July 3 - 9, 2015
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Georgia Today 24 p.
Greek Debt Crisis: Why it Ma tter s ffor or Geor gia Matter tters Georgia IN THIS WEEK’S ISSUE
Why Ar menia Is Armenia Not (Y et) Ukr aine (Yet) Ukraine P.4
The P ar tner ship Fund Par artner tnership Opens P ane x Plant Pane anex P.11 Minsk: A Pla tf or m ffor or Platf tfor orm Dialo gue betw een the Dialogue between P.12 EU and EEU Tur key and R ussia urk Russia Discuss Gas Discount
Geor gia Shifts to Georgia Digital Br oadcasting Broadcasting
As Eurozone finance ministers reject the Greek government’s request for a bailout extension, remittances to Georgia are expected to be reduced by up to 5 million euros per month. P.6
Ne w EU Pr ogram ffor or Cultur e and Cr ea ti vity New Pro Culture Crea eati tivity Launc hed ffor or Easter nP ar tner ship R egion Launched Eastern Par artner tnership Re Bridging the gap: British Council and EU launch a program to show Georgia how a good cultural industry can be created and sustained through international dialogue and capacity building. P.17
Geor gia’ s Aver si Georgia’ gia’s ersi No w Selling Rig a Now Riga Vir us Cancer irus Trea tment eatment It comes with a hefty price tag, but the worth of the new easy-to-use cancer killer is being proven throughout the P.17 world.
The Transcaucasian Trail – Two Americans, One Vision “We have a vision to walk and map the Transcaucasian Trail, to write a guide book and bring this scenic trek through a variety of cultures to the world’s attention.” P.23
JULY 3 - 9
NEWS IN BRIEF
USS La boon Missile Laboon gia Destr oyer Visits Geor Destro Georgia
By Zviad Adzinbaia On June 27-29, the USS Laboon (DDG-58), an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer from the United States’ Navy 6th Fleet, made a port visit to Batumi, Georgia, to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to strengthening ties with NATO allies and partners like Georgia, while working toward mutual goals of promoting security and stability in the Black Sea region. While in Georgia, the Laboon conducted routine combined training with the Georgian Coastguard and provided ship and press tours. According to the US Embassy in Tbilisi, the Laboon’s port visit will further build upon previous U.S. Navy visits to Georgia that enhance the professional partnerships and personal relationships between the United States and its allied and partner nations. “The making of a port visit by a US ship in Batumi puts an emphasis on the two countries’ friendship,” Davit Usupashvili, Georgia’s Parliamentary Chairman told reporters. Usupashvili says the United States and Georgia plan to tackle threats together and this is confirmed by their joint activities in Afghanistan among other areas of unrest, adding “today’s event represents a message that Georgia is not alone.”
“The two countries have decided to deepen cooperation in all areas including the military field. Today’s event is very significant. The world community is ready to provide peace and stability in the world including our region,” the chairman maintained. U.S. Ambassador Richard Norland underlined that the visit of this ship once again represents American commitment to working together with Georgia, to enhance Georgia’s deterrent capabilities, its professionalism and the capability of its armed forces. “This is a sign that the United States and Georgia, NATO and Georgia will continue to cooperate to increase security in the region,” noted Norland. Usupashvili thanked the U.S. Ambassador, the ship captain and the crew members for visiting Georgia as well as the Adjarian government for hosting the guests. The Laboon, home-ported in Norfolk, Virginia, is deployed in a multi-mission role to contribute to regional maritime security, conduct bilateral and multilateral training missions, and to support NATO operations and deployments throughout the Black Sea region. The U.S. Navy routinely operates ships in the Black Sea consistent with the Montreux Convention and International Law.
ISIS Declares Caliphate in the Caucasus
By Zviad Adzinbaia The so-called Islamic State terrorist group, or ISIS, recently announced a new Caliphate, outlining its goal to take over several regions of Russia’s North Caucasus. According to the report of the Institute for the Study of War (Washington D.C.), Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, a spokesman for the fundamentalist group, named Abu Mohammad alQadari the leader of the newly created entity and congratulated “the soldiers of the Islamic State” in the Caucasus. According to the Deputy U.S. Secretary for Democracy and Human Rights Issues, Tom Malinowski, governments and citizens should fundamentally understand the possible threats. “We would like to emphasize that governments should not tarnish human rights when combating terrorist groups. This is a bad policy of counter-terrorism,” Malinowski has told Voice of America adding “Georgia’s strategy needs to be the same as in the rest of the world, aimed at defeating terrorism.” “From my point of view, the formula
is the same throughout the world - to fight, arrest and judge them. If it is impossible, then they should be defeated at the battleground, like we are trying in Syria and Iraq,” he assessed. Analyst for Eurasian affairs Paul Goble commented: “the Georgian government needs to be very attentive in order to reveal those having ties with terrorist groups and yet should not be radical towards the innocent Muslim population.” “Most significantly, Georgia needs to show that it is tolerant towards all religions and must not allow the Islamic State to say that orthodox Tbilisi attacks Muslims. Georgia should improve its intelligence mechanisms in order to reveal those close to terrorist groups. Therefore, the government needs to be very careful,” he said. Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of Chechnya stated the Chechen population wants to live peacefully. “The statement made on behalf of North Caucasian fighters, in which they expressed their loyalty to the Islamic State is false. I don’t think the bandits hiding in forests can provide radicals with any serious support. These bastards have no chance
in Chechnya. Our law enforcement fully controls the situation and 99.9% of our population wants to live in peace,” Kadyrov maintained. Georgian Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli believes terrorism has no future in the 21st century saying: “the coalition combating terrorism with consolidated forces will maintain international stability and finally beat terrorism.” “I believe terrorism will have no future. I believe the coalition will manage to beat the greatest sickness of the mankind. These terrible facts confirm significance of the operations Georgia participates in together with NATO-member or partner countries. An emphasis was put on these issues at the defense ministerial from where I have just returned,” Khidasheli underlined. The self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) has launched active military campaigns in Syria and Iraq, and has claimed responsibility for several deadly terrorist attacks across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Its membership comprises several different nationalities including some Georgians from the Pankisi Gorge area.
