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British Ambassador honours Newport
27 March 2009 at Newport Civic Centre





The British Ambassador to Georgia, Denis Keefe, came to Newport on Friday to honour the achievements there of Newport City Council and the Newport Kutaisi Twinning Association (NKTA). He was received by the Mayor, civic leaders and Paul Flynn, MP for Newport West. He was then the guest of the NKTA.

Most Newportonians would be at first amazed but then very proud of what people in Kutaisi, the second city of Georgia, a country 5 hours flight away- beyond the Mediterranean at the far end of the Black Sea, say about Newport.

For them Newport is one of the most important cities in the UK if not the world, such is the support they have received.

The City Council has provided help, professional advice and equipment to many departments in its twin city, from librarians through to massive support and

training for social workers . Other bodies in and around Newport have also contributed; the Royal Gwent Hospital regularly provides training (in Newport and in Georgia), support and surplus equipment.

The Fire Brigade organised memorable training for their counterparts very recently. Much of this work is co-ordinated by the NKTA.

Unfortunately for Georgia it is no longer necessary to explain that this is not a US state- as a resultof the short but painful war with Russia last year. The results of the war were shattering, with a major port devastated by the Russians as they briefly but destructively occupied a large part of the country, including Kutaisi.

Georgia, like most former Soviet satellite countries, has struggled to come into the real world, regarding its economy but more importantly with democracy. His Excellency said that at least 10 years had been lost after independence in 1991. Democracy is still not assured, the Rose Revolution was only 5 years ago.

Dennis Keefe with Leader of the Council, Matthew Evans

Dennis Keefe, Catherine Phillpott, and Paul Flynn MP

One major achievement of the Georgian government has been to stop everyday corruption: poverty-stricken policemen do not now stop motorists to fine them to supplement their income, it isn’t necessary to bribe someone to get a form filled in. However, at the national level there are still big problems with powerful people who don’t believe in democracy. Our ambassador explained that Georgia was fortunately able to raise some significant aid just as the credit crunch started to bite; the government has used this money well.

The British people are well-served by our ambassador, a graduate of both Cambridge and Oxford, who learnt the fiendishly difficult Georgian language in 6 months. He has a remarkable grasp of what is going on in Georgia from the President right down to footpaths in national parks. He has experienced the astonishing warmth and generosity of the Georgian people. Georgians claim that they invented the culture of grapes for wine: the ambassador has found they haven’t wasted their early start!

The Ambassador recognised that Georgia’ main assets are its landscape, its climate and, above all, its people. Here His Excellency paid tribute to the NKTA. Although it is small its work is important- underlined by the fact that the ambassador travelled to Newport to say so. One of the aims of the NKTA is to facilitate the exchange of people between the 2 cities. Like our ambassador, any Newportonian who makes the trip to Kutaisi will return both amazed and impressed with what Newport has achieved.

Dennis Keefe, Catherine Phillpott