Last updated in October 2012
After Georgia gained independence in 1991, Germany was the first country in the European Community to recognize it under international law (on 23 March 1992). The two countries established diplomatic relations on 13 April 1992. Germany opened an embassy in Georgia in 1992, the first country to do so. Relations are close and trustful, dating back nearly 200 years to the immigration of Swabian farmers who settled there from 1817 onwards. Germany will not forget the role played in German reunification by the former Soviet Foreign Minister and later Georgian President Shevardnadse. Conversely, Germany is well liked and highly regarded in Georgia. The German Federal Government’s substantial development assistance and the wide range of cultural, academic and personal contacts are greatly esteemed in Georgian society.
As the coordinator of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Group of Friends on Georgia, Germany was for a long time closely involved in efforts to reach a peaceful settlement in the dispute with the secessionist Georgian republic of Abkhazia.
Federal Chancellor Merkel visited Tbilisi a few days after the end of the war between Georgia and Russia in August 2008. Germany was one of the first countries to provide Georgia with humanitarian aid after the war broke out. At the Brussels Donor Conference in October 2008, the Federal Government pledged EUR 33.7 million for humanitarian projects to help war victims and refugees and to support reconstruction measures in Georgia. German funding was used to build houses in Gori near South Ossetia, where 300 displaced families found a new home in autumn 2009.
Germany is actively involved in the German-headed European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia.
Within the European Union, Germany supports closer ties between Europe and Georgia and the entire region. Germany has strongly advocated including Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and has actively supported the EU’s 2009 decision to create an Eastern Partnership.
The Federal Government supports the integration of the entire region through the German Caucasus Initiative as part of German development cooperation.
Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle visited Georgia in March 2012. Federal Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Niebel was in Tbilisi in May 2012, and German Bundestag Vice-President Thierse in October 2012.
The Agreement on the Promotion and Mutual Protection of Investments, which has been in force since 27 September 1998, and the new double taxation agreement, in force since 21 December 2007, provide a sound international basis for bilateral economic exchange.
Germany is currently Georgia’s fifth largest trading partner, after Turkey, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and China. In 2011, trade between Georgia and Germany was worth EUR 480 million, a marked increase compared with the previous year (EUR 300 million), Georgian imports from Germany accounting for 70 per cent, or EUR 336 million, of this figure. The principal German exports to Georgia are cars, tobacco products and medicines. Georgia’s fairly insignificant exports to Germany consist mainly of nuts, metal goods and garments. The first half of 2012 saw a continued marked increase in bilateral trade (plus 53 per cent).
German foreign direct investment in Georgia was worth nearly USD 25 million in 2011, compared with only USD 8.4 million for the same period in 2010. German companies with production facilities in Georgia, such as HeidelbergCement, Caparol and Knauf, are mainly active in the construction sector. The German ProCredit Bank is now Georgia’s third largest bank.
The German Business Association in Georgia (DWVG), which was set up in 2007, has been instrumental in strengthening bilateral economic relations. Currently, more than 76 companies operating in Georgia are members. The DWVG offers a wide range of services for companies wishing to enter the Georgian market and organizes presentations in Germany to promote Georgia as an investment destination. It is a partner in the global network of German chambers of commerce abroad. Since 2008, it has been headed by the entrepreneur and Honorary Consul of Georgia in Munich Professor Dr. Claus Hipp.
Germany is Georgia’s principal bilateral development cooperation partner after the United States. Since 1992, it has pledged more than EUR 500 million in development assistance. Since 1993, Germany has been one of the largest investors in Georgia’s energy sector, with investments totalling more than EUR 200 million. Bilateral cooperation focuses on protecting regional biodiversity, energy supply, promoting democracy, civil society and public administration as well as sustainable economic development. Major joint projects include support of the legal and judicial system, the introduction of a land register, the strengthening of local self-government, the rehabilitation of the water supply and sanitation systems in the country’s third largest city Batumi and the setting up of the ProCredit Bank, now the country’s fourth largest bank, which provides services mainly to poorer sections of the population as well as to small and medium-sized enterprises. Germany has provided a total of EUR 100 million to finance the Black Sea Energy Transmission System, which will link Georgia’s power supply system to that of its important neighbour Turkey in particular.
Georgia and Germany have close cultural ties, with 2,500 Georgians studying in Germany and German being the first or second foreign language at a number of Georgian schools.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Germans influenced Georgian architecture and painting and occupied important positions in public life there. The geographer and naturalist Gustav Radde, for example, was in 1867 the founder-director of the Caucasian Museum, the forerunner of what is now the Georgian National Museum. The name Siemens is also closely associated with Georgia’s history and development. Besides its branches in London and St. Petersburg, Siemens had a third branch in Tbilisi. Walter Siemens, who was Acting Consul of the Tbilisi-based North German Alliance in Transcaucasia from 1861 to 1862, also built the first telegraph line between Tbilisi and Kodjori around 1860.
From 1817 onwards, German immigrants from Baden-Württemberg settled in various parts of Georgia. The German minority in Georgia still numbers around 1,500, most of them elderly people. Their interests are looked after by the Georgian Germans association ‘Einung’.
The town twinning arrangement between Tbilisi and Saarbrücken (the first with a city in the former USSR) forged a bridge between artists and scholars in the two countries in the 1970s and today covers nearly all areas of public life. At the traditional Tbilisi town festival ‘Tbilisoba’, the 30th anniversary of this partnership was celebrated in 2005. Another town twinning arrangement, in existence since 1987, is that between Telavi in eastern Georgia and Biberach/Riss.
Among the most active cultural societies devoted to fostering relations between the two countries are, on the German side, the Berlin Georgian Society and the Brandenburg-Georgian Society, and on the Georgian side, the Georgian-German Society in Tbilisi, the Georgian-German Centre in Kutaissi and the Georgian-German House in Zugdidi.
The Goethe Institute in Georgia is based in Tbilisi with a branch office in Kutaissi. The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has an office and three academic teachers working in Georgia (two in Tbilisi and one in Kutaissi). Four of Germany’s political foundations – the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation – have offices there. There are also 11 German teachers seconded by the Central Agency for Schools Abroad working at Georgian schools. Since 1999, 640 students have successfully completed the German Language Diploma Level 2 (language examination entitling successful candidates to study at a German university). There are ten partner schools for German, which – with German learners currently numbering 120,000 – is still the third most important foreign language at Georgian schools, after Russian and English. The German International School Tbilisi, comprising a kindergarten, preschool and primary school, commenced operation in September 2010. Instruction now extends to third grade and a further grade is to be added each year.
From 2010 to 2012, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation headed an EU-funded twinning project to support the Georgian National Museum. The German Archaeological Institute is conducting excavations in Georgia.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church has three small parishes, in Tbilisi, Bolnisi (the former Katharinenfeld) and Sukhumi (Abkhazia), and is served by a seconded German bishop.