The 18th season of the popular AVRO-TROS program “Wie is de Mol” was filmed in Georgia. The year 2018 also marks the 100th Anniversary of the declaration of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. H.E. Mr. Konstantine Surguladze On these occasions Nanda Jagusiak-Monteiro interviews the Ambassador of Georgia, H.E. Mr. Konstantine Surguladze Former posts: State Minister for Diaspora Issues; General Director Chevron-Texaco representation to Georgia; Consul – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; several posts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
1. As per October 15, 2014 you are the Ambassador to the Netherlands. How do you experience it to live and work in the Netherlands?
It is no news that living and working in the Netherlands is very much agreeable and being an Ambassador of Georgia here even doubles this encouraging sentiment as relations of our two countries even have their links in the history. Working in the Netherlands, in one of the most comfortable countries in the world, is even more unperturbed with the help of Dutch directness, which I find very much helpful in all kinds of relations, be it business or everyday life.
2. What can you tell me about the popular program “Wie is de Mol”, which was fi lmed recently in Georgia?
You can easily guess how delighted I was to learn from “WIDM” crew that this 18th season which was fi lmed entirely in Georgia, was the most popular in the history of the existence of the show. I also was happy when the production crew changed their mind to shoot the rest of their episodes in other countries but rather stay in my motherland – since Georgia offered everything whatever the production crew could have expected from a country. To my mind 2018 season was an amazing one that undoubtedly awoke curiosity in several million viewers and positioned Georgia on a world travel map as an attractive, exotic and adventurous destination.
3. How would you characterize the current bilateral relationship between Georgia and The Netherlands?
Georgia and the Netherlands enjoy active and successful relations both in existing bilateral and multilateral formats. The cooperation between our two countries are not only limited to the political, economic and cultural dimensions but includes wide range of priority areas such as jurisdiction, fi nances, environment, education, healthcare and other areas that are of outmost importance to our country.
4. What about the trade relations?
Is it true that the Netherlands is one of the main foreign investors in Georgia? Every year trade turnover between our states indicates positive developments and what’s signifi cant for me, export fi gures show encouraging elevation. According to the preliminary data in 2017, the amount of Dutch investment was 258% more than in previous year and the Netherlands is on the 4th place in the top 10 Georgia’s leading investor countries.
5. What can you tell me about the current state of economy in Georgia?
Georgia maintains one of the best growth rates among neighbours and also in a wider region. The country truly is a leader in the region in terms of stability and investment attractiveness. For this year the World Bank has placed Georgia at the 9th position in “Ease of doing business” and according to the World Economic Forum, Georgia is on the 9th place in “lowest tax rates 2016”. The country has managed to create one of the best investment climates – effective public services, corruption free government, fair and transparent business environment, that is refl ected in international ratings and still continues to improve.
6. The Georgian wines are quite well known. Are they known in the Netherlands?
You are right, Georgian wines are well-known and day after day they are getting more and more famous here throughout the Netherlands. Dutch people are becoming aware that Georgia is a country where this liquid was born and they also learn about Qvevri phenomenon and 8000 years of continuous tradition of winemaking from antiquity to the present. It is also noteworthy that Qvevri wine-making method is included in the list of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritages and very recently Georgian wine was included in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest wine in the world. When talking about Georgian wine, one should not forget about cuisine which is so delicately combined with each other. And even though the Georgian cuisine is ranked 4th in the “Thrillist” survey of food and drinks from European countries, it is incontestably on the fi rst place for me.
7. What can you tell me about the poem “the Knight in the Panter’s Skin” written by Shota Rustaveli and how signifi cant is Rustaveli for Georgia and its people?
For us Shota Rustaveli is considered to be the greatest poet of the Georgian Golden Age, just as his epic poem “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin” is a masterpiece of Georgian literature. The poem was written in 12th century and as mentioned this was when Georgia reached its Golden Age of political and economic strength. By the way since 2010 the city of Leiden has a fragment from the Rustaveli’s poem within the frames of the project – Wall Poems of Leiden, so I guess some of the Dutch followers of “De Mol” will have recalled this name when they heard it several times in the show. I will add here that despite all the hardships Georgia has undergone, Georgian people always strived to independence and never lost the feeling of inner freedom. Last year we celebrated 2 major events, one was the 850th birthday of Rustaveli and another the 25th anniversary of Georgia’s Independence. The slogan of the Independence Day was ‘’I come from the country of Rustaveli’’.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the declaration of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. On May 26, in remembrance of unanimously adopted Act of Independence in 1918, the entire nation will celebrate the greatest holiday related to the declaration of our country as an independent republic. Certainly we are also planning to organize the sequence of events regarding Georgia’s 100th anniversary since gaining the independence from Russia and special activities will be dedicated to this occasion here in the Netherlands.
8. Are there many Dutch tourists coming to Georgia and which highlights can you advice our readers to visit in your country?
To demonstrate it in figures e.g. in 2016 the number of Dutch visitors to Georgia was 4% more compared to the previous year; the year 2017 showed even 31% growth in this aspect and moreover I am undoubtful that this trend will be wildly optimistic after the WIDM show. Georgia is getting known as a year-round, quality tourism destination that has everything for any taste. Probably you do not know that the highest settlements in Europe is in Georgia, or that subtropical and mild climate zones here replace each other and that the vast part of the country is occupied by stunning untouched nature.
9. If you can describe your country in one sentence, what would you say?
This is a country full of history, loaded with culture, tradition, diversity and hospitality which will stay in every guest’s heart forever.