June 21, 2010

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

PROFILE

Geography
Area: 69,700 square kilometers; slightly smaller than South Carolina; approximately 20% of its total territory is not under Georgian Government control.
Cities: Capital--Tbilisi (population 1.1 million, 2008).
Terrain: Mostly rugged and mountainous.
Climate: Generally moderate; mild on the Black Sea coast with cold winters in the mountains.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Georgian(s).
Population (2009 est.): 4.4 million.
Population growth rate (2008): -0.8%.
Ethnic groups (2002 census): Georgian 83.8%, Azeri 6.5%, Armenian 5.7%, Russian 1.5%, other 2.5%.
Religion (2002 census): Orthodox Christian 83.9%, Muslim 9.9%, Armenian Apostolic 3.9%, Catholic 0.8%; other 0.8%; none 0.7%.
Language: Georgian 71% (official), Russian 9%, Armenian 7%, Azeri 6%, other 7%. Abkhaz also "official language" in Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia.
Education: Years compulsory--11. Literacy (2004 est.) 100%.
Health: Infant mortality rate (2008)--17 deaths/1,000 live births. Life expectancy (2008)--72 yrs.

Government
Type: Republic.
Constitution: August 24, 1995; amended February, April, and June 2004; December 2005; and January 2007.
Branches: Executive--president with State Chancellery. Legislative--unicameral Parliament, 235 members. Judicial--Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, and local courts.
Subdivisions: 67 electoral districts, including those within two autonomous republics (Abkhazia and Adjara) and five independent cities.
Major political parties [and leaders]: United National Movement [Mikheil Saakashvili]; The Christian Democratic Movement [Giorgi Targamadze]; Our Georgia - Free Democrats [Irakli Alasania]; Republican Party [David Usupashvili]; Labor Party [Shalva Natelashvili].
Suffrage: Universal over 18 years of age.

Economy
GDP (2008): $12.79 billion.
GDP per capita (2009 est., purchasing power parity): $4,747.
GDP growth (2008): 2.3%.
Inflation rate (2008): 5.5%.
Natural resources: Forests, hydropower, nonferrous metals, manganese, iron ore, copper, citrus fruits, tea, wine.
Industry: Types--steel, aircraft, machine tools, foundry equipment (automobiles, trucks, and tractors), tower cranes, electric welding equipment, fuel re-exports, machinery for food packing, electric motors, textiles, shoes, chemicals, wood products, bottled water, and wine.
Trade (2008): Exports--$1.5 billion. Partners--Turkey, United States, Azerbaijan, United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, Turkmenistan. Imports--$6.31 billion. Partners--Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Germany, United States, Bulgaria.
Work force (1.92 million in 2008): Agriculture--53.5%, industry--8.9%, services--35.5%. Unemployment (2008 est.)--16.5%.

PEOPLE AND HISTORY
Georgia's recorded history dates back more than 2,500 years. Georgian, a South Caucasian (or "Kartvelian") language unrelated to any outside the immediate region, is one of the oldest living languages in the world and has its own distinct alphabet. Located in the picturesque Mtkvari River valley, Tbilisi is more than 1,500 years old. In the early 4th century Georgia became the second nation in the world to officially adopt Christianity. Georgia has historically been situated on the margins of great empires, and Georgians have lived together in a unified state for only a small fraction of their existence as a people. Since at least the 1st century B.C. through the 18th century, much of Georgia's territory was fought over by Persian, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Mongol, and Turkish armies. The zenith of Georgia's power as an independent kingdom came in the 11th and 12th centuries, during the reigns of King David the Builder and Queen Tamara, who rank among the most celebrated of all Georgian rulers.

In 1783 the king of Kartli (in eastern Georgia) signed the Treaty of Georgievsk with the Russians, by which Russia agreed to take the kingdom as its protectorate. In 1801, the Russian empire began the piecemeal process of unifying and annexing Georgian territory, and for most of the next two centuries (1801-1991) Georgia was ruled from St. Petersburg or Moscow. Exposed to modern European ideas of nationalism under Russian tutelage, Georgians like the influential writer Ilya Chavchavadze began calling for greater Georgian independence.

The independent Republic of Georgia was established on May 26, 1918, in the wake of the Russian Revolution. Pro-Menshevik president Noe Zhordania and a social-democratic government led the country until March 1921, when it was occupied by the Bolshevik Red Army. Georgia became a Soviet Socialist Republic the following year. Several of the Soviet Union's most well-known leaders in the 1920s and 1930s were Georgian, such as Joseph Stalin, Sergo Orjonikidze, and Lavrenti Beria, the head of Stalin’s secret police. During the Soviet period, Georgia was one of the wealthiest and most privileged republics, and its Black Sea coastline was a popular holiday destination for the Soviet elite. On April 9, 1991, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Georgia declared independence from the U.S.S.R.