Def ense Ministr y Explain Decision not to Defense Ministry De plo y Helicopter s in Tbilisi F looding Deplo ploy Helicopters Flooding By Zviad Adzinbaia
HA VE YOUR HAIR CUT AT OUR SAL ON HAVE SALON AND GET HAIR DIA GNOSTIC AS A GIFT! DIAGNOSTIC
The Georgian Ministry of Defense has released a statement concerning its decision not to use the “Super Puma” French helicopters for rescue purposes on the night of the Tbilisi flooding. The statement was made in response to pubic speculation that not enough had been done to save lives. “The Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces acted with one single purpose on the night of 13 June – to prevent further casualties and ensure successful rescue operations,” the statement says. The statement also claimed that Tbilisi has a complex urban structure and lacks the appropriate warning systems that would ensure safe movement for helicopters, adding: “the buildings, electricity lines and tall trees in the disaster zones (Svanidze Street, the zoo itself and Mziuri Park areas) make the operation of helicopters impossible.” “Utilizing helicopters in the mentioned conditions could have resulted in further loss of lives. Therefore, we properly assessed the risks and dangers. Helicopters and unmanned aircraft started monitoring efforts in the disaster-affected areas the next day,” the statement emphasizes. Mamuka Kudava, former Ambassador to France, who was directly involved in purchasing the helicopters for Georgia also outlined why the helicopters
were not deployed. “The two newest “Pumas” - that the Interior Minister said were to be kept inactive for two entire years, were unable to operate on the night of the tragedy. The third helicopter, the so-called “Squirrel”, which is the smallest one, seen in the airport last year, would be the most flexible of the aircraft in the period of the flood considering its size and weight,” argues Kudava. “The “Squirrel” has night vision, rescuing equipment, rope, basket and other relevant, needed tools. Under normal conditions, if trained pilots had been available, the helicopters would have been able to be utilized,” Kudava main-
tained, adding “this is why what happened, happened.” However, different online sources claim that these types of helicopters are specially created to efficiently maneuver in disaster areas. According to the last official report by the Georgian Defense Ministry, the “Super Puma” French helicopters have been conveyed to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “As far as I have been informed, the “Super Puma” helicopters were transferred to the Interior Ministry. Therefore, it is up to the Ministry to decide how and when to make use of them,” Vakhtang Kapanadze, the Chief of General Staff stated at the press conference.
JULY 3 - 9
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.
Why Ar menia Is Not (Yet) Ukraine By Charles Johnson and Eric Livny Yerevan is presently rife with protest. Dubbed “Electric Yerevan,” the protests are aptly named considering that they began as a result of Armenia’s government succumbing to demands by the country’s electricity distribution monopoly (Electric Network of Armenia (ENA)) to raise regulated tariffs by 16.7% as of 1 August, 2015. ENA is owned by Inter RAO UES, a Russian energy giant, giving rise to suggestions that Armenian officials are effectively serving Russian interests. Yet, the hike in electricity prices, which the government had initially resisted, appears to be anchored in more objective circumstances. Since June 2014, Armenia’s currency, Dram, fell from 410 to about 475 to US$, losing 16% of its value and driving up the cost of thermal generation powered by imported gas. Moreover, ENA has been purchasing an ever increasing share of electricity from (more expensive) thermal plants because Armenia’s Metsamor nuclear plant is taking longer than expected to return into service, while hydropower generation declined for hydrological reasons. With regulated tariffs lagging behind electricity generation costs, ENA was pushed into massive debt (to the tune of $225mln), hampering its creditworthiness, and threatening the stability of electricity supply. The Armenian government was aware of the political sensitivities involved in the decision to hike electricity prices. On the one hand, the 16.7% increase it has finally approved falls short of 40.8% initially demanded by ENA. On the other, the government announced plans to compensate more than 100,000 low-income families for the increase in tariffs. According to PM Abrahamian, monthly benefits for the poor will be raised by 2,000 drams ($4.2), which is more than 1,400 drams in extra monthly expenditures on electricity expected for the poorest households. And yet, despite these precautions, Armenia’s youth took to the streets of Yerevan, with their protests evolving in violence, scale, and political impetus as a result of a June 22nd attempt by the authorities to break up the demonstra-
tions. Marching under the “No To Plunder” slogan, these youth may have been put on the streets by the rate hike, but what seems to keep them there is Armenia’s greater social, economic and political difficulties. MEANWHILE, IN UKRAINE… While the vast majority of observers are preoccupied with the question of whether #ElectricYerevan will evolve into Armenia’s Euromaidan, another relevant comparison has been lost from sight. In direct analogy to Armenia’s electricity tariff hike, in April 2015, Ukraine’s new administration decided to raise the price of gas for domestic consumers more than 5.5 times (sic!). Moreover, domestic gas prices will continue to increase until 2018, bringing them in line with the price of imported gas. Understandably, such a move could have been extremely unpopular with Ukrainian voters. According to available estimates, energy subsidies in Ukraine have accounted for 7½ percent of GDP in 2012. While relatively welloff households (and corrupt Naftogaz officials) may have been capturing a disproportionate share of the benefits, the populist subsidy policy was intended to please the population at large. And it did. Until very recently, Ukraine has been keeping domestic energy prices at exceptionally low levels. According to Reza Moghadam, Director of the IMF’s European Department, “The gas price for households in Ukraine is $85 for one thousand cubic meter. In Russia – a gas producing and exporting economy – the price is $158 for one thousand cubic meter. The regional differences are even larger with prices in Ukraine being 4 to 9 times lower than in neighboring gas-importing economies.” In an effort to stave off potential protests and mitigate the impact on the poorest, the increase in tariffs will be accompanied by social assistance measures cushioning the impact on low-income families. According to Ukrainian government’s plan, explains Moghadam, “eligible families will receive a benefit equal to the difference between pre-and post-increase gas and heating bills. In total, 4.5 million fami-
electricity. Lots of cheap electricity. The problem with Sargsyan’s delaying tactics is that the electricity crisis is not going to go anywhere (and, at least for now, the protesters are also not willing to go home). For a while, Armenia may be able to use its meager budget resources to cover ENA’s debts and otherwise subsidize domestic electricity consumption. But people in the know, including President Sargsyan, understand that energy subsidies cannot be sustained for much longer.
Armenian police responded to peaceful protesters against the electricity tariff hike by beating protesters, using water cannons, and destroying journalists’ equipment.
