Issue no: 968/89
• AUGUST 1 - 3, 2017
• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue... Partnership Fund to Launch Romanov Palace Restoration in Likani NEWS PAGE 2
ON VP PENCE'S VISIT
Find out what happened during the US Vice President's visit to Georgia Source: Reuters/Joshua Roberts
Anaklia Development Consortium Signs Agreement with SSA Marine
Moisichuk Gloats over the Misfortunes of “Mikheil the Lackland” POLITICS PAGE 6
Christianity in Georgia: The Resilience of a Faith & Nation SOCIETY PAGE 8
Discrimination in Georgia: Intercultural Education Needed SOCIETY PAGE 9
Adjara Tourism Promoted on BBC and Euronews
INTERVIEW BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
ugust 1st sees the official signing ceremony of the agreement between the Anaklia Development Consortium and SSA Marine. SSA Marine is considered to be one of the largest terminal operators in the world, with 250 strategic operations across the five continents, serving 27.2 million containers (TEU) as it manages terminals across 9 countries. The signing is a landmark moment marking the US-based company’s move to become Anaklia Deep Sea Port’s terminal operator. Continued on page 11
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AUGUST 1 - 3, 2017
Georgian Entrepreneurs Can Become Enterprise Europe Network Members
US, Europe-Led Drills Underway in Georgia BY THEA MORRISON
Produce in Georgia, GITA and Chamber of Commerce and Industry sign a Memorandum of Cooperation
BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
memorandum of cooperation on the use of the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) platform was signed between the ‘Produce in Georgia’ Entrepreneurship Development Agency, Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) and the Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Technology Park Tbilisi last week. The aim is to assist Georgian entrepreneurs to export their products, foster international partner relations, establish trading missions and participate in forums. EEN, which operates in 67 countries, enables network members to exchange business proposals, with over 600 international companies involved. “The platform will play an important role in terms of developing business in Georgia and providing necessary information to Georgian entrepreneurs,” said Mariana Morgoshia, ‘Produce in Georgia’ Director. “Being a part of EEN is crucial for Georgian entrepreneurs in terms of
Partnership Fund to Launch Romanov Palace Restoration in Likani BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
he former palace of the last Russian royal family, the Romanovs, is to be restored alongside the orangery, conference hall, former government residence and park, in Likani, near Borjomi, within the Likani Complex Rehabilitation project initiated by the Partnership Fund. GEL 771,000 has been allocated and restoration works will begin within eight months once the planning phase is complete. Likani Park, in which the Romanov Palace is located, was assigned national monument status by the Georgian government earlier last week. An agreement between the National Agency of State Property and the Partnership Fund was signed in 2016, according to which the Fund is to carry out rehabilitation and restoration works of the Likani complex. The entire plan of the complex and a museological study of the Romanov residence will also be made. The Partnership Fund is cooperating with the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia throughout planning and restoration of the complex.
their product realization process as well as for market diversification”. Within the signed memorandum framework, all three state agencies will be spreading information about the benefits offered by EEN, and assisting Georgian entrepreneurs with the EEN registration process. “The work between European and Georgian enterprises has to be synchronized, and that’s the aim of the platform,” said Giorgi Zviadadze, Director of the Georgian Innovation and Technology Agency. “We will be assisting companies both in the capital and in the regions to position themselves and their products in the largest enterprise network in Europe,” Nino Chikovani, President of Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, added. The Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia claims that any Georgian company is eligible to receive EEN services once they fill in the application at een-georgia.ge and apply to either Produce in Georgia, GITA or the Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
eorgia’s Vaziani base and Camp Norio are hosting the Noble Partner 2017 drills led by the United States (US) and Europe. The drills officially kicked off on July 30 and are to run until August 12. Around 800 Georgian and 1600 US troops are taking part in the Noble Partner 2017 drills. The exercises will also include 400 servicemen from Armenia, Germany, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. The US has sent some of its M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles across the Black Sea for the drills. The goal of Noble Partner 2017 is to support the training, evaluation and eventual certification of Georgia’s second light infantry company contribution to the NATO Response Force (NRF) for 2017. Georgia is not a member of NATO, however, it and other NATO partners voluntarily contribute to the NRF.
The exercise affords participating nations an opportunity to train in a multinational environment while enhancing cooperation and interoperability. Leaders at all levels get the chance to exercise staff in mission planning, command and control, movement and maneuver, and the execution of complex joint and combined operations. The official website of the US Army Europe reports that there are six key training events during the exercise: • US Naval Forces Europe equipment transfer from Burgas Port, Bulgaria, to Poti Port, Georgia • Tactical road march to Vaziani training area by US and Slovenian forces • Combined arms live-fire exercise by US 2nd Cavalry Regiment and Slovenian wheeled infantry carrier vehicles • Two airborne operations led by the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team • Joint live-fire with the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division and Georgia's 4th Mechanized Brigade • Combined arms live-fire exercise built around a defensive scenario. Noble Partner 2017 is the third itera-
tion of exercise in Georgia and is a bilateral effort focused on enhancing US and Georgian NATO Response Force interoperability in the context of military-to-military relationships. Georgia's Defense Minister, Levan Izoria called the scale of exercises "unprecedented", claiming they will "make clear the support for Georgia by NATO member states, especially the US." Speaking at the opening ceremony, Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, underlined that the drills are extremely significant. “I am sure the armed forces of the participating states will use experience received at the Noble Partner 2017 for strengthening peace in the world,” he said, adding that such military exercises are important for Georgia and the region to strengthen cooperation and increase the capacity of armed forces, as well as to bring the countries closer to NATO standards. President Giorgi Margvelashvili also delivered a speech at the ceremony, saying the participants of the drills are true noble partners and share the values of democracy, freedom and human rights.
