SALOME ZOURABICHVILI

Qatar 2020 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

Investments, trade, education and culture, innovation, and technologies are just some of the areas in which cooperation and interaction between Qatar and Georgia are expected to grow.

Salome Zourabichvili
BIOGRAPHY

Salome Zourabichvili is the president of Georgia. From 1974-2004, she worked in the diplomatic service for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France in several embassies. In 2003, she was appointed Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of France to Georgia. From 2004-2005, she served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. After leaving the post, Zourabichvili founded the political party, The Way of Georgia, in 2006. Between 2006 and 2015, she was an associate professor of international relations at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris. From 2010 to 2015, she led the UN Security Council monitoring group on sanctions against Iran. Zourabichvili was elected an independent deputy in the Parliament of Georgia in 2016.

Qatar and Georgia enjoy great relations in many fields. Are there any expectations of a qualitative shift in your bilateral relationship in the coming years?
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in March 1993, Georgia and Qatar have maintained positive dynamics of bilateral ties. Over the years, cooperation between the two countries has grown stronger in various areas, such as economy, culture, education, trade, tourism, and people-to-people contacts. Qatari-Georgian relations have developed rapidly. Several high-level visits took place from both sides. More than 10 agreements and MoUs have already been signed in different areas, and more are being prepared or ready to be signed in the nearest future. Georgia has become one of the favorite tourist destinations in Qatar. Three daily flights operated by Qatar Airways bring hundreds of visitors from Qatar to Georgia every day. Georgia and Qatar are discovering each other more and more as economic partners. In the last few years, bilateral trade volume has increased. Georgia exports agricultural products to Qatar and imports various products of petro-chemical industry. A number of Qatari investment projects is underway in Georgia. Taking into account Georgia's strategic location and the recently achieved FTAs with major markets, such as EU, EFTA, China, and CIS countries, there is potential for a qualitative shift in our relations.

What are the main areas of cooperation between Georgia and Qatar in which we expect to witness further enhancement in the near future?
Investments, trade, education and culture, innovation, and technologies are the main areas in which cooperation and interaction between our countries are expected to grow. Georgia is a leader in the region in terms investment attractiveness. Georgia has created one of the most advanced investment friendly environment: efficient public services, corruption-free government, and a free, fair, and transparent business climate, which is reflected in international institutions ratings. For example, the World Bank's Doing Business report 2020 placed Georgia in sixth place in terms of the ease of doing business out of 190 countries. According to World Economic Forum's Lowest tax rates 2018, Georgia occupies eighth place. The Heritage Foundation placed Georgia in 16th place on the Index of Economic Freedom out of 180 countries. Georgia has established itself as reliable partner and represents a role of stability in the region, a dialogue between Europe and Asia that can only attract more investors and create more confidence.

In 2010, Georgia and Qatar signed an agreement exempting both nationals from visas. What impact will this have in attracting more visitors to boost tourism to Georgia?
According to Georgian legislation, Qatari citizens are exempted from Georgian visa requirements and can travel to Georgia visa-free up to one year. Also, third-country nationals residing in Qatar permanently and holding Qatari IDs are exempted from Georgian visas and can travel directly. Nowadays, tourism is booming in Georgia. In 2018, the number of international visitors exceeded 8 million, and this year we expect more visitors. There are many reasons why people around the world choose to travel to Georgia—unique culture, gorgeous nature, mountains, local cuisine, seashore, ski resorts, and well-known hospitality.

How can scientific and cultural cooperation between the two countries be further encouraged?
I see great potential for cooperation in the fields of science and education, particularly in the field of innovation and technologies. Qatar is the seat of numerous prominent university branches, while a number of Georgian universities provide high-level medical education. Every year, Georgian students learn Arabic in Qatar University. Such student exchanges and cooperation in this direction are extremely important. In terms of culture, the famous Georgian National Ballet Sukhishvili performed in Doha twice this year, its first performance in GCC region. Cooperation in terms of joint film production is also a promising area.