Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth’s visit to the country in the Caucasus region on 9 and 10 October was entirely in tune with the German-Georgian year: as well as holding political talks, meeting human rights activists and taking part in an EUMM patrol on the administrative boundary line between Georgia and South Ossetia, Roth also caught up with some “familiar faces” – the Tutarchela choir.
A visit to friends
Germany and Georgia have travelled a long road together. To this day, Germany’s early recognition of Georgia, back in 1918, is remembered in the capital Tbilisi. At his meeting with the German Minister of State, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili emphasised the close friendship and partnership between the two countries, saying that Germany was a particularly good and reliable partner for Georgia. The Prime Minister also expressed his gratitude for Germany’s support on the issue of visa-free travel to the EU, which has been in force for eight months now. After the meeting, Roth said:
“I have been impressed by Georgia’s development over recent years. We should build far more bridges between our two countries and work together for more democracy, rule of law, tolerance and diversity in Europe.”
Georgia’s steps towards the EU
As a member of the Eastern Partnership, Georgia is seeking to move towards the EU. Minister of State Roth had a meeting with Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze and both men agreed that the country should continue resolutely along this path. “Everyone knows it is a long road to the EU, but Germany will support this course wherever it can,” Roth said.
Good progress on human rights issues
Representatives of non-governmental organisations said that their country had made generally good progress on human rights issues. However, they also said that much remained to be done, particularly with respect to women’s and children’s rights and in efforts to consistently prevent discrimination against sexual minorities.
Civilian EU mission as mediator
The unarmed EU Monitoring Mission has been in Georgia ever since the 2008 war with Russia in order to monitor observation of the ceasefire agreement at the administrative boundary line between Georgia and the Russian-occupied areas Abkhazia and South Ossetia. With over 200 observers, it is the second-biggest civilian EU mission after the one in Kosovo. The civilian observers regard themselves first and foremost as mediators between enemy parties, helping to keep up the dialogue, as Minister of State Roth learned while taking part in a patrol along the administrative boundary line with South Ossetia. “Germany stands firmly by Georgia's side on the issue of Russia’s illegal violation of Georgian sovereignty,” Roth stated.
Another encounter with the Tutarchela choir
At the end of his trip, Minister of State Roth had the pleasure of seeing some familiar faces: he had welcomed the Tutarchela choir when it visited his home town, Bad Hersfeld, in August. Now it was appearing in the residence of German Ambassador Petschaft in Tbilisi, where the audience was just as enthusiastic as the listeners in Germany had been.