The Importance of Regional Cooperation between Georgia and Switzerland 

Op-ed of Mr. Irakli Kurashvili, Ambassador of Georgia to the Swiss Confederation and Principality of Liechtenstein

It is a great honor and privilege to be the first Georgian Ambassador the Swiss Confederation with residence in the Federal city of Bern. When in 2012 we first opened the Embassy in Bern, it gave a beginning to a much deeper cooperation in many new fields beyond the existing excellent and solid political relations between two countries based on mutual trust and respect.

I will not speak here about the Swiss mediation between Georgia and Russia, which is done by Switzerland with utmost professionalism or talk about the visits of highest representatives of the Georgian and Swiss Governments. Instead, I would like to say a few words about an important new dimension of our daily work at the Embassy in Bern: establishing and strengthening cooperation between Georgian regions and cities with the Swiss Cantons and cities.

Switzerland takes world's 6-th place in the foreign direct investment (FDI). To attract and encourage Swiss investments to Georgia is one of the main directions in the Embassy’s current agenda. Important key in this process, in my opinion, lies in cantons that are the main source of income and wealth in Switzerland. The Swiss Confederation is composed of 26 cantons, which have a large degree of autonomy and competencies in all areas except Foreign Affairs, Defense and Security. During the last two years I paid official visits to 14 Swiss cantons. I was very pleased to discoverer that there are plenty of areas in each of those cantons for Georgia to gain knowledge and benefit from. In particular I would underline local administration and governance, environment, renewal energy, protection of cultural monuments and education.

I am very delighted to announce that the cooperation between regions has started to bring its first real results. In 2014 delegations from Kvareli (Kakheti), Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti and National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation paid working visits to several Swiss regions. In 2015 Deputy Mayor of Tbilisi paid an official visit to Bern. In September 2015 the Mayor of Telavi will visit the city of Lausanne (Capital of the main wine producer Canton of Vaud) representatives of the Municipalities of Gori and Kaspi will visit the Canton of Thurgau, main producer-canton in the Swiss fruit industry. In September 2015 the representatives of the Government of the Canton of Schaffhausen together with the local entrepreneurs-potential investors will visit the region of Kakheti. These processes also help to enhance awareness of Georgia in particular Cantons as well as in the whole of Switzerland.

The excellent political relations between Georgia and Switzerland, the investment protection agreement between our two countries signed in 2014 and intensified visits and contacts between our regions could be a very fruitful combination in order to make the Georgian-Swiss cooperation even stronger and sustainable in the future.