AUGUST 1 - 3, 2017
Polish Journalists Make Film about Adjara Region of Georgia
Two Workers Injured During Tunnel Construction BY THEA MORRISON
he collapse of the railway tunnel at Aneula village, Kharagauli Municipality, west Georgia left two construction workers injured
BY THEA MORRISON
olish journalists are making a documentary film about Georgia’s Black Sea Adjara Region. The journalists will spend a week in Adjara and go sightseeing, visit historic and cultural places of Batumi and get acquainted with the touristic
products available in the region. They are also to visit the Batumi Botanical Garden, Dolphinarium, Gonio Fortress and mountainous Adjara where they will film the final part of the documentary. The Polish Public Broadcaster and the Wroclaw Culture and Art Center journalists are taking part in a media tour organized by the Adjara Tourism Department, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, and the Adjara Public Broadcaster.
on Saturday. One worker is in a “very grave” condition and is undergoing treatment in the neurosurgery intensive therapy ward for a fractured skull, bruising in the brain and nasal bone fracture. Ilia Lejava, the Head of the Railway Trade Union stated the monitoring of the site took place this May and several recommendations had been issued, as the commission revealed some violations of safety norms and labor rights. He added that the next monitoring was planned for September. Lejava suspects that the recommenda-
tions were not taken into account, leading to the above incident. The construction company, Chinese Railway 23rd, says the labor standards were fully observed on site. “The workers were provided with all
appropriate equipment and conditions,” the company claims. Georgia’s Interior Ministry has launched an investigation under Article 240 of the Criminal Code of Georgia for the violation of safety rules in mining, construction, or other work.
Tbilisi to Have Rehabilitation Center for Children with Cancer a 6500-square meter area in the Dighomi village district to our fund,” Chkhvimiani explained. “We plan to run trainings and workshops to increase the skills of the center attendees,” she added. Child rehabilitation implies care for children with serious tumors. The treatment involves mitigation of symptoms and psychological support for the children and their family members. The opening ceremony of construction works was attended by members of Parliament, representatives of the business community and a number of clergymen. The Vice-Premier and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mikheil Janelidze, said that taking care of citizens is the obligation of every civilized state. “The State will always promote such projects,” he confirmed, adding that the activities of the Monk Andria Charity Fund are unprecedented. The construction of ‘Happy House’ will be completed in the summer of 2019.
BY THEA MORRISON
bilisi is to have a 24-hour rehabilitation center for young patients with cancer. Social project ‘Happy House’ is the initiative of the Monk Andria Charity Fund. The State-led Solidarity Fund will finance construction of the center, which will be able to serve 20 children and their parents, 24 hours a day, free of charge. A special day-center will also operate at which 50 children and their parents will be able to receive a variety of free support services. The founder of the Monk Andria Charity Fund, Tinatin Chkhvimiani, says that this will be the first facility in Georgia where children with tumors and their families are able to receive free treatment and rehabilitation services. “The idea for the project was born when the Ministry of Economy granted
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GEORGIA TODAY AUGUST 1 - 3, 2017
US Vice-President Mike Pence Pays Official Visit to Georgia BY THEA MORRISON
fter paying an official visit to Estonia, the United States (US) Vice-President Mike Pence has arrived in Georgia to meet Georgian officials and the leaders of the opposition parties. The US Vice President visited Georgia
within the framework of an official European tour. During the visit, he will meet with the President of Georgia, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II and participants of the Noble Partner 2017 military exercise. Michael Richard Pence is an American politician, lawyer, and the 48th and current Vice President of the United States. He previously served as the 50th Governor of Indiana from 2013 to 2017. Upon becoming Governor of Indiana
in January 2013, Pence initiated the largest tax cut in Indiana's history, pushed for more funding for education initiatives, and continued to increase the state's budget surplus. Pence signed bills intended to restrict abortions, including one that prohibited abortions if the reason for the procedure was the fetus's race, gender, or disability. On November 8, 2016, Pence was elected as Vice President after he dropped out of his gubernatorial re-election campaign
in July to become the vice presidential running mate for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who went on to win the presidential election. Pence’s plane landed in Tbilisi International Airport at 7pm. Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and the US Ambassador to Georgia, Ian Kelly, welcomed Pence and his spouse. PM Kvirikashvili and Pence first met in the US this May, when the Georgian PM paid an official visit to Washington.
From the airport, the officials went to the Funicular Restaurant Complex in Mtatsminda District to enjoy an informal dinner. Official statements will be made tomorrow. It is expected that Pence will make some supportive statements of Georgia on behalf of the US Presidential Administration. Georgiatoday.ge will offer its readers updates on further meetings and comments throughout the day tomorrow before VP Pence leaves Georgia at 4pm.
Georgian NGOs Send Letter to US Vice-President BY THEA MORRISON
wenty-four non-governmental organizations (NGOs) based in Georgia sent an open letter to United States (US) Vice-President Mike Pence ahead his arrival in Georgia on July 31, indicating the most important issues for Georgia. The NGOs expressed gratitude for America’s continuous support of Georgia and noted that US support for Georgia’s independence, territorial integrity, security and its democratic and economic development, as well as Georgia’s NATO membership, played a fundamental role in the process of building a modern Georgian state. “We firmly believe that the United States is the closest and most trusted partner of Georgia, supporter of our sovereignty and statehood, based on shared values of freedom, democracy, rule of law and human rights,” the letter reads. The organizations stressed that Georgia’s striving to freedom has become a target for Russian aggressive revisionism. “Russia is constantly trying to undermine Georgian statehood by continued occupation and creeping annexation of Georgian territories, illegal military pres-
ence and other coercive measures,” the letter reads. The NGOs also underlined that Georgia has achieved significant progress in the process of consolidating democracy, modernizing the country and implementing significant reforms, which “have played a decisive role in enabling Georgia to develop resilience to withstand Russian pressure.”
