Georgia is a country covering around 70,000 square kilometres, lying on the southern foothills of the Greater Caucasus mountain range, and on the south-eastern shores of the Black Sea. It is bordered by Russia to the north, Turkey to the south-west, Armenia to the south and Azerbaijan to the south-east. Georgia has a population of 3.7 million (2016 est.).
Georgia declared independence on 9 April 1991 (now remembered as the Day of National Unity), shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Georgia's national day, known as Independence Day, is celebrated on 26 May.
The Georgian political system is a semi-presidential republic. The Parliament is unicameral with 150 seats, of which 77 members are elected through proportional representation and 73 are elected through a single-member district plurality system representing their constituencies. Members are elected for a four-year term.
The most recent Parliamentary elections were held in October 2016. The Georgian Dream, led by Mr Giorgi Kvirikashvili, won 115 out of 150 seats and formed a constitutional majority.
The last presidential elections were held in October 2013. The Georgian president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. Mr Giorgi Margvelashvili of the Georgian Dream coalition won the election with a 62 per cent majority. Many of the Georgian President's executive powers were transferred to the Prime Minister under constitutional reforms that took effect in January 2013. The next Presidential elections are due in October 2018.
Joining the European Union and NATO, and maintenance of its sovereignty and territorial integrity are among Georgia’s top foreign policy goals. The latter concerns the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia: both sought to break away from Georgia in the early 1990s, which led to armed conflict and a Russian-backed ceasefire. In August 2008, Georgia and Russia fought a brief war, after which Russia recognised the two regions as ‘independent states’. Only four countries currently recognise the two regions as independent: Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru.
Shortly after independence, Georgia became a member of the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund. Georgia is also a member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Council of Europe, the World Trade Organization, NATO's Partnership for Peace, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Black Sea Regional Economic Group and the Asian Development Bank. Georgia ceased its membership of the Commonwealth of Independent States following the 2008 war with Russia. Georgia is the fourth largest troop contributor to NATO’s led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.
Georgia's economy has traditionally revolved around Black Sea tourism; cultivation of citrus fruits, nuts, tea, and grapes; mining of manganese and copper; and the output of a small industrial sector producing wine, metals, machinery, repaired and remanufactured vehicles, chemicals and textiles.
Since 2004, successive Georgian governments have made significant efforts to reform and modernise political, economic and security institutions and governance. The focus has been on reducing regulation, taxes and corruption in order to attract foreign investment, and developing hydropower, agriculture, tourism and textiles production. In recent years Georgia has had steady growth: 2.9 per cent in 2015; 2.7 per cent in 2016; 4 per cent in 2017.
The World Bank has commended Georgia's commitment to economic reform over the last few years, particularly its anti-corruption efforts and for the ease of doing business.
Turkey, Azerbaijan and Russia are currently Georgia's largest trading partners, and Russia is critically important for Georgia's energy needs (natural gas and oil).
Australia recognised Georgia's independence on 29 March 1992.
Australia and Georgia share a warm bilateral relationship which has, in recent years, focused on growing commercial ties and people-to-people links, especially in education. Australia also provided $1 million in emergency humanitarian aid to Georgia in August 2008 following Georgia's conflict with Russia, through the United Nations' Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and the International Committee of the Red Cross / Red Crescent. In September 2010, Australia contributed to a NATO Partnership for Peace Trust Fund project for the clearance of unexploded ordnance in Georgia.
Australia’s Ambassador in Ankara has non-resident accreditation to Georgia. The Ambassador and other diplomatic staff visit regularly. The Australian Embassy in Ankara provides consular assistance to Australians in Georgia. Georgia established an Embassy in Australia in March 2012.
According to the 2016 census, 747 people in Australia claim Georgian ancestry.
High Level Visits
The Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia, Mr David Jalagania, visited Australia in May 2017. The then-Prime Minister's Special Envoy to Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Caucasus, Russell Trood, visited Georgia in June 2012 and Georgia's Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze made an official visit to Australia in October 2011. Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Nalbandov visited Australia in November 2010.
Bilateral economic and trade relationship
Australia and Georgia are looking for ways to increase the trade and investment relationship, which is currently modest. In 2016-17, total two-way merchandise trade was worth $11.3 million. Australian exports were worth $6 million. Wool, specialised machinery and parts, margarine and wire products were the largest exports. Imports totalled approximately $5.3 million and consisted mainly of specialised machinery, fruit juices, perfumery & cosmetics, trailers, semi-trailers & containers.
Last updated: May 2018