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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wine without diplomacy

by Georgy Kalatozishvili

29.01.2013. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Russia ordered the section of Russian interests in the Swiss embassy in Tbilisi to give visas to the members of a Georgian delegation heading to Moscow for negotiations on the export of Georgian wine and other products to the Russian market. The head of Rospotrebnadzor Gennady Onishchenko sent a request to the Foreign Minister to settle the problem of visas, and Sergey Lavrov’s department satisfied the claim.

Russia and Georgia have no diplomatic relations, so the scheme of invitation of a delegation from a neighboring country is so complicated. Georgia too often forgets about this, including the new Georgian government, when restoration of complete economic cooperation with Russia is discussed. At the same time, the new authorities have never denied that the prohibition on import of Georgian products and Georgian wine, which was launched in 2006, had “political grounds,” even though the reasons were low quality of products.

The squad of the delegation which will arrive to Moscow on February 4th hasn’t been defined yet. Vestnik Kavkaza found out that the minister of agriculture David Kirvalidze, some of his deputies, the special envoy of the government on improvement of relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze, and representatives of leading wine enterprises will be included into it. Negotiations will concern not only wine, but also Borjomi, fruits, vegetables, animal products which export is more important for Georgian farmers than wine.

The delegation’s visit and talks with Onishchenko will take place in the context of two symbolic events: the successful visit to Moscow by the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church Ilya II and his meeting to President of Russia and the famous “handshaking in Davos” between Dmitry Medvedev and Bidzina Ivanishvili. After Davos the second Georgian-Russian business forum was announced. In spring major Russian businessmen will come to Tbilisi and discuss opportunities for investments in various spheres of economy. Of course an important role is played by the current Premier of Georgia. Bidzina Ivanishvili made his great fortune in Russia and didn’t lost contacts with Moscow business-elite. “The most successful and important businessmen know Ivanishvili personally, who was thought to be “a man of his word”, i.e. everybody trusts him and this is the main factor for investors,” the former head of the state chancellery Petre Mamradze told Vestnik Kavkaza.

At the same time, trust to a businessman is one thing, but when it is about major investments to the country which Russia fought against in the near past the factor of personal trust can fail to play an important role. Nevertheless, President Putin most probably agreed for this forum and discussion of business projects with participation of the most important players. In summer 2004 when the situation over South Ossetia became tense, the business appeared to be a victim of political problems between two countries. That is why the question on restoration of export of Georgian production is connected with understanding of the priorities established by Moscow.

According to Vestnik Kavkaza’s information, the Georgian delegation intends to offer to the head of Rospotrebnadzor sending experts from Moscow to wine enterprises and other factories for they could control the whole process of production. It concerns not only wine, but any products exported to Russia. Will it be comfortable for the new government of Georgia, which is accused of “changing of the foreign political course” and “accepting occupation”? However, the main question is: why should Russia open its market for financing and improvement of Tbilisi which maintains “pro-Western course” of foreign policy?

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