Like other former Soviet Republics, Georgia’s newly declared independence was followed by ethnic and civil strife. Secessionists took control of parts of South Ossetia and most of Abkhazia prior to cease-fire agreements brokered in 1992 and 1994, respectively. Georgia began to stabilize in 1995. However, the separatist conflicts in Georgia's regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain unresolved. Periodic flare-ups in tension and violence culminated in a 5-day war in August 2008 between Georgia and Russia. French President Nicolas Sarkozy negotiated a cease-fire between Presidents Mikheil Saakashvili and Dmitriy Medvedev on August 12, which remains in effect, although Russia has not fulfilled some of its cease-fire commitments, including withdrawal of its forces to pre-war positions. In 2010, Russia began to formally establish permanent military basing in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In August 2008, Russia recognized the independence of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia; as of June 2010, only three other countries had recognized the independence of the two territories. Other countries, including the United States, have confirmed their continuing support for Georgia’s political sovereignty and territorial integrity. In 2009, Russia blocked consensus on an extension of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) mission in Georgia, including its military monitoring operation in South Ossetia, and vetoed an extension of the United Nations Observation Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), which monitored the situation in Abkhazia. As part of the Saakashvili-Medvedev cease-fire, the European Union established the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM), which patrols the area along the administrative boundary lines of both regions but has not gained access into the regions. The cease-fire also called for international peace talks on the situation, which have taken place regularly in Geneva since October 2008 among the EU, United Nations (UN), OSCE, Georgia, Russia, and the United States, with the participation of de facto representatives from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

GOVERNMENT
Georgia is a republic in which the president is elected for a term of 5 years, limited to two terms. The constitutional successor is the Speaker of Parliament.

Parliamentary elections on November 2, 2003 were marred by irregularities and fraud according to local and international observers. Popular demonstrations ensued in the streets of Tbilisi. Protestors carried roses in their hands in events that became known as the Rose Revolution. President Eduard Shevardnadze resigned on November 23, 2003, and Speaker of Parliament Nino Burjanadze assumed the role of Interim President. Mikheil Saakashvili was elected to a 5-year term as president in January 2004. Parliamentary elections were re-held in March 2004 and President Saakashvili's party, National Movement, combined with Speaker Burjanadze's party, the Burjanadze-Democrats, won the majority of seats.

On May 24, 2005, the Parliament passed legislation to decentralize power from the central government in Tbilisi to local government authorities in the regions, although much remains to be done before meaningful decentralization is fully achieved. Elections were held on October 5, 2006 for 1,732 members of 69 local councils and seven city governments.

An early presidential election was scheduled after President Saakashvili resigned in November 2007, following the government’s violent dispersal of protestors in front of Parliament. Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze assumed the presidency on an interim basis until January elections.

On January 5, 2008, Saakashvili was elected to a second 5-year term with 53.45% of the vote. Levan Gachechiladze, the unified candidate of nine opposition parties, earned 25.68%. Voters also overwhelmingly voted in two plebiscites in favor of NATO integration and spring parliamentary elections.

In the May 21, 2008 parliamentary elections, President Saakashvili’s United National Movement won an overwhelming majority with 119 out of 150 seats. International observers agreed that the government made efforts to conduct the elections in line with international standards but that the elections were uneven and incomplete in their adherence to those standards. Half of the opposition boycotted the new Parliament, citing voter intimidation, lack of balance by most media, and a lack of fair adjudication of complaints, problems also noted by the OSCE. As a result, by-elections were held in Tbilisi and Adjara on November 3, 2008. In the fall of 2009, Parliament passed legislation allowing those individuals who had refused to take their seats following the May 2008 elections to assume office if they so chose.

In December 2009, Parliament passed a new electoral code, providing for the direct election of Tbilisi’s mayor for the first time and the expansion of Tbilisi’s city council, among other reforms. Municipal elections held on May 30, 2010 were evaluated by international monitors from the OSCE as marking evident progress toward meeting OSCE and Council of Europe standards for democratic elections, but noted that significant shortcomings remain. The United National Movement won the majority of seats in each of the country’s municipal councils, including in Tbilisi, and its candidate was elected mayor of the capital.