The letter also familiarizes the US Vice-President with the most important issues that concern civil society and “threaten to undermine” the democratic achievements of Georgia. The organizations believe that the most acute problem nowadays is the Constitution reform, saying it is “one-handed” and no effort was made to seek and achieve broad public and political con-
sensus over the draft of the document. “Among other controversial issues, such as abolishing direct elections of the president, the reform failed to achieve immediate change of the electoral system despite the expectations of the political spectrum, civil society and the Venice Commission,’ the letter reads. The NGOs claim that the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party has pushed for
introducing mechanisms that would favor the incumbent political party, “which is an alarming sign of further concentration of power by the ruling political force”. The independence of the judiciary was also listed by the NGOs among the problematic issues. “Despite three waves of reforms and certain positive tendencies in the judiciary after 2012, the GD government largely failed to address systemic problems in the judicial system,” the organizations claim. Moreover, the letter reads that impunity and lack of accountability of lawenforcement and security services is another important issue of concern. The NGOs believe that there exists no effective parliamentary or civilian oversight or judicial control over the activities of the law enforcement bodies and security services. The list also noted the issue of media pluralism, saying the situation in this regard has worsened in Georgia in recent years. “Mr. Vice President, we sincerely believe that continuous US support to Georgia’s freedom, independence, effective governance and its NATO membership aspirations is vital, is in the interest of both nations and is essential for building a Europe that is whole, free and at peace,” the letter reads.
AUGUST 1 - 3, 2017
Moisichuk Gloats over the Misfortunes of “Mikheil the Lackland” ter, to avoid any repercussions and so on.
INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE
SO KYEV’S INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION WON’T SUFFER?
ikheil Lackland was one of the funnier nicknames that people came up with after the news broke that theEx-PresidentofGeorgia had been stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship. And the method that his onetime friend Petro Poroshenko employed was also nothing short of symbolic – in a classic soviet twist, Saakashvili was made a stateless person while “on board a plane,” as in, abroad, to prevent him coming back to Ukraine. Hours before the Emigration Bureau of Ukraine confirmed that Saakashvili was, indeed, stateless, one person took to the internet to spread the news, or, if we are to call things what they are, gleefully gloat about it. Member of Ukraine’s Verhovna Rada, Igor Moisichuk, compared Saakashvili to Ianukovich, calling him and his team a “wandering political circus” for good measure and bidding him farewell. GEORGIA TODAY contacted him to find out more.
YOU COMPARED SAAKASHVILI TO YANUKOVICH. WHY? Well, both he and Ianukovich spilled the blood of their own people. Both resorted to pogroms and violence to silence those who would speak up against them and, finally, both fled and abandoned their respective countries. I’d rather like to ask some of my compatriots who seem to be sympathetic with Saakashvili: why is this man fighting for a Ukrainian passport and not for a Georgian one? He was the President of Georgia for ten years and then he did what? Fled his own country…and now he’s fighting for my country’s citizenship? I cannot respect people like that and neither should you.
YET IT WAS THE UKRAINIANS WHO INVITED HIM. WHY WAS THAT INVITATION GIVEN? I think President Poroshenko partly acquiesced to the request of his Western partners, being to an extent pressured by them. He wanted to please them. Further, he was friends with Saakashvili and thought he would be able to control him. He gave him a very prestigious positionthat of the head of the President’s Administration, but apparently Saakashvili just doesn’t know how to play sidekick. Then there was his tenure as the Governor of Odessa which he used for naught but undermining the President and the gov-
I don’t think so, because, unlike Georgia, in Ukraine, Saakashvili was never considered a hero and the West knows it. His tenure in Odessa was an utter failure- even people who were at first hopeful that he was here to do good things are now convinced that Misha and his motley crew cannot bring anything good to Ukraine.
WHAT IMPACT DO YOU THINK THIS WILL HAVE ON CURRENT RELATIONS BETWEEN KYEV AND TBILISI?
ernment. I can say with full responsibility that during his stay here, Saakashvili didn’t do a single thing to benefit Ukraine.
IF YOU ASK SAAKASHVILI’S SUPPORTERS, THEY WILL TELL YOU THAT IT WAS HE WHO MADE POROSHENKO PRESIDENT THROUGH HIS CONTACTS AND INFLUENCE IN THE WEST… That’s utter nonsense. Poroshenko enjoyed the support of the bulk of the country’s political elite, abundant resources and, most importantly, the support of the people of Ukraine – it was Ukraine that made him President, not the West.
WAS THERE UNDERSTANDING AMONG UKRAINIANS THAT INVITING SAAKASHVILI WOULD DISPLEASE THE CURRENT GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT AND A SIZEABLE PART OF ITS POPULATION? Well, me and my party were against it from the very start. We said giving him citizenship was a constitutional breach. We stated numerous times that it would deteriorate relations with our brother country, Georgia. We said it should be Ukrainians who will build the Ukrainian state and not some conmen touring here for a political season. We said that bringing Saakashvili and his team here would bring nothing good to Ukraine and in the end, we were proven right.
THE REASON THE EMIGRATION
BUREAU GAVE FOR STRIPPING SAAKASHVILI’S CITIZENSHIP IS QUITE PECULIAR – APPARENTLY HE, WHILE FILLING IN HIS CITIZENSHIP REQUEST, FAILED TO INDICATE THAT HE WAS BEING PROSECUTED. WHO DO YOU THINK WILL BELIEVE THAT? Of course, nobody will, but this was used as a formal reasoning because he really didn’t fill this information in. Of course, everybody knew everything from the start.
