Swiss Lessons for Georgia – Neutrality, Diversity and Resource Management
26 May, 2017
Swiss Lessons for Georgia – Neutrality, Diversity and Resource Management
Today, Switzerland is considered and perceived as a very successful country politically, economically, and socially. GEORGIA TODAY, alongside the Panorama TV Show, met with the Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia, H.E. Lukas Beglinger, to talk Swiss know-how, excluding watches and papal guard that is, and what Georgia can learn from Switzerland. At a meeting that took place at the International Black Sea University, Ambassador Beglinger addressed the crowded audience consisting of students and free listeners alike and was keen to
answer each and every question posed to him.

“The Swiss worked hard to get where we are today,” the Ambassador tells us. “And that work is ongoing. Actually, Switzerland was quite a poor country until almost the end of 19th century. What brought us forward was industrialization. Switzerland was the first country on the continent after England to become industrialized. So, Switzerland, a poor country with practically no resources except water, clean air and a very beautiful nature, had to find a specialty in order to survive.

We also invested a lot in our education system, because 200 years ago we were ahead, with famous pedagogues like Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, who called for education for all - this at the end of 18th century! It was rather revolutionary at the time because education actually was reserved for the more to do of society. And this is the key. Even today there is no country in the world that can develop successfully without investing in education.

Let’s discuss the bilateral relations between our two countries. What are the cornerstones?


One is development cooperation, which is a major pillar of our presence here. For years, we’ve focused on helping agricultural sector development, which is really important when you consider that 50% of the population is still active in this sector. Yet, it only produces 9% of the GDP which is a huge gap that has to be filled. And it’s not appropriate that Georgia imports 70-80% of its food with the conditions that you have here. We’re also active in decentralization which is, of course, yet another Swiss feature. The other major pillar is our peace policy. Switzerland has a humanitarian tradition and for serving as a mediator thanks to its position of neutrality. Here in Georgia, and since the August 2008 war, the Swiss Embassy has been representing the interests of the Russian Federation as well as the interests of Georgia in Russia.

How was Switzerland able to secure and maintain neutrality and could the same be feasible for Georgia?


Switzerland is a special case in many respects, including its permanent neutrality status which has been practiced for centuries, recognized at the Vienna Congress in 1815, 200 years ago; it served Switzerland well, saving us from several major wars. It first saved us from the 30 Year War in the 17th century, and that’s actually when the Swiss understood that we should keep out of such conflicts. Regarding the army – it goes without saying that as a neutral country you have to be able to defend yourself. Otherwise, any other country can encroach on you and you are a liability then in terms of security. So, Switzerland has had always its own army and always invested well in its defense.

Something that Georgia cannot afford, its own army…

The government and the new defense minister here recently decided that Georgia should urgently invest in its own territorial defense capacities rather than just send soldiers to Afghanistan. I think that’s a major policy shift and recognition of the fact that you should be able to defend your country in the first place. I served in Poland and saw the same defense policy reform happen there - now, they’ve invested in buying tanks, air defense and so on. And this is something Switzerland has been doing for centuries. We even managed to survive WWII while being surrounded by the Nazis.

The financial aspect certainly helped Switzerland to boost its army and military capabilities

I don’t think that was the only factor. It’s not up to me to give any advice to Georgia and Georgians but Swiss history certainly shows that you have to get along with your neighbors, somehow, even if it’s not ideal. I’d say it might not be a very good idea to choose one camp over another because if you attach yourself to certain allies then you may alienate your other neighbors.

Yet another famous Swiss know-how is federalism. How do you manage to unite and keep four different ethnic groups within one nation?


The Swiss system is quite unique. Switzerland is very much decentralized. We call ourselves a bottom-up country. It grew up from small entities, small cantons. And the modern Swiss confederation we have now was only created in 1848 – it took a small civil war to establish it. Otherwise, we might have been in the situation the EU is in now - a confederation of sorts, but not a federal state. Notwithstanding, the federal constitution respects the powers of the cantons. Actually, cantons have their own constitutions, own governments, parliaments, justice, etc. As a Swiss citizen, first you are a citizen of you own canton and your municipality. We’re very diverse but we don’t consider this a handicap. Actually, it’s a big advantage. Of course, we’ve had our fair share of internal conflicts and civil wars, for instance, because of religion. Switzerland could not have survived if we’d decided to have a strong central state. For countries such as Georgia, the lesson must be that diversity is something that enriches your country and you shouldn’t be afraid of giving powers to the local level.

Switzerland is famous for its direct democracy and referendums


We have referendums roughly every three months, sometimes even more frequently, at all levels – federal, canton, municipal. All important questions are decided by the people themselves. In Switzerland, people decide even on foreign policy issues. Membership of the European Economic Area, of the UN, etc.: it has to be put to the people. Direct democracy is really systemic in my country and of course it has many advantages because people really feel empowered and they are not frustrated with politics as we see in many other, even western, countries.

There’s an ongoing debate in Georgia as to whether the government should allow land to be sold to foreign citizens. Is banning the sale of Georgian land to foreign citizens discrimination against foreign investors?


Obviously, it would be. Of course, this is a delicate question in most countries, especially in agricultural countries. The important aspect in Georgia is that agricultural land must be registered in the cadaster. There isn’t even a functioning market inside Georgia, which is a huge problem. You can’t develop a competitive agriculture without the possibility of selling or buying land, otherwise people will sit on their one hectare plot and not produce anything and it doesn’t help the country.

And in regards to Switzerland? Do foreigners own Swiss land?


Yes, of course. For quite a few decades Switzerland has had a political problem with foreigners buying land and it was restricted from the 1960s onwards, but always with the exception of foreign business investments because that would have been shooting ourselves in the foot. What was restricted primarily was holiday homes. This is maintained even today. But there’s no limit on foreign business investments if they are serious. That’s important. That should also be a guideline for Georgia. But it should develop its own capacities in agriculture and not depend too much on foreigners.

