The Georgian-German Year, an 18-month-long series of cultural and political events celebrating the 200 years of friendship and 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, has officially begun in Berlin today.
Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel announced the beginning of the Georgian-German Year at an official reception evening attended by over 500 guests.
"Germany was the first [country] to recognise Georgia’s independence in April 1992 and to open an embassy in Tbilisi. Since then, and also before that, the Georgian people have always been oriented towards Europe, in contrast to those within Europe who are skeptical about European unity”, Gabriel said, adding "we live in a time when Europe is more valued from the outside than from the inside”.
"Therefore, we support Georgia’s rapprochement with the EU and appreciate Georgia’s tremendous reform efforts on this path”.
Gabriel also said he was gratitude for Georgia’s participation in international peacekeeping missions singling out for special mention the bravery of Georgian soldiers serving at the Mazar-i-Sharif military base in Afghanistan.
"Many in Germany do not know that Georgian soldiers were the first to assist German citizens during the terrorist assault against the German consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif. We in Germany often forget that we also need assistance in difficult times and I am happy that this assistance came from Georgia”, he said.
Janelidze also spoke at the event and stressed his wish to grow cooperation between Georgia and Germany into a "deep partnership”.
"Germany has made an important contribution to Georgia’s institutional, as well as economic transformation. In terms of technical and financial assistance that has been rendered to Georgia over the years, Germany is the second largest donor of Georgia. The potential for the strengthening of links between Georgia and Germany has never been as strong as today and we must use this potential”, he said.
He particularly highlighted the importance of Germany’s political support on Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic path, as well as for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Janelidze spoke extensively about Georgian-German cooperation in trade and economy, particularly mentioning the interest of German business communities in Georgia where up to 380 German companies are currently operating. According to the Minister, Georgia as a reforming country serves as an attractive model for German investors and Germany is Georgia’s number one trade partner in the EU area.
The Georgian-German year which will last for 18 months will comprise over 130 joint meetings and projects.
"This will make clear how rich and diverse our relations are. A very eventful year is ahead of us,” Gabriel said.