Swiss National Day Celebrated in Tbilisi

Swiss National Day was celebrated with an official reception held at Otium restaurant, Tbilisi, on August 1. The day also marked the 25th anniversary of Swiss-Georgian diplomatic relations and saw foreign diplomats, Georgian government officials and representatives of international organizations gathered at the event.

“Today, we celebrate the 726th birthday of the Swiss Confederation. But this is also an occasion to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Georgia: 25 years of close and successful partnership, marked by mutual sympathy, respect and trust,” Lukas Beglinger, Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia said in his welcoming speech at the reception, expressing his gratitude to the Georgian authorities, fellow citizens and international partners who, as he noted, “contributed in the past two and a half decades to developing Swiss-Georgian relations and supporting Georgia’s way forward in its quest for democratic nation-building, rule of law, peace and prosperity”.

The Ambassador went on to note that Georgia can continue to count on Switzerland’s sympathy and active support, as the two countries maintain strong bilateral relations across various fields and “have a lot to share”. He underlined the fact that the Swiss Cooperation program in Georgia is aimed at maintaining tangible results in promoting agricultural production and public services locally. The active contribution from Swiss companies and investors to Georgia’s development in creating work places, establishing quality standards and providing trainings, as well as international outreach and innovation, was also underlined by Ambassador Beglinger. “Switzerland is committed to contributing to conflict transformation, reconciliation and peace-building in the South Caucasus region, in addition to protecting power mandates on behalf of Georgia and of the Russian Federation”.

The evening then continued with the address of Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia.

“Our partnership is growing stronger in all dimensions; covering political, economic, and cultural, and all other fields,” the PM said, adding that Georgia is to host Doris Leuthard, President of the Swiss Confederation, in December this year and on September 1, the Free Trade Agreement with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) will come into force. “While trade, business and investments are very important to Georgia, as are Swiss relations, the cooperation between the two countries extends well beyond that,” he said.

“Georgia, like Switzerland, has a huge heritage in its mountains, in fact, we can safely say our mountainous regions are a real treasure trove of Georgian culture and traditions, and I’m delighted that Georgia is closely cooperating with experts from Switzerland and will soon be able to benefit from Switzerland’s extensive experience to keep our mountain region heritage sustainable,” the Prime Minister said, going on to point to the fact that Switzerland, with only 8 million citizens, is one of the most developed and richest countries, boasting some of the world’s largest financial capitals, Zurich and Geneva, a global hub for doing business and in many ways a role model for Georgia.

“Like Switzerland, we would like to transform our country into a regional hub for doing business and attract global investments. I’m pleased to say that Georgia is already safely set on this track,” Kvirikashvili said, adding that Switzerland has been “instrumental in promoting peaceful resolution of the conflict in Georgia”.

In an exclusive comment to GEORGIA TODAY, Mr. Max Blauenstein, a businessman from Switzerland who established a modern, Swiss-quality farm in the Racha region together with his Georgian buisness partner Irakli Kervalishvili back in 2008, which isnow a successful venture producing fresh meat and meat products, said, “Our cultures and mentalities are very alike. Together with my friend, who himself comes from Racha, we decided to do something for farmers there and came up with the idea of setting up the farm. We are very satisfied with the results and we’re still investing: the quality is very high, the people working for us have high skills now and it’s a pleasure to work with them.” The future plans, he says, involve founding schools for butcher-farmers and cheese-makers in Georgia, as well as retraining paravets.

“Georgia is a typical agricultural country and it needs development to be able to produce good quality and healthy products,” Blauenstein said. “It takes a lot of work for the people in the countryside and makes the countryside more viable to live in. In Racha, only a few people were living there year-round: now there are hundreds. Add to that the fact that tourism is developing really well- more and more people are coming to Georgia: I even had a hard time finding a hotel room as everything was booked up!”

Since 1991, following recognition of Georgia’s independence, Switzerland has maintained successful diplomatic relations with it as an active partner, cooperating in economic, educational, cultural, research and innovation areas. In 2016, Switzerland was Georgia’s nineteenth commercial partner, worth $124 million in trade, making up 1.32 percent of Georgia’s total trade, while Swiss exports to Georgia amounted to $42 million, and exports from Georgia to Switzerland made $82 million, according to the latest figures. Swiss Humanitarian Aid has been present and active in Georgia throughout the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Switzerland has stood as the appointed mediator in regulating the conflict between Georgia and Russia since 2009.

Nino Gugunishvili

03 August 2017 20:44