Issue no: 1036/123
• APRIL 3 - 5, 2018
• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue... EU, UNDP Help Link Business Development with Legislative Openness NEWS PAGE 2
National Bank Says Georgia Has $17.2 Billion External Debt BUSINESS PAGE 5
Anaklia City to Collaborate Aqaba with SEZ in Jordan
ON CYCLING FOR YOUR MONEY The alternative to the energyguzzling bitcoin mining technology
Tbilisi Mayor Gives Trading Booth to 15-Year-Old Juice-Maker BY THEA MORRISON
bilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze has granted 15-year-old street trader Gigi Antidze a booth in Mziuri Park, in the center of the capital. Gigi has cerebral palsy but despite this, he has been selling fresh juices on Rustaveli Avenue in order to help his family. The Mayor learned about the teenager after local media highlighted that Gigi will not be able to continue street trading due to newly imposed restrictions in this field. Kaladze stated the Mayor’s Office would not be able to let the boy work in the street but promised to find an alternative place for him. From now on, Gigi will be working in Mziuri Park, offering people fresh juices and other ready-products. “Gigi is happy with his new booth. I wish him success in all his initiatives and activities,” the Mayor stated.
BUSINESS PAGE 10
European Union: Still a Viable Project POLITICS PAGE 14
Gulf Launches Book Collection for Schools & Libraries in the Regions SOCIETY PAGE 14
Georgian Weightlifter Wins European Championship SPORTS PAGE 15 Prepared for Georgia Today Business by
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APRIL 3 - 5, 2018
EU, UNDP Help Link Business Development with Legislative Openness
Photo: Tbilisi International Airport. Image source: TAV Georgia
Tbilisi International Airport Named among Best Airports in Eastern Europe BY THEA MORRISON
or the fifth year in a row, Tbilisi International Airport has been named one of the best airports in Eastern Europe at the Skytrax World Airport Awards 2018, held last week in Stockholm. TAV Georgia (Tbilisi and Batumi International Airports) reports that as a result of surveying airtravelers, the International Airports of Budapest, Tallinn, Kiev- Boryspil, Bucharest, Riga, Belgrade, Tbilisi, Bratislava, Sofia and Skopje have been named as the Best 10 Airports of Eastern Europe of 2018. The Skytrax World Airport Awards are voted for by air travelers in the largest, annual global airport customer satisfaction survey. The survey is operated as an independent study, with no entry fees or charges to any airport. The 2018 Awards are based on 13.73 million airport survey questionnaires completed by over 100
different nationalities of airline customer during the survey period. The latest survey operated from August 2017 to February 2018, covering 550 airports worldwide and evaluating traveler experiences across different airport service and product key performance indicators - from check-in, arrivals, transfers, shopping, security and immigration, through to departure at the gate. The World Airport Awards are a global benchmark of airport excellence, widely known as the Passenger Choice Awards. The world’s Top 10 Airports are: 1 Singapore Changi Airport 2 Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) 3 Incheon International Airport 4 Munich Airport 5 Hong Kong International Airport 6 Hamad International Airport 7 Chubu Centrair Nagoya 8 Zurich Airport 9 London Heathrow Airport 10 Frankfurt Airport
Image source: http://philpreston.co
p to 60 representatives of business companies met members of the Georgian Parliament on 2 April to discuss how legislative openness affects the business environment and to offer practical suggestions for Georgia’s third, 2018-2019 Open Parliament Action Plan. The meeting was organized by the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance with support from the European Union (EU) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in cooperation with the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI). “Georgia has achieved significant progress over the past few years in opening up parliamentary work to the public,” said Irina Pruidze, Chairperson of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance. “Cooperation with wide circles of Georgian society, including the private sector, is the key to moving forward and developing an effective action plan that will guide our work in the next two years.” Kakha Kuchava, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Environmental Protection & Natural Resources, noted the role of the private sector in strengthening parliamentary transparency through the effective use of technology and innovation. The meeting participants discussed Georgia’s progress to legislative openness since 2015 and the challenges that will be addressed in the new Open Parliament Action Plan. “The European Union supports the Parliament of Georgia in its efforts to open up a discussion space with the private sector,” said Sophie Huet Guerriche, Coordinator for the Governance Sector at the EU Delegation to Georgia. “This process
benefits both law-makers and entrepreneurs, especially considering Parliament’s crucial role in promoting an investment climate and creating an enabling business environment in the country.” Members of Parliament received information and suggestions for the Open Parliament Action Plan 2018-2019, collected at public consultations in eight cities of Georgia (Telavi, Rustavi, Marneuli, Alkhaltsikhe, Kutaisi, Zugdidi, Batumi and Tbilisi). The information campaign was organized by Parliament with assistance from the EU, UNDP and IDFI. Levan Avalishvili, IDFI’s Programs Director, presented a summary of these public discussions and opened the floor for new comments and suggestions from business representatives. Gigi Bregadze, UNDP Democratic Governance Team Leader in Georgia, stressed the importance of collaboration and partnership for achieving legislative openness. “Open Governance connects citizens to policy makers through the variety of platforms and resources,” he said. “Government, Parliament, local authorities, non-governmental and private sectors, academic circles and other national stakeholders are all important players in achieving effective, accountable and transparent governance.” Open Parliament is part of Georgia’s efforts under the Open Government Partnership (OGP) international platform that unites 75 countries to help their governments become more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. Georgia is chairing the OGP this year and will be hosting the 5th annual OGP summit in July. The European Union and UNDP are supporting Open Parliament in Georgia under their wider program for strengthening parliamentary democracy.
