Introducing Georgian Ambassador Tamara Liluashvili
Taking Georgian-Hungarian relations to a new level
Your Excellency, it has been a remarkable 30-plus years since 1991. Almost two generations have passed, and it would now seem that there is no turning back. I have had the pleasure to meet numerous Georgians in Budapest, and they strike me as cheerful, defiant, and forward-thinking people. It’s clear the main focus with Georgian society today is to continue to work hard for a promising future for everyone back home. What have been the greatest successes as well as the biggest challenges during these pre- and post-millennial times? How do you summarise post-1991 Georgia?
In 1918 the Democratic Republic of Georgia – after having won independence from the Russian Empire – then also fell to the hands of Bolsheviks and our nation eventually became a part of the Soviet Union. In 1991, Georgia achieved autonomy and finally became independent after all this time. The new Georgia began to strive towards integration with the West, seeking to reduce its bonds and dependencies from Russia and deepen new ties with Europe. This is the direction that Georgia has always wanted, both back in 1918 and today. Geographically as well as culturally, Georgia has traditionally been seen as a point of confluence between Europe and Asia. Georgia’s ancient and medieval links to the continent of Europe’s dominant powers and ideologies emphasize the European way of Georgia
Georgia’s wish for European integration is today again based on the need for progress, stability, and welfare. The process of European integration has indeed already served as a powerful impetus for political reforms. Free trade and visa-free travel deals with the European Union, reducing corruption, improving democratic governance, and protecting human rights have been rightfully put into place. So post-1991 Georgia is modern Georgia, progressive Georgia, and European Georgia.
Please tell me something about your professional career – especially when it comes to international relations Georgia has with East and West nations today?
My educational background consists of achieving master merits and honorary awards from various universities and institutes, such as the Grenoble Graduate School of Business in France, International Business, Marketing and Trade at the American University in Washington D.C. and International Relations at Agnes Scott College, in Atlanta, US. Most recently a Donald Rumsfeld fellow of the American Foreign Policy Council, Central Asia – Caucasus Institute.
Since 2018 I have worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Georgia and was Georgian Ambassador to Bulgaria and North Macedonia. Previously, I was an investment advisor at Enterprise Georgia – the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, at home.
From 2014 to 2017 I was First Deputy Director at the Georgian National Investment Agency (GNIA) in the capital, Tbilisi. Also a Deputy CEO, Investor and International Relations at the RMG Rich Metals Group, an international mining company, in Tbilisi, and a director at the Georgian National Investment Agency. My first assignment was as Director of Operations and Community Relations Manager at The Southern Center for International Studies (SCIS), Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 2001 to 2007.
Please give a general outline of your expectations in Hungary.
Georgia and Hungary enjoy active cooperation in bilateral and multilateral formats. The existing legal framework between the two countries includes several international agreements and facilitates cooperation in the fields of economy, defense, education, tourism, healthcare, etc. Cooperation is successful between these legislative bodies. The Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation has been functioning between Georgia and Hungary since 2013, aiming at strengthening trade and economic ties between the two countries.
The field of education represents an important dimension of cooperation as well. Furthermore, since 2014 the Government of Hungary offers annual scholarships to Georgian students at the leading Hungarian universities. As is very apparent, a very good groundwork is now present for me to build and take the relations between these two countries to a new level, and show Georgia to Hungary through my eyes.
Let’s move on to tourism. I’ve noticed that the Georgian government and tourist board are busy promoting your country in recent times. There have been lots of campaigns to promote Batumi (Georgia’s second city by the Black Sea coast), as well as Ancient Georgia and local Georgian arts and culture. Please tell me more.
Georgia is ranked 44th out of 117 countries in the 2021 edition of the Travel and Tourism Development Index of the World Economic Forum.
For the Georgian Government, welcoming tourists also represents a priority pillar for the growth of the economy. Over recent years, the Georgian tourism sector has grown dynamically and our country has become a success story for promoting various destinations. We have achieved numerous important goals and have grown to become an example of how a small country can transform itself through the development of tourism and flourish. In the post-Covid times, our priority is still to act on sustainability by creating an environment that could facilitate a more sustainable model for the future generation tourism.
