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Estonia and Georgia

07.03.2013

Georgia recognized the restored Republic of Estonia on 27 August 1991. Diplomatic relations between the Republic of Estonia and the Republic of Georgia were established on 17 June 1992.

On 10 September 2012 Estonian Ambassador to Georgia Priit Turk presented his credentials to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. The Estonian Embassy in Tbilisi was opened in December of 2006. Georgia opened its embassy in Tallinn in April 2007. The Georgian Ambassador Ruslan Abašidze presented his credentials to President of the Republic Toomas Hendrik Ilves on 28 May 2009.

Relations with Georgia are a foreign policy priority for Estonia, and Estonia’s political support for the country has been consistent. Estonia supports Georgia’s territorial integrity and is contributing to rebuilding Georgia after the war.

As an EU member state, Estonia was in support of the Eastern Partnership initiative, which went underway in the first half of 2009 and gave Georgia additional integration opportunities with the EU. Within the framework of Eastern Partnership and the Association Agreement, Georgia has the opportunity to conclude a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU. Georgia is interested in Estonia’s expertise and experiences in both the free trade and agricultural realms.

Georgia-NATO relations began in 1992 when Georgia joined the North Atlantic Co-operation Council (now the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council), and from that point on Georgia has tied itself more and more closely to the alliance: in 1994 it joined the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme; in 2004 Georgia began to fulfil a NATO Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP); in 2008 the NATO-Georgia Commission was created. One important milestone in Georgia’s security policy aspirations was NATO’s Bucharest summit in April 2008, where in the final communiqué a clearly worded membership promise was achieved and Intensified Dialogues began with Georgia and Ukraine.

Georgia submitted its application for membership in the Council of Europe in 1996. Georgia joined the Council during Estonia's Presidency, on 27 April 1999.

Estonia has been prepared to share its reform experiences through development co-operation projects. Georgia has been and will remain in the near future the recipient of the largest portion of Estonia’s bilateral aid and one of four development co-operation priority countries, along with Ukraine, Moldova and Afghanistan. Many development co-operation projects have been carried out or are currently being carried out—some which can be highlighted are the training of Georgian police officers, state officials, young diplomats and college students, the reform of vocational education, and projects improving the administrative capabilities of the state. Estonia is prepared to introduce its experiences in the agricultural sector, which has low productivity in Georgia.

Visits

to Georgia
September 2012 Minister of Defence Urmas Reinsalu
September 2012 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
April 2012 Commander of the Estonian Defense Forces Riho Terras
January 2012 Riigikogu Speaker Ene Ergma
October 2011 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
July 2011 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
May 2011  Minister of Social Affirs Hanno Pevkur
October 2010 Minister of Regional Affairs Siim Kiisler
September 2010 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet
November 2009 Minister of Economic Affairs Juhan Parts together with business delegation
November 2009 Minister of Interior Marko Pomerants
June 2009 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet together with business delegation
August 2008 Foreign Minister Urmas Paet relief trip to Georgia
August 2008 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves relief trip to Georgia
February 2008 Prime Minister Andrus Ansip
January 2008 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves participated in the ceremony of President M. Saakashvili assuming office
October 2007 Defence Minister Jaak Aaviksoo
September 2007 Chairman of the Riigikogu Ene Ergma
May 2007 President Toomas Hendrik Ilves

 

to Estonia
January 2013 Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze
November 2012 Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Alexi Petriashvili
October 2012 Foreign Minister Gregory  Vašadze
March 2012 Foreign Minister Gregory  Vašadze
August 2011 Minister of Social Affirs Andria Urushadze
October 2010 Minister of Education Dimitri Shashkini
September 2010 Minister of the Interior Ivane Merabišvili
January 2010 President Mikhail Saakashvili
September 2009 Prime Minister Nikoloz Gilauri
August 2009 Foreign Minister Gregory Vašadze
May 2009 Minister of Economic Affairs and Development Laša Žvania
February 2009 Speaker of the Parliament David Bakradze
October 2008 Foreign Minister Eka Tkešelašvili
March 2008 Prime Minister Vladimer Gurgenidze
March 2007 State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Giorgi Baramidze