In June 2009, the government created a state commission on constitutional reform comprised of representatives of the government, Parliament, the ruling and opposition parties, legal experts, and academic scholars to review options for amending the constitution. In May 2010, the commission agreed on a preliminary draft intended to serve as a model for continued discussions and eventually as the basis for a new constitution. The draft includes a provision stating that the new constitution would not take effect until after the 2013 presidential election. The commission sent the draft to the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission for review.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in 2012 and a presidential election is scheduled to be held in October 2013. Under Georgia’s current constitution, President Saakashvili is prevented from running for a third term in 2013.

Principal Government Officials
President--Mikheil Saakashvili
Prime Minister--Nika Gilauri
Speaker of Parliament--Davit Bakradze
Foreign Minister--Grigol Vashadze
Defense Minister--Bacho Akhalaia
Interior Minister--Vano Merabishvili
Justice Minister--Zurab Adeishvili
Finance Minister--Kakha Baindurashvili
Economic Development Minister--Zurab Pololikashvili
Culture and Sport Minister--Nika Rurua
Education and Science Minister--Dmitri Shashkin
Agriculture Minister--Bakur Kvezereli
State Minister of Refugees and Accommodation--Koba Subeliani
State Minister for Reintegration Issues--Temur Yakobashvili
State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration--Giorgi Baramidze
Ambassador to the United States--Batu Kutelia

Georgia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2209 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 387-2390, fax (202) 393-4537.

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
In 2004, the Government of Georgia initiated a variety of important reforms. The reform process is ongoing, and will require further implementation to achieve stated objectives.

Specifically, the government has taken action against endemic corruption, receiving high marks from the World Bank. These initiatives have included reform of the notorious traffic police and implementation of a fair examination system for entering the university system.

Further reforms have aimed at increasing respect for and strengthening the rule of law, such as 2006 constitutional amendments intended to increase the independence of the judiciary and 2007 legislation banning ex parte communication (prohibiting parties to a case from communicating with judges during the pre-trial investigation period and the trial). Legislation requiring the Ministry of Justice to establish a legal aid office was passed, making available assistance and representation in court proceedings to those indigent who request it. The Parliament passed a new, Council of Europe-compliant Criminal Procedure Code in October 2009, which will enter into force in October 2010. Implementation of judicial reforms is ongoing, and has not fully eliminated claims that the judiciary remains under pressure from the executive branch. The government has launched an aggressive campaign to combat trafficking in persons.

Some concerns about limitations on political pluralism and other components of democracy continue, and various opposition parties have at times taken to the streets in protest, demanding the President’s resignation and early elections. In November 2007, protesters convening in front of Parliament were violently dispersed by police, compelling President Saakashvili to resign and call snap presidential elections. Saakashvili won an additional 5-year mandate in the January 2008 elections that ensued. Street protests organized by the opposition from April to July 2009 were generally met with restraint by the authorities and dissipated. More recently, the political environment has stabilized, in part because of greater government inclusiveness in the reform process, the focus of some parties on participation in the May 2010 municipal elections, and reduced public interest in street protest.

The separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain outside the control of the Georgian Government. On August 26, 2008, Russia characterized these regions as independent, in violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. A cease-fire agreement negotiated by French President Sarkozy, signed by Georgian President Saakashvili and Russian President Medvedev, calls for the parties not to resort to the use of force, a definitive halt to hostilities, the provision of free humanitarian access to the separatist regions, the withdrawal of Georgian and Russian forces to their positions prior to the outbreak of hostilities, and the opening of international discussions on the security and stability of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In accordance with this agreement, the EU, UN, and OSCE host ongoing talks on security and stability arrangements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The governments of Georgia, Russia, and the United States send representatives to participate in the talks, which take place in Geneva. De facto authorities from Abkhazia and South Ossetia also participate, though with limited status. The talks have established Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) designed to foster stability on the ground near conflict areas. Other items on the agenda include security, unfettered access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia for international monitors and human rights groups, and exploring the issue of the return of internally displaced persons. February and April 2010 agreements between Moscow and the de facto Abkhaz and South Ossetian authorities, respectively, establishing Russian military bases in the separatist regions for 49 years, are not consistent with the terms of the cease-fire agreement.

The de facto authorities in Abkhazia continue to restrict the rights, primarily of ethnic Georgians, to vote, participate in the political process, and exercise basic rights such as property ownership, business registration, and travel. Ethnic Georgians also have suffered harassment by Abkhaz and Russian forces, forced conscription in the Abkhaz "army," a lack of funding for basic infrastructure maintenance, and limitations on Georgian-language instruction in the Gali district schools.

