Georgia’s Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze has visited her opposite number in Berlin, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. After their talks, they emphasised the close ties between Germany and Georgia and their shared will to further deepen bilateral relations. Alongside German‑Georgian relations, the two politicians also discussed the European Neighbourhood Policy and the current political situation in Eastern Europe.
Though this was her first official visit as Foreign Minister, it was not the first time Ms Panjikidze had been to Berlin. As her country’s former Ambassador to Germany, she has close ties to the city on the Spree. She also has a complete command of the German language, as she proved to her listeners at the joint press conference. Steinmeier described his dialogue with his Georgian counterpart as “a demonstration of the close ties between our two countries”. The two had last met the previous week, at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.
Focus on German‑Georgian relations
The meeting in Berlin focused on bilateral relations. Foreign Minister Steinmeier expressed his respect for the path Georgia has trodden since its 2008 conflict with Russia over the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia:
By that I mean both its democratisation efforts and the determined and lasting reform policy that the Government has got under way. I can only encourage you to stick to that path.
Both foreign ministers underlined their will to foster further development of German‑Georgian relations. Foreign Minister Panjikidze commended the intensive and diverse relations already in place, seeing evidence for them in the two countries’ close cultural exchange. She gave the example of Georgia being the partner country of the Frankfurt Book Fair for 2018. She also pointed out that there were already measures planned for this summer to return books looted during wartime to Germany.
Support for cooperation with the EU and NATO
Foreign Minister Steinmeier furthermore emphasised the fact that Georgia had the support of the international community in its reforms and its pursuit of closer ties. He mentioned cooperation with NATO and the European Union in particular.
Both sides gave their assurances that preparations were well under way for the association agreement with the EU to be signed. Foreign Minister Steinmeier said, “I have every confidence that the association agreement will be signed soon, in keeping with the timetable.” Foreign Minister Panjikidze predicted that most Georgians would celebrate the signing of the agreement.
Last week, Steinmeier and Panjikidze both attended the meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. In consideration of the reforms being undertaken in Georgia, not least in its armed forces, he said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we substantially increased cooperation between Georgia and NATO with a whole range of measures. I believe it would prove a milestone that brings us a good deal further in the close partnership that exists between Georgia and NATO.”
Ukraine: an international contact group as a cornerstone
Like his talks with Prime Minister Iurie Leancǎ of the Republic of Moldova that morning, Steinmeier’s discussion with Foreign Minister Panjikidze focused on the current political situation in Eastern Europe. The spotlight was on the Ukraine crisis in particular. Steinmeier insisted that nothing could be taken for granted in view of the tensions in that Eastern European country.
Steinmeier said deploying the OSCE observer mission had been an important step. It was proving “very sensible” he said, particularly at this time, to find out what was actually happening on the ground.
He went on to insist, however, that it would take more than that to change the situation. He explained why it was so important to set up an international contact group to establish dialogue between Russia and Ukraine. The format is to enjoy the support of the United States and the European Union. Steinmeier commented as follows:
I see this as the cornerstone. (...) It would be a small step of progress in a critical situation.