Finland Remains a Great Supporter of Georgia’s Fundamental Interests

Embassy of Georgia to the Republic of Finland Brief overview of the State of affairs in bilateral cooperation between Georgia and Finland (August 2015)

Bilateral relations between Georgia and Finland are being developed in a dynamic way. Several visits of representatives of legislative as well as executive branches of both countries took place within the recent year. The scope of such visits has widened significantly. It comprises political cooperation, economic partnership, investment opportunities, sharing experience in education, culture, sports, tourism, humanitarian activities and etc.

Finland remains a great supporter of Georgia’s fundamental interests at all levels. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland visited Tbilisi in September 2014, the State Minister of Georgia on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration visited Finland twice in October 2014 and May 2015, delegations from the Parliament of Georgia arrived in Helsinki in May 2014 and later in July 2015. Finland declares its strong support to Georgia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and our Government’s policy of non-recognition of occupied territories. It has always been actively involved in mediating peaceful resolution of territorial conflicts in Georgia and currently has Finnish national representing UN Secretary-General in the Geneva talks. Finland finds it significant to demonstrate its unwavering commitment to support the rights of IDPs to safely return to their homes in the occupied Abkhazia/Georgia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Georgia and the necessity of respecting human rights situation in these territories; therefore the Finnish Government has condemned the so called “treaties on integration and strategic partnership” signed between the Russian Federation and Sukhumi /Tskhinvali separatist regimes. Since the Russian aggression against Georgia in 2008 Finland has become one of the greatest contributors in EUMM in Georgia maintaining significant number of observers on the ground.

Sharing the longest border with the Russian Federation among the EU countries and having a long history of Co-existence with the common neighbor, Finland is among those who clearly understand the importance of advocating Georgia’s European aspirations, particularly within the democratic reforms in the Eastern Partnership area. The Parliament of Finland ratified the Association Agreement between Georgia and the EU in an expected timeframe that was before the 2015 EaP Riga Summit. In order to obtain visa free regime with the EU experts from Finland are giving Georgian authorities valuable recommendations for successful implementation of Visa Liberalization Action Plan. More specialists from Finland are getting interested in providing capacity building services via EU’s institutional development programs TWINNING/TAIEX.

Close political cooperation between our countries plays a significant role in bringing our nations closer to each other. Number of articles about Georgia published in local media helps to raise the awareness of Finnish society about our region. Local Think Tanks are quite active in contributing to this process. In 2015 Finnish Institute of International Affairs has dedicated several essays to recent developments around Georgia while the Aleksanteri Institute of the Helsinki University published a book “„The South Caucasus beyond Borders, Boundaries and Division Lines (Conflicts, Cooperation and Development)“ including several Articles about Georgia; Finnish broadcasting companies almost every month offer different programs about our country to the local population; number of Finnish tourist companies announcing outgoing tours to Georgia started to increase.

Nevertheless, the potential which exists leaves a lot to be desired. First Deputy Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs of Georgia visited Helsinki in April, 2015 to learn about the experience of Finland in promoting sports and youth activities. Similarly, the Deputy Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia discussed the issues of common interest with Finnish counterparts at the Ministry of Agriculture of Finland in February, 2015. Telia Sonera remains the only largest company with the participation of Finnish capital in the Georgian market; however, entering into force of the framework agreement between the Government of Georgia and Nordic Environmental Financial Corporation (NEFCO) in September, 2014 gives a strong signal and opportunities to Finnish entrepreneurs. NEFCO representatives made several field visits to Georgia which was followed by the decision to enter Georgia with particular interest to finance environmental projects including those within E5P initiative. The first project of NEFCOs financial participation is expected to start soon.

Concrete steps have been made towards intensification of cooperation with Finnish export and investment promotion company Finpro. The Finnish side was requested to consider the possibility of staring the project in Georgia aimed at developing law budget hotels in our country. We express hope that in response to current developments related to sanctions against Russia Finnish businesses will seize the new opportunities to end up in the Georgian market soon.