The mandate for the OSCE mission to monitor the 1992 cease-fire in South Ossetia and to facilitate negotiations between parties to the conflict expired in 2008. The UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) established to monitor compliance with the 1994 cease-fire agreement in Abkhazia came to an end in June 2009. Neither mandate was extended after Russia blocked consensus among participating member states. The EU maintains a monitoring presence along the administrative boundary lines between the separatist regions and undisputed Georgia, but is not allowed inside Abkhazia or South Ossetia by the separatists or occupying Russian forces.

Membership in NATO remains a priority for Georgia. In support of this objective, Georgia's military continues to undergo widespread reforms. In September 2006, NATO granted Georgia “Intensified Dialogue” on requirements for membership in the organization. In September 2008, NATO and Georgia established the NATO-Georgia Commission (NGC) to enhance NATO’s relations with Georgia, coordinate NATO post-conflict assistance efforts, and underpin Georgia’s efforts in political, economic, and defense-related reform. In December 2008, NATO foreign ministers agreed that Georgia should develop an annual national program under the auspices of the NGC. At the June 2010 NATO Defense Ministerial, NATO ministers of defense reaffirmed the Alliance’s continued support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and its aspirations for NATO membership as agreed at the April 2008 NATO Summit in Bucharest.

ECONOMY
The Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia was one of the most prosperous areas of the Soviet Union. Political turmoil following Georgia’s independence had a catastrophic effect on the country’s economy. The cumulative decline in real GDP is estimated to have been more than 70% between 1990 and 1994, and by the end of 1996, Georgia's economy had shrunk to around one-third of its size in 1989. Today, the largest share of Georgia's GDP is produced by agriculture, followed by trade, manufacturing, and transport. Georgia's main exports are metals and ores, wine, and nuts.

Although Georgia experienced some years of growth in the mid-1990s, it was significantly affected by the Russian economic crisis of 1998-99. The later years of former President Shevardnadze's administration were marked by rampant cronyism, corruption, and mismanagement. Public disaffection with the situation resulted in the Rose Revolution of 2003. The new government, led by Mikheil Saakashvili, promised to combat corruption, stabilize the economy, bring order to the budget, and reorient the government and the economy toward privatization and free markets.

The government has reduced the number of taxes from 21 to six: a flat personal income tax of 20%, profit tax of 15%, 18% value added tax (VAT), a variable customs tax, and property taxes up to 1% of self-assessed value of property. Based on this simplified system and low rates, Forbes rates Georgia fourth best in the world in terms of tax burden on its citizens. It has significantly reduced the number of licenses a business requires, and introduced a "one-window" system that allows an entrepreneur to open a business relatively quickly. Strict deadlines for agency action on permits have been introduced, and consent is assumed if the agency fails to act within the time limit.

The World Bank has recognized Georgia as one of the world's fastest-reforming economies, and in 2010 ranked it as the world's 11th easiest place to do business, an improvement from 115th in 2005 and now in the same tier as countries such as Australia, Norway, and Japan. The World Bank's "Anti-Corruption in Transition 3" report places Georgia among the countries showing the most dramatic improvement in the struggle against corruption, due to implementation of key economic and institutional reforms, and reported reduction in the bribes paid by firms in the course of doing business.

Economic growth was 2.3% in 2008; inflation reached 5.5% in the same year. The economy contracted by 4% in 2009 as a result of the global economic crisis and Georgia’s 2008 conflict with Russia. GDP growth for 2010 is conservatively estimated at between 2% and 3%, although some predictions range up to 5%. In response to the damage suffered during the conflict, 38 countries and 15 international organizations pledged to provide U.S. $4.55 billion to Georgia at the Brussels donors’ conference on October 22, 2008. Of the U.S. $4.55 billion, U.S. $2 billion are grants and the rest consists of low-interest loan guarantees. The pledges amounted to approximately U.S. $3.7 billion to meet the urgent post-conflict and priority infrastructure investment needs from 2008 to 2010, with the balance going to shore up the financial and banking sector. This package includes U.S. $1 billion pledged by the United States.

