“Georgian Side Made First Step to Russia”
22 November, 2012
“Georgian Side Made First Step to Russia”

“Non-visa regime with Russia is very important; I was in Larsi and I saw how many Russian cars entered Georgia and how many tourists there were. It’s a good chance to see what is going on in Georgia. Instead of listening to the Russian radio and watching Russian TVs, it is a good decision to give them a chance to see how peaceful is the people who live in Georgia. I hope that the percentage of the Russian tourists will

grow up and next year we’ll see more of them arriving in Georgia.”

We had the pleasure to meet with Mrs. Elita Gavele, highest representative of the Latvian diplomatic corps in Georgia a year ago. For her, it was her first interview in Georgia and her first interview in the capacity of an ambassador; she started her first ambassadorial mission in our country. Now Georgian Journal set out to find out how she perceived the latest events that took place in Georgia. Her Excellency Ambassador admits that working in Georgia is “very interesting”. She remains an optimist in everyday life as well as in politics. Ms. Elita Gavele thinks that there is no doubt about the bright future for Georgia and praises the new government’s unchanged foreign policy course.
G. J: What did Georgia gain in the eye of International Community by handing over the power peacefully?
E.G: It has been unanimously acknowledged that Georgia’s Parliamentary Elections of October 1 were definitely fair. We, all members of the diplomatic corps were observing it quite closely. Latvia probably had the most numerous short-term observers – more than 20 persons, who were sent from Latvia to observe elections in recent years.The elections themselves demonstrated a big victory for Georgia. The new government was elected by the people of Georgia and we appreciate it. In Latvia, there is an unwritten rule that we can’t criticize the new government during the first100 days. I think that it would be very good if Georgia adopts the same rule and it refrains from criticism for 100 days. I hope that you have a bright future and there is no doubt about it. The important thing for Latvia is the recent visits of Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, as well as the Minister of Euro-Atlantic Integration and the Minister of Defence to Brussels and all the information that they provided to the high officials in Brussels. It is very important to continue Georgia’s road to the European Union and the NATO which is the most important signals for us.
G.J: How close have we approached the NATO and the European Union by handing over the power peacefully and fairly?
E.G: Of course, you are closer now than before. Everyone in the European Union and the NATO praised Georgia for the fair and democratic elections and this is one big step forward to the integration into those international structures. Of course, it is just a process and you still have to do your homework. I can’t say and nobody can say the exact date and year when you’ll enter the NATO and the European Union but it is a normal process and Georgia has gained many pluses in this process.
G.J: What do you recommend, what should the new government do first and foremost not to lose the high trust of Georgian people?
E.G: In spite of being a foreign diplomat which stops me from actively giving recommendations outspokenly, I still have one advice: continue your aspiration to Euro-Atlantic structures.It is also a big plus that the officials working with furthering Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic structures are highly-skilled professionals and do their work very professionally with great faith in the success.
G.J: In your opinion, what will change in the Georgian politics and how feasible is improving our relations with Russia?
E.G: Of course, normalizing the relationship with Russia is an inseparable part of your foreign policy, not only your aspiration to the European Union and the 5NATO. It’s one of the top issues and absolutely necessary to deal with. Good luck to new Georgian government in that direction! It was very reasonable of them to appoint Mr. Zurab Abashidze as a special representative who will take care of Georgian-Russian relations. As I know, he is a very well-known person in Russia and he is respected there, as well as in Georgia, which is very important – to have a high reputation in Russia and Georgia at the same time. That’s why I think it was a good choice. Good luck to him when he starts talks and negotiations with Russia and as your government said, they are still waiting for Russia to nominate a counterpart to Mr. Abashidze or make some move like that as a reciprocal gesture. The Georgian side made the first step, which is something very positive. Also, the visa-free regime with Russia is very important and when I visited this summer Larsi, I saw how many Russian cars entered Georgia and how many tourists arrived in Georgia; It’s a good chance to see what is going on in Georgia. Instead of listening to the Russian radio and watching Russian TVs, it is a good decision to give them a chance to see how peaceful is the people who live here, in Georgia. I hope that the percentage of Russian tourists will grow up and next year we’ll see a lot more of Russians arriving in Georgia. I see that the heart of Georgians is always open to receive guests. I’ve visited many places – Batumi, Sighnaghi, Telavi, Svaneti, Mtskheta, etc. I think I have traveled around most of the country, and I saw many Russian tourists who were visiting Georgia and they were happy to discover that there are some differences to what they viewed on TVs and heard on radio as if Georgia is the enemy number one to Russia. I am convinced that any tourist, not only from Russia, who once visits Georgia, will leave it with best memories and the intention to return.
G.J: What should Georgia learn from your country’s experience?
E.G: I think our patience, the patience of Latvia and Latvian people that we showed during our economic crisis in the year of 2008 and afterwards. There were very few countries and politicians who believed that we would survive and regain our strength, and we’d be back on the world map, but we did it and I know and feel that Latvia is one of the best examples for other countries how to deal with such kind of situations. In addition, we are encouraged by the Latvian – Georgian bilateral projects that allow us to share our experience with the Georgian colleagues. As one of the most important designs, I would like to mention proposed project between the Corruption Prevention and Combatting Bureau of Latvia and the State Audit of Georgia called “Strengthening the monitoring of Funding of Political Parties and Election Campaigns in Georgia”. Considering that the Corruption Prevention and Combatting Bureau of Latvia has a great deal of experience of tracking financial flows during the pre-elections period, I think it is a very worthwhile project for Georgia to help improve knowledge and skills of working with political parties during the pre-elections period.
G.J: What qualities of Latvian character helped you overcome the crisis?
E.G: Being calm and organized. Our Prime Minister Mr. Valdis Dombrovskis did his best in a very calm and balanced way, despite the fact that it was difficult to overcome the cut-downs in the budget, especially for the people who worked in the ministries and state institutions. In such case, neither strikes, nor rallies can help you, because you can go to some rally and take advantage of the freedom of expression but it will change nothing, when you have limited resources in the budget and are facing huge problems. In that case, it is better to work hard. Many people left Latvia and it’s very pitiful for us, but we still think about improving our economic situation and we still think that a lot of people will come back because all of us have only one home. You will always be a foreigner abroad and I think Latvians can be compared to Georgians because we are both very domestic peoples, attached to our land. We need our soil, our friends and relatives close to us and we are always homesick when we are away. Even a lot of money does not compensate being abroad. There is a big wave of new immigrants from Latvia now most of which went to Great Britain, Ireland and Germany, and they had no problems in finding their jobs as we are the EU member country. And one more feature - we are a very hard-working nation. We realize that only heavy, everyday work can make our country richer. But still, as a conclusion of our conversation, I want to add that during this one year that I am here, I saw a lot of good changes in Georgia and I strongly believe in Georgia’s success story.
Georgian Journal thanks Latvia and its ambassador to Georgia for her kind disposition, her support and good wishes, as well as for cordial and hospitable reception. We congratulate her on Latvia’s Independence Day. We wish all the best to Latvia, our friendly country.




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