SO, SAAKASHVILI MIGHT BE AT LEAST PARTIALLY RIGHT IN HIS CLAIMS THAT POROSHENKO VISITED GEORGIA TO DISCUSS THE DETAILS OF THIS ENDEAVOR WITH IVANISHVILI? I wont exclude the possibility of an agreement but what I can tell you is that the decision to strip Saakashvili of Ukrainian citizenship was made by Poroshenko way before his visit to Georgia. But then again, had he made a deal with Georgians, he’d have waited until Saakashvili was back in Ukraine, then make him stateless and present him on a plate to the Georgian authorities, who would be only too glad to put him in prison where he belongs. But, instead, he waited until Saakashvili went to the US and then took his citizenship.
ON FACEBOOK, YOU CALLED SAAKASHVILI AND HIS TEAM A “WANDERING POLITICAL CIRCUS”. WAS THIS HIS LAST SHOW? WHAT ARE HIS
POLITICAL CAREER PERSPECTIVES IN UKRAINE NOW? He will try to exploit what meagre support he has among the Ukrainian population. It’s just two percent, so I don’t expect him to have serious chances in Ukrainian politics. After all, Poroshenko didn’t take his citizenship because he was afraid of him as a political rival; he did so because Misha was planning to pull off another revolution in Kyev this autumn.
HOW WOULD HE ACCOMPLISH THAT WITH HIS “MEAGRE” SUPPORT OF 2% OF THE POPULATION? He had sizeable resources and was starting to mobilize them – people had already been sent to approach the civil sector, military personnel and so on. Whether he’d accomplish anything is a different story but the fact is that he was planning a mass disturbance that he’d fashion as a civil protest. That’s why he had to wave goodbye to his Ukrainian citizenship.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE WEST’S REACTION? SAAKASHVILI WAS THOUGHT TO BE A HARBINGER OF WESTERN REFORMS TO UKRAINE There are but a few people who can provide Saakashvili support in the West, mostly consisting of former CIA and State Department employees. The current Trump administration is not interested in him at all. And I think Poroshenko made his own arrangements in that mat-
I think relations between Georgia and Ukraine should be built on common interests – that is, the interests of Kyev and Tbilisi and not those of Washington, Moscow or Brussels. We are brother countries, strategic partners and we will remain so.
HOW ABOUT THOSE GEORGIAN VOLUNTEERS FIGHTING IN UKRAINE? HOW DO YOU THINK THEY’LL TAKE THE NEWS OF SAAKASHVILI BEING RELIEVED OF UKRAINIAN CITIZENSHIP? If you want to imply that they are on Saakashvili’s side, I assure you that’s hardly the case. I spoke with many of them and only about half of them view Saakashvili’s Georgian tenure in a positive light. So, we shouldn’t think that they were coming here just to provide support to Saakashvili.
AFTER YOUR FACEBOOK COMMENT, MANY REMEMBERED THAT THERE IS A VIDEO IN WHICH YOU ALLEGEDLY ACCEPT A BRIBE AND THAT IT WAS ONLY DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY THAT SAVED YOU FROM JAIL. THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO SAY THAT YOUR OBSERVATIONS ARE BORNE OF A GRUDGE AND THEREFORE, NOT OBJECTIVE… I can simply say that the footage was staged and this was proved by the court. I was relieved of diplomatic immunity and then the court gave it back to me. As for being objective, this video was made on the orders of Poroshenko, so you can judge yourself how objective I am when I publicly laud his decision of stripping Saakashvili of Ukrainian citizenship.
Russia-US Relations May Reach a Point of No-Return OP-ED BY EMIL AVDALIANI
elations between Russia and the US are at the their lowest since the end of the Cold War. Recent developments over the last several days have shown that there remains very little for Washington and Moscow to improve their relations with. Despite at times positive rhetoric from US President Donald Trump on the necessity to work with Moscow on security issues, the geopolitical differences between the countries seem to be widening rather than diminishing. On July 30, while speaking in an interview with Russian state television channels, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that out of a thousand US diplomats and “support staff" currently working in Russia, "755 must stop their activities." This came after the US passed a bill that would impose additional sanctions on Russia.
Simultaneously, the US Vice President Mike Pence is touring the Balkans and Eastern Europe. In Estonia, for example, he spoke about the possibility of deploying the US Patriot antimissile defense system there, assuring the Estonians and other US allies in the region that Washington has "made it clear that the policy of our administration is to stand firmly with our NATO allies and to stand firmly behind our Article 5 commitment that an attack on one is an attack on all." Pence is currently visiting Georgia, where 800 Georgian and 1,600 US troops are taking part in the military exercises dubbed “Noble Partner 2017”. Troops from Britain, Germany, Turkey, Ukraine, Slovenia, and Armenia are taking part, making it the biggest such exercise held on Georgian soil. It seems that there is very little room for US and Russia to improve their stalled relations. Divergences are, in fact, so wide across the spectrum of issues that it is very unlikely that we will see any progress in US-Russia relations. That is not to say that the countries do not coop-
erate at all. The cooperation on establishing a ceasefire in parts of Syria following the Trump-Putin meeting is ongoing, as is work to establish cooperation on matters of space, cyber security and even non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But even then, it is not enough to alter the overall course of those damaged relations. In fact, even Putin, in an interview with VGTRK host Vladimir Solovyov, commenting on possibilities of changing the US policies towards Russia, said, “to all appearances, if it ever changes, it will not happen soon”.