lies – about 27 percent of the total – will be receiving government support to shield them from tariff increases through existing and new social assistance schemes.” LET THEM HAVE CHEAP ENERGY. LOTS OF CHEAP ENERGY! The energy sectors of Ukraine and Armenia are suffering from the same malaise, and the treatments offered by the governments of both countries are quite similar. Yet, what is dramatically different is how people in both countries react to the painful reform measures. While #ElectricYerevan is rattling Armenia, no mass protests have been observed in Ukraine in the wake of a much more significant hike in gas prices. Price hikes are presented – and grudgingly accepted – as a critical element of reforms in Ukraine’s battered energy sector, essential for the country’s battle against corruption, energy independence (from Russia), and efficiency. For #ElectricYerevan protest movement, the electricity price hike is the perfect opportunity to rally the otherwise weak and fragmented opposition groups against Armenia’s political and economic stalemate, helping electrify crowds and synchronize uncoordinated,
10 Galaktion Street
spontaneous actions against a not particularly popular regime. The role of prices in precipitating riots and revolutions is hardly a new theme in politics. The wave of “bread revolutions” that shook the Middle East in 2011-12 was triggered by a hike in the prices of basic staples, such as flour and olive oil, which served as a means of mobilizing the masses against deeply hated and corrupt dictatorships. In “Let Them Eat Bread” Annia Ciezadlo describes how riots erupted in Egypt back in 1977 when an already unpopular government tried to rescind food subsidies – implying massive price increases for staples like bread, rice, and cooking gas. “By the time they were over,” writes Ciezadlo, “hundreds of buildings were burned, 160 people were dead, and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat had learned an essential lesson for the modern Arab dictator: let them eat bread. Lots of cheap bread.” President Serzh Sargsyan’s decision on Saturday (June 28) to suspend the planned increase in household electricity rates (until an independent audit of Armenia’s electricity sector is completed) suggests that he has fully internalized Sadat’s lesson from almost 40 years ago. He is effectively telling the protesting crowds: Let them have cheap
WINDS OF CHANGE ARE BLOWING IN THE FACE Importantly, Armenia’s crisis might be a harbinger of change throughout the CIS. The strong economic headwinds blowing nowadays in the face of former Soviet (‘newly independent’) states are subjecting their illiberal regimes to one of the most serious ‘stress test’ in recent years. The ruling clans in most of these countries have been able to cling to power by restoring basic law & order conditions and engaging in expensive ‘cheap energy and circus’ policies. With oil prices falling and Russia not being able to provide as much help as previously, these regimes are quickly being pushed out of their comfort zone, resulting in nervousness and aggression directed at civil society activists at home, and real and imagined enemies abroad. Ukraine’s rotten political system has survived for more than 20 years by delaying painful reforms and spending billions on energy subsidies. Eventually, however, it has run out of gas. Literally and figuratively. A similar fate is awaiting other ‘cheap energy and circus’ regimes in the region. Lacking in internal legitimacy, they are ill positioned to implement painful reform measures involving cutbacks in energy subsidies. Sooner or later they will run out of oil, gas and luck, ending an era of cheap energy, extravagant architectural designs, lavish sports and music events. Ironically, one lesson Russia could learn from its loss of Ukraine and the turmoil in Armenia is that propping up friendly dictatorships with cheap energy is a shortsighted policy: it is costly in the near term, and in the long run it does not even guarantee stability or friendship.
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JULY 3 - 9
Greece on the Brink: Banks Closed, Loans Overdue, “Grexit” on the Way? By Joseph Larsen Few believed the euro crisis would ever go this far. Greece is officially past due on a EUR 1.7 billion loan payment owed to the IMF. Another EUR3.5 billion is due to the European Central Bank (ECB) on 20 July. Public coffers are empty and outright default looks unavoidable. A Greek exit from the Eurozone – “Grexit” – looks increasingly likely. Irish sports book Paddy Power is currently offering 5/2 odds that Greece will leave the currency union by the end of the year. ATHENS GOVERNMENT TURNS TO CAPITAL CONTROLS The euro fell to 1.40 against the pound sterling on Monday, its weakest level since 2007. Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded Greece’s sovereign debt rating to CCC-, labeling government bonds “junk.” With investors refusing to provide credit to Greek banks, the country faces the dreaded “liquidity crunch,” a scenario in which banks lack the cash to cover consumer deposits and meet their own debt obligations. Bank runs hit during the weekend, and on Monday the Greek government turned to the last weapon remaining in its arsenal: capital controls. Banks have been ordered to close
until after 5 July, money transfers are barred from leaving the country, and ATM withdrawals are capped at EUR 60 per. This marks only the second time in the Eurozone’s 15-year history that a member country has applied capital controls within the currency bloc. REFERENDUM ON BAILOUT EXTENSION Greece’s five-year bailout agreement with the “troika” (the IMF, ECB, and European Commission) expired late Tuesday, leaving the cash-strapped government without funds to meet a spate of pressing debt payments. The left-wing Syriza government has announced a referendum on 5 July, one in which voters will decide whether to accept the troika’s offer of a bailout extension – as well as the terms that come with it. The troika issued a renewed list of conditions on 26 June. Even if the Greek citizenry votes “Yes” to another bailout – allowing it to stay current on debt payments but only at the cost of further austerity measures – it will take the government time to implement the troika’s conditions sufficiently to receive bailout funds. European leaders including French President Francois Hollande, German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, and EC President Jean-Claude Juncker have
Cartoon depicting Greece’s two choices: “Budget Cuts” or “Exit Eurozone.”
all suggested that a “no” vote would mean leaving the Eurozone, with Juncker commenting that “’no’ would mean that Greece is saying no to Europe.” Syriza and its leader Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras are urging voters to reject the bailout while asserting that the country can remain inside the currency bloc. Tsipras told a state-run TV station that “the greater the number of no [votes], the greater weapon the government will have to re-launch negotiations.
Greece never left the negotiating table; it is still at the negotiating table.” Syriza is hoping that a strong antiausterity message from the Greek public will spur European negotiators to grant concessions. And with the ruling party stumping hard for a no vote, Tsipras hinted that the government would step down if voters say yes to the bailout. WHAT A GREXIT WOULD LOOK LIKE The European Union Treaty contains
no language regarding the expulsion of a member from either the union or the common currency area. Greece could, legally speaking, default on its debt and remain in both institutions. But failure to pay could lead to de facto loss of the euro. The country’s financial sector is currently dependent on Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA), a program by which the ECB has provided EUR 89 billion in emergency credit to Greek banks. Default would cut the country’s banking system off from ELA, making a liquidity crunch impossible to avoid. Bank holidays and capital controls would do little to stop euros from leaving the country. With few euros in circulation, the government would be forced to reissue its old currency, the drachma. Standard & Poor’s warned that default would cause a “serious foreign currency shortage for the private and public sectors, potentially leading to the rationing of key imports such as fuel … banks would not be able to operate.” While the process would take time to formalize, default and the loss of ECB support would make Grexit inevitable. Athens Mayor George Kaminis, a proponent of the bailout, expressed optimism that the public would vote yes: “If it [the referendum] takes place, we are going to have a victory with yes.”