Efforts to improve the efficiency of government operations since the Rose Revolution have required the government to decrease the size of its workforce. Official unemployment was 16.5% in 2008. A strongly negative balance of trade has been offset by inflows of investment and assistance from international donors. Although net investment inflows decreased in the immediate aftermath of the August 2008 conflict, private investment is returning. The Brussels aid package mitigated loss of private investment in the short term, allowing the government to continue to run a current account deficit of roughly 15%-20% of GDP. In 2009, foreign direct investment (FDI) fell to $759.1 million, down from $1.56 billion in 2008 and $2.01 billion in 2007. Over 44% of FDI came from the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and Egypt. The sectors with the highest levels of FDI were industry ($204.1 million), transportation and communications ($153.6 million), hotels and restaurants ($134 million), and real estate ($132 million).

From 2004 to 2008, improved collection and administration of taxes and the widespread privatization of state-owned assets greatly increased government revenues. During that period, tax collections went up from 17.8% of GDP to 22.2%. The government was able to pay off wage and pension arrears and increase spending on desperately needed infrastructure such as roads and electric energy supply systems. However, tax revenues declined commensurate with the reduction in overall growth in 2008 and 2009. Georgia’s economy has begun to recover; the Georgian Government and International Monetary Fund (IMF) predict between 2% and 5% GDP growth in 2010. Government revenues have grown concurrently, reaching approximately $606 million in the first quarter of 2010, up 13% from one year previous.

Prior to 2004, electricity blackouts were common throughout the country. Since late 2005, however, distribution has been much more reliable, approaching consistent 24-hour-a-day service due to increased metering, better billing and collection practices, reduced theft, and management reforms. Investments in infrastructure have been made as well. Hydroelectricity output increased by almost 27%, and thermal by 28%, from 2005 to 2006. Through conservation, new hydroelectricity sources, and the availability of new sources of natural gas in Azerbaijan, Georgia has significantly reduced its historical dependence on Russia for energy supplies. Although the Enguri hydroelectric power plant, which supplies up to 40% of Georgia’s winter electricity supply, is located in Abkhazia with the dam located in undisputed Georgia, there have not been any significant disruptions in transmission to undisputed Georgia since the 2008 conflict.

The banking sector remains relatively stable, though it was challenged by the 2008 conflict and global financial crisis. The sector is open to foreign banks, and several are operating in Georgia, including ProCredit Bank, HSBC, and Bank Republic. International financial institutions and international banking institutions own equity shares in several of Georgia’s banks. Interest on commercial loans remains high, though has started to drop as competition for credit-worthy customers has increased. The economy continues to be credit-challenged, as the price of loans remains high and borrower eligibility requirements remain strict.

Georgia faces many challenges in expanding trade. The major market to which Georgia has traditionally been linked is Russia. (For example, at one time nearly 100% of the Soviet Union's citrus fruits were grown in Georgia.) In 2006, Russia imposed bans on all Georgian exports of wine, fruits and vegetables, and mineral water; severed all direct transportation links; and eliminated postal service and visa issuance. (Since January 2009, direct charter flights between Tbilisi and Moscow have taken place intermittently.) Georgia has since reoriented its trade relations toward the EU, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North America, and elsewhere. Georgia’s foreign trade turnover in the first quarter of 2010 was $1.36 billion, up 15% from one year earlier. The value of exports was $339 million, up 55% from one year earlier, and the value of imports was $1.02 billion, up 6% from one year earlier. Georgia’s 2010 first-quarter trade deficit stood at $681 million, down 9% from one year earlier. Turkey remains Georgia’s largest trading partner, accounting for $212 million in the first quarter of 2010, followed by Azerbaijan ($137 million) and Ukraine ($127 million). Georgian trade with the United States accounted for $39.44 million in the same quarter. During the same period, Georgia’s largest export was ferro-alloys, amounting to $57 million; oil products were its largest import, totaling $119 million.

The government has made considerable strides in controlling corruption, although challenges still remain. Shortly after President Saakashvili took office, his administration dismissed nearly the entire police force and replaced its ranks with better-paid and better-trained officers, immediately decreasing the largest source for daily corruption among the population. Several high-level officials have been prosecuted for corruption-related offenses. The government continues to make anti-corruption initiatives a priority, and Georgia’s global ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index improved from 133rd in 2004 to 66th best in 2009. However, limited confidence in the Georgian court system remains a major obstacle to both foreign and domestic investment. The government publicly recognizes the importance of addressing these concerns, which requires the combination of judicial independence and informed, honest, fair, and competent judicial decision making.

