Swiss in Georgia Celebrate National Day of Switzerland

High-ranking politicians, diplomats, businesspeople, NGOs, media, lobbyists and other enablers were all present at an official reception held at Otium restaurant on August 1 to celebrate the Swiss national day. It’s been 727 years (and still going strong) since the three alpine cantons, Uri, Schwyz and Unterwald swore a solemn oath giving birth to the Swiss Confederation. Over these centuries, the world saw Switzerland transform itself from being the chief supplier of Medieval Europe with elite mercenary troops to a country that is almost eponymous with success, stability and welfare and which has trademarked notions like neutrality, confederation and direct democracy, and, lest we forget, the most secure and well-oiled banking system in the world.

“Today, we celebrate the 727nd birthday of the Swiss Confederation and the 170th anniversary of Switzerland’s first federal constitution which established a modern federal state. This year, Georgia commemorates the establishment of the first Democratic Republic of Georgia a hundred years ago, and in light of the Swiss experience, I dare to say that fundamental republican principles are a recipe for success. They inspire and underpin Switzerland’s continued support to Georgia on its way towards democratic nation-building, rule of law, peace and prosperity. Georgia’s freedom and well-being is close to our hearts and minds, as symbolized by the flags of our countries,” said His Excellency, Lukas Beglinger, Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia, in his welcoming speech at the reception, after musician David Archvadze and trio Hangebi, responsible for musical accompaniment, provided a delightful rendition of the two countries’ anthems.

“Regrettably, this year also marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic events of the 2008 August war,” he added, reminding us that the path of conflict transformation, reconciliation and peace-building in the South Caucasus region is an arduous task. The Swiss have been instrumental in conflict transformation, reconciliation and peace-building activities, as, since 2009, the country has stood as the appointed mediator in regulating the conflict between Georgia and Russia, taking on a protecting power mandate after the two countries broke off diplomatic relations. Switzerland is also host to meetings where all interested sides discuss security-related issues and humanitarian needs of the conflict-affected population, as the OSCE and UN led Geneva Talks bring them (with the US also present and involved) to the negotiations table four times a year.

The economic development has been steady between the two countries, as the Swiss try to bring over their famed know-how of the agriculture and mountain resort businesses. Economics and trade are yet another sector where Switzerland has put on the mediator’s mantle between Russia and Georgia, as it was the Swiss-brokered deal that saw the two countries reach a consensus over Russia’s eventual accession to the WTO. Other than that, Swiss investors and companies contribute to creating work places in Georgia, establishing quality standards and providing trainings- a very welcome trend that was deservedly underlined by the Ambassador.

The Ambassador’s remarks were echoed in the speech delivered by the Minister of the Foreign Affairs of Georgia, David Zalkaliani, who noted how multi-layered the partnership between the two countries is, praising the successful political, economic, interparliamentary, regional, cultural and educational cooperation between Georgia and Switzerland. The Minister also praised the ratification of the free trade area agreement between Georgia and EFTA countries, stating that it would further bolster economic ties between Switzerland and Tbilisi. Welcoming the ever-increasing numbers of Swiss companies willing to invest in Georgia, the Minister singled out a memorandum signed in June this year, according to which a Stadler factory will be built in Georgia.

“Over these years, Switzerland has been a firm supporter of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, for which we are deeply grateful,” he concluded.

The event lasted until almost midnight, with the guests feasting on a delightful fusion of Georgian and Swiss cuisine and engaging in interesting discussion and networking, with the embassy staff particularly engaged in making sure that potential collaborators wouldn’t miss each other. The media also had its hands full, as many a top level diplomat, including incumbent and former ministers, stepped in to pay homage to Switzerland, a country that according to the popular consensus, should be a model for Georgia.

By Vazha Tavberidze

02 August 2018 17:26