 

Agreements

The agreement basis between Estonia and Georgia is as follows:

  • Agreement on Economic- and Culture-related Co-operation (came into force 27 Nov 1990);
  • Protocol on Co-operation between the Ministries of Internal Affairs (came into force 24 Apr 1992);
  • Protocol on Co-operation between the Foreign Ministries (signed 19 May 1994);
  • The Agreement on Customs Co-operation and Mutual Assistance (signed 22 Aug 2000);
  • The Memorandum on Co-operation between the Foreign Ministries (signed on 5 Oct 2000);
  • Joint Declaration by President of the Republic of Estonia Arnold Rüütel and President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili (came into force 12 Oct 2004);
  • Agreement on Co-operation in Culture, Education, Research, Youth Activities and Sports (came into force 21 Feb 2005);
  • Mutual Understanding Memorandum on Temporary Business Trip Rules for the Civil Security Advisor between the Ministry of Defence of Georgia and the Ministry of Defence of Estonia (came into force 16 Apr 2005);
  • Agreement on Customs Co-operation and Mutual Assistance (came into force 12.07.2005);
  • Agreement Allowing Georgian Government to Use Free of Charge the Estonian-made Computer-based Simulator System for Training Officials (came into force 09.09.2006);
  • Agreement for the Exchange and Mutual Protection of Classified Information (came into force 29.05.2007);
  • Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes in Income and on Capital (came into force 27.12.2007);
  • Agreement for the facilitation and protection of investments (signed 24.11. 2009).

Economic Relations

Despite the good political relations between Estonia and Georgia, economic relations have been quite modest. Estonia is interested in closer contacts with Georgia and in developing sales opportunities for Estonian goods in the Georgian market. As a country in the Baltic Sea economic region, Estonia is interested in transit-related co-operation with Georgia and providing services and know-how.

TRADE

Estonia-Georgia economic relations, which saw moderate growth after 2005, received a significant blow from the global economic crisis, the events of August 2008, and the 2009 street protests, and fell back down to their 2004/2005 levels. Despite all these factors, Estonian entrepreneurs still show great interest towards Georgia, which can be seen from the numerous business visits made by entrepreneurs and close contacts with the embassy. Currently investments have been made primarily in real estate and construction, but also into agriculture (wine and nut production) and retail sales. Trade between Estonia and Georgia makes up only a small part of Estonia’s total foreign trade (about 0.01%). In addition to the crisis and the armed conflict of 2008, goods trade was also affected by the lack of diversity in imports (about 70% of imports is wine and about a quarter is nuts). Since Estonia is situated far from the Georgian transit corridor, it is difficult to develop balanced foreign trade relations.

 Estonian trade with Georgia 2005-2012 (9 months) (in million euros)

  Turnover Export Import Balance
2005 3.1 0.8 2.3 -1.5
2006 2.4 0.6 1.8 -1.2
2007 3.5 2.6 0.9 1.7
2008 2.3 1.4 0.9 0.5
2009 1.9 1.1 0.8 0.3
2010 5.1 4.3 0.8 3.5
2011 4.6 3.5 1.1 2.4
2012 9months 4.9 3.2 1.7 1.5

Source: Statistical Office

Main export articles in first nine months of 2012 (% of total volume):

  • Machinery and equipment (transformers, static converters; rolling-element bearings, other equipment) - 38%
  • Transportation vehicles (railways and tram engines) - 27%
  • Wood and wood products (wooden boxes and other wooden packaging) – 16%

Main import articles in first nine months of 2012 (% of total volume):

  • Plant products (nuts, tea) - 37%
  • Precious gems, precious metals, jewellery (gold) – 32%
  • Food products and beverages (wine) - 30%

INVESTMENTS

Georgia, which belonged to the group of nations with rapid economic growth before the crisis, was an attractive destination for the investments of Estonian businesses—they did not wait for legislation protecting bilateral investments or the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty and put down their capital in real estate and the processing industry of agricultural goods (wine and nuts). After the economic crisis and the war of 2008 the rush has subsided; Estonia’s direct investment position in Georgia as of June 2012 was 2.1 million euros. The primary sectors for investments are wholesale and retail trade, trabsport and inventory, financial and insurance activity, and real estate activity. Georgian investments in Estonia are extremely modest (0.15 million euros). The main sectors for investments were real estate activity and wholesale and retail trade.

