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Unchanged Foreign Policy of Georgia’s New MFA, Future Prospect of Georgian-Russian Relations

Published: October 15, 2012 | 10:18 am
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Maia Panjikidze: “There’s no ready-made recipe for settling relations with Russia.”

The COMMERCIAL TIMES

Candidate for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Maia Panjikidze excludes the chance of Georgia’s return on the Russian orbit. Panjikidze confirms that the country’s foreign policy will remain unchanged. MFA Candidate Russian embargo on Georgian production is one of the main issues to be discussed during the consultations on improving relations between the countries, which she plans to settle through economic and cultural spheres.

- As a future MFA, how do you see the development of Georgian-Russian trade relations? Today, Russian market is closed for Georgian production because of the embargo. Do you plan to work on returning local production to the Russian?

- First of all, it should be noted, that our coalition is known for unity and no decision is made unilaterally. We try to gather competent persons around particular issue, people who have relative experience and concrete view on subject solution. The question you asked, is not the prerogative of MFA only, many other bodies should be involved in it. I cannot give you ready-made answers to any questions that refer to Russia. There’s no ready-made recipe for settling relations with Russia. However, certainly, consolations around this issue will be held with the future Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who is best aware of such topics. We say that Russian businessmen operate in a very friendly environment here whereas the Russian market has been closed for Georgian businessmen. One of the first and main tasks for our team will be to change this situation. However, at this point, I cannot talk about concrete steps to be made.

- As for visa regime, is it expected to restore visa-free travel to Russia?

- This issue should be made clear from Russian side. Visa-free regime for Russian citizens in Georgia is in force. We do not see relative steps made by Russia. Indeed, it is one of the main topics to be discussed. When consultations are held with Russia, at some extent, this topic will be the subject of discussion. There’s no ready-made recipe for starting relations. For the beginning we regard that cultural and economic directions are the fields where it’s easier to find a common language. Thus, relations with Russia will probably be started in terms of the two spheres. Considering that lots of our compatriots live in Russia and they are deprived of the opportunity to have normal contacts with their families in Georgia, visa regime will be one of the issues on top of the discussion agenda.

- You claim that the U.S.A remains Georgia’s top partner and say that relations with this country should be further deepened. As you also declare, it’s important to settle relations with Russia. When you’re appointed the MFA what will your first steps be?

- Georgia’s political course remains unchanged. Georgia has chosen NATO and EU as its future “family”. Nothing will be changed in this course. Georgia’s acknowledgement as a partner by the U.S.A is a big honor for our country. This partnership should be taken care of, it should be further deepened and strengthened. This is why the future Prime Minister will pay his the first official visit in Washington. This is the message for the rest of the world.

Restoring relations with Russia is essential for settling issues of Georgia’s territorial integrity. Without Russian involvement this will not happen. We have to somehow find common language with this country. However, no one should have an illusion that it will happen very soon.

- In your words, Georgia should find a common sphere of interest with Russia. In this case, what’s your view of occupied territories?

- There are some tasks that, on the first sight, seem quite difficult to be accomplished. I believe there is solution to everything. A lot can be done with good strategy, right view and correct tactic. I’m sure that the steps made by us will be reasonable. We have worldwide precedents when almost destined situations changed for good. Iron certain demolished and the Berlin Wall collapsed, which seemed impossible. Our activities may take much time, but it’s important to stick to the goal and make right steps.

- Do you exclude the chance of Georgia’s return back to CIS?

- I personally absolutely exclude Georgia’s return to CIS. In general, I exclude Georgia’s return on the Russian orbit. I have no doubts that one fine day Georgia will become the member of NATO and EU. I see no other goal for Georgia.

- In December 2011, EU launched negotiations on a deep and comprehensive free trade area with Georgia to boost the investment in the Eastern Partnership. This will facilitate their progressive integration with the EU’s Internal Market of 500 million consumers. What is your view on this subject?

- This also is the issue that cannot be defined unilaterally by me. I can draw a political and economic analysis of this subject, but it’s up to the economists to say what we have to export to the 500-million consumer market? It’s not that simple. Open market is not the job done unless you have enough production to export. Georgia’s production volume is not enough even for the local market supply. If we’ll have processing plants the country will not be depended on import. I’m not an economist, but one thing I do know that there’s no need in focusing on new markets unless the local economy is revived. This again confirms the strong linkage between internal and foreign policies.

- EU said on September 3 that talks with Georgia over Association Agreement, also including deep and comprehensive free trade agreement, as well as visa dialogue “are characterised by good progress.” What is your expectation in this regard?

- It’s an absolutely necessary issue for the development of our country. Saakashvili’s government announced that Georgia would have visa-free regime with the EU starting from next year, but it’s not true. It could be more a pre-election promise and was a big mistake to be announced. Visa-free regime with the EU is a more far perspective and we’ll continue working on this direction.

- You’re Georgia’s a former ambassador to the Netherlands. What would you say have been your top achievements by then?

- It was a very good period for me and so was the entire 16 years that I spent in diplomatic field as I gained a big experience and knowledge. My Dutch experience remains for me as the best memory, despite such ending (reportedly, Georgia’s Ambassador to Netherlands Maia Panjikidze was recalled because of the relative relationship with the leader of the Alliance for Georgia Irakli Alasania). Actually, I founded the Georgian embassy in Netherlands. I arrived there with one suitcase only, with no, no telephone, no banking account, no apartment, with nothing that is need for an embassy to function. In about a month’s time we had all that. It’s been a huge challenge for me. I always recall this period with pleasure.

Maia Panjikidze looks forward to start working in a new amplua, she does not make predictions and says will talk about recalling some ambassadors and presenting new candidates afterwards.

 

 

 

 

 

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