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.