Birth, Death, Marriage & Divorce Stats for 2017 BY THEA MORRISON
he data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat) reads that the number of live births as well as deaths decreased in the country last year. According to Geostat, the number of live births equaled 53,293 in 2017, a 5.8 % decrease compared to the previous year (56,569 births). The sex ratio at birth (male births per 100 female births) equaled 107.9 in 2017. Of the total 53,293 births, 27.658 were males and 25,635 were female. The highest rate of birth was registered in Tbilisi (14,906) followed by Imereti region (7,784), Kvemo Kartli (6,892) and Adjara (5,977) while the lowest rate was observed in the Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti region (341 births). Geostat says that compared to 2016, in 2017 the share of the first child in total births decreased from 40.6% to 38.9%. Consequently, the share of the third and next order child increased from 21.3% to 22.6%, while the share of the second child remained practically unchanged. Moreover, compared to 2016, in 2017 the share of births for women aged under 25 declined from 35.6% to 32.7%, while increasing for women aged 25-39 (from 61.6% to 64.6%), and remaining unchanged for women aged 40 years and over.
As for the deaths, in 2017 the number of deaths decreased by 5.8 % compared to 2016 (50,771 deaths) and totaled 47,822 persons. The largest number of deaths was recorded in Tbilisi (11,976) while the lowest rate was recorded in Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti Region (736). The number of infant deaths equaled 512 in 2017. Accordingly, the infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births) equaled 9.6, a 0.6% increase from the previous year. The under-5 mortality rate (per 1,000 live births) remained practically unchanged and totaled 11.1%. As for marriages and divorces, last year a total of 23,684 marriages were registered throughout the country, posting a 5.6% decrease from the previous year. The average age of first marriage was 27.4 years for females and 30.2 for males. The number of divorces also decreased in 2017, with a total of 10,222 divorces, 7.2% fewer compared to the previous year.
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APRIL 3 - 5, 2018
THE ISET ECONOMIST A BLOG ABOUT ECONOMICS AND THE SOUTH CAUCAUS
The ISET Policy Institute (ISET-PI, www.iset-pi.ge) is an independent think-tank associated with the International School of Economics at TSU (ISET). Our blog carries economic analysis of current events and policies in Georgia and the South Caucasus region ranging from agriculture, to economic growth, energy, labor markets and the nexus of economics, culture and religion. Thought-provoking and fun to read, our blog posts are written by international faculty teaching at ISET and recent graduates representing the new generation of Georgian, Azerbaijani and Armenian economists.
The Fitcoin Revolution! BY ERIC LIVNY AND GIORGI MZHAVANADZE
nce dubbed Georgia's Abu Ghraib, Gldani Prison #8 has gone through a substantial makeover since its darkest hours in September 2012. The entire staff was replaced or retrained during 2013, swiftly and effectively ending human right violations. The following year, the prison won a prestig-
than Tbilisi Metro, and twice more than Georgian Railways. The bitcoin rush that Georgia experienced in 2016 and 2017 added to the country’s total energy consumption a staggering 4-5% per year, outstripping supply and putting upward pressure on electricity prices. To remain competitive, Bitfury successfully invested in R&D to reduce the cost of mining. Its 16nm ASIC chip and the full-immersion cooling technology have become the industry standards in recent years. The next step was to establish a new datacenter in Iceland, taking advan-
current cryptocurrency mining methods is inherently unsustainable. Already today, as reported by Digieconomist, the global bitcoin network’s total energy consumption ranks it 45th in the world, ahead of such countries as Greece and Israel. And with more and more people running power-hungry machines, the total energy consumption of bitcoin miners around the world will grow to truly fabulous proportions. Valery Vavilov, BitFury’s visionary CEO, was among the first to see what’s coming. “I am a strong believer in the Blockchain technology. If mainstreamed and actively supported by regulators, it has the potential to secure assets and greatly reduce transaction costs. Yet, I also understand that the network cannot be sustained. Many of our competitors are working on energy efficient algorithms, like proofof-stake, yet none of these have fully proven themselves. We decided to take an altogether different approach…”.
FROM MINING TO SPINNING
Georgia’s former Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, leading a FitCoin spinning class at Tbilisi State University’s School of Medicine
ious award as Georgia’s best correctional facility. In 2015, about 180ha in the prison’s backyard became home to Bitfury, an international bitcoin industry pioneer. The company invested close to $100mln in its Gldani data center, placing the prison at the epicenter of the global bitcoin market. And since the beginning of 2017, the prison’s 4,000 inmates have been participating in a pilot project to mint FitCoins, a new type of cryptocurrency that does not compete for global energy resources. Divided into groups of twenty, Gldani inmates take turns at specially equipped FitCoin bikes, earning coins, building muscles, and strengthening their cardiovascular systems. Welcome to the FitCoin revolution!
NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION FitCoin was born out of an urgent necessity to find an alternative to the energyguzzling bitcoin mining technology. With both of its centers up and running in 2016, Bitfury has become one of the largest electricity consumers in Georgia. At about 25-30 million kW/h per month, Bitfury alone consumed 5 times more energy
Public Private Partnerships serving Georgia’s needs FitCoin is the result of a 3-year research and development effort by a consortium involving Bitfury, the Georgian Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA), and the Georgian Co-investment Fund (GCF). Established by Georgia’s former prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, GCF was an early investor in BitFury’s first ($20mln, 20MW) datacenter in Gori – an ambitious project implemented thanks to the Georgian government’s willingness to accommodate its needs in terms access to land, tax breaks, and, most importantly, electricity costs. According to GCF chairperson, George Bachiashvili, the Fund is also supporting BitFury’s cooperation with the Georgian Ministry of Justice on a pilot of a unique Blockchain-based property registration system. tage of local weather conditions and renewable energy resources. In the end, however, neither Iceland’s climate nor improved technologies could address the fundamental problem: the “proof-of-work” algorithm at the heart of
A working model of the first FitCoin bike. More than 160 are installed at Gldani’s Prison #8
Vavilov’s eureka moment came in fall 2015, when he traveled to England in order to attend the eighth Rugby World Cup. In their last match, the Georgian Lelos defeated Namibia 17–16, securing their qualification for the next Rugby World Cup. “About 10 minutes into the second half”, tells Vavilov, “the Georgian captain Mamuka Gorgodze cut through Namibia’s defenses and scored an unbelievable try. At the sight of Gorgodze’s imposing physique, a light bulb went on over my head: mining should not be left to the computers! Having worked through different scenarios, Vavilov concluded that, by spinning a specially designed fitness bike, humans would be able to directly activate a physical device generating random numbers. To avoid cheating, each spinner will be biometrically identified by the network. Once one of the spinners produces the right value (“key”) for a new block, her device will inform the rest of
entire Gldani prison population invested close to 1bln calories, generating a little bit less than 100 FitCoins (10mln calories per FitCoin), reducing obesity and cutting the incidence of cardio-vascular deceases by a healthy 57%. Given these impressive results, GCF and BitFury are rapidly expanding the FitBit network. This year, GCF agreed to finance the manufacturing of additional 1,000 spinning bikes so as to increase the number of spinners to more than 20,000, including the entire Georgian prisoner population, 10,000 fitness enthusiasts regularly visiting Georgia’s fitness clubs, and up to 3,000 professional rugby players and athletes. College and university students will be allowed to join the FitCoin network in 2019, to be followed by school pupils in 2020, and up to 1.5mln Georgian households in 2021 (see Table 1). If all goes according to plan, the number of FitCoins generated by the Georgian network is expected to grow from about 100 in 2017 to almost 9,000 in 2021, exceeding Georgia’s bitcoin output in 2017. The FitCoin startup places Georgia at the heart of the global tech innovation. Summer spinning camps are planned already this year in Kakheti and other major touristic locations of the “FitCoin Nation”. These will bring together thousands of developers, as well as fitness and health enthusiasts from all over the world. To promote the message of sustainable development to much larger audiences, FitCoin virtual biking tours are designed by Ivanishvili’s Co-Investment Fund in cooperation with AMC Entertainment Inc., the largest actor in the American movie theater market. Lelo, Lelo, Sakartvelo!!!
