President Duda in Georgia: sustainability matters in economic growth

Andrzej Duda in Tibilisi PAP/Bartłomiej Zborowski

Sustainable socio-economic development rather than economic growth alone should be a primary goal, Polish President Andrzej Duda said at the Economic Forum in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Saturday.

President Duda paid a visit to Georgia on Saturday to attend observances marking the centenary of the 1st Democratic Republic of Georgia. Other leaders from Central and Eastern Europe also took part in the anniversary events. 

Earlier, the Polish president together with his Slovak and Georgian counterparts Andrej Kiska and Giorgi Margvelashvili as well as Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili took part in the opening of the economic forum.

"I am deeply touched that I can stand here today in Tbilisi on this important day when together we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the First Democratic Republic of Georgia," Duda said.

He recalled his "great patron and predecessor", the late President Lech Kaczyński, "for whom a free, independent, sovereign and safe Georgia was an important, if not basic, element of European security, but also, more broadly, of global security."

The Polish president expressed his satisfaction that, as a "student and successor" of Lech Kaczyński, he could take part in the opening of the Economic Forum in Tbilisi.

"I am proud that the models that have been developed in Poland over the past 20 years are now applied in Georgia, that this forum is being held in cooperation with the foundation organising the Economic Forum in Krynica (southern Poland - PAP)," Duda stressed.

According to the Polish president, "security and peace" are the necessary conditions for successful economic growth and development.

Social cohesion is another prerequisite for the economic development, in Duda's opinion. "Growth cannot take place at the price of deepening social differences," he argued. These differences should be eliminated, which is what social programmes implemented in Poland are aimed at.

Free trade is another condition for economic growth, Duda argued, noting that the potential of Polish-Georgian economic cooperation is not yet fully exploited. He pointed out that positive trends in the development of this cooperation were maintained in 2017 and that trade turnover increased by about 30 percent, including Polish exports to Georgia by 24 percent and imports from Georgia to Poland by more than 80 percent.

Duda pointed out that since 2016 Georgia has been the largest recipient of Polish export products in the South Caucasus. "We hope to continue this trend in 2018. I am convinced that over the coming years we will be able to achieve much more in this area," the president said.

The Polish president sees the potential for Polish-Georgian cooperation in Polish companies' participation in implementing the strategic hydropower development programme in Georgia. He believes that Poland has a lot to offer to Georgian partners in the field of green technologies, renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and waste management.

In Duda's opinion, transport cooperation also looks very promising, including support for the West-South transport corridor connecting India through Iran and then Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Poland to Western Europe, as well as the development of a new Silk Road from China through Kazakhstan, then also Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Poland to Western Europe. Duda pointed out that these routes could become an alternative to those running through Russia.

The President of Georgia stressed that it is very important for him to welcome "two of his friends, the presidents of Poland and Slovakia," on an important day like this. 

As Margvelashvili said, "it is extremely symbolic, because they are two leaders who strongly support and protect Georgia's interests in many international formats."