Gr eek De bt Crisis: Why it Greek Debt Ma tter s ffor or Geor gia Georgia Matter tters
Saakashvili Finds Pr ob lems a Prob oblems att the Top in Ukr aine Cor Ukraine Corrruption Fight By Steven Jones
By Teona Surmava This week Eurozone finance ministers rejected the Greek government’s request for a bailout extension. The decision came after Greek PM Alexis Tsipras and his cabinet held an emergency conference call asking for a twoyear rescue deal. If the Greek government fails to repay the EUR 1.7 billion loan to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that was due on Tuesday, the country may be forced to leave the Eurozone. A crowdfunding campaign was launched to raise cash for the Greek bailout. The “Greek Bailout Fund” campaign, launched on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.com, was launched on Monday and has already raised over 220,000 euros from 14,000 individual donors. Some offered solutions to the Greek economic crisis seem more whimsical than serious. French film director JeanLuc Gordard suggest paying Greece 10 euro for each time the term ‘therefore’ is used. Greek philosopher Aristotle first expressed the concept of ‘therefore.’ In the midst of the crisis and in efforts to avoid financial panic, the Greek government has stopped online payment transactions from going ahead using Greek credit cards. As a result of this, almost 200,000 Georgians living and working in Greece are currently affected. Greece (after Russia) is the secondleading country in terms of volume of remittances to Georgia. In 2015, an average of USD 13.3 million was transferred from Greece to Georgia per month. In May 15, 2015, the National Bank of Georgia (NBG) published data of money transfers, which showed that the sum of money transfers from abroad constituted a total of USD 91.1 million. The Greek crisis presents two major problems for Georgia. One is the condition of Georgian workers in Greece, and the second is negative consequences on the Georgian economy and families in
The Greek referendum: “OXI”- No or “NAI”- yes
Georgia who depend on remittances. As data illustrates that the role of remittances in the Georgian economy is significant, the Greek crisis will play an important role in the Georgian economy. Georgian workers living in Greece already face problems receiving their monthly salaries. Georgians have not lost their jobs yet, but they don’t know when they will be paid, or how much. “We’re waiting for the results of the referendum and after that we will decide if it’s worth staying in Greece. If Greece leaves the Eurozone, the country will probably launch tight immigration policy and we will have to leave Greece,” said one Georgian living and working in the crisis-ridden country. On Sunday July 5, Greece will hold a referendum in which voters will be asked to decide whether to accept creditor conditions for further bailout aid. Despite the tough situation in Greece, some Georgians are wary of demonstrating in the streets as they work illegally and are afraid of deportation. Roman Gotsiridze, head of the Georgia-based Economic Development Center, states that, at first, remittances to Georgia are expected to be reduced by 4 or 5 million euros per month. However, the greatest concern is whether or not this is to be a long-term crisis in Greece set to leave thousands of Georgians there unemployed.
Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, in his attempts to counter corruption in Ukraine in his new role as Governor of Odessa, has claimed that low salaries for government officials is fuelling wrongdoing. Reportedly, Georgians working on reforms in Ukraine, including many former Georgian MPs, are being paid very low salaries including Saakashvili who is said to be on around $270 per month. The governor believes this is the main reason for the weak state system and rampant corruption in almost every sector of Ukraine. Eka Zguladze, Ukraine’s Deputy Interior Minister revealed that her salary slightly exceeds 7,000 Hryvnia (Ukrainian currency) which is nearly $335. Recently, a Ukrainian TV channel prepared a special report on what it called Saakashvili’s ‘façade reforms in Georgia’, interviewing personalities in Georgia, who, under Saakashvili’s rule of 9 years, had seen their activities limited amid accusations of Russian collaboration. Clearly, Ukraine needs quick and efficient reforms in vital sectors, such as police, to make the country of around 50 million citizens more attractive to the West and foreign investment. Notwithstanding Zguladze’s first successful reform of the traffic police in Ukraine, Saakashvili is openly fighting widespread corruption, criminal authorities and other injustices in Odessa. Saakashvili has appointed Zurab Adeishvili, former Georgian Justice Minister as a Regional Prosecutor of the Odessa district. Adeishvili, who was declared internationally wanted by the current Georgian government, has been removed from the wanted list by INTERPOL and is expected to fight and combat organized crime in Ukraine. Ukraine is currently attempting to make a historical shift from a former Soviet to a modern democratic state. This
European country with huge potential and resources, at different times, has massively been the prey of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, which, along with other activities, was responsible for the Holodomor genocide where thousands of Ukrainians were starved to death.
And currently, Russia’s Putin, who has called the dissolution of the USSR “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”, is aspiring to restore Russia’s previous glory within the former USSR boundaries, where Ukraine, along with Georgia and Moldova, are central targets of Putin.
JULY 3 - 9
Greece on a Knife Edge Published in the Spanish review “The Economy Journal”, April 2015, published in Georgia Today with kind permission of the author. It is exactly five years since Greece joined the European Support Mechanism with the close cooperation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). At that time, the key and critical financial data were the following: GDP amounted to 222.151 billion euros at the end of 2010. The public debt was 148.3% as a percentage of GDP. Unemployment stood at 12.5%. The percentage of Greeks who were living below the poverty line (earning less than 60% of the national median disposable income) was 27.6%. The policy of extreme austerity applied in the country at the behest of international creditors over the years has further aggravated the economic and social reality. As a result, GDP had shrunk to 186.54 billion euros in 2014. Public debt has soared to 176% as a percentage of GDP. Unemployment has risen dramatically to 26%, affecting mainly young people many of whom have brilliant scientific knowledge and as a result migrate abroad. This serious loss of talent could help the country at this critical juncture. The percentage of Greeks living below the poverty line is 34.6%, roughly 3.8 million people. So, one understands from the above that the program of fiscal consolidation in a country that was already in recession before 2010 has completely failed and it would not be rational, economically and socially, to continue its application. This particularly restrictive fiscal policy and these austerity measures form an exceptionally lethal debt-recession-austerity spiral, ruling out any pros-
pect for development. THE DEBT IS HUGE AND UNBEARABLE Therefore, the observed persistence in strict continuation of the extreme austerity program by creditors will have truly tragic consequences for the country. It will lead to a total economic disaster, which will not be healed for decades and could even lead to a humanitarian crisis. The homeless and impoverished citizens who one can already see in the streets of Athens will multiply rapidly. Suicides due to hopelessness and despair caused by the inability to survive will continue to increase. Children blacking out in schools due to lack of adequate nutrition will become an everyday part of life. But what can be done for Greece to leave the pitch dark tunnel of deep economic crisis and enter the bright avenue of development and progress. First, the burden of debt the Greek economy carries on its back is huge and unbearable, and there seems no possibility to pay in full. Therefore, we need to write off the majority of the nominal value of the debt so that the debt burden of the country will be below 100% and become sustainable in a way that will not harm the other peoples of Europe. The repayment of the remaining debt will be connected with a “development clause”, so as to serve development and not from any budget surplus. Secondly, revive production in the country with these key elements: a) Sustainable equilibrium of the cur-
rent account through changing the mix of products produced in the country, thus strengthening the export orientation margins of many sectors of the Greek economy; b) Industrialization with the implementation of an integrated sustainable industrial policy and the development of domestic research and production of a wide range of high added-value products. The processing sector is particularly critical since one cannot create labor without creating the necessary manufacturing base that includes primarily the manufacture of finished industrial products; c) Place special emphasis on tourism, where Greece has a strong competitive advantage, and shipping in which Greece has the largest merchant fleet in the world, as well as agriculture for the production of basic social goods; and d) The efficient exploitation of raw materials - such as bauxite from which aluminium is produced - and the potentially large oilfields located both in the Aegean and the Ionian Seas. BUILDING A MODERN AND EFFICIENT STATE Thirdly, we need to build a modern, efficient and rational state that will operate with honesty and will not interpolate countless bureaucratic obstacles to business development and the effective fight against the Lernean Hydra of corruption and tax evasion, to remove the multiple negative economic, social and political consequences caused and finally to apply fair taxation. The economic
effects have not only to do with the losses of state finances but also with adverse effects on the private sector. When the notion that only by bribing individuals holding nodal positions in public administration can one achieve a desired effect is consolidated, investments are discouraged, fair competition is distorted and businesses that refuse to engage in such lawless and immoral trade are condemned to stagnation. The social and political consequences of corruption are also extremely serious. Corruption causes citizens to feel resentment, frustration and a collapse of a strong sense of values. It consolidates the belief that nothing works properly and that law-abiding citizens question the value of honesty. Institutions are undermined, shaken and ultimately slandered by the same democracy in the eyes of citizens. We need the immediate establishment of a fair tax system that will not encourage, and will not “justify” tax evasion, but will contribute decisively to the development of taxpayers’ consciences, and will deliver a significant increase in government revenue. GREECE CAN’T HANDLE AUSTERITY ANY LONGER These measures should apply immediately to pull Greece out of its state of coma and recession, and toward a muchdesired path to development, away from the wild and dead-end austerity policies, which form the spearhead of financial capitalism in its attempt to repay in full their debt, and maintain its sovereignty in an era of intense and generalized cap-
italist crisis. For their part, European citizens should stand in solidarity with the Greek people who, during all these years, have become a guinea pig, since the vast majority of money borrowed by the Greek government does not go to Greek taxpayers, but rather to banks or to the payment of loans, or to recapitalize Greek banks, most of the cost of which the taxpayers bear. In conclusion, Greece cannot continue with austerity. It has already reached its farthest limits, after the standard of living has collapsed, and with it, the dignity of the Greek people, and this will have to be understood by the creditors. Otherwise, a time of conflict and rupture, will edge closer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Isidoros Karderinis was born in Athens, Greece in 1967. He is a novelist, poet and economist. His articles have been republished in newspapers, magazines and sites worldwide. He has published seven books of poetry and two novels, five of which have been published in the USA and in Great Britain.
He Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tune By Zaza Jgharkava The Kremlin is not giving the de-facto government of Abkhazia the 5 billion rubles (90 million USD) it promised six months ago. And according to Vladislav Surkov, Assistant to President Putin, the de-facto government of Sokhumi cannot expect to receive the promised amount unless the pre-conditions are fulfilled. This, despite the fact that almost half the 216 millionUSD budget of the occupied Abkhazia for 2015 was counting on that money. Even cutting the budget won’t help the de-facto government if the government of de-facto president Raul Khajimba does not agree with the preconditions that Surkov is demanding. Last year Abkhazians received a promise of a 5 billion ruble (90 million USD) financial reward - no small amount for Abkhazia - for signing an Alliance Agreement with Russia, with President Putin announcing the amount of the said reward after meeting with Raul Khajimba in the Kremlin. But the agreement itself mentioned nothing of specific dates and in the Russian-Abkhazian patronclient relations, it immediately became clear under what circumstances the Abkhazians would receive this money. Generally, patron-clientalism in its classical understanding means that the ‘client’ has a voice and can still trade on whether the ‘patron’ will grant it the right to ‘the first night’. However, the main century-long indicators of Abkhazia’s “strategic loyalty”: (1) Russian as the spoken ‘political language’ of Abkhazian society; (2) a Russian military base; and (3) the Russian ruble – still remain the ground for patron-clientalism, which creates the
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) shook hands with Abkhazia's President Raul Khadzhimba during a signing ceremony at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi, Russia, on Nov. 24, 2014. Reuters
relevant dependency on Moscow to suffice with symbols such as the Alliance Agreement signed by the de-facto president of Abkhazia last year. Almost everyone, including the Abkhazians themselves, realized that receiving or not receiving the money would depend on how ‘obedient’Abkhazians would be while implementing dubious articles in the Agreement (or those leaving room for interpretation). Despite this, the de-facto government of Sokhumi told the general Abkhazian populace that this financial support from Russia would be the main and crucial means for solving social problems and poverty in Abkhazia. Today, Surkov states that the Alliance Agreement with Russia is not enough to warrant receiving the money. Abkhazians should first agree with the abolition of the so-called local Internal
Affairs Ministry and the establishment of a new law-enforcement body on its basis. The last drop of discontent between Russia and Abkhazia was ignoring this project. Vladimer Surkov might be referring to this ‘ignore and non-fulfillment of the pre-condition’ when speaking about Moscow refraining from the money transfer. Following this statement, and for one week now, Vladimer Surkov has been declared the number one enemy of the Abkhazian people, only second to Georgians. Abkhazian ‘MPs’ make outrageous statements on the violation of Abkhazia’s sovereignty and blackmailing of the Russian Prime Minister’s assistant. Although criticism of the Kremlin is not so bold in the voices of all the socalled MPs, there is much anti-Russian
subtext in the open swearing at Surkov. And nor is the Abkhazian media refraining from heavy criticism of Russian politics. According to Levan Kiknadze, former Security Minister of the Abkhazian Government in Exile, Abkhazians want independence but at the expense of Russian money. They know very well that without financial flows from Russia they cannot exist; they have no econ-
omy and nothing of their own; they created nothing and they recognize it themselves. “Whatever one or two MPs say, it has no effect on any serious decision of the de-facto government of Abkhazia,” Kiknadze said. “Abkhazians want to be independent but at the expense of Russia. They are used to working at the expense of others. Before, they lived at the expense of Georgians, now they want to live at the expense of Moscow. They also have big ambitions in saying why we have no rights and why we live and act according to Russia’s dictations. In short, they want to live independently, but at the expense of Moscow. If not for Russia’s assistance, they would not be able to live. It is obvious and Abkhazians know this very well.” In fact, Abkhazians have no other ally but the Kremlin. This is why, despite the open statements of discontent, the situation is unlikely to grow into any distinct confrontation with the Kremlin. Nor at this stage can it be expected that an anti-Russian union will be established in Sokhumi to the extent where it will become a dangerous force. Not now and not in the future. Not until Sokhumi finally realizes that he who pays the piper calls the tune.
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JULY 3 - 9
Minsk: A Platform for Dialogue between the EU and EEU P.12
Georgia Shifts to Digital Broadcasting
Turkey and Russia Discuss Gas Discount P.13
The Partnership Fund Opens Panex Plant
Executive Director of the Partnership Fund, Irakli Kovzanadze, and Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili.