ENTERING A BLIND ALLEY OF CONFRONTATION There is a heavy burden in making progress in bilateral relations; a whole range of problems before both countries, ranging from Ukraine and Syria, US military build-up in eastern Europe to Russian movements in Georgia’s breakaway territories (even though this question is not often raised). These divergences make it highly unlikely that the parties will
find even a partial solution to their conundrum in the near future. I have written previously that for the US, helping Ukraine is a strategic imperative. Any failure to do so would amount to allowing the resurgent Russia to project its influence on its immediate neighborhood. Restoration of Russian influence over Ukrainian territory would increase Moscow’s power over the Black Sea and the South Caucasus, thus threatening Eastern European security. For Russia, on the other hand, at least having the neutrality of Ukraine is as important. Moscow’s nightmare is Ukraine in the
Western Alliance with NATO troops present along Russia’s south-western frontier. Both countries have different visions in the Black Sea region, where Russia continues to build up its naval capabilities and project its power through the Crimean Peninsula. The US, on the other hand, pursues a policy providing the Black Sea states with arms to support their defense potential, as allowing the Black Sea to fall entirely into the Russian orbit will create fundamental problems for the US’ policy of containment of Russia in the Eurasian heartland.
GEORGIA TODAY AUGUST 1 - 3, 2017
Georgia & Nepal: Making Choices gia’s Black Sea. In comparison, India transfers 200,000 kilo liters of fuel every month to Nepal, fulfilling 100% of its energy demand. In October 2016, Georgia received EUR 30 million from the EU for modernization of the Georgian public administration, while Nepal was selected by the Millennium Challenge Corporation for $500 million in grants to develop its 400 KVA transmission line as well as to maintain its 300 km of roads. Despite such diplomatic heatwaves and the cutting off of diplomatic channels between Russia and Georgia following the 2008 war, Georgians and Russian diplomats are still meeting to facilitate trade and infrastructure development between two countries, whereas Nepal’s leadership is seemingly engaged in making a new government every nine months and Nepali leadership rarely talks economic matters with its Indian counterpart. Georgian leaders have started making their choices and deciding what is best for their country. But the Nepali leadership still fears relegating to the radar between the Indian and Chinese establishments. It’s time they, too, started to make choices.
OP-ED BY SAURAV RAJ PANT
uffer zone geopolitics is always interesting for the international relations pundit. A buffer seeks to protect via a powerful neighborhood. The history of the buffer state has always been both colorful and something to fear and we can make comparison between two such colorful stories in Asia and Eastern Europe (Caucasus): Nepal and Georgia. Both are situated in the buffer of a powerful neighborhood: Nepal is poised between India and China and Georgia is at the crossroads of Russia and the European Union, all economic and geopolitical giants of the world. Georgia is among the former Soviet Union satellite states and Nepal remained under the sphere of “influence” of the British Empire throughout the 19th and 20th century when the East India Company ruled over India. Both countries suffer poverty and what some consider an “unstable” governance system, contributing to fear of being seceded or annexed by their neighbors. According to the ADB basic statistics, in 2015 in Georgia 20.1% of the population lived below the national poverty line whereas in Nepal, 25.2% of the population lived below the national poverty line.
HISTORICAL EVOLUTION Russian Czars had control over Georgia from 1801 to 1918 and after 1922, it became part of the Soviet Empire. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Georgia became independent in 1991. During the Rose Revolution in Georgia in November 2003, the then-Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze was ousted, ending his 11-year reign. Nepal’s modernization followed the bloody revolution of February 1951, which saw the ousting of the family regime of Rana. This was the foundation of Nepal’s democratic governance and inclusive politics. Nepal’s democracy has been highly unstable, with the democratic government sacked by thenKing Mahendra in December 1960, and the imposing of the party-less ‘Panchayati’ system, which continued until 1990. 1990 was the bottom-line of Nepal’s mammoth diffusion to globalization. After the 2006 second People’s Movement, it abolished the monarchy from Nepal and a Constitutional Assembly was held to draft the inclusive constitution. The Assembly succeeded in formulating a constitution after the second attempt. Nepal’s geopolitics has always played a key role in its transformation process. From the 1951 to the 2006 changes, India was the key international negotiator. Similarly, in Georgia, both the West and Russia are key players in the country’s political transformation.
GEOPOLITICS In Georgia, after the 2003 Rose Revolution, Mikheil Saakashvili became the president, working for democratic and economic reforms. His western orientation and Georgia’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq through provision of troops for the US army made him Washington’s golden boy. The thenBush administration promised him Georgia’s potential entry to NATO which chilled relations with the Kremlin and contributed to the landing of Russian boots on South Ossetian soil after the 2008 NATO Bucharest Summit. India supported opposition groups in Nepal, primarily the Nepali Congress, one of the most prominent and oldest Democratic Parties of Nepal, to protest King Gyanendra’s direct rule and leading to his stepping down. After the second Nepalese People’s Movement in 2006, India’s two-tier approach to the ‘Constitutional Monarchy’ and ‘Hindu state’ in Nepal changed dramatically. Nepal thus became a republic and sec-
Georgian leaders have started making their choices and deciding what is best for their country. But the Nepali leadership still fears relegating to the radar between the Indian and Chinese establishments. Source: croptrust.org
ular, however, such a massive shift was the product of 10 years of civil war led by Maoists in Nepal, though India was always at the epicenter of every Nepalese political evolution. India is very much suspicious about welcoming other geopolitical players into Nepal’s political process. Even China in most cases remained ‘muted’. The West, particularly the US, Britain and EU, is the largest humanitarian partner of Nepal and occasionally supports the geopolitical melodrama there. Nepal and India have enjoyed visa free access since the signing of the 1950 Peace & Friendship Treaty. In February 2017, the EU granted visa free access for Georgians to the EU, one of the biggest milestones in integrating Georgia to that Union. Since 2003, Georgians have been enjoying pro-EU political leadership. Nepal has little exception to India, as many Nepalese political parties were grown and harbored there.