the network via Internet. Other spinners will verify and accept this block, and then discard whatever block they had been working on themselves. The lucky spinner will get rewarded with a fixed amount of coins. The cycle will then start again. The logic of spinning did not have to be any different from that of traditional mining. The FitCoin protocol would adjust the effectiveness of spinning to ensure that all spinners in the network only produce one valid block every 10 minutes on average. Just like in a lottery in which players are allowed to buy multiple tickets, spinners will be riding at the top of their ability because the number of keys generated by their spinning bikes per second will be proportionate to their effort (the spinning speed and difficulty level). Having re-programmed the Bitcoin proof-of-work protocol for FitCoin’s needs, Vavilov approached LifeFitness, a leading equipment manufacturer, and GITA, Georgian government’s innovation hub, with a proposal to produce a prototype spinning bike. A few working models were 3-D printed and successful tested in June and July 2016 in cooperation with Snap and Aspria fitness centers in Tbilisi. Experimental production started in October on the premises of Georgia’s state arms manufacturer Delta, best known for exporting medical evacuation bicycles to Saudi Arabia. In January 2017, the first 60 FitCoin spinning bikes were installed at Gldani’s Prison #8, providing 4,000 inmates with an opportunity to work on their fitness and earn FitCoins. An average prisoner used the opportunity to spin about two hours per day, 260 days/year, investing about 500 calories/hour. By the end of 2017, the
Table 1: Planned expansion of the Georgian FitCoin network
Number of persons to get involved in FitCoin mining, 2018-2022
2019 2020 2021
Professional sports clubs
10 Galaktion Street
Colleges and universities
Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 3 - 5, 2018
National Bank Says Georgia Has $17.2 Billion External Debt BY THEA MORRISON
he National Bank of Georgia (NBG) reports that the gross external debt of Georgia amounted to $17.2 billion (GEL 44.6 billion) as of 31st December 2017, and 113.5 % of the 2017 Gross Domestic Product (GDP). During Quarter IV of 2017, the gross external debt of the country increased by $342.9 million. “Of that, a $335.7 million increase was due to transactions, and $12.6 and $10.5 million to price and other changes. Exchange rate changes lead to a decrease of $15.9 million,” the NBG stated. Public sector external debt amounted to $7.3 billion (19.0 billion GEL) or 48.3% of GDP, out of which debt of the general government amounted to $5.3 billion (13.7 billion GEL) or 34.9% of GDP. “Banking sector external debt amounted to $3.7 billion (9.5 billion GEL) or 24.2% of GDP, while the other sectors' external debt stood at $5.4 billion (13.9 billion GEL) or 35.3% of GDP,” the NBG explained. The net external debt of Georgia amounted to $10.1 billion (26.2 billion GEL or 66.6% of GDP) as of 31st Decem-
ber 2017. Net public sector external debt was $4.2 billion (11.0 billion GEL or 28.0% of GDP). External liabilities of the NBG increased by $43.8 million, of which transactions and exchange rate changes led to an increase in debt by $41.6 million and $2.2 million, respectively. By the end of the fourth quarter of 2017, the external debt
of the National Bank amounted to $291.4 million. According to the NBG, Gross external debt statistics are harmonized with BOP statistics. They include both public sector (general government, public corporations and national bank) and private sector (banking and other sectors) external debt.
Georgia's GDP Growth at 4.9% in January-February BY THEA MORRISON
eorgia’s economy saw a 4.9% increase in JanuaryFebruary 2018 compared to the same period last year. The latest data from the National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat) reads that the estimated real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate in February 2018 amounted to 5.5%, while in January 2018, a 4.4% growth
was observed. In February, the estimated real GDP growth, compared to the same period of 2016, was registered in the following activities: Manufacturing, Other community, Social and personal service activities, Real estate and Trade. Last year’s GDP increased by 11.8% compared to the 2016 figures, reaching a total of 38 billion GEL. The real growth over two years has been an astonishing 5%, adding to the 6.5% growth through deflation of the GEL, Geostat announced.
