Expert opinion
Polish Book on Georgians and Abkhazians
01 May, 2014
Interview with the Ambassador of Poland to Georgia

Poland, together with the Czech Republic and Hungary, celebrates its 15th anniversary of joining NATO. With the V4 and Baltic States, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta it celebrates its 10th anniversary of EU accession. Georgian Journal spoke with the Ambassador of Poland to Georgia, Mr. Andrzej Cieszkowski, about the EU, his challenges as a diplomat while living abroad for the second time and his first ambassadorial mission as well as about personal interests.
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– Please, tell us briefly about your professional background and working experience.
– I am really happy to be here in Georgia. For the last few years I have been working in the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) especially on Eastern and EU issues. I was a Special Representative of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland for the Eastern Partnership (EaP) – European Union policy covering all six Eastern European countries. I was directly involved in preparing - together with my Swedish colleagues - the draft of the Eastern Partnership initiative, launching the EaP Summit in 2009, and the Warsaw EaP Summit in 2011 during the Polish EU presidency. It was interesting to work on the policy changing EU relations with Georgia and other Eastern European countries, including the bilateral Association Agreements and multilateral cooperation. I had been to Georgia several times before coming to Tbilisi as Ambassador. So, I had some knowledge on Georgia and experience in working with Georgian people. In my career I served four years in the Embassy of Poland in Portugal as well, but this time it is my first mission as an ambassador.
– This should be really interesting then.
– It’s a new experience; if you are abroad leading the work on relations between two countries.
– What about the country-to-country relations?
– Relations between Poland and Georgia are very friendly and really intensive. Georgia continues its efforts on the path to European and Euro-Atlantic integration and Poland is one of the most active supporters of this wise choice of the Georgian people. We are sharing our experience, gathered over the last 25 years, about the successful transformation in Poland and our integration process. Our contacts involve not only the governments, public institutions but local authorities, NGOs, think-tanks and media as well.
– Wine should be one of the main factors for Poles to come here. What are other reasons?
– I think there are plenty of aspects that are of Polish interest in Georgia. Georgia is the country in the South Caucasus that modernized its institutions and economy very fast. Poles listen to the news and know about the ongoing reforms and Georgia getting closer to European Union standards and norms. Poland is interested in fostering the relations of the EU with the Eastern Partnership countries, so our politicians, businessmen, intellectuals and media are interested in coming and reporting not only on Ukraine and Moldova, but on Georgia as well – because those three countries are on the path of the integration with the EU. Georgia is an example to be followed by many other states. On the other side Georgia offers foreign tourists a special treatment–your hospitality is worldly known. Tourists from Poland come here knowing that friendly people are waiting for them. A thousands year old history and the very rich Georgian culture matter as well. This is an important aspect to draw tourists’ attention to, especially if you compete for example with the Mediterranean countries where the majority of Poles go on holidays.
– What are the main challenges for you as a foreign diplomat?
– After a few months in Tbilisi I think the main challenge is linked to the scope and variety of relations. If you monitor relations from Warsaw you are focused on the high level relations with Presidents and Prime Ministers, official and working visits, talks and negotiations between respective Ministries of Foreign Affairs. Being here is completely different. We have established cooperation not only between MFAs but between almost all sectoral ministries including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Justice, Economy, Regional Development, Transport and others. So, those are not purely diplomatic ties, but contacts embracing an overwhelming majority of aspects of relations between the countries and nations. We are happy to have plenty of parliamentarians coming from the NATO, the EU, the Council of Europe, our own Poland’s national parliament, all its committees, etc. I’m proud that almost half of the European or NATO parliamentarians coming to Georgia are often Polish. Next are the relations between the local, self-government authorities. We have plenty of twin towns and regions, for example Kutaisi and Poznan, Gori and Sosnowiec or the Kakhetian region and the Polish Podkarpackie region. Three weeks ago, the first trilateral agreement was signed between Mtskheta, the Polish city Gizycko and the Lithuanian Trakai.
What really surprised me was the huge interest of Polish people in Georgia. You can easily find ordinary people in Poland discussing your country. As for tourists, their numbers are increasing. I think about 5000 Poles come to Georgia every month. In my opinion, there are various segments of tourists: some are interested in having a rest at the Black Sea coast, while others prefer climbing the Georgian mountains. There are tourists who wish to discover Georgian history as well as to visit some of the most ancient Christian churches. The big number of Poles can also be attributed to the direct flights between Warsaw and Katowice and Tbilisi and Kutaisi.
Wine is one of Georgia’s assets. Probably you know that Poland is the biggest importer of Georgian wine among the European Union countries. As the Polish market is open to the French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese or other wines, including Moldovan, there is a competition, of course, but I’m glad that Georgian wine is there and that your export to Poland is growing. I love your wine and I drink it here with pleasure.
– How did you get accustomed to the Georgian lifestyle, as we might not be very similar?
