Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze yesterday completed a three-day official visit to France, during which President Jacques Chirac and Foreign Minister Herve de Charette endorsed Georgia’s quest for membership in the Council of Europe and for closer relations with the European Union. Chirac spoke of France’s determination to "conduct a more active policy in the Caucasus" and came out in support of Shevardnadze’s concept that "the South Caucasus is part of Europe." French and Georgian ministers, together with representatives of some leading French companies, discussed projects in Georgia — most notably the modernization of Georgia’s civilian and military telecommunications with equipment from Alcatel-Alsthom. An investment protection agreement and a protocol of intent on military cooperation were signed as well. The latter document envisages French assistance in training military personnel and in other activities aimed at advancing "formation of Georgia’s national army." (AFP, Le Monde, February 3-5)
France is engaged in a full-scale diplomatic offensive to win a political and economic role in the newly independent states of the former USSR. In the last few weeks alone Chirac has also hosted official visits by Presidents Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine and Haidar Aliev of Azerbaijan. Although trade and investment have featured prominently in the agendas of all these visits, the governments of the newly independent countries seem to value closer relations with France above all for Paris’ ability to open the doors to European institutions.
IMF Approves of Azerbaijan’s Reforms, Expands Lending.