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© Büro des Premierministers von Georgien
A commentary by Armin Huttenlocher
New Silk Road: „This will change the world.”
Those, who attended the conference, will not take the statement by the Deputy Director-General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Yi Xiaozhun, as a hyperbole: “What is emerging here, along the old Silk Road, will change the world and rearrange seemingly eternal structures.”

2000 delegates from 60 countries...

More than 2000 delegates from more than sixty countries – among them, regrettably, not a single German politician and astonishingly few high-ranking representatives of the German economy – have spent two days in Tbilisi, analyzing the status quo of the development of the re-establishment of the Silk Road, openly addressing challenges and to reassess the economic potential of the Euro-Asian trade traffic.

Where was Germany?

One should be cautious with using the term “enormous”. But if one was to call the potential “immeasurable”, one would be on par with those dozy German representatives, who apparently still have not realized what the erection of this highly modern transport route between Beijing, Tbilisi, Istanbul and Hamburg, in the south of instead of right through Russia or by ship, around Asia, Africa and the Iberian Peninsula to Europe or from Europe to China, stands for.

Faster, securer, cheaper and more ecological

This trade route will be faster, securer, more flexible, also – which is hardly addressed by anyone, but thought of by many – less dependent on the moods and corruption coming from Russia, and last but not least: immensely more ecological. If one generously puts aside the decisive interference with nature along the tens of thousands of kilometers of train tracks, roads, harbors and loading, unloading and transfer stations. The deep-sea harbor of Anaklia, about to be completely rebuilt at the Georgian Black Sea coast, is only one of those examples – and by far not the biggest.

Source: Ministry for Internal Affairs of Georgia / Twitter
High-ranking panelists and filled seating rows: Many international players have realized the potential of the "New Silk Road" and traveled to the Tbilisi Belt & Road Forum from all over the world. (Source: The Ministry for Internal Affairs of Georgia / Twitter)

New economic formations

But these are, as stated above, only the economic aspects. In the background, political developments are taking place, new formats of cooperation are founded, new perspectives for hitherto less relevant states open up. And, yet again, the new geopolitical value of those states, which cannot be overlooked or disparaged.

This is exactly, what applies to Georgia. While the EU Commission has read the signs, and dispatched three of its commissioners to the conference in Tbilisi, core EU member states, such as Germany or France, appear to still be waiting for the light of realization.

„Germany risks missing the chance to jump on board.”

„I have no explanation for this”, says a high-ranking representative of the European banking sector. “For years, we have told Brussels, Berlin and Paris about the massive chances for more independence from Moscow and for the stabilization of the countries in the southern and southeastern flanks of Europe that rest within the project that is the new Silk Road. Some don’t believe in it. Some don’t want to hear about it. And others lose themselves in speculations about the real goals, China might be pursuing with this. Germany, as well, needs to make sure that it does not risk to miss the chance to jump on board of this global endeavor.”

This assessment is coherent with the observation that virtually no representative of any greater German news outlet was present in Tbilisi, in order to report back on the numerous high-level talks and far-reaching agreements that took place at the conference.

Summit of the determined

„The one, who had lived in the shadow for long, knows, that he himself has to step out into the light”, said the Georgian Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, and implied that he thinks little of accusations, but all the more of moving forward. “Georgia is proud of what we have been able to contribute to the establishment of the new Silk Road up until now. In two or three years’ time, we will surely see countries at this conference that this year have only let their ambassadors report on the conference.

The Georgian Prime Minister is known for his fine diplomatic tone. But also for his sovereign rationality and realistic assessment – economically, as well as politically.

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