NEW GEOPOLITICAL DISCOURSE In May 2016, the US announced the launch of a new ground-based missile defense system in Romania. Similarly, in May 2017, Nepal’s official entry to the One Belt, One Road (OBOR), China’s greatest road and maritime development vision, without New Delhi ‘approval,’ marked a new geopolitical discourse in the region. In May 2016 (and again now, in July 2017), the US and British armies have held joint military drills with the Georgian army despite Russian opposition. Nepal also held joint military drills, with China in April 2017, despite no green light from India to do so.
CHOICES Even under the vicious circle of arms and army, the small country of Georgia has started making choices. The Kvirikashvili government in 2016 announced visa-free access to Saudi Arabians in order to grow Saudi business in the country, especially for livestock and agriculture, which increased by 200 percent in 2016 to $100 million. In total, 118,249 Indian and 104,005 Chinese tourists visited Nepal via air in 2016, topping the chart. In comparison, Russian visitors are the largest spenders in Georgia, dishing out an average of $491 per trip. Georgia gets around 800 million cubic meters of gas every year from Azerbaijan and ultimately exports to other countries via the Poti Sea Port of Geor-
Saurav Raj Pant is an International Development Consultant and International Relations Research Associate based in Nepal.
AUGUST 1 - 3, 2017
Christianity in Georgia: The Resilience of a Faith & Nation BY IASE SIKHARULIDZE
he story of Tbilisi’s Holy Trinity Cathedral is much like the one of Georgia itself. The Cathedral’s construction was halted in the late 1980s due to civil unrest and political and economic challenges. Nevertheless, the Cathedral was eventually built and now overlooks the capital of Tbilisi, reminding Georgians of their centuries-long commitment to the Christian faith. Much like the Cathedral, Georgia’s strong relationship with Christianity serves as a towering and beautiful reminder of the resilience and everlasting faith of its people. Georgia continues to be a beacon for freedom of belief: although Georgia is an ongoing bedrock of Christianity, many different religions are able to coexist peacefully in the nation. A walk through Old Town Tbilisi will reveal a mosque, a Jewish synagogue, and a church in close proximity to one other. President Donald Trump, in his speech in Poland on July 6, acknowledged the importance of religious liberty in Western societies.
Georgia’s strong ties to faith make it a strong democratic partner in any political realm; fighting terrorism, countering extreme ideologies, promoting economic welfare, and encouraging freedom of expression
Much like the Cathedral, Georgia’s strong relationship with Christianity serves as a towering and beautiful reminder of the resilience and everlasting faith of its people. Source: Wikimedia Commons
“We reward brilliance,” President Trump proclaimed in Warsaw. “We strive for excellence, and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God. We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression…The people of Poland, the people of America, and the people of Europe still cry out ‘We want God.’” For centuries, Georgia has cried out, “We want God.” Faith runs deep in Georgia’s roots, often outlasting any challenges the nation has faced in its long history. Christianity became the state religion as early as the fourth century in some parts of Georgia. In the fifth century, the Bible was translated into Georgian. The independent Orthodox Church dates back anywhere from the fifth to tenth centuries. When faced with invasions and occupations over a period of more than 400 years, Georgia’s Christian heritage only deepened. During the antireligious Soviet period of the 20th century, Georgia’s faith, again, only strengthened. While others have come apart under such pressure, Georgia has become a stronger and more resilient nation because of its religious roots. Georgia is where one can find a solid bedrock of Christianity in Europe: by most reports, more than 85 percent of Georgia’s residents are Christian, and almost 90 percent of those residents consider themselves active participants in the Church. Christianity shapes the lives of many Georgians in everything they do. Christianity, in a large part, is the basis for Georgia itself, it’s in Georgia’s DNA. For many Georgians,
Christianity serves as their “one voice.” Their faith unites them. Christianity is also an organic piece of Georgia’s democratic development. There is a strong correlation between religious liberty, strength of religion, and a prospering democratic society. According to a University of Notre Dame study, most countries of the post-Soviet space suffer from high or moderate levels of religious persecution. Not Georgia. In fact, the study showed no significant level of religious persecution within Georgia. This is powerful for a country often considered the “gate” between the East and the West. For a nation that has been a sort of “one-man band” when it comes to facilitating East-West interaction over many centuries, Georgia’s strong hold on its Christian faith has never wavered. Historically, Georgia was a good cultural translator of East into West, and vice versa. This service to the region, built on the foundations of faith, has transformed into political and strategic translation in modern times. Georgia’s strong ties to faith make it a strong democratic partner in any political realm; fighting terrorism, countering extreme ideologies, promoting economic welfare, and encouraging freedom of expression. For years past, Georgia has used its strong ties to Christianity to weather the political storms of invasion, war, and oppression. In the years to come, Georgia will continue to draw upon its faith to be a strong partner to other nations, promote democratic development, and to provide a safe-haven for any and all believers.
