Chancellor Schröder said Germany would provide €26 million ($32 million) in aid to Georgia to stabilize democracy and boost the economy during talks with young reformist president Mikhail Saakashvili in Berlin.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashwili has promised to clean up his corruption-riddled country.
Mikhail Saakashvili, the western-educated reformist president of Georgia and Europe’s youngest state leader to be sworn in last Sunday, secured promises of financial aid and technical know-how from the German government during his first official trip as president.
Gerhard Schröder (right) with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashwili in Berlin
Speaking after talks with Saakashvili in Berlin on Friday, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder told reporters that the fresh funds amounting to €26 million were aimed at bolstering the Georgian economy and stabilizing democracy.
"Every euro will go to the people"
Saakashvili, a former opposition leader who was elected president following the November ouster of president Eduard Shevarnadze, said his government, unlike its predecessor, would make sure foreign aid reached its target and wouldn’t be swallowed by corruption. "Georgia is a country that needs a lot of support from outside," he said. "I promise you every euro, every cent of this support will go to the people."
Saakashvili said Georgia needed foreign help to repair its battered economy. The World Bank estimates that the economy shrank by two-thirds in the first decade after independence. Nearly half of its 4.5 million people live on less than $4.15 a day.
German know-how for Georgia
Schröder also promised Saakashvili his government would send experts to develop a customs system for the country and educate diplomats. Schröder described Georgia as "a key country in a region that is far from conflict-free" and one that needed outside help to help stabilize it.
German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said Georgia faced "a great challenge to improve the situation of its population." Wieczorek-Zeul said the German government was willing to support Saakashvili’s plans to combat widespread corruption in his country.
Experts from the German Development Ministry are already in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to intensify cooperation. The ministry has also provided Georgia with €12 million in emergency aid to help improve electricity supply during the winter months.
The "rose revolutionary" rides wave of optimism
Saakashvili also presented Schröder with a golden rose on Friday, symbol of the bloodless revolution after ousting former president Shevarnadze from power last November.
Shevarnadze, who had ruled Georgia for 11 years, resigned at the end of November after three weeks of mass protest by a population weary of poverty and corruption. Saakashvili, the former justice minister, led the demonstrations and was dubbed the "rose revolutionary" after storming the parliament holding a rose.
"I've received much praise from our people, without ever having campaigned," said Saakashvili. "Now I need to take this positive energy and shift it in the right direction."
Top of the list of necessary changes is the corruption-rife Georgian political system. Saakashvilli, once groomed by Shevarnadze for a top position, eventually quit his post as justice minister in 2002 after growing weary of pervasive cronyism and political pay-off.
In an interview with German daily Bild, Saakashvili said he planned to improve the taxation system and invest more in the country's youth. He also voiced ambitious plans to steer his country towards the level of a candidate country for the European Union in a few years.
"For that, we need help, especially from Germany," he said.