Süddeutsche Zeitung -- It was supposed to be a trip to enhance understanding. This past Sunday, 15 politicians, civil servants and experts from the USA and Europe were going to go on a 6-day visit to Georgia and its breakaway region Abkhazia. However, the participants, among them two members of the German parliament, received a letter with apologies from the organisers, the German Marshall Fund and the Bosch Foundation. According to the letter, there was a 'somewhat critical view' in regard to the composition of the delegation. This is a diplomatic way to refer to a commotion with which the (German) Foreign Office is now dealing.
The ‘somewhat critical view’ is that of Georgia’s president Mikheil Saakashvili. He was initially going to receive the group but then learnt that German diplomat Dieter Boden and Green MP Viola von Cramon would be part of it. He told GMF director Craig Kennedy that neither he nor anyone else would receive the group, if these two individuals were not uninvited. The two foundations cancelled the trip and wrote letters of complaint to Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Guido Westerwelle and Georgia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigol Vashadze.
Boden is an experienced South Caucasus expert. In the early 90s he was UN representative in Georgia and later Head of the OSCE Mission in Tbilisi. He suspects that the Georgians reproach him with ‘too much understanding for the Abkhazians’, although all he has said was that he would like to see more ‘conciliatory gestures’. Cramon is Speaker of her fraction on foreign affairs of the EU and lobbies the Bundestag for closer ties with Georgia but also for cautious contacts of the EU with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, something that is unpardonable from the Georgian perspective. ‘It is a missed opportunity,’ she says in regard to the cancelled trip. And addressing Saakashvili: ‘PR and marketing alone do not make a democracy.’
This article was published by Süddeutsche Zeitung on April 1, 2012 and is translated from German.