APRIL 3 - 5, 2018
The Promo Fail OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN
ou might remember in 2016 a video went viral (ish) of the six millionth tourist visiting this country, wherein a Dutch chap found himself surprised by a waiting car, a police escort and dinner with the Prime Minister. My first reaction was stunned disbelief: Georgians might be known for their hospitality, but this beat everything. My second was jealousy. Lucky bastard, I thought, I’ve lived here for eight years, and all I’ve ever had was a free bottle of wine during holiday times. Suddenly, the fact that I have a friend in the border police who speeds me through passport control every time I fly didn’t seem like much to boast about anymore; furthermore, my own brief conversation with the Prime Minister had been about the Grenfell apartment block disaster, and how burning alive would be an awful way to die. You’ll agree it doesn’t compare well with watching Sukhishvili dancers and discussing Georgian wine and food. I daresay that after a few free glasses of wine (or let’s be honest, when it’s free, for me it’s bottles), I can become something of a morbid conversationalist. Just don’t get me started on the Syrian war, or how best Georgia could resist another Russian attack. But I don’t see how anyone could fail to be charmed by it, for it’s a lovely gesture, and I doubt it’s been done by any other country in the world. Also,
Image source: windfors.ge
despite the fact that I am God’s own original cynic, I don’t agree with those who say that the whole thing was staged. The gentleman’s reactions are too genuine…although if I had been in his position, travelling to an Eastern European country and finding a police escort waiting for me, I think I’d have tried to jump through one of the car windows, screaming for consular assistance from my ambassador as I flew through a mix of air, broken glass and my own blood; the product of a perpetually guilty conscience, I suppose.
Tbilisi Carpets Gallery Pekini st.36 +995555763366
However, I will concede that it does all seem rather too lucky. I mean, the six millionth tourist could have been anyone: fortunate indeed it was a drinking, English-speaking Dutchman, rather than a non-alcohol drinking Muslim Turk or a Chinese businessman entirely unintelligible in English. Don’t misunderstand me here; I’m not saying that the Dutch gentleman in question was complicit in a dastardly scheme by the Georgian Tourist Board, but perhaps the true figure was more like ‘six millionish from a country where they’re likely
to speak English and drink booze’. Or perhaps not. To do them justice, Georgians take hospitality so seriously they’d probably not have cared if it was a Chinese man rendered unconscious by one glass of wine, or a Muslim who believes alcohol offends Allah, and done their best with what they were given. I mention all this for two reasons. Firstly, because I sent this video to my father this week in an attempt to persuade him to visit this country: before October we hadn’t spoken in over ten years, and he’s a nervous sort of man
(as far as I know) who believes anything east of Calais is where there be dragons. Secondly, tourism is a major part of Georgia’s economy, and so in a moment of idleness I checked what else the Georgian tourist administration might have on its YouTube page, to see if it had anything else of a similar caliber. It turns out they do not, with the exception of a 50-second video promoting skiing in Gudauri, the timing of which seems a little unfortunate (it was published two days ago at the time of writing), since the ski-lift fiasco of last month is the only thing Georgia made it into the Western news for this year. The rest all seem to be interviews, and the writing for all of them is in Georgian, as is the language. I don’t really see how that will help Georgia’s tourist industry; were I a budding tourist looking at all this, I’d come away feeling confused and disinterested. After all, Georgian-language videos and Georgian-written descriptions aren’t going to mean a damn thing to foreigners looking at the Georgian Tourist Board’s official YouTube page. Where is a small documentary feature about Georgian wine? Or Batumi? Or Svaneti? I’d at least think they’d have something on Khinkali. As delightful as the six millionth tourist video might be, I don’t think anyone believes it’s the sort of thing that could happen twice. Georgia has the luxury hotels now. It has the skiing resorts (with semi-cooperative lifts), the Swiss trains, and a population that – for the most part – has a good grasp of English. What it needs to do now is fix its promotion – especially on social media.
APRIL 3 - 5, 2018
Strengthening Georgia’s Agricultural Economy – Gerhard Schaumberger & the Austrian Development Agency EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY BENJAMIN MUSIC
We are working to increase the cultivation of the winter onion [and have] our first project generating organic hazelnuts
umerous national governments and international organizations have set up development schemes to support civil society and democratization efforts in Georgia. Often, however, development happens in hidden areas not very visible to the majority of the population in the city. Austria, which ranks globally among the best countries for farming strategies and environmental protection, is working heavily with the Georgian public and the Georgian government to improve the efficiency and sustainability of forests, agricultural infrastructure, and crop farming strategies. We sat down with Gerhard Schaumberger, Head of Office at ADA Georgia, to pick his brain on the different strategies implemented in the area over the last years.
HOW DOES ADA OPERATE IN GEORGIA? The administrative team here in the office is a small team of four, making it quite efficient. However, taking all the people into account with whom we work on the different projects, we would definitely reach a headcount of hundreds of people.
ADA SUPPORTS NUMEROUS PROJECTS AIMED AT SPURRING AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT IN GEORGIA. IS THERE A FOCUS ON A SPECIFIC TYPE OF PARTNER? We work with an extremely diverse group entailing different kinds of partners. We work with government offices, ministries, Georgian NGOs, the UN,
It is important to create awareness in the national educational system of the value of the forest in Georgia
Gerhard Schaumberger, Head of ADA Georgia (Left), and Arad Benkö, Austrian Ambassador to Georgia (Right)
but also with private companies and funds. The effect is an assemblage of partners each focusing on a specific sector which will be agreed upon when the partnership is set up. In agreement with the Georgian government, the main sectors we are supporting in Georgia are agricultural reforms and local administration reforms. The project sizes vary hugely between a support of €10,000 to around €5,000,000. Often, these funds are channeled together with different actors, such as the UN or the European Union. We have great experience working with Switzerland and Germany, as they are like-minded supporters.
IN TERMS OF DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS IN GEORGIA, CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THE CORE AREA OF ADA? Our main focus is on agriculture. Around 70% of funds go towards agricultural projects, whereas 20-30% goes to government and civil society projects, such as the recent launch to spur decentralization, with the UNDP. The remaining projects deal with social infrastructure and services projects. We are also supporting many projects of other Austrian
government institutions which cooperate with the Georgian authorities. One example is a project to prevent the radicalization of different social groups through sport in the Kakheti region. In the past, many efforts entailed humanitarian aid as well, especially during the 2008 and Chechen wars, where a close cooperation with the Georgian government was essential.