The Partnership Fund, together with local company Industrial Construction Engineering Solutions (ICES), has completed a ‘sandwich panels’ project and opened a production plant. The plant built in the frame of this project will produce polyurethane sandwich panels used only in industrial constructions. “For the construction sector it will be a relief, as using such panels in construction will reduce expenses for construction companies and will replace imports. I think that the implementation of such projects is vital for the strengthening of our economy,” said Irakli Kovzanadze, Executive Director of the Partnership Fund. Standard Polyurethane Sandwich Panels are building panels produced by injecting polyurethane foam between two galvanized ribbed metal sheets. It is the best material for cold and freeze stores, warehouses and production places; and commercial and residential booths. It is also the best heat
By Baia Dzagnidze Natia Mikeladze, the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development reported that the regions of Tbilisi, Sagarejo, Kojori, Marneuli and Rustavi have shifted to digital broadcasting as of July 1, adding that the remianing regions will shift to the new system by August 25th. According to Mikeladze, the government has initiated and the Ministry carried out the amendment to the Law on Broadcasting on June 17 of this year, which cancels the licensing system for TV stations and allows them to implement their activities through simple authentication. She also noted that, until now, the law was tailored to the specifications of analogue broadcasting, as broadcasting in general was related to the usage of drain resources which made the issuing of a license a rather complicated procedure. “Now, the owner of the drain resources and the broadcaster are two different organizations and a channel
doesn’t need to undergo those difficult procedures to obtain a license; it can authorize itself at the National Communications Commission,” she explained. Additionally, within the framework of the reform, the Ministry plans on returning the pre-paid licence fee to 30 channels in proportion of the time left till the expiration of the licence. More than 1 million Lari will be returned to the following channels: Guria, Kavkasia, Tanamgzavri, Meckhre Talga, 25 Telearkhi, Imervizia, Dia, Imepria, Kvetenadze and Company LTD, Kvemo Kartli Telecompany, Argo, Ekomi, Borjomi, Zari, Trialeti, Odishi, Imega, Tvali, Rioni, Mega TV, Piki, Evrika, Pirveli Stereo, Tbilisi, GDS, Iberia TV, Teleimedi, Rustavi 2, Civic Education Foundation and the Media Center for Open Abkhazia. Moreover, the National Communications Commission has given a radio spectrum free of charge to 21 regional broadcasters in order to continue their activities in the digital era within the area of their broadcasting network.
Georgia’s Investment Position Improves in 2015 Georgia’s investment indicator has improved by 5 points this year compared to 2014 and stands 43rd in the world, states BDO’s report International Business Compass 2015. The study determines the attractiveness of a country in three dimensions: the economic, politi-
co-legal and socio-cultural conditions. Elsewhere in the region, Armenia slipped seven places to 66th and was leapfrogged by Azerbaijan which jumped to 65th. Ukraine (87th), Russia (100th) and Turkey (57th) all climbed up the rankings to varying degrees.
Georgia ranks 43rd among 173 countries for investment potential
isolation material for siding industrial buildings. Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, who also attended the opening ceremony, expressed his hope that local production will reduce the expenses of industrial construction. “Such production is very new for us. I believe it [the production] will relieve our construction sector, as our companies will be able to buy products locally,” He said. The plant is located on Rustavi highway and is equipped with modern Italian technology. The capacity of the plant will be 2.8 million square meters of panels annually. Around 60% will be sold locally, while the remainder of the production will be exported abroad to Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Russia. The Partnership Fund started to implement this project together with ICES in 2014. The total investment sum is USD $6 m and the Partnership Fund’s participation in the project is 49%.
JULY 3 - 9
Georgia’s Power Reforms Support Economic Growth - ADB Report Georgia’s power sector reforms over the past two decades have resulted in a dramatic turnaround in service and efficiency, which has helped support a resurgence of economic growth, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report. “The reforms have restored 24-hour uninterrupted power supply, and ensured nearly every home has electricity, as well as creating an efficient, competitive power industry,” said Kathie Julian, Country Director from ADB’s Georgia Resident Mission. “However there are still vulnerabilities in the sector and the challenge for Georgia’s policymakers will be to continue down the reform path to overcome them.” The country report Assessment of Power Sector Reforms in Georgia, prepared by ADB’s Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department, was launched today in the capital, Tbilisi. Since 1995, sweeping reforms have been carried out to the power sector to improve the regulatory environment, to boost efficiency, and to encourage competition. This has paved the way for major physical improvements to stateowned generation, distribution and transmission assets, privatization of distribution companies, and construction of new hydropower plants. Collectively these measures
4, V. Daraselia Str. Tbilisi, Georgia
Deputy MInister Valishvili and GRM CD Kathie Julian at PSR Study Lauch
have sharply improved the power system’s efficiency, benefitting the government and industry participants, while households now have reliable power supplies and almost no total blackouts occurred in recent years. The sector reforms, have complemented other economic reforms, and coincided with a substantial rebound in gross domestic product growth since the mid-1990s. The share of average household income spent on power has fallen steadily since 2006, while increases in electricity supply from hydropower and system efficiencies at thermal power plants have reduced CO2 emissions. The report cautions that while these reforms have been crucial
for improving services, vulnerabilities still need to be addressed. Georgia’s heavy reliance on hydropower, which supplies up to 90% of its electricity needs, leaves it exposed to droughts, and to external supply shocks and price spikes when it needs to import gas for its thermal plants. Pricing and planning issues still need to be tackled as well. At the same time the report notes that Georgia’s reform experience provides key lessons from which other countries can learn. These include making power reforms an integral part of a wider economic reform process; encouraging private sector investment to improve service quality; and ensuring transparency and regulatory fairness in the
treatment of all players in the power market to build competition. ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region. In 2014, ADB assistance totaled $22.9 billion, including cofinancing of $9.2 billion. ADB has supported Georgia since 2007. As of end 2014, the ADB-approved assistance to Georgia totaled more than $1.6 billion, including $259 million in approved loans and technical assistance grants in 2014.
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Minsk: A Platform for Dialogue between the EU and EEU Vladimir Mackay, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, believes that dialogue between the European Union (EU) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) is important for the harmonization of integration processes and the formation of the future common economic space. “Belarus is ready to provide a platform for such a dialogue,” said Vladimir Mackay in Minsk on June 29. “I am convinced of the necessity of dialogue and interaction between neighbors, especially with Russia, in order to achieve the fundamental objectives of the Eastern Partnership – peace, stability and security in the region,” said Mackay at the press conference, stressing that it will avoid
Vladimir Mackay, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus.
the emergence of new dividing lines in Europe. The EU’s Eastern Partnership program provides for political association and economic integration between the EU and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The last three countries signed an Associated Agreement with the European Union last year. The EEU is an economic union which is based on the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Armenia is also a member of the EEU and recently Kyrgyzstan also joined them, on July 1, 2015. The EEU involves the free movement of goods, services, capital and labor between the member countries.
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JULY 3 - 9
Tur key and R ussia Discuss Gas Discount urk Russia Gazprom Russian Energy Company and Botas Turkish State Petroleum Pipeline Corporation are expected to conclude negotiations on the discount the Russian gas giant is prepared to give the Turkish company by the middle of July, reports Reuters. Earlier it was reported that Gazprom had agreed to give a 10.25% discount on gas to Botas, and the agreement was to be signed before the end of June. Around the same period, the Russian Federation and Turkey were expected to sign an intergovernmental agreement about the Turkish Stream pipeline project. Bloomberg agency reported that Gazprom and Botas were still unable to agree on a discount, which affects the timing of the intergovernmental agreement between Russia and Turkey about the Turkish Stream and defers its implementation. Gazprom denied the direct link between Turkish Stream and gas
discounts for Turkey. Gazprom and Botas agreed, on December 1, 2014, to build a gas pipeline across the Black Sea with a capacity of 63 billion cubic meters of gas per year after the European Union blocked a similar project in Bulgaria due to the conflict in Ukraine. Alexander Novak, Minister of Energy of Russia, declared that the EU would have to agree on a new route. Russia claims that the Turkish project will allow Gazprom, which supplies about 30% of the EU’s gas needs, to supply gas by bypassing Ukraine. Gazprom did not plan to renew its contract with Ukraine for the transit of gas beyond 2019. However, last week it was revealed that President Vladimir Putin had instructed Alexey Miller, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gazprom, to negotiate with Ukraine before the expiry of the transit contract.
