The countries had close ties during the Soviet era, now is time to resume it, as Georgia can offer useful experience for Ukraine and together the countries can work to acknowledge the “aggressor” internationally.
Kyiv, October 5, 2016. Warm relations between Ukraine and Georgia have remained unchanged regardless of the countries’ policies. However, there is no clear understanding of what is behind these warm relations, what interests both states pursue. Ukrainian priorities include support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity and European integration, as well as the transit potential of Georgia. The latter expects strengthening of security and economic cooperation, increase of Ukrainian investment. This opinion was voiced by experts at a discussion held at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
Ukraine lags behind
According to Daria Gaiday, analyst of the Institute of World Policy, Georgia and Ukraine began to move along the European integration path together, but currently their ways have diverged: Georgia is ahead of Ukraine in pace of reforms and transition to the NATO standards. Ukraine is constantly forced to catch up. “Batch approach when Ukraine and Georgia lobbied necessary decisions together is a thing of the past. Ukraine is constantly catching up, and Georgia cannot always wait. And Georgia was the most active advocate for Ukraine to become a regional leader, to be a coordinator of the countries that signed the Association Agreement,” says Ms. Gaiday.
The present ties between the two countries base on things that have existed since Soviet times. Earlier, student and youth exchanges contributed to the fact that many Georgian officials and businessmen were trained in Ukraine. “Now they reoriented to the EU and the US. Although relations are warm, this estrangement will influence future bilateral relations,” noted Ms. Gaiday. According to her, Ukraine should use Georgia’s transit potential to the full. This can help to solve the problem of Russia blocking Ukrainian exports and join the new Silk Road. It is also necessary to continue studying Georgia’s experience of reforms and policy concerning temporarily occupied territories. Georgia needs mutual support in the international arena, more active security position of Ukraine in the Black Sea region, its more active role in developing a strategy and joint actions.
According to Andriy Melnychuk, Deputy Director of International Cooperation Department, Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, Ukraine and Georgia lack joint economic projects. “We have good political relations and relationship between nations, but no concrete economic projects. Without them, relations cannot develop further. We have a great opportunity with the Silk Road. We must use it,” he stressed.
According to Mikheil Ukleba, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Georgia to Ukraine, Georgia like no other country understands what painful experiences Ukraine goes through. “We have been at war with Russia since 1992. We also are going through these painful experiences, and supporting Ukraine. We understand it like no other country. We can offer our heavy, “negative”, but very important experience: internally displaced persons, communication with the occupied territories, international format of negotiations,” noted the Ambassador. According to him, now the border razor wire fence separates Georgia from the occupied territories. 35 rounds of the Geneva format negotiations have been held without any tangible results. Now the countries have a different format of negotiations at the level of government representatives. “We do not touch the sore spots. Instead, we discuss such current important issues as transport, travel, trade,” informed Mr. Ukleba. Besides, the boundary line is monitored by the EU. The Ambassador called this decision very important, but stressed that the conflict lasts for over 20 years. He also noted that Georgia managed to quickly redirect their exports. For example, now the country is exporting water and wine to 42 countries. “The world did not shudder with horror in 2008. We have to combine our efforts in the international arena for the world to recognize aggressor an aggressor,” added Igor Roman, representative of the Second European Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.
President Poroshenko has never come to visit Georgia, while the Georgian President has visited Ukraine twice. According to Hvychi Meparishvili, Chairman of the group on interparliamentary relations with Georgia, the problem is also the fact that Ukraine has not assigned its ambassador to Georgia. He expressed hope that the parliamentary elections held on October 8 and the further formation of the government will give new impetus to bilateral cooperation.