WHAT PROJECTS AND SUPPORT SCHEMES HAVE BEEN SET UP WITH GEORGIAN NGOS? We have multiple projects of considerable sizes, such as with the Georgian Farmer Association. They are doing a fantastic job in agricultural innovation and value chain management; for example, we could increase the cultivation of the so-called winter onion, which can be sold at times when the ordinary onion does not grow, ensuring a constant market supply of onions for better profit margins. Furthermore, we have a couple of projects supporting honey farmers and hazelnut producers, such as our first project generating organic hazelnuts. The hazelnut is the largest export produce of Georgia and globally ranks second after Turkey.
BESIDES PROJECTS IN THE CULTIVATION OF CROPS, ARE THERE ANY OTHER PROJECTS DEALING WITH ISSUES SUCH AS DEFORESTATION OR IRRIGATION? Thankfully, Georgia’s geographical situation with many mountains and glaciers solve many irrigation problems already. It doesn’t have the issues which flat countries such as Moldova or countries in dry areas encounter on a regular basis. Despite that, we have worked on smallscale projects to improve irrigation systems. For example, in the Kakheti region, many farmers could profit from these systems, especially in the summer periods. These issues can be attributed to climate change as well. The effects are clearly visible in Georgia. One farmer has placed over 40 kilometers of drip irrigation for a Japanese Persimmon cultivation. Without the drip irrigation system, his entire cultivation would be in a critical condition today. In terms of forestry, there are many debates and discussions about it. Austria and Georgia have almost the same percentage of forest cover, at around 40%. There was the hope to be able to generate a strong forestry in Georgia,
like that of Austria, which has an advanced and European-leading timber industry. However, this idea is not as prevalent anymore and the main focus is on forest protection as well as recreational use, such as for tourism. The problem with setting up a strong forestry is the strong competitiveness of other countries already very advanced in the industry. Looking just north of Georgia, we have Russia with thousands of kilometers of forests. ADA supported the efforts in the forest industry with a couple of projects, one conducted by the World Bank, for example, and another with an NGO. Thankfully, new legislation strengthening the National Forest Association, helping to increase the leverage of forest protection. Furthermore, It is important to create awareness in the national educational system of the value of the forest in Georgia. Just last week, we had a competition and awarded young people for generating environmental awareness. To also avoid illegal cutting, which often was used as a means of heating in isolated areas, many projects deal with the generation of biomass energy. The European Union has set up financial schemes to support such efforts, but it is very difficult to make them financially sustainable.
ARE THERE PROJECTS IN THE ENERGY SECTOR IN GEORGIA? Georgia is doing a fantastic job to improve the sector. The Ministry has presented very ambitious plans and we Austrians can definitely associate in terms of hydroelectric power plants, as both countries have large amounts of water thanks to the glaciers. There are always certain negative aspects, but overall, we see high interest in hydroelectric energy, which can become essential, together with other alternative energy sources.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 3 - 5, 2018
Cameron McNeillie: MOXY, for Modern Travelers who Love Energetic, Eclectic Brands
subtle design, relaxed service, affordable price, extraordinary rooms: this is MOXY, the state-of-theart, innovative boutique hotel recently opened in Tbilisi under the umbrella of Marriott International. Before any other guest, the newly built MOXY Hotel first hosted media representatives, who got to know about the brand’s new concept, dramatically different from other brands currently represented in Tbilisi. Media representatives were given the chance to visit the innovative, dynamic, extraordinary rooms and indulge themselves just as they would if they were guests. There is constant movement in MOXY: interesting people and an energetic and creative team. MOXY is distinguished for its playful atmosphere; the design
and style of which were experienced by the first visitors. A competition was organized for the invited guests and the winner was awarded a magical one-night stay at the new MOXY. The winner was Maka Panqvelashvili, P.S. Program Producer of Rustavi-2 TV. “It is a beautiful hotel. I won something for the first time in my life…it’s a very nice feeling. I wish success to the Hotel management and I’m sure I’ll be back,” she said. “Opening a hotel of such a level is always important, clearly indicating the development of the economy, tourism and business in the country,” said Giorgi Kapanadze, Director of the Caucasian Internet Media Group. The hotel’s 130 contemporary bedrooms, ranging from Standard to Family size, are outfitted with sound-reducing walls,
42" LCD flat screen televisions, high speed Wi-Fi, abundant USB ports, comfortable bedding and leather armchairs. Every bedroom makes a statement with a fun floor-to-ceiling art piece. The design is functional, flexible and uncluttered, with simple, thoughtful touches, including LED lit glass shelving and an open storage concept featuring a peg wall for ultimate flexibility when unpacking, in lieu of a traditional closet. Stylish bathrooms feature complimentary Muk toiletries, bright pink hair dryers, power showers and large mirrors, alongside a spacious vanity area. “MOXY is focused on modern travelers who choose energetic brands,” said Cameron McNeillie, Multi property General Manager of Tbilisi Marriott, Courtyard Marriott and MOXY Tbilisi. “We offer comfort to travelers and this is a hugely important component. The prices are affordable and attractive for everyone, and this makes the MOXY product advantageous compared to competing brands.” Special opening rates at the new Moxy Tbilisi start from $110. The Moxy brand is advancing its strong presence with plans to expand into more than 40 new destinations in both fastgrowing and established markets in Europe over the next three years. With more than 50 signed hotels in Moxy’s pipeline expected to open in Europe between now and year end 2020, the bold brand is sustaining sharp growth in countries such as Germany and the UK, as well as making its entry into key European destinations including France, Portugal and The Netherlands. “This is the first MOXY Hotel not only in Georgia and the Caucasus, but also in Eastern Europe. The entrance of such
brands to the market is very important and is directly related to tourism development. It will contribute to local employment, seeing the retraining of people according to the standards used in the MOXY chain,” said Mikheil Chkuaseli, Commercial Director of GeoPlant. The first MOXY Hotel was opened in Milan in September 2014. In Tbilisi it is located in a building owned by GMT Group, on Saarbrucken Square. Apart from the hotel, within the building are offices and popular restaurants Chela and Puri Guliani. The design is distinguished by Georgian elements, and their mix will introduce guests to local culture from the moment they arrive. MOXY guests who are members of the award-winning Marriott Rewards loyalty program will get exclusive access to even more digital features through the Mar-
riott Mobile app when they book direct, including mobile check-in and check-out, keyless entry and Mobile Requests to make their travel experience seamless. Marriott Rewards members will also earn points for their stay at MOXY Hotels and can redeem them for hotel stays across the Marriott Rewards portfolio of brands. The management agreement of MOXY was signed between GMT Group LLC and Marriott International in 2015. The total investment amounted to GEL 50 million. GMT Group, in cooperation with American investors and US Government’s Agency OPIC, has implemented a number of projects in Georgia: Tbilisi Marriott Hotel, Courtyard Marriott, “A” Class Offices GMT Plaza, SANTE GMT products, and the rehabilitation/ reconstruction of the former Funicular restaurant on Mtatsminda.
