Ambassador Beruchashvili on Expanding UK-Georgia Cooperation

The below article was written by Katie Ruth Davies and featured on Georgia Today on 18th September 2017.

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The major task of the Georgian Embassy to the UK, and of its ambassador, HE Tamar Beruchashvili, is to further strengthen UK-Georgia cooperation by promoting joint interests, increasing awareness of opportunities in Georgia, expanding existing institutional and strategic partnerships, and intensifying political dialogue and cooperation in the fields of defense and security, as well as economy and people-to-people relations.

GEORGIA TODAY met with Ambassador Beruchashvili for our annual catch-up to summarize her past year of work and to look at what’s ahead.

2017 marks 25 years since the restoration of Diplomatic Relations between Georgia and the UK. It is a year in which the Ambassador was selected by Diplomat Magazine as a Diplomat of the Year for her achievements, something generally unknown in the first years of a diplomatic position. “The recognition of my peers in the vibrant, experienced and hard-working diplomatic community is a great honor for me,” she tells us. “It’s been a very exciting year,” she adds. “A very fruitful year with the Embassy actively contributing to the new dynamism of the UK-Georgia relations”.

Politics

The issue of territorial integrity and continuous Russian occupation is high on the UK- Georgia political dialogue on bilateral as well as multilateral formats.

Thanks to the work of the Georgian Embassy, the human rights situation in Georgia’s occupied regions was for the first time included in the UK FCO’s annual Human Rights and Democracy Report for 2016, published on July 20. In its section on the Russian Federation, the document speaks of grave violation of the human rights situation in Georgia’s occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions.

On defense cooperation, the UK continues assistance to improve Georgia’s military resilience within the framework of the Action Plan that will be signed during forthcoming visit of Minister Ixoria to London. The partners will also continue to build on the success of Exercise Noble Partner 17, which increased the scope of cooperation and improved interoperability.

With Brexit ever in the background, the teams of both countries are already planning to explore potential changes to the bilateral agreement framework, though nothing can be confirmed until 2019. Until then, the Strategic cooperation goes on.

The Wardrop Strategic Dialogue will be held in October this year, its first time in London since being upgraded to a Strategic level. “We expect a big delegation from various ministries and agencies in Lancaster House,” Beruchashvili tells us. “Georgia needs strong support and the engagement of the UK today in all our directions of cooperation”.

The Georgian high-level delegation will be headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mikheil Janelidze, while the head of the UK delegation will be Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Within the framework of the Dialogue, four panel discussions are planned: Political, Defense and Security, Economics and Trade, People-to-People contacts and Culture.

Culture & Society

The Ambassador tells us that opening up the Embassy premises for book presentations, talks by filmmakers, and lectures by students and other members of the Diaspora, has made her workplace a more open and attractive meeting spot for those with an interest in Georgia. “We try to generate this interest among various layers of society, to promote Georgian culture among the British people and make them familiar with our centuries’ long cultural heritage. We also persist with our popular ‘Wine Table’ meeting format- wine and khajapuri enjoyed over talks about business, politics, the economy, security and culture. It’s important to have regular meetings, not only for stock-taking but to discuss new approaches and to make use of the opportunities of our strategic partnership to activate different dimensions of our cooperation at all levels, from parliamentary, to business and experience-sharing,” she says.

One year ago, the Embassy and British Library teamed up to plan an event which will take place this September 30 in the British Library, an event for some 350 attendees which will open the Sound Festival. Georgia will be represented there by the Rustavi Ensemble, singing not only songs from its own polyphonic repertoire, but also a number of those recorded over a century ago by Gramophone. “The British Library shelters not only Georgian books and unique manuscripts but also such recordings,” Beruchashvili says. “Before the concert, a seminar will be held by British musicologists, the rector of the Georgian conservatoire, singer Katie Melua, and representatives of the supporting Georgian Chanting Foundation. Georgian polyphony past and present will be the theme of the seminar, with a presentation of the audio archives. Georgian wine, of course, will also be served,” she says.

“I’m delighted to see the number of articles being written on Georgian food- almost weekly, and the number of books being printed on the theme,” Beruchashvili says. “It has become quite trendy to speak about Georgian cuisine, culture and values!”

Her efforts in this direction led to the opening this week of Georgian Food Week at the UK Parliament, with the canteen chef at Westminster offering traditional Georgian food to parliamentarians in ‘A Taste Adventure to Georgia’.

Ambassador Beruchashvili and Jonathan Djanogly, MP, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Georgia, met last Tuesday to open the Feast.

“Currently there is serious excitement in the UK media about Georgian wine, food, tourism and culture. Georgia is better known to the British citizens and I am proud to note that the Georgian embassy made its contribution to that success through organizing a series of talks, roundtables, exhibitions, various promotional events.”