Development aid

Georgia is one of Estonia’s priority partners for development co-operation and will remain one in accordance with the Development Co-operation Action Plan for 2011-2015. During the past five years over 30 different projects have been carried out. Of the resources in the Foreign Ministry budget allocated for bilateral development co-operation, more goes to Georgia than to any other partner country (400 000 euros in the year 2012).

The Georgian strategy for the years 2012-2015 establishes four areas of co-operation:

  • Co-operation in the education sector with a focus on vocational education;
  • Support for economic development, contributions to the development of small businesses and to the growth of entrepreneurship in general;
  • Promoting good standards of governance and improving administrative capability;
  • Developing civil society.

In 2012 ten projects were chosen for funding. The development co-operation projects to begin in the fall relate to fighting cyber crime, domestic violence and protecting the rights of the weaker parties in home relations, sharing experiences with social entrepreneurship with civil society organisations, supporting the starting of businesses, helping to integrate the Armenian minority population into Georgian society, implementing food safety standards in businesses, etc.

In addition, Estonia is also supporting four micro-financing projects that deal with promoting computer courses, improving the situation of women, health care issues, and helping to re-integrate youths who were rejected from society by law.

Estonia also contributes financially to the European Union Neighbourhood Policy Investment Fund, the goal of which is to fund bigger infrastructure and environmental projects in neighbouring countries.

In the 2013/2013 academic year, the Foreign Ministry will continue supporting the studies of Georgian students in Estonian educational establishments through a scholarship programme. During this academic year there are two Georgian students studying in Estonia. In the 2011/2012 academic year there were four Georgian students studying in Estonia.

Since 2011 a new opportunity for sharing experiences has been the Estonian Centre of Eastern Partnership, which is geared towards supporting public administration reform projects in Eastern Partnership countries. The Centre provides scholarships to Georgian officials to study at the Estonian School of Diplomacy and organizes seminars for Eastern Partnership countries. In addition to Estonia, the work of the centre is also supported by Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States; the centre as also received support from the European Commission.

In 2012 a training was carried out for officials on the topics on personnel recruitment, good administration of state officials, and EU integration and international negotiations; the Georgian Foreign Ministry was given advice on its Diplomatic Training Centre; and advice was given on the organisation of the protection of intellectual property.

Cultural Relations

Cultural relations between Estonia and Georgia have traditionally been close. During the past few years several Estonian musicians have performed in Georgia and there have also been several Estonian artists´ exhibitions. In 2011 and 2012 Georgia was visited by Chamber Choir Kalev, Tallinn Old Town Mixed Choir, Tartu University Women´s Choir Tallinn´s Alumnae Choir and Chamber Choir Flora. In 2010 the Theater Endla appeared in Tbilisi with their performance “Thirst”. In the spring of 2012 Smilers and Tõnis Mägi gave concerts within the Tbilisi Music Week. In the forthcoming summer of 2013 three of Georgia´s Opera Houses from Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Batumi are performing at the Saaremaa Opera Days. In autumn 2013 an Estonian-Georgian feature “Tangerins” will be screened, which was filmed in Western Georgia, Adjaria.

Estonians in Georgia

Within the Georgian territory of Abkhazia are villages established in the 1880s by emigrants from Estonia. Best known are the villages of Ülem- and Alam-Linda, Salme, Sulev and Punase-Lageda. These settlements spurred the development of Estonian and Georgian consular relations during the pre-World War II period.

At the beginning of the 1920s, an Estonian consulate operated in Tbilisi and for a short period, vice consulates in Batum and Suchum. The consulates were closed down in 1923, because the Soviet government in Georgia withdrew its recognition of Estonian diplomats.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the situation in Abkhazia, where the Estonian villages are located, grew turbulent. Since 1992, about 500 people have been repatriated to Estonia. Solving the problems faced by the Estonians in Abkhazia is still an Estonian foreign policy issue in its relations with Georgia.

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