Anaklia City to Collaborate Aqaba with SEZ in Jordan BY NIA PATARAIA
he Anaklia City team visited the Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ) in Jordan to hold negotiations with Zone management and a number of large companies. The Aqaba Special Economic Zone is considered among the most strategic and successful projects of recent years in the region. They and Anaklia City have begun a partnership and arranged a Memorandum of understanding, signed by Anaklia City Executive Director Keti Bochorishvili and Nasser Shraideh chef commissioner of the ASEZA. The memorandum provides for experience-sharing and future cooperation. Within the framework of the visit, Anaklia City management held negotiations with Aqaba’s Special Economic Zone Authority, its developer company ADC, and the Aqaba Ports Management. The Anaklia City and Economic Zone team also met with several major international companies working in the SEZ
for the logistics, construction and hotel industries. Georgia and Anaklia's potential and future partnership were discussed during these meetings. Aqaba is one of the largest Special Economic Zones in Jordan and is based in a strategic location near the Aqaba Port on the Red Sea. It includes the Jordan Coast, Port infrastructure and is served by the airport. The ASEZ was initiated in 2001 for the development of the tourism and service sectors and industry, and to date has managed to attract more than $16 billion and represents a number of international companies in the region. Anaklia City has also begun cooperation with other large global economic zones- South Korea's Incheon and the China-Kazakhstan large economic border zone of Khorgos. Anaklia City and its own Special Economic Zone, which will be developed in the vicinity of the Anaklia Deep Sea Port, is expected to become a regional industrial, logistics and business center. It will be built as a city based on green and "smart city" principles. Development of the project began in 2017.
APRIL 3 - 5, 2018
Representatives of Anaklia Port Pay Working Visit to China
BY NIA PATARAIA
epresentatives of Anaklia Port, Mamuka Khazaradze, founder of the Anaklia Development Consortium, and General Director Levan Akhvlediani, have been in China to attend a number of important meetings with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), as well as with the
heads of Chinese corporations, ZPMC and CDC. ZPMC is a marine container manufacturing company and CDC is an engineering company that owns more than 100 ships required for marine engineering and deployment. ZPMC, Anaklia Port's long-term partner, invited the representatives to its factory in Shanghai. The ZPMC factory produces 70% of the world's marineengineering cranes. At the meeting, the parties discussed the specifics of the
crane equipment required for the Anaklia Deep Sea Port. “The cranes for Anaklia Deep Sea Port will be manufactured at ZPMC according to modern standards, as will other equipment needed to control the container terminal,” ADC CEO, Levan Akhvlediani said. The representatives of Anaklia Port held meetings in Beijing with the AIIB. Talks with Chinese financial institutions in connection with the Anaklia port are ongoing.
BergerABAM Evaluates Potential of Anaklia Deep Sea Port BY NIA PATARAIA
he Anaklia Deep Sea Port area has been assessed by one of the world's leading design and construction management companies, BergerABAM. Representatives of BergerABAM visited Georgia's Anaklia Deep Sea Port to look in detail at the project and were hosted by the Anaklia Development Consortium and Port Terminal Operator, SSA Marine Management. BergerABAM is one of the leading companies in the field of design, engineering, marine construction management, underwater inspection and environmental services, and its portfolio boasts among successful projects in Panama, Dubai, Mexico, and Washington. Anaklia Deep Sea Port management organized active negotiations relating to the design of its new port, also inviting Skip Sahlin, Vice President of SSA Marine, and Chief Engineer Ricardo Cheng to work on the theme. "We are very glad to have had the
chance to see the area of Anaklia Port,” said Chris Cornell, Senior Vice President of BergerABAM. “It’s a very interesting project. We’ve implemented similar projects in different parts of the world, including in Asia and North America. On the whole, the port made quite an impression on us. We knew that there were difficulties because of the abundant waters, but we have seen that high-level preliminary work has been done and we believe that a very good project can be realized here.” After visiting the Anaklia Port area, representatives of BergerABAM, SSA Marine and ADC visited Batumi on a working visit to the Director of Maritime Transport Agency and the representatives of Batumi State Maritime Academy. Anaklia Deep Sea Port's preliminarydesign was developed by ADC in early 2017. BergerABAM presented one of the best offers in a tender between the companies entering ‘World’s Top 20’ held by Anaklia Development Consortium for designing the port. Negotiations are ongoing and ADC is set to name the winning design company in the near future.
APRIL 3 - 5, 2018
Georgia to Host Inaugural Black Sea Blockchain Summit EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY NIA PATARAIA
nnovative FinTech company Spotcoin is holding the first-ever Black Sea Blockchain Summit at the Rooms Hotel, Tbilisi. The April 24-26 event aims to explore the global hot topic of blockchain and other distributed ledgers, their impact on FinTech, and how the disruptive technology is creating business opportunities in the Black Sea region. Three days of intense sessions focus on business, governmental and educational topics, complemented by panel discussions and face-to-face meetings with international speakers. In an interview with GEORGIA TODAY, Sean Mulcahey, Chief Strategy Officer of Spotcoin, discusses the importance of knowledge about digital currency and its development in Georgia. Mulcahey is an innovator and master strategist with a wide range of expertise and experience in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. He has lived and worked across Europe, Eurasia, Africa, and the Middle East for more than 20 years. His travels to nearly 50 countries helped form key insights into different cultures and the international environment.