On June 15, the Ambassador participated in Georgian Wine Tasting for importers by masters of wine Sarah Abbott and Robert Joseph in cooperation with the National Wine Agency of Georgia and the Embassy of Georgia. Over 100 types of Georgian wine were presented at the Masterclass on Saperavi, called WhatSap.

The wine documentary ‘Prime Meridian of Wine,’ dedicated to 8000 years of winemaking in Georgia, will be screened at the EBRD Headquarters on October 5, presented by director Nana Jorjadze, one of Georgia’s leading filmmakers and a Cannes’ laureate. Famous British wine experts Hugh Jonson and Steven Spurrier, who featured in the movie, will also speak at the event, followed by a Georgian wine tasting and reception. “We want to promote Georgian wine, and Georgia itself as an ancient winemaking country, to a wider audience in London, including representatives of the UK government agencies, parliament, diplomatic corps and the Georgian community.

In November, the Embassy, in cooperation with Asia House, is planning an evening dedicated to celebration of the 125th birthday anniversary of Georgian poet Galaktion Tabidze. “Professor, translator and Head of the Byron Society Georgia, Innes Merabishvili, will give a talk on his life and poetry,” the Ambassador tells us. Her translation of Galaktion’s poetry from Georgian into English has been published several times in the UK and a new edition will be launched at the event.

Beyond London

“This year we further explored opportunities to take Georgia’s message beyond London,” the Ambassador says. A visit to Wales saw the Embassy delegation meeting Welsh government representatives, chambers of commerce and universities, the latter being the Ambassador’s “special focus” for cooperation with Georgia. This week she is set to visit Scotland for the same reason.

Last week also brought the visit to Tbilisi of Alderman Derek Pickup, Honorary Consul of Georgia for South West England (the Honorary Consulate will be officially opened soon), First Guardian of Tbilisi and Chair of the Bristol -Tbilisi Association. He is joined by Stephen Fear, Founder and Chairman of the Fear Group to explore investment opportunities in the field of tourism, infrastructure, housing and agriculture. Paul Hinchcliffe of the Bristol Business School, University of West England, also joined the group, looking into establishing new university connections, with meetings planned at the Ilia and Tbilisi State universities.

Twin Cities are something else the Ambassador has her eye on. In May, together with the Newport- Kutaisi Association, the Embassy organized the visit of the Mayor of Kutaisi and his team to Newport to further develop partnership in different fields in renewed interest of cooperation between universities, supporting sports teams, experience-sharing at the level of local government on urban planning, financial management and education.

Ahead is the jubilee event of the annual Georgian Studies Day in Westminster University established 30 years ago by Dr. Tamar Dragadze, “a very active member of the Georgian community”. This year’s theme will be ‘Georgia’s European Way, Challenges & Opportunities’ that will bring together practitioners, scholars, diplomats and many friends of Georgia.

Business

“We aim to do much more in the fields of trade, business and investment, working with various chambers, business associations, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD),” the Ambassador tells us.

On November 20, the ‘Outlook Georgia’ conference, a “full-scale presentation of Georgia’s economic reforms and investment opportunities” will be held at the EBRD Headquarters in partnership with ‘Emerging Europe’ for the London-based business community. “Georgia having such an extensive reform agenda and as a genuine success story with more than 200 EBRD projects amounting to almost €3 billion investment, is an excellent message for other investors,” the Ambassador says.

Tourism is one of the most important and fastest-growing sectors in Georgia. The number of visitors from the UK to Georgia is growing steadily each year, with a 30% increase this year alone. “We do our best to promote Georgia as a tourist destination,” the Ambassador says.

Georgia annually participates in the World Travel Market of London, one of the biggest international travel markets of the world. This year, the event will take place on November 6-8 and the National Tourism Agency of Georgia, together with the Department of Tourism and resorts of Adjara.

The Embassy of Georgia, Georgian Airways and British Georgian Chamber of Commerce also celebrated the new direct flights from Tbilisi to London that are expected to facilitate “more trade, more tourism and more business”.

It is clear the Ambassador works tirelessly for the interests of Georgia in the UK, covering all sectors, and is deservedly recognized by the diplomatic corps for doing so. Her sleeves are still rolled up for the ever-rewarding task of broadening UK-Georgia cooperation. As she says, “The deep-rooted bond of friendship and Strategic Partnership between Georgia and the United Kingdom can draw its strength from shared values of democracy, freedom and peace as well as from our joint efforts towards global security. I am honored to contribute and build further upon this solid foundation”.

The original article was written by Katie Ruth Davies and featured on Georgia Today on 18th September 2017.

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