GEORGIA TODAY AUGUST 1 - 3, 2017
Discrimination in Georgia: Intercultural Education Needed
BY DAVID MONGAZON
he recent “Georgian March” raised an important issue and revealed a fear within the country’s population: the fear of replacement and the loss of the culture they are attached to under the influence of external forces. Be the fear irrational or based on fact, the question is significant enough to warrant discussion. Even if the march was mostly targeted at “illegal immigrants” who “increase crime” in Georgia, we believe it worth analyzing the problem of xenophobia through another prism; the one of minorities. Minorities in Georgia have been a big issue since the independence of the country in 1991. Due to its history, but also to the mechanisms of Soviet ethnofederalism and population displacement, ethnic minorities constituted about 30% of the total population according to the 1989 census. This was a very important part compared to many other postsoviet countries and led to a crystallization on the question in Georgia, facilitating the spread of nationalism among a population which may have felt endangered in its own country. In turn, this nationalism fed secessionist movements, not only in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but also in Adjara
If Georgia wants to become a real multicultural society, and that is precisely the way it has decided to head, as well as it being what the majority of people want, it needs to improve its relations with other cultural groups
and in the regions where Armenian and Azeri populations are concentrated. Fortunately, nowadays, tensions have mostly been defused, but with what results? Ethnic Georgians now represent 86 percent of the total population and the diversity of the Georgian population is decreasing, mainly due to the emigration of ethnic Russians and other small minorities. Granting rights to minorities was politically problematic in the past, since minorities were considered a threat to territorial integrity due to conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This fear at the same time fed reluctance from the minorities to engage with central government. That’s why, after the war in South Ossetia in 2008, the government strategy changed and minority rights increased to a point where, according to some NGOs, much has been done to integrate communities into Georgian society. Georgia made a choice to grant citizenship to everyone at its independence, whether they spoke Georgian or not. To get Georgian citizenship, you needed only live on the territory of Georgia, which differs from other post-soviet countries where language was deemed the most important criteria of citizenship, such as in Lithuania. This has created a lot of problems nowadays for those countries, since the non-native-speaking population are still not citizens and are not granted any form of rights by the governments, making them “second class” citizens. Georgia, on the contrary, didn’t make this choice since, as said before, its minority population was around 30 percent of its total population. But the fact that these populations are considered citizens doesn’t automatically integrate them into the political community. The major challenge for a democratic society is to integrate them, and language is the most basic means for this. The main guideline of government action on this is giving free choice to all. Older generations, for example, don’t express the need to learn Georgian, since they are integrated enough in their communities for their day-to-day lives. Learning Georgian is not a necessity but if they express the will to do so, in order to better integrate in civil life, for example, it is the role of the State to provide them Georgian language lessons. But for younger generations, the need to speak Georgian is more important and, for this, schools provide non-mandatory courses. Progress on this question has been achieved both thanks to the State and NGOs, above all the CCIIR (Center for Civil Integration and Inter-Ethnic Relations), which, for example, set up previously nonexistent ‘Georgian as a Second Language’ courses as early as 2005. At the same time, the CCIIR trained teachers to meet the increasing demand. Nowadays, in most cases, educational rights are acknowledged. The main goal here remains the quality of education granted in private non-Georgian schools, which is in some cases lower. The government has yet to introduce a reform in said schools. The main problem of integration nowadays is a lack of knowledge of Georgian among minorities,
since a lot has already been done to improve it. The main problem is, as introduced earlier with the Georgian March, discrimination. Minorities these days are not stuck in their communities due to a lack of language knowledge or culture, but now find discrimination making their integration problematic. Even when comparing populations from
Tbilisi, where minorities live in significant number and where social and cultural differences blur, it is observed that people from minorities have more difficulties finding a job, for example. It doesn’t come down to a lack of higher education, nor their knowledge of a foreign language such as English, but to their last name betraying their ethnic origin. Some firms prefer to hire ethnic Georgians, even for no rational reason. According to the CCIIR, discrimination is not only seen in the private sector but can also be observed in administrations and universities, even if huge efforts have been made to change this issue. Minority students in Tbilisi State University have reported facts of discrimination, based on social interaction, coming from administrators and faculty members. This demonstrates that even educated people lack intercultural sensitivity in Georgia. The effort of integration has been supported mostly by minorities themselves since the country gained independence, but not so much by the society around them, though the process should be mutual. This is why the CCIIR supports this process, not only for minorities, but also for culturally dominant groups, in order to make them more aware of these issues. Cultural trainings are provided for teachers, and the NGO assists higher education institutes to teach cultural diversity more broadly; for example, a mandatory course to teach Georgian diversity for all BA level students is now at the preparatory stage. It is notable that Georgian society needs more education in intercultural relations and the recent “Georgian March” is a spectacular representation of what is happening within society. If Georgia wants to become a real multicultural society, and that is precisely the way it has decided to head, as well as it being what the majority of people want, it needs to improve its relations with other cultural groups. Politically and legally, much has been done; it is now time to change Georgia socially.
AUGUST 1 - 3, 2017
Adjara Tourism Promoted on BBC and Euronews
ew videos promoting Adjara tourism are currently being shown on both Euronews and the BBC. The Adjara Tourism Department announced the clips are set to be aired for an entire month, showing the vast touristic potential of the region and available to view in 158 countries on both television channels. “The advertising campaign has 17 targeted mar-
kets, with the most popular media platforms chosen for the promotion,” said Sulkhan Glonti, Chairman of the State Tourism Department of Adjara. Television companies will also be preparing TV reports on the region of Adjara. “It’s a part of our long-term advertising campaign, aimed at attracting tourists and raising awareness of both our country and region,” Glonti added.
EU Bank Signs 1st Direct Loan to a Company in Georgia
he European Investment Bank (EIB) has directly financed a company in Georgia for the first time. The EU bank is to provide a EUR 21.47m longterm loan to Tbilisi’s water utility, Georgian Water and Power (GWP), to support its water and wastewater infrastructure development program. EIB Vice-President Vazil Hudák announced the signature of the loan together with GWP’s CEO, Giorgi Tskhadadze. The loan will enable GWP to rehabilitate the Gardabani wastewater treatment plant and to modernize and develop the water supply infrastructure. This will help GWP to meet its environmental objectives in line with the Georgia-European Union Association Agreement, and the investment into the wastewater treatment plant will improve ecological conditions in the river basin. The modernization of the water supply network in Tbilisi will help to reduce water losses as well as energy use in the pumping stations. “The contract is unique as it is the first EIB loan provided directly to a private corporate in Georgia. This project will increase the quality of services in the water sector with a positive impact on the everyday life of citizens of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi,” said Hudák. “The long-term loan facility agreement signed with the EIB affirms the trust of this institution in GWP. The debt financing enables the company to
make investments in the development of its infrastructure, which on the one hand support Georgia’s long-term objectives with regard to the GeorgiaEuropean Union Association Agreement and on the other hand contribute to improvements in the living standards of Tbilisi’s population,” said Giorgi Tskhadadze. The EIB, the European Union’s bank, finances projects in Georgia on the basis of an EU mandate for the countries of the Eastern Neighbourhood, the so-called External Lending Mandate (ELM). The 2014-2020 ELM provides for a total amount of Bank financing in the Eastern Neighbourhood of EUR 4.8bn to support projects of significant interest to both the EU and Eastern Partnership countries in the areas of local private sector development, social and economic infrastructure and climate change. The loan signed is covered by the EU comprehensive guarantee. The EIB is committed to stepping up its support for Georgia following the June 2014 signature of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, which includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (AA/DCFTA). This Agreement has led to much closer political and economic ties with the EU within the framework of the Eastern Partnership. Since the start of EIB activities in Georgia in 2007, the value of EIB lending commitments in the country, including the loan signed today, has reached EUR 1.546bn.
