, will not need a visa if they intend to stay up to 90 days within a timeframe of half a year. If Georgian citizens want to migrate to any country of the Schengen area, they will still need to apply for a visa and obtain a residence permit.

What will be the German position concerning Georgia's chances of gaining MAP at the Warsaw Summit?

At the last NATO summit in Wales Georgia and NATO jointly developed a package of twelve projects. This so-called “Substantial NATO Georgia Package” is currently being implemented in Georgia with the support of all NATO members, including Germany’s.

NATO member’s support ranges from military planning processes to founding a school for Defense Institution Building, DIB. All activities in the framework of the Substantial NATO Georgia Package are coordinated by a core-team in Georgia which is led by German colonel Thorsten Kohler. Germany is also leading the project-team in charge of planning and establishing the DIB.

Georgia can continue to rely on our full support to further strengthen its relationship with NATO.

Do you believe that if MAP is granted it could create further threats from Russia for Georgia?

The prospect of Georgia’s close association with NATO that has been decided upon in Bucarest in 2008 is not aimed against Russia or against any other third party. The already existing cooperation between NATO and Georgia contributes to our shared security and to the stability of the region.

What advice would you give to the current Government of Georgia?

I haven’t been here long enough to claim comprehensive knowledge of the complexities of Georgian politics. Georgia defines its strategic future by its commitment to Euro Atlantic integration. Further interoperability through implementation of the Substantial NATO Georgia Package is an important element in this respect. Another, equally important element derives from the values that are at the core of the Alliance – as well as of the European Union – such as democratic procedures and institutions. Georgia is without doubt a democratic country that is in the process of further developing and reforming its core institutions and mechanisms of citizen participation in political decisions, thus filling the idea of democracy with life. The history of our parliamentary system after the end of World War II has shown that the democratic process can gain a lot from an active dialogue between different parties, be they in the ruling coalition, or in the opposition. From my experience in Georgia so far, there seems to be room to explore the possibilities of enhancing such a dialogue to the benefit of the democratic process.