Wor ld Bank Alloca tes $60 Million to orld Allocates Har ness Tourism P otential in Geor gia Potential Georgia Harness
The photo shows the Khertvisi fortress, located in the Samtske-Javakheti region.
By Tako Svanidze Georgia’s two historic regions, Samtskhe-Gavakheti and Mtsketa Mtianeti, which offer a variety of tourism products, are being given a boost to enhance their cultural heritage, ecosystems, winter-ski resorts and summermountain adventure activities. The World Bank (WB) has allocated $60 million USD to Georgia’s SamtskheGavakheti and Mtsketa Mtianeti regions for the growth of their economical and tourism potential. The third regional development project of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
(IBRD) loan was approved by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors today. The project includes two components: one is for urban regeneration, tourism circuit development and provision of public infrastructure to attract private investments. The second is for the institutional development of the regions. World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus, Henry Kerali, emphasized that the project is expected to support better integration of the two regions with country-wide tourism circuits. “The goal is to attract private investments, promote public-private partnerships, revitalize local business activity,
and develop regional tourism circuits. Owing to these improvements, the population of the region is expected to see an improved quality of life,” Kerali said. This was the third regional development project approved by the World Bank for Georgia. The first regional development project for Kakheti, the main wine region of the country, was approved a $60 million USD IBRD loan by the World Bank in March 2012, and the second project was for Imereti (a $30 million USD IBRD loan) in November 2012. The World Bank commitments to Georgia since 1992 total approximately $3.47 billion USD.
Red Cr oss Star ts Cross Starts Inter na tional Fundr aising ffor or Interna national Fundraising Tbilisi Flash Flood Victims The Georgian Red Cross Society (GRCS) has initiated a fundraising campaign for the population affected by the disaster of 13-14 June 2015 through the platform “Ammado”. Individuals as well as companies who wish to support the affected population are invited to visit the official site of the Georgia Red Cross Society www.redcross.ge , as well as its facebook page “Georgia Red Cross Society”, where you will be directed to “Ammado” page set up for this particular cause: https://www.facebook.com/ GeorgiaRedCross/ . “Ammado” is a unique donation platform offering online fundraising and donation services to nonprofits and companies. Facilitating donations in over 75 currencies, 20 payment methods and numerous languages, it is the first ever truly global donation platform and is recommended by the Red Cross and Red Crescent International Federation, Doctors without Borders and UNHCR as an effective instrument for fundraising. Recently ”Ammado” developed the launching of a transparent, global taxefficient fundraising campaign that can implemented within minutes after a disaster for the purpose of instant monetary support for the affected population. People who donate can also follow the development of a campaign through access to details of contributors and the amount donated. All donations made through “Ammado” will be transferred to Georgia Red Cross Society once a month. According to the President of the Georgia Red Cross Society, Natia Loladze, “Ammado” is the most effective platform for fundraising due to its
transparency. “GRCS organized a charity campaign during the week of 8-14 May 2015, the “Grocery Basket 2015” with the support of the Hypermarket network Goodwill and Tbilisi City Hall. The campaign supported citizens living below the poverty line with the one-time provision of products. This was the debut of “Ammado” as a platform for a cause in Georgia. We had a donation box as usual, but Ammado contributed to the campaign significantly.” According to international regulations there is a “Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Red Cross and Red Crescent Fundraisers“, as well as a “Disaster Relief Emergency Fund/ DREF“, which ensure the rapid reaction for the purpose of eliminating disaster results. The flash flood of 13-14 June 2015 in Tbilisi resulted in the deaths of 19 individuals and 3 are still missing. Several hundred people were left homeless. They are in a temporary housing and are in need of clothes, medication and items of hygiene.
Tbilisi Hosts Annual Inventors Olympiad Tbilisi hosted the 9th International Young Inventors Project Olympiad with over 300 school children from all over the world presenting more than 100 projects in Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Informatics and other fields. The Annual Olympiad aims to help young people make their inventions public. On the very first day of the Olympiad, Minister of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia, Mikheil Giorgadze, hosted a welcoming reception for the young participates at the ministry. The opening ceremony at Tbilisi Mall was attended by Tbilisi Mayor David Narmania, Chaglar School principle, International Black Sea University representatives, General Director of
Georgian Public Broadcaster Giorgi Baratashvili and other public figures. Mayor of Tbilisi David Narmania: “It is very important that not only Georgians but other participants from the region and different parts of the world presented their inventions. We are pleased to host and support the event. This is a most important basis for the success of the participant countries and Georgia.” General Director of Georgian Public Broadcaster, Giorgi Baratashvili: “We are once again the supporters of the Olympiad and are covering everything that happens from beginning to end. The event is essential because many foreign young people come to Georgia and get acquainted with our country and its culture”.
The award ceremony was held at the Tbilisi State University and every winner from each category was awarded with gold, silver and bronze medals by Zaza Tsintsadze, Deputy Chief of Education, Sports and Youth Affairs Department. Georgian competitors Vaja Phanjakidze and Shalva Giorgadze were among the best, and won gold medals. 12th grader Shalva Giorgadze invented a device which enables the saving of helicopter passengers’ lives in emergency situations while 8th grader Shalva Phanjikidze’s project dealt with the impact of stress caused by social isolation and the violation of the circadian rhythm on the emotional state and learning ability. He studied the process by observing rats.
International Young Inventors Olympiads (IYIPO) have been held in Tbilisi since 2003 by the CAGLAR Institutions’ Demirel College, supported by the Ministry of Education and Science of Geor-
gia, sponsored by the European Union Representative in Georgia, International Black Sea University (IBSU), Georgian Patent Office and Georgian Public Broadcasting.