GEORGIA TODAY AUGUST 1 - 3, 2017
Anaklia Development Consortium Signs Agreement with SSA Marine Continued from page 1 GEORGIA TODAY met with Levan Akhvlediani, Chief Executive Officer of the Anaklia Development Consortium, to talk about this momentous occasion and more generally about the overall vision for the Anaklia Project Development.
TELL US MORE ABOUT THE SIGNING OF THE AGREEMENT BETWEEN ANAKLIA DEVELOPMENT CONSORTIUM AND SSA MARINE. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? Anaklia Development Consortium agreed on cooperation terms with SSA Marine, and are now signing the agreement. It’s a key agreement, since the operation of the terminal is a specific task which needs to be done by a specialized company, also being a necessity for us as the developers of the project.
HOW WOULD YOU HIGHLIGHT THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACT OF THE ANAKLIA DEEP SEA PORT PROJECT ON THE COUNTRY? I think it will have a tremendous economic effect on the country, and regionally as well, of course, because the Port will be serving not only Georgia but also the southern Caucasus and central Asia which is landlocked, and here we’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars of added economic value; we’re talking about initially hundreds, and then thousands of jobs, both direct and indirect. That’s why I think the impact will be extremely positive.
IS THE ANAKLIA DEEP SEA PORT COMPETING WITH POTI AND BATUMI PORTS? Georgia has no other deep sea port and that’s why we’re building one. We need to build Anaklia Deep Sea Port in order to stay competitive as a corridor- the port will serve Georgia and the region for the next 100 years, because we’re talking about a hundred million-ton port with the most modern infrastructure. To a certain extent, we will be competing with Poti and Batumi,
We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars of added economic value; we’re talking about initially hundreds, and then thousands, of jobs
however, mainly we will be directly competing with other ports and corridors, such as the Iranian, the Russian, and the Baltic corridor. As a transit country, it’s very important for Georgia to maintain that competitive advantage of our corridor, and I would say the Anaklia port is one of the key components of maintaining that advantage in the short, medium and long term. That’s our main vision: we want to attract more transit cargo, which unfortunately we’ve lost over time due to lack of infrastructure, which has led to inefficiencies, and those inefficiencies in turn led to a lack of competitive advantage.
WHAT STAGE IS THE ANAKLIA DEEP SEA PORT PROJECT AT RIGHT NOW? We’ve completed the preliminary design, which we’ve already submitted to the government. Hopefully, we’ll get approval for that by mid-September after the government evaluates it. Next, we’ll get the construction permit and by the end of this year we will start the mobilization of construction works. We issued the Environmental Impact study at the beginning of June and we’re having public hearings in Zugdidi and Anaklia. We’re working very hard to get an environmental permit for the project. We’ve finished all the feasibility studies which were needed for the preliminary design; it was a rigorous, intense process that started last July 2016 and went all the way through to March. We’ve finished all the feasibility studies. In terms of investments and fundraising, we have a number of pipeline investors lined up and we’re positive that by the end of this year, we’ll be able to financially close and start construction.
an even friendlier business climate. To give you a long-term vision, we’re talking about Hong-Kong, or, potentially, Singapore; we’re talking about the world’s companies establishing their businesses in Anaklia.
WHERE DO YOU THINK THE PROJECT WILL BE IN 20 YEARS’ TIME? In 2037, Anaklia will be a fully-functioning logistics hub in the region, connecting the West with central Asia, and viceversa, with China and Silk Road aspirations. Anaklia will be a big player in the region. We will have created a city that houses business persons, Georgians and foreigners, across the region, who create economic value for themselves, for the region, and for Georgia, that also solidifies Georgia’s role and image as a place for doing business. I think that’s what we’re aspiring to, talking about twenty years from now.
We need a kind of administrative hub that can house and feed the demand and supply of many sectors, and Georgia has very good potential
TELL US MORE ABOUT ANAKLIA CITY Initially, when we started the Anaklia Deep Sea Port project, we said that we didn’t want just a port, but to also have a free industrial zone. Then we looked
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closer, did more analysis and said, look, the free industrial zone is good, but we need something new, with a broader vision, something that can really make Anaklia an interesting business hub. We felt that we had to broaden our appeal to different sectors. We had a company named Anaklia Free Industrial Zone and we changed its name to Anaklia City, which now encompasses the development of the industrial zone and the development of a city with other sectors like banking, financing, retail, and real estate. That way, we aim to appeal to broader sectors of the economy and make Anaklia potentially a very special regulatory zone. We’ve seen a lot of demand regionally. We need a kind of administrative hub that can house and feed the demand and supply of many sectors, and Georgia has very good potential, especially now that we’ve signed the Free Trade Agreement with the EU. We’re very well-positioned and, with a bigger push, we can achieve
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August 1 - 3, 2017