Vazha Tavberidze

Source: Georgia Today
Print
Other Stories
Representatives of diplomatic corps arrive in Gugutiantkari
Representatives of the diplomatic corps and the Government of Georgia are in the outskirts of the Gugutiantkari village of Gori municipality,
US State Department condemns Russian occupation of Georgia’s territories
The US state department has issued a statement condemning Russian occupation of Georgian territories – Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region.
What went wrong in the 2008 August War? – Mikheil Saakashvili recalls
Today Georgia marks 11 years since the 2008 August War. After 11 years, there still are many unanswered questions.
After 11 years, Georgia commemorates the August War
It has been 11 years since the 2008 August War in Georgia. Officials and different politicians once again commemorated the date and made statements about the ongoing occupation of Georgia’s territories by Russia.
International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Center publishes fresh survey
A new nationwide public opinion survey of Georgian citizens by the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Center for Insights in Survey Research
First comments made after Strasbourg Court’s decision over Rustavi 2
Rustavi 2 TV shareholder Kibar Khalvashi made first comment about the Strasbourg Court’s decision over Rustavi 2.
Bidzina Ivanishvili: "Who want closure of Russian market, are Georgia’s enemies"
Those, who tell-tale that we must replace the Russian market by the European and Ukrainian ones, are absolutely ignorant and uneducated,
Why Georgia is changing the mixed electoral system in favor of the proportional?
The Chairman of the Parliament Archil Talakvadze explained why Georgia has to change its mixed electoral system in favor of the proportional.
Why was the Ambassador of Georgia summoned to Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry - what does Azeri media say?
Azeri media has released information about the ambassador of Georgia being called at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan.
Georgian side denies accusations against the Azeri border guards
Georgian citizens provoked an incident against Shamkir border group of Border Troops of the State Border Service of Azerbaijan (SBS)
Donald Tusk: "The collapse of the Soviet Union was very positive"
I want to say loudly from this tribune - the collapse of the Soviet Union was very positive, - Donald Tusk,
Donald Tusk reads a quote from Vazha Pshavela’s letter in Georgian
President of the Council of Europe Donald Tusk read a quote from Georgian writer
Economist: “An unwelcome Russian visitor has helped to revive an old antagonism”
Economist has recently published an article reviewing the recent events taking place in Georgia.
Russian Duma supports sanctions against Georgia, President Putin opposes
The Russian Duma supported sanctions against Georgia.
Prosecutor: Individuals planned to overthrow the state government
On the night of 20th of June, 2019, individuals were planned to violently overthrow the state government through uprising,
Court releases Nika Melia on GEL 30, 000 bail
The Tbilisi City Court sentenced Nika Melia to GEL 30, 000 bail at today’s court hearing.
Parliament suspends Nika Melia's MP's immunity
Nika Melia, the member of the opposition “United National Movement” party, has arrived at Tbilisi City Court.
"Russian Church blackmails Georgian Patriarchate" - Claims Ukraine's Rada member
Victor Yelenskyj was the head of the Ukrainian delegation at that fateful Interparliamentary Ortho­dox Assembly in Tbilisi that sparked the protests still ongoing to this day.
What the Protests in Tbilisi Mean for Relations with Russia
The protests in the center of Tbilisi over the Russian MP’s presence in Georgian parliament caused a nation-wide outburst against the ruling Georgian Dream party and Russia.
Government agrees to one of the protesters demands: Proportional Elections in 2020
The government has agreed to hold proportional parliamentary elections in Georgia in 2020.
Russia bans flights to Georgia from July 8
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree yesterday prohibiting Russian airlines from carrying Russian citizens to Georgia from July 8.
Zakaria Kutsnashvili renounces his MP mandate
Zakaria Kutsnashvili, who was the head of the Georgian delegation in the Inter-parliamentary Session on Orthodoxy, has renounced his MP mandate.
Police use teargas, rubber bullets against protesters, says Human Rights Watch
Riot police in Tbilisi fired rubber bullets and used teargas without warning against thousands of nonviolent protesters
Russian lawmaker demands “official apology” from Tbilisi
Tbilisi should give its formal apology to Russia for the provocations against Russian delegates in the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy,
Georgian police used teargas, rubber Bullets and water cannon against protesters
Police in Georgia used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to stop protesters entering the country’s parliament on Friday.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
GEL Exchange Rate
Convertor
15.08.2019
16.08.2019
USD
1
USD
2.9121
2.9182
EUR
1
EUR
3.2572
3.2555
GBP
1
GBP
3.5213
3.5351
RUB
100
RUB
4.4611
4.3899
Other Stories
On 26 May, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, joined celebrations in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi
Violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Assad regime has been strictly criticized
Exactly one year ago, Georgia was granted visa-free travel with the European Union.
Georgia’s ex-president president Mikheil Saakashvili's supporters managed to free detained Mikheil Saakashvili in the center of Kiev.
The US Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly congratulates Georgia on Independence Day.
The regulations on the introduction of visa-free travel for citizens of Georgia have been officially signed in Brussels.
The entire Georgia is involved in Secret Santa game, which means that people are sending gifts to each other secretly
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia is taking part in NATO Ministerial underway in Brussels, Belgium.
A special squad has been mobilized at the 48th polling station in Marneuli, Kvemo Kartli region.
Two politicians in Georgia have come to blows during a live TV debate ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections, Euronews reports.
GEL Exchange
USD
1
USD
2.9182
EUR
1
EUR
3.2555
GBP
1
GBP
3.5351
RUB
100
RUB
4.3899
August 2019
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31