International donors have targeted foreign assistance to promote democratic reform, resolve regional conflicts, foster energy independence, assist economic development, and reduce poverty. In 2004, Georgia's debt to the Paris Club was restructured. An IMF Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) approved in September 2008 to limit the shock of the August 2008 conflict on the economy through fiscal stimulus financed by donors and liquidity injections into the banking system, fills part of Georgia’s balance of payments gap that opened as a result of the conflict and global economic downturn. The SBA makes $1.17 billion of credit available and has been extended through June 2011. Other donors such as the World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) assist in energy and transportation development, legal and administrative reform, health, and many other areas.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Georgia's location between the Black Sea, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey gives it strategic importance as a transit corridor. It is developing as the gateway from the Black Sea to the Caucasus and the Caspian basin. Following Russian bans on imports of Georgian wine, mineral water, and agricultural products, and the severing of transportation links in 2006, Georgia has reached out to other neighbors and to the West to diversify its export markets. Georgia is a member of the UN, OSCE, World Bank, IMF, EBRD, World Trade Organization (WTO), Council of Europe, and Organization for Democracy and Economic Development-GUAM. In August 2008, following Georgia’s conflict with Russia, its Parliament voted unanimously to withdraw from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In accordance with the CIS charter, this measure took effect one year later. Georgia has a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) and a Neighborhood Action Plan with the EU, and is an active participant in the EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative, which offers bilateral and multilateral measures and assistance for enhanced EU cooperation with the Caucasus, Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. Negotiations on an EU Association Agreement to replace Georgia’s PCA are expected to begin in July 2010. Georgia participates in NATO's Partnership for Peace program, and as of June 2010 was the second largest non-NATO troop contributor to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, with 962 soldiers. A Georgian infantry battalion deployed with no caveats in April 2010 to Helmand province to conduct security operations alongside the U.S. Marines.

U.S.-GEORGIA RELATIONS
The strength of U.S.-Georgia relations is illustrated by the U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership, signed in January 2009. The Charter outlines the importance of the relationship as strategic partners as well as the intent of both countries to enhance defense and security cooperation; to further develop economic, trade, and energy cooperation; to promote democracy; and to build people-to-people and cultural exchanges. A June 2009 plenary session in Washington chaired by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and Foreign Minister Vashadze launched semi-annual talks to implement the Charter’s objectives. Working groups covering the Charter’s four sectors each met once in Tbilisi between October 2009 and February 2010. Another plenary session is expected to take place in Washington in 2010. The full text of the Charter can be found at http://www.state.gov/p/eur/rls/or/121029.htm

The United States has provided over $3 billion in assistance to Georgia since its independence in 1991, including $1 billion in the aftermath of the 2008 conflict focused on supporting reconstruction and stabilization and helping Georgia reinvigorate its democratic, economic, and security reforms. Post-conflict U.S. assistance provided urgent humanitarian relief to those most affected by hostilities. U.S. programs continue to assist internally displaced persons through housing upgrades and by improving social services. Support for infrastructure rehabilitation and development, especially in the energy sector, facilitates renewed economic growth and seeks to decrease Georgia’s dependence on energy imports. U.S. programs work to strengthen democracy and governance by enhancing institutional checks and balances and by increasing public participation in democratic processes. This includes assistance to strengthen the rule of law; increase government transparency, accountability, and responsiveness; promote political competition and democratic electoral processes; and strengthen independent media and civil society. U.S. programs are targeted to increase the standards of living of Georgians through development and reform of the education and health sectors. U.S. assistance builds capacity in Georgia’s security sector by enhancing the professionalism and capacity of the armed forces, furthering its ability to secure its borders, improving law enforcement, and addressing cross-border challenges such as trafficking in persons and narcotics. Georgia was one of the first countries to receive a Millennium Challenge Corporation compact, in the amount of U.S. $295 million over 5 years, with an another $100 million added following the August 2008 conflict. Georgia’s compact is focused on rehabilitating regional infrastructure and supporting enterprise development.

Information about U.S. assistance to Georgia can be found at http://www.state.gov/p/eur/rls/fs/140638.htm.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--John R. Bass
Deputy Chief of Mission--Kent Logsdon
USAID Director--Jonathan Conly
Political/Economic/Commercial Affairs--Julie Fisher
Public Affairs--Cynthia Whittlesey
Defense Attaché--Lt Col John Thurman
Management Counselor--Jeffrey VanDreal
Regional Security Officer--Adam Schrandt

The U.S. Embassy in Georgia is located at 11 George Balanchine Street, Tbilisi, Georgia, 0131, telephone (995 32) 27-70-00, fax (995 32) 53-23-10. For travel and consular information, please see the Travel and Business Information section below. Specific questions related to consular issues in Georgia can be sent to U.S. Embassy Tbilisi at AskConsulTbilisi@state.gov.

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