Expert opinion
“French side does not risk anything much”
22 September, 2011


Interview with political expert Soso Tsiskarishvili

Mamuka  Dalakishvili

Russian-French military-political romance has turned into the romance of economy and tourism. Realization of Georgian tourism potential faces a new significant threat in the region, a new arc of touristic infrastructure that will cover almost entire North Caucasus.

The State Development Bank of France called Caisse des Depots et Consignations, a bank of two century old traditions has concluded an agreement with Russian JSC North Caucasian Resorts to build five high quality mountainous ski

resorts investing 10 billion Euros in it in the next ten years. Namely, the total length of ski lanes would be 803 kilometers (Lago-Naki in Adyghea, Elbrus-Bezengi in Kabardo Balkaria, Arkhiz in Karachai Cherkezia, Mamisoni in Ossetia, and Maltase in Daghestan).

In addition, the funds may be boosted to 18 billion Euros. France Caucase, a daughter company founded specially for the job, is going to get 49% of revenues. All stages of the project will be implemented by French specialists solely. In case of force majeure, Russian Ministry of Finances pledges 70% reimbursement of the invested capital. It is noteworthy that financial guarantors of this joint French-Russian undertaking are not the private sector entities but Governmental agencies. We asked political expert Soso Tsiskarishvili to share his views on the event:

Q: What this active and huge investment by France in the North Caucasian region may result in?

A: The conditions of the agreement itself convinces us that the French side does not risk anything much. I don’t rule out that the agreement may have a confidential annex because the agreement provides for the reimbursement of costs by Russians should the investments get jeopardized by terrorist acts or other dangers.

Q: It means France risks more than Russia, does not it?

A: As a general law of business has it, the higher the risks the bigger are the revenues. Moreover, we should take into account the fact that those resorts had no national significance even in the Soviet Times. Rather, this agreement is more about politics than anything else. There is something more in between the lines there. If it is not true then why does France think that the North Caucasian resorts have a less risk than the Georgian ones? And, if anything, where is it going to find tourists for the North Caucasus?

Q: Perhaps the Russian desire to push forward with the North Caucasian touristic potential is an attempt to challenge Georgia as a regional touristic player and downsize feeble stability in the region?

A: If Russia had really desired the touristic push, it should have taken on Bichvinta and Gagra! What is that weird interest in the North Caucasian tourism?! There is nothing else but alpinism and specific winter activities there! We are not fully aware of the contractual mechanism. In comparison, we were also derived of all details entailed in the Putin-Saakashvili agreement on Enguri power station. Even the Georgian court denied us on the grounds of confidentiality. Likewise, it is not important to know who has what assumption about the Russian-French contract. The only thing worth knowing is what really lies in the basis of it. Let the first billion appear on the scene and see what they would do next. Only then I will be able to presume that next installments are likely to be frozen.

Q: What do you make of the restrained stance by French Ambassador Eric Fournier?

A: Before Fournier became an ambassador he was a human being. It is not in his competence to criticize the Authorities. Yet, he is not a member of the National Movement as Tefft used to be. In short, his is being discrete.