From the point of view of bilateral relations, history is replete with ups and downs. However, discussing Polish-Georgian relations, it is difficult to catch negative points. What we are witnessing is a gradual progress and expressed solidarity between two countries. The recent statements from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland serve as an example.
For Poland, the European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Georgia and other countries of the region, which have such ambitions, is a guarantee of long-lasting stability and economic, political and social growth of its partners.
“Poland consistently supports the territorial integrity and European and Atlantic ambitions of Georgia” – Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said.
During a presidential trip to Poland Salome Zourabichvili and her Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda held a face to face meeting, subsequently followed by a press conference. Polish counterpart explicitly announced that he would encourage Polish entrepreneurs to invest in Georgia. Among the plea of topics, economic cooperation was the main concern between two presidents. Georgian president has also attended an international conference dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership.
Historical background – Most likely Georgian people will never forget president Kaczyński’s support during the August 2008 war, when he (together with other Eastern European leaders) came to Tbilisi and stood for independence of Georgia. As conventional wisdom suggests, the solidarity from European presidents averted Russian plans of occupation of Georgian capital and therefore toppling down legitimate government of Georgia. Talking about solidarity, historians can recall the period of Georgian first independency in 20th first half, while Poland was among the countries which explicitly acknowledged and even signed short-lived alliance. Proposal made by the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stanisław Jan Patek, was accepted and included military aid for the Georgian army. Unfortunately, the agreement between two states was doomed. Due to the Soviet invasion of Georgia, the latter lost its independence. In addition, Poland became a shelter for Georgian emigrants. There were parents of General John Shalikashvili among them, who served as a Supreme Allied Commander in Europe from 1992 to 1993. After 18 years, Soviet Union invaded Poland and occupied the country till 1989.
By mentioning individuals, the name of Grigol Peradze has never been lost from the memory of Polish people. Archimandrite Grigol was invited to Poland to be a professor of Patrology at Warsaw University in 1932. After the German invasion in 1939, his life was in danger due to high risk of his arrest by Nazi regime, which indeed materialized in 1942. By accusations of helping Jews, Grigol was arrested by Gestapo and deported to infamous camp of Auschwitz, where he ended by making his name unforgettable. St. Grigol died for having taken upon himself the sin of another, as he took the responsibility of the killing of German officer. However, there is an alternative version of his ending, claiming that the martyr ended into the gas chamber in place of a Jewish man with a large family. Saint Grigol is commemorated by his memorial chapel in Warsaw.
Poland and Georgia restored diplomatic relations back in 1992. Ever since, mutual interdependence has been gradually increasing. Poland recognizes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders and vice versa. Poland and Georgia has a deep cooperation in the areas following: defense, trade and economics, human rights, as well as energy security and other regional projects.
Cooperation within NATO framework – Poland fully supports Georgia’s desire to join the NATO. The president of Poland – Andrzej Duda declared his cordial support of Georgia’s North-Atlantic aspirations once again during his visit in Georgia, 2017. “It’s no secret that Georgia has a strategically important location not only in Europe but in the world. Georgia’s membership in NATO is very important for all NATO members. I would even say that this is a matter of vital importance”, Duda said.
Poland is the contact state between NATO and Georgia. The Embassy of Poland will play the role of contact point embassy between Tbilisi and Brussels until the end of 2020. According to the ambassador of Poland in Georgia – Mariusz Maszkiewicz – this decision will significantly increase the NATO presence in Georgia on the one hand and on the other hand it will improve bilateral relations between Poland and Georgia. One of the most important reasons why countries closely cooperate within NATO framework is the perceived Russian threat. In 2008 Russia launched full scale war with Georgia. In the aftermath of the war, Kremlin occupied Georgian territories – Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. In the latest national security concept of Georgia, the first three challenges (Deoccupation, new potential military strike from Moscow and return of internally displaced persons and refugees to the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region) link to the Russian federation. The vast majority of Poles (77%) consider Russia as the main threat to national security. Russia’s military activity in Eastern Europe (military modernization, permanent strategic military exercises at the borders of NATO member countries, existing anti-aircraft weapon systems, like S-400 in Kaliningrad) fuels the anger to the central and Eastern European countries, including Poland. That is why both statesare actively trying to increase NATO presence in their countries.
Cooperation within EU framework – Poland completely holds up Georgia’s European integration too. Andrzej Duda, during his visit to the capital of Georgia, spoke about country’spotential of joining to the EU. According to him, Georgia’s swift and effective political and economic reforms increased its importance for Brussels. Because of that Georgia has every right to demand to join the European Union. “If Great Britain decided to leave the boat or leave the EU, we should get those into the boat who want to become a member” – declared Duda. Poland has a quite special attitude towards the Eastern Partnership countries, especially with the Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. “Of course, it is difficult, but my main message is that these countries should take more responsibility for the coordination of their work for themselves – not to wait for what we can do – and demonstrate to the European Union that they are organized” – stated the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs – Jacek Czaputowicz on May 14 at a conference in Brussels celebrating the 10th anniversary of the partnership. At a conference, he reconfirmed Poland’s staunch support for the EP countries.
Economic relations – In 2014, Georgia signed DCFTA (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement), which allowed the country to get an access to the European market. Consequently, Georgia’s export and import to the EU have significantly increased during the last years. It is obvious, DCFTA is a unique opportunity for Georgia to assimilate vast and generous European Market. When it comes to the bilateral economic relations, the number of annual Georgian export is fluctuating. For instance, In 2009 Georgia’s export to Poland was $ 3,6 million, while for 2015, this number grew almost ten times ($27.8 million). In 2018, Georgia’s export once again decreased($15.3 million). When it comes to the Poland’s export in Georgia, it was gradually increasing time-by-time. In 2009, it was only $46 million, while in the last decade it has tripled. In 2018, the total price of imported goods was $143 million worth. According to this data, we can boldly say that economic cooperation between two countries has flourished in the last years and supposedly, this trend will continue in the nearest future.
In summary, we can say that Polish-Georgian bond are a clear example of extremely friendly relations between two countries. Poland and Georgia has a deep historical, economic and cultural ties. They share universal values of democracy and human rights. This solid partnership makes us think that this trend will continue in the future, too.
Giga Jokhadze and Shota Mgeladze
The opinions and conclusions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Tbilisi or The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.