HOW WILL DIGITAL CURRENCY CHANGE DIGITAL TRANSACTIONS? There is a movement around the world
with this new technology and many companies are looking for ways to take advantage of it and bring in a new smart economy. Basically, it is going to create new opportunities for businesses and for consumers. For Spotcoin, the main objective is to look at the latest technology and find ways to offer the marketplace new opportunities for economic development.
WHAT IS SPOTCOIN’S NEW STRATEGY AND WHAT WILL IT OFFER IN THE FUTURE? Our main objective is to make participation in the new economy much easier and simpler. We are designing a number of services to achieve that, including a digital exchange and payment system that will function interchangeably with digital currencies, popular internationally-used fiat currencies, and local currencies. Alongside that, we are trying our best to focus on education, because this is a new technology for everyone. Part of our strategy is to educate businesses, governments, and educational institutions and to give them more information about the effectiveness of this new technology and how it can be used.
WHAT IS THE MAIN PURPOSE OF HOSTING THE INAUGURAL BLACK SEA SUMMIT. WHAT IS SPOTCOIN’S ROLE IN IT? Spotcoin is bringing in experts from all over the world including speakers from China, the US, Western and Eastern Europe, and the Black Sea region. The
main focus of the Summit is to examine opportunities and challenges and have discussions about how we can take advantage of them. Blockchain technology really ties the world together. Spotcoin has a commitment to Georgia, and to this entire region. We see Blockchain as a unique opportunity to raise the level of the economy. It’s really a game changer as far as economic activity is concerned. One of the most remarkable things about it is that it aligns the interests of everyone participating. For example, it aligns the interests of business and consumers in ways that don’t necessarily occur now. It’s going to have a good effect on energizing economic activity and exchanging
value across the board. There are some challenges with the new technology, though: it has some impact on government, because government performs legitimate functions when it comes to taxes and consumer protection, placing proper regulations on criminal activities. Georgia is a pioneer in the Black Sea region digital currency market and the blockchain industry: over 15% of the world’s bitcoin mining takes place in Georgia and local government has already adopted blockchain technologies within its operations. The Black Sea Blockchain Summit will host over 20 speakers, 10 exhibitors and 300 attendees to enhance understanding of the value of blockchain technology
and digital currency; explore the disruptive effects and opportunities of the technology and discuss regulatory issues and solutions in a cross-functional atmosphere with attendees. Speakers from China, The Netherlands, Ukraine, and Moldova, will join our top presenters from Georgia to discuss pressing business issues, aiming to guide Summit guests in identifying and sourcing blockchain projects and partnerships; understanding the Demand Crisis and how to bridge gaps in blockchain knowledge and skills; and in establishing networks, public-private partnerships, and strategic alliances. Attendees can purchase single 1-day tickets or the full 3-day package with discounts, allowing them to attend all sessions, including panel discussions, exhibitions and an after party. Spotcoin is an over-the-counter clearing house that provides ease of movement between fiat and digital currencies. The company was founded in 2016 in Georgia, expanding into a multi-faceted powerhouse engaged in mining operations, education in the Black Sea region, and development of a global digital exchange based in Georgia. Spotcoin bridges the gap between the traditional banking sector and the emerging smart economy, making digital currencies work for everyone. To purchase tickets for the Black Sea Blockchain Summit, visit the event website: http://bsbsummit.com
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 3 - 5, 2018
Russia Increases Supply of LNG to Japan BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE
n February, the second meeting of the Russian-Japanese high-level working group was held in Tokyo. The meeting was headed by the Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin, the head of the Ministry of Energy, Alexander Novak, and the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, Hiroshige Seko. During the meeting, the sides discussed issues of bilateral cooperation in such areas as medicine, energy, urban environment, industry, as well as interaction in the digital economy. The practice of such meetings was introduced a year ago. A plan of bilateral cooperation of eight points was proposed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his visit to Russia in May 2016. In December of the same year, during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Japan, about 80 documents on bilateral cooperation were signed, and 20 more documents were signed during the return visit of Shinzo Abe to Moscow last year. As part of the meeting of the working group, the head of the Russian Energy Ministry noted that “by the end of 2017, we supplied 7.6 million tons of
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liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Japan, recording growth in this indicator.” The total export of LNG from Russia to the countries of the Asia-Pacific region last year increased by 5.3% to 15.48 billion cubic meters. It is also worth noting that Gazprom and Mitsui & Co, partners in the LNG project Sakhalin-2, have begun to expand their cooperation in the transportation and marketing of liquefied gas. Within the framework of the WEF-2017 (the World Economic Forum, committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation), the Head of the Russian holding Alexey Miller and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Japanese corporation Masami Iijima signed an appropriate framework agreement. The document provides for the cooperation of the companies in the sale and delivery of LNG cargo of medium and small tonnage, as well as in the issue of LNG bunkering in the Sea of Japan. This agreement is at the interaction stage between companies following the signing last year of an agreement on strategic cooperation in the same areas, including also the expansion of the Sakhalin-2 project.
Most Open & Closed State Institutions of Georgia 2017
BY THEA MORRISON
n terms of access to public information in Georgia, the most open state institutions in 2017 were: The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection, Ministry of Penitentiary and Probation, Ministry of Energy, and the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, while the Revenue Service was named as the most closed state institution. The information was provided by the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), which has been monitoring access to public information in Georgia since 2010. The NGO reports that within the framework of monitoring conducted by IDFI in 2010-2017 a total of 45,310 Freedom of Information (FOI) requests were sent to public institutions, and 37,511 replies were received. Overall, during the monitoring conducted in 20102017, the highest rate of received information (90%) was in 2013. In 2017, the number of received replies was 88%. Last year, the NGO sent 7,728 requests to 289 public institutions and received 4,604 complete
responses, 483 incomplete responses, and 51 refusals. “946 requests were left unanswered and in other cases, the institutions stated that they had not conducted specific activities, or did not have the requested information,” the NGO says. The most closed public institution in 2017 was the LEPL Revenue Service. The Revenue Service was sent 29 FOI requests, and none of these was provided with a response. In 2017, in addition to the Revenue Service, there were 13 other public institutions out of a total of 289 administrative bodies, which neglected the legal obligation to disclose public information, and left all FOI requests from the IDFI without a response. The NGO observed a regress in terms of providing public information from the Ministry of Finance. “The 81.9% indicator in 2016 worsened by 69,8% and amounted to 12.1% in 2017. With the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, the indicator worsened by 35.7%,” the IDFI report reads. However, significant progress was observed in the Ministry of Justice, which was named as the most closed public institution in 2016. The 0% indicator in 2016 was improved by 74,9% in 2017. The Ministry of Internal Affairs also had +46,2% progress last year.
