Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence - Sixth Report


Memorandum submitted by Dr David Robson, Managing Director, Vazon Energy Limited

  Please find below a short note on my views concerning the FCO's role in promoting British interests in and relations with Georgia as part of your current enquiry.

  I have been working as a businessman in Georgia since 1992 and over that time I have seen a great development both within Georgia and also with regard to the British representation there. I was very pleased when the UK decided to open an Embassy in Tbilisi following the successful meetings between the then Prime Minister, Mr Major, and Mr Shevardnadze. In my view the Tbilisi location is critical for serving British interests in the Caucasus in general and the critically important transportation link through the Caucasus to the Caspian and Central Asia. I have seen the staff at the Embassy grow and also the more recent change of the Ambassador. I have always found the Embassy staff to be extremely helpful and prepared to assist with regard to promoting British business, the initial team obviously working in very much a "path finder" role but with things now settling down to a more permanent existence. The support from the Embassy has resulted in what I believe were very important ministerial visits to Georgia and through that high level communication with the Georgian Government and direct assistance to British business. There is undoubtedly a great deal of respect for Great Britain in Georgia and a historical respect for the Ambassador's position.

  However, I do think that the Embassy staff could perhaps be more pro-active in informing British businesses of the numerous opportunities in Georgia and likewise Georgian businesses of potential British partners or exports of particular products. However, my understanding is that the staff at the Embassy is still quite small and there is obviously a limit to what can be done. The establishment of the direct air link by British Mediterranean from London to Tbilisi has been extremely important in developing these business links and once again the support of the FCO in doing this has been a critical factor in positively progressing such things. For the future, as I said earlier, I believe that Britain is well placed in this country but I would like to see the FCO and the Embassy itself promoting more the uniqueness of Georgia and the fact that it is an area of great strategic importance particularly in the transportation and energy sectors as well as with regard to tourism, etc. This must be done in the context of Georgia separate from the "Former Soviet Union" and I think that through this we could potentially see more investment by, for example, British hotel chains, etc, in Tbilisi and in Georgia in general.

  I also understand that the Embassy continues to be involved in assisting resolution of some of the outstanding regional disputes in Georgia and I believe that their efforts are postitive and I believe very important to further development of Georgia's economy.

  To conclude, I believe that the FCO, through the Embassy in Tbilisi, does provide good support to British businesses and that that support has been increasing over the years and I am confident that this will continue in the future.

March 1999

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