Georgia is known for its hospitality. We have a saying that a guest is a gift from God. Georgians have a strong sense of pride with their traditions and identity, and they try to show and share it with a guest or anyone from elsewhere. So, as a tourist, new to Georgia, one will always feel very welcome.
One can enjoy ecotourism and discover our local culture, with its diverse historic-cultural monuments. Some churches date back to the beginning of Christianity. One can ski in the mountains as well as enjoy the sunny beaches of the Black Sea. You can immerse yourself with rich wine culture and local gastronomy. Georgian wine production dates back all the way to 8000 BC. The traditional winemaking technique, which uses a traditional clay vessel called “Kvevri”, is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. The beauty and mystique of Georgia offer endless opportunities for most memorable times.
Will any Georgian cultural events be coming up in Budapest anytime soon?
Georgia is a country of rich culture, history, and tradition, for instance in singing and dancing. Georgians are fun-loving people. Our polyphonic music is a combination of ancient and modern harmonies and is acknowledged by UNESCO as a masterpiece of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. Georgian classical singers and musicians often perform in Budapest and deliver exquisite performances.
This coming April 26 and 27 the “Free Theatre” from Georgia will take part in the Theatre Olympics 2023, being held in Hungary this year, and will present Shakespeare’s “Richard III” and “Othello” directed by Georgian theatre and film director Avtandil Varsimashvili.
Georgian dance, like the polyphonic singing, is a major cultural export and our own legendary “Sukhishvili,” the Georgian National Ballet – perhaps better known informally as “The Eighth Wonder of the World”, that literally travels the world – will perform at the Margitsziget Festival this year on May 25 and comes highly recommended. (For more about both events, see links below.)
Also, I noticed in many European cities there is a growing trend of new Georgian restaurants. Tell me something about your cuisine and what distinguishes Georgian food and hospitality?
Traditional Georgian cuisine is one of a kind, world-renowned, and comes with a centuries-old heritage. But traditional cuisine is ever-changing with outside influences melding into Georgian fusion. There are Georgian restaurants in Budapest that showcase this magnificence. Of course, Georgian food comes with Georgian wine, and the country is known to be the cradle of wine and its winemaking tradition is also most apparent. Every Georgian dish tells a story, and every bottle of Georgian wine brings opportunities for friendships to be made. In our local wines, you taste life in every bottle, in every glass, and in every sip. Hospitality, food, and wine are part of our national culture and identity. We will be having wine-tasting events in the capital throughout the year.
Please tell me something about family life.
I have a wonderful family, with two children, and being a busy mom I often include them in my work schedule to make sure that I spend time with them. They act as ambassadors of their own among their friends, always wanting to tell about Georgia, our culture, and about how wonderful their lives were in their homeland. Both of them love going to Tbilisi for the holidays and enjoy spending time with cousins and grandparents.
Are there any striking differences between Georgia, Hungary, and my own home country England?
I think every nation and every culture is unique and special in its own individual way. I usually try to find more similarities and common grounds in the different countries that I live in. I try to immerse myself in local cultures so that my livelihood in that particular country becomes most distinct and pleasant. I have already found many similarities between Georgia and Hungary, and the most significant is that both our countries have a language that not too many other outsiders speak.
Finally, have you been to Lake Balaton? If so, which do you prefer, the Hungarian Sea or the Black Sea?
I have not been to Lake Balaton and plan to visit soon. The Black Sea has its charm and I’m sure so does the Lake Balaton.
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Georgia to Hungary Mrs. Tamara Liluashvili took over the role from Ambassador Zaal Gogsadze on February 28 this year. On this same day, she presented her Letters of Credence to the President of Hungary Katalin Novak, and laid a wreath at the Hungarian Heroes’ monument. President Novak reiterated Hungary’s unwavering support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as Georgia’s EU aspiration.
Ambassador Liluashvili inherits happily existing cordial relations between the two countries and surely these will continue to flourish and provide a firm basis for taking bilateral cooperation to the next level during her tenure. She is also fluent in English and Russian, and I am sure the Liluashvili family will enjoy exploring this capital and country alike with great pleasure.
For Georgian Embassy information – click here
For more about tourism in Georgia – click here
For the legendary “Sukhishvili,” extravaganza on May 25, click here