APRIL 3 - 5, 2018
European Union: Still a Viable Project OP-ED BY EMIL AVDALIANI
or the last 600 years or so, Georgia has been subject to constant external pressure through invasions and deliberate policies of dividing the state from the inside. Throughout this period, little chance has existed of Georgia being able to improve its geopolitical position in the region as the neighboring countries were simply too large and powerful. This largely conditioned the Georgian way of policy-making: balancing one big power against another. Over the last two centuries, Russia has been the dominant force for Georgia and though it is common to talk about how impossible it is that Moscow would actually leave the South Caucasus, there are nevertheless some interesting trends pointing to developments that Russia might be finally outstripped by the West in the crucial former Soviet space.
THE GEOGRAPHIC EXPLANATION The battle between Europe and Russia is a perennial one, largely conditioned by geography. The European continent by its nature represents a peninsula of Eurasia, while Russia is on the edge of Europe. Peace between them has been a fleeting phenomenon as each tried to dominate/influence the other. Russia’s rise to power was basically a result of European internal fighting. There were times when Europe was unified, and Russia was threatened; yet the creation of the European empire (a truly unified one) which would challenge Russia in the long-run was a daunting task. Building a European empire had at least three phases. First, military victories were essential, but these would not provide a lasting foundation. Napoleon and Hitler were good examples. A ruler needed a centralized administration and co-optation of local elites of large invaded states. A ruler, even those like Napoleon and Hitler, needed several decades at best to achieve this: a virtually impossible task. The problem with Europe was also that the continent was full of ambitious, technologically and militarily advanced states very much unwill-
ing to abandon their freedom. Even when a conquest of Europe was achieved (as in the case of Napoleon and Hitler), the continent then faced its two “enemies on the periphery,” Great Britain and Russia. Britain was willing to keep the balance of power among the European states, Russia – control over Eastern Europe. This simple geography in fact explains why throughout the centuries a united Europe could not become a lasting project and peace with Russia is an unachievable goal.
THE MODERN EUROPEAN PHENOMENON However, geopolitical developments since the break-up of the Soviet Union show that a relatively unified Europe is a plausible project. The modern
united Europe is a grave challenge to Russia as the battle between the two is laid in the economic sphere on which then are based political affiliations of the elites of the post-Soviet space. Unlike in past centuries, modern Europe - the European Union - is in fact a powerful economic and political machine based not on coercion, but on state and elite cooptation. Never before has Europe posed such a fundamental challenge to Russia. Neither Napoloen nor Hitler worked towards the fundamental weakening of Russia, as military conquest of Russia was impossible at the time. On the contrary, fundamental weakening of Russia is only possible through the purposeful economic dominance of the territories around the Russian heartland (modern western part of the Russian federation).
And that is, in fact, what is happening nowadays. Russia is losing fundamental competition, economic prevalence, with Europe. Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and the Baltic states are good examples how Russian influence has retracted deep in Eurasia. What is even more interesting is the fact that this process, at least for the near future, will go unabated. Is Georgia in the midst of something fundamentally transformative happening in its neighborhood? Will Russia’s weakening allow Tbilisi to improve its flawed geopolitical situation (return of lost territories)? There are plenty of indications to support this scenario. One might imagine our policy-makers pondering these long-lasting geopolitical trends to have Georgia better prepared for a number of oncoming changes.
Gulf Launches Book Collection for Schools & Libraries in the Regions
BY NIA PATARAIA
rom March 29, Gulf, in collaboration with the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia, launched the project “Tsignieri”. Within the project, books will be collected for regional schools and libraries at all Gulf refueling stations. Moreover, Gulf will provide free fuel for mountainous regions’ schools where the transportation of teachers and students is problematic. The project will be extensive and everyone is welcome to participate. It aims to raise the educa-
tion level in the regions, for which it is essential to develop libraries, renovate their book storage and to supply schools with the latest literature. The project was presented at the national library exhibition hall, where guests received detailed information about the upcoming events. Visitors were required to bring at least one book. Collected books are to be sent to the Tsilkani library, while schools in Pshavi and Gurdukhi will be the first to be supplied with a free fuel. The National library will send out books to schools and libraries every month. To support the project “Tsignieri,” Gulf has launched a new web platform where schools can easily ask for fuel if necessary.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 3 - 5, 2018
Georgian Weightlifter Wins European Championship BY THEA MORRISON
Georgian U18 Rugby Team Return as EU Champions
eorgian weightlifter Lasha Talakhadze has won the European Championships 2018 in Bucharest, Romania. Talakhadze had a successful performance in snatch lifts, lifting 200 and then 210 kilograms. In the clean and jerk, he lifted 225 kilograms and then 227. A second Georgian athlete, Irakli Turmanidze, was also successful in all three attempts at snatch (185, 190, 192) and won the silver medal at the Championship. The Georgian team took first place in the championship by the number of
medals won. In Total, Georgian sportsmen won 10 Gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze medals at the championship. Last April, Olympic and world champion Lasha Talakhadze made history by
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snatching 217kg at the European Weightlifting Championships in Split, Croatia which the highest weight any human being has ever snatched in a weightlifting competition in recorded history.
Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Maka Lomadze, Joseph Larsen, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Nino Gugunishvili, Thea Morrison Photographer: Irakli Dolidze
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he Georgian U18 Rugby team were greeted by ecstatic crowds and a Georgian salute as they arrived at the Tbilisi International Airport today, back from their European 8-3 win against France this weekend, making them this yearâ€™s European champions.
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