Merkel in Georgia - energy and visa-free regime
The main and only news during German Chancellor's visit to Tbilisi was an announcement regarding Germany's readiness to support construction of a large gas storage facility in Georgia. Angela Merkel said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze that Germany will allocate 199 million euros to Georgia. These funds are also allocated for construction of other, relatively small infrastructure facilities, which will help to supply water to certain regions, as well as for reconstruction of sewer systems. But Tbilisi doesn't try to hide the fact that most of this long-term loan will be spent on infrastructure of natural gas reserve.
Berlin's decision to participate in this project once again underlines regional importance of construction of gas storage facility, not only for Georgia itself, but also for Azerbaijan, since this country provides Georgian energy system with natural gas and additional resources for reservation can be received only from this neighboring Caspian country.
This confirms that the main goal of Merkel's visit to South Caucasus is to encourage states to deepen regional cooperation in the field of development of infrastructure and energy security. At least those states that are ready for such cooperation and don't pursue self-isolation.
But when it comes to implementation of projects important for the EU, and therefore for Germany, stability and predictability are important factors. German Chancellor expressed her support of peaceful resolution of the Georgian-Ossetian and Georgian-Abkhazian conflicts. She spoke about Russia cautiously and diplomatically, confirming that the topic of Georgia wasn't discussed during last meeting with Russian President, but not because Germany doesn't care about it. "Otherwise, I wouldn't come here," Merkel said. From the point of view of experienced German politician, maintaining stability in Georgia is a priority, and a task that can be resolved.
Chancellor invited representatives of Georgia to the famous Frankfurt Book Fair, where, she said, "German public can learn more about Georgian culture", and promised to consider new projects so that Georgian students could study in the best universities of Germany. In addition, she said Georgia became one of the leaders in the post-Soviet space based on number of young people that study in Germany.
Another important topic of bilateral negotiations with Georgian leadership was visa-free regime between Georgia and the EU. Merkel recalled that Germany made a decisive contribution in granting Georgia such a privilege. She mentioned some problems, but made it clear that since Georgian authorities were able to drastically reduce number of illegal migrants seeking asylum in the Federal Republic of Germany, Berlin doesn't plan to raise issue of suspension of visa-free regime in the near future.
"Georgia is a safe country," Merkel said, confirming that her government satisfied request of Georgian authorities to give Georgia "safe country" status. Now relevant institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany can no longer accept asylum applications from those Georgians who came to Germany as tourists, but then asked for asylum, citing danger to their freedom and legal rights in Georgia.
But in order to receive such assurances from German leadership, Georgian authorities had to take truly radical measures. Georgian customs officials even received instructions to check whether "tourists" travelling to Germany and other Schengen states have all documents at airports. In extreme cases, they may not be allowed to leave the country.
In the end Merkel called Georgia "a great partner" and hinted that responsibility is the main resource for countries wishing to get closer to the EU and its leader.