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Bilateral Relations between Switzerland and Georgia
Relations between Switzerland and Georgia are good. Switzerland has been involved with humanitarian aid and development cooperation in Georgia since 1991. Since March 2009 Switzerland has represented the diplomatic interests of Georgia in Moscow and Russia's interests in Tiflis. Especially as a result of this protective power mandate, relations with Georgia have intensified considerably.
In the framework of the protective power mandate for Georgia and Russia, at the end of 2010 Switzerland was asked to mediate in connection with Russia's application for membership of the WTO. These negotiations were successfully concluded with the signing of the Georgian Russian customs agreement of 9.11. 2011, which was an important precondition for Russia's membership of the WTO.
The SDC and SECO are looking to improve and to diversify the income of disadvantaged population groups in rural regions. The aim is to improve the professional skills and the access to the market of small farmers and to provide quality services in the areas of veterinary care, training and advice.
Swiss Humanitarian Aid works on behalf of internally displaced persons and for the reconstruction of accommodation and social infrastructure, the establishment of a rescue system and the prevention of natural disasters.
Since 2004 Switzerland and Georgia have been conducting a regular political dialogue. Peace promotion is a central aspect of Switzerland's activity in the South Caucasus.
Economic relations between Georgia and Switzerland are not especially strong. Switzerland mainly imports products from the primary sector and exports pharmaceutical products, machines and watches. On 28.5.2012 the countries of the European Free Trade Area - Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Iceland - signed a cooperation agreement with Georgia. In 2013 Georgia will be the guest of honour of the Comptoir Suisse.
From the academic year 2012/13 Switzerland will for the first time offer excellence grants to Georgian applicants. By this means Switzerland supports young Georgian researchers and artists and contributes to a stronger exchange in the area of education, science and culture.
As part of its development cooperation, Switzerland has supported the training of young civil servants for the past 10 years. From 2013 onwards it will also provide support for professional training in agriculture and in the state administration.
On 8.8.2008 an armed conflict broke out between Georgia and Russia about the separatist Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abchasia. The countries then broke off diplomatic relations. At the request of both states, from 5.3.2009 has represented Georgia’s diplomatic interests in Moscow and those of the Russian Federation in Tiflis.
As a result of Swiss mediation efforts, on 9.11.2011 Russia and Georgia signed an agreement on the supervision of customs controls. Switzerland as a neutral third party was heavily involved in the conclusion of the agreement, which settled differences between Georgia and Russia with regard to Russian membership of the WTO.
In 2011 Switzerland adopted a priority programme for the promotion of peace and human rights in the South Caucasus. The aim was to complement the good services and mediation that it offered at the governmental level by projects of conflict transformation. Dialogue with civil society groups and local peace promotion projects are intended to re-establish relations between different parts of society.
Since 1999 there has been a Cooperation Office for the coordination of intervention programs implementing regional strategies lasting several years. The main focus of the project is on rural development, the protection of displaced persons and those who are socially disadvantaged. Since 1996 Swiss development cooperation has invested over CHF 200 million in the South Caucasus region. About half of this has gone to Georgia.
At the end of 2011 there were 36 Swiss nationals living in Georgia.
Although there is no bilateral cultural agreement between the two countries, cultural exchange considering Georgia’s size is impressive. There are numerous contacts and initiatives on a private basis especially in the areas of literature, music, film and the graphic arts. The Swiss Embassy in Tiflis has also organised events, especially in connection with the Francophonie week and the «Settimana della lingua italiana».
In the 19th century numerous Swiss nationals lived in Georgia: geologists, botanists, alpinists, teachers and businessmen. They were active in the raw materials sector (oil, manganese) or as experts in cheesemaking they helped to develop dairy farming. Switzerland had an embassy in Tiflis from 1883 to 1992.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Switzerland recognised Georgia as an independent state on the 23.12.1991. Since 1996 there has been a Cooperation Office for development cooperation in Tiflis. In 1997 the Permanent Mission of Georgia to the international organisations in Geneva also became Georgia's bilateral embassy to Switzerland. By opening an embassy in June 2001 in Tiflis, Switzerland strengthened bilateral relations. In April 2011 Georgia opened an embassy in Bern.
Switzerland played an active role in the United Nations Mission for Georgia (UNOMIG), which ended in the summer 2009.
At the end of 2008, the EU mandated the Swiss ambassador in Georgia to head an independent fact-finding mission on the conflict in Georgia (IFFNCG). This report analyses the causes of the armed conflict and was published on 30.9.2009.
Swiss Humanitarian Aid was active in Georgia during and after the conflicts in Abchasia and South Ossetia in the years 1991 to 1994 and in 2008.