– I have to say that we Poles and Georgians are very similar in some characteristics. If some of your guests from Western countries are surprised by the Georgian hospitality, they are likewise surprised with the Polish hospitality as well. As you organize supras here, in Poland we organize them in a very similar mode in honor of our guests. In Poland we have a saying “Gosts v dom - Bog v dom” (note: in Georgian, we have a very similar saying: a guest is sent by God). I feel at home here in Georgia. Sometimes it is difficult to have extensive supras, but I like it. It is a pleasure and it’s really important for us - foreigners to understand the Georgian way of thinking, their needs and ambitions. Interaction with people is crucial for a diplomat, because sitting here behind a desk is not effective at all. I have to know people better. I don’t have a language barrier, because I communicate in Russian with the elderly and in English with the younger generation. I’ve just started to learn Georgian language – but still with insignificant progress.
– The European Union is attractive to us because it boosts diversity. In your opinion, what are the main traits Georgia will give to EU as a new member country?
– We have a motto “We are united in diversity.” It is difficult to say what a European is like. If you go to Portugal where I spent four years, or if to Poland, people are really different in their lifestyle or cuisine. We are proud to be Poles, Portuguese people are proud to be Portuguese. The same with Georgians. I noticed that Georgians are proud of their culture, history and language. You have a beautiful language with your own alphabet and marvelous Georgian men’s polyphonic cappella singing. That’s great and nobody will deny your values, culture or language in Europe.
– Why does the fear among some people that they will lose their identity after joining the NATO and the EU still exist?
– I think it is the job of the media here to give the right picture of what the European Union is. The European Union helps us to develop national culture and preserve national heritage. We celebrate the 10th anniversary of joining the EU now and it would be really instructive for the Georgian media to see how Poland has changed and developed since our accession to the EU, and how we managed to boost the human and social energy in our country. The Embassy of Poland is going to organize some study visits for the Georgian media. These ten years have given us new opportunities in economy, in social affairs and in regional development. Every single market, mostly rich, will be opened to Georgia too, which will make your country attractive to investments.
– What is your favorite pastime in Georgia?
– I have only been here for a few months, so when I have the time I try to go sightseeing around the country together with my family. I like Uplitsikhe because there you feel how old human settlements are here, one of my favorite places is Mtskheta because of its spiritual character and I love Tbilisi very much, where I can find historic monuments, interesting people and symbols of tolerance towards other religions, as well as the beautiful views from the funicular, Mtatsminda or Narikala Hill.
– What is your favorite movie/book?
– I like watching movies very much. Lately, I’ve seen a Polish movie Rose by Mr. Smajovski and a film by the most famous Polish director Andrzej Wajda “Walesa – Man of Hope” on Lech Walesa – a contemporary Polish hero who fought against the socialist regime and later on became the President of Poland. I also like the latest Gravity, starring George Clooney. If we talk about international movies, I prefer science fiction cinema like the recent Elysium as it gives you a different perspective of reality. With my children, I am watching the Star Wars’ saga again and again. As for the books, I am lately focused on reading about Georgia, among others on the history of Georgia by Materski or by one of the best experts on South Caucasus W. Gorecki peaces Toast to Ancestors or Abkhazia. Regarding the latter book I think his message could be painful to both nations – Georgians and Abkhazians. We as a country in the EU and every single businessman can find its niche in the market. For example, Poland is the biggest exporter of apples, the world leader. It means our agriculture industry has developed very fast. We attracted big investments because the European market was opened. I can give you some examples: a big part of LCD screens in Europe or household appliances, no matter the brands, are produced in Poland as well as luxurious yachts and boats that are produced in tens of small shipyards in Poland. I am telling you that after integrating economically with the EU, 500 million people will try to translate the book into Georgian and present it to the public here. Apart from those mentioned, there are plenty of writers, journalists and even celebrities in Poland who are really in love with your homeland and publish their stories on being here. So, they also promote your country in Poland and in Europe.
– What about the Embassy’s priorities, plans for the future and wishes for Georgia?
– A few days after my arrival in Georgia last summer, then Prime Minister of Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili visited Poland for the first time. Today it has been a few days since the visit of President Giorgi Margvelashvili to Poland, his first official visit to the EU country. We work hard in order to maintain an intensive dialogue between our countries on the highest level. Regarding the everyday work of the Embassy we are focused on several aspects: first is to have a full understanding of the internal situation and foreign policy of Georgia and present it to my colleagues in Warsaw; second is to create opportunities to share our Polish experience with our Georgian counterparts. We have plenty of experts coming to Georgia and presenting not only our successes but failures as well – in order not to be repeated by you. I’m glad that Georgia is looking at Poland as one of the most important countries in supporting EU and NATO integration processes. As for the boost of economy, the interest of Polish business is growing. We are working on having some business missions to Georgia soon. I hope that in a few months we will have some results in trade and investments.
I would like to wish for Georgia that the signing of the Association Agreement and the Free Trade agreement with the EU will be a starting point to a new wave in the European integration process. It would mean not only the establishment of political contacts but the modernization of the country as well. Regarding an assistance program for Georgia set by the Polish Government we have a lot of work with almost 30 projects of assistance agreed upon for this year. They are assigned to vulnerable groups, boosting the economic development as well as giving advice on state institutions.