JULY 3 - 9
JULY 3 - 9
British Embassy R aises near or F lood Victims Raises nearlly 14,000 GEL ffor Flood By Katie Ruth Davies On 30 June, British Ambassador Alexandra Hall Hall hosted an awareness and fund raising event to help those affected by the tragic floods of June 13 in Tbilisi. The fundraiser was attended by the Deputy Mayor of Tbilisi and economic expert Irakli Lekvinadze and the Deputy Finance Minister of Georgia, David Lezhava (whose ministry has been responsible for working out a concrete assessment of damage and international needs), as well as members of the British-Georgian business community, British nationals and close associates of the UK living and working in Georgia. Ambassador Hall Hall: “When we in the Embassy heard the news about the terrible floods in Georgia two weeks ago, we immediately began to think what we could do as well as what we could say about the tragedy. The idea of a fundraiser came up. I thought it would be nice to involve the British community… and we are really appreciative of the response and offers of help. We are also working closely with the Georgian government to identify areas where the British government might help in a more sustainable
way, in addition to the contributions made by the UK through the EU.” The fundraising event began with a respectful minute of silence followed by a musical tribute by the English Speaking Union’s children’s choir singing ‘Eidelweiss’ and the deep poignant tones of Georgian male choir, Urmuli. “We are here to pay tribute to the victims of the flood,” Ambassador Hall Hall told her special guests. “We are here to show, on a very personal level, how much this beautiful country means to us. And for those of us who have lived here and appreciated the Georgian hospitality, it’s to share in your sorrow as you work to rebuild your beautiful city.” The Ambassador went on to mention various organizations and individuals who “donated generously in time and money,” from providing food and drink for volunteers in the days of the cleanup campaign, to the BGCC Katie Melua concert- which raised almost £8000 – and the UK Mayhew Animal Home which is now in consultation with Tbilisi authorities regarding dog population care and management. Deputy Mayor of Tbilisi Irakli Lekvinadze thanked both those present
Photos by David Khizanishvili showing Deputy Mayor of Tbilisi, Irakli Lekvinadze; British Ambassador to Georgia, Alexandra Hall Hall; and the Deputy Finance Minister of Georgia, David Lezhava.
and the international communities for their emotional and financial support during the hard times following the tragic flooding which left 19 dead, three people missing and 160 families without homes. “700 people were affected by the disaster,” Lekvinadze said. “Those who lost their homes have been relocated and provided with accommodation, though they still need a lot of assistance.”
Ne w EU Pr ogram ffor or Cultur e and Cr ea ti vity New Pro Culture Crea eati tivity Launc hed ffor or Easter nP ar tner ship R egion artner tnership Re Launched Eastern Par
Photo from www.britishcouncil.ge
By Katie Ruth Davies A new EU program for culture and creativity has been launched by the European Union to support the contribution of cultural and creative sectors to sustainable humanitarian, social and economic development in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. “The five-year program will reframe the debate on the 21st century concept of culture among state bodies and key cultural players in the region and promote an understanding of the positive impact creative industries can have on employment, small and medium businesses, the role of municipalities and social engagement,” said Renate Utzschmid, Programme Manager, EC Directorate-General Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations. “Although a regional program, it will be heavily country-focused with designated professional country coordinators,” stated the press release. The program’s activities will be carried out through workshops, intensive training, online learning platforms, study visits and partnership fairs, bringing together public and private actors,
government and civil society. The program, the budget of which is ˆ4.2 million, will be managed by a consortium led by the British Council, in partnership with the Soros Foundation Moldova, the National Centre for Culture of Poland and the GoetheInstitut. Georgia Today spoke to Maya Darchia, the Arts Manager of the British Council, and Director of the British Council, Zaza Purtseladze. “This project comes as the second phase of a cultural project initiated by the British Council and funded by the EU. We are currently at the information and needs assessment stage,” said Ms. Darchia. “While the six countries involved in the program share a similar history in terms of their Soviet past, I can say Georgia is ahead in the steps it has taken in its European aspirations and in designing a cultural strategy.” “The Ministry of Culture will be issuing the first draft of its new Culture Strategy at the end of this year,” said Mr. Purtseladze. “The Ministry of Culture [of Georgia] has shown it is keen to work more closely with the arts sector and to cooperate with international organizations,” Ms. Darchia added.
Asked about the importance of the program for the Georgian arts society, Mr. Purtseladze was quick to point out the virtues: “The program is hugely important for developing Georgia in general and raising the role of the creative industry for the social development of the country.” The program is designed to benefit the entire cultural community; from the Ministry of Culture and various arts and culture centers, right down to the artists, fashion designers and film-makers themselves. “In Georgia there is a lack of understanding of the benefits of the [cultural] sector. We, through this project, aim to show how a good cultural industry can be created and sustained through international dialogue and capacity building,” Ms. Darchia said. The method of training will vary. Ms. Darchia highlighted the planned online resources, which will allow the sharing of experience and expertise across borders while avoiding the expense of travel. Mr. Purtseladze also spoke about the eight-month English language program that the British Council launched in May in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture: ‘English as a Main Tool of Communication in the Arts Sector,’ which is aimed at improving the English language knowledge of practicing art professionals and cultural managers. “We hope to extend the project once it ends in March next year,” he said. And at the end of this five-year EU cultural program? “In the ideal scenario, the government authorities and representatives of the art sector will be working more closely and communicating more effectively, as well as there being an increased link between Georgia and international cultural programs,” Ms. Darchia said with an optimistic smile.
Ex chang e Pr ogram Opens Door to Dub lin ffor or Geor gian Students Exc hange Pro Dublin Georgian By Nini Gegidze Georgian students are being offered a chance to study in one of Ireland’s leading universities as part of an exciting new exchange program after Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University (TSU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with University College Dublin (UCD). The Memorandum outlined details of cooperation between the universities and
the introduction of exchange programs for students and researchers, as well as academic staff. “This is a very important step taken forward between Georgia and Ireland in the field of education. We are pleased that the students will be given the opportunity, under an exchange program, to study at one of Europe’s leading universities, broaden their knowledge and learn valuable experiences. This will guarantee their future success,” said
Charge d’Affaires of Ireland Giogri Zurabishvili. A media release announcing the deal did not state when the exchange would begin or how many students it would involve. “It is a great opportunity for us, we can improve our skills and share our culture with international students, I am very glad that the world is expanding for Georgian students who wish to study abroad,” said TSU student, Mariam Abashidze.
He went on to highlight that there is still a long way to go in terms of financing. “Our [state] fund has raised 24 mln Lari, yet the cost of the damage is far greater.” Sixty percent of Tbilisi Zoo was irreparably destroyed and Lekvinadze spoke of a number of plans being considered regarding the new design of the Zoo which will be located on a large
expanse of land near Tbilisi Sea. As for the flood-damaged area that the Zoo currently occupies, it will be made into the “Solidarity Park” in memorial of the tragic event, the victims, and the way that society united to help. “One of most inspiring things about these floods,” Ambassador Hall Hall concluded, “is how it brought out that measure of solidarity. It is a test of where a country is heading, when you can see that civic responsibility and response, especially from the youth of Georgia.” The event raised 7,052 GEL and 800 USD in cash donations while 3 000 GEL will be transferred directly to a special state account. The HIPPO Fund raised 2,160 GEL. “We would like to once again thank everyone who made this event possible and donated to the fundraising event; and also to those who helped bring it all together: Hippo Fund; folk company Urmuli, supported by the British Georgian Chamber of Commerce; British Corner Children’s Choir; Katie Davies and Georgia Today; and Rod McKenzie, Pam Kemsley, Pauline Totterdell and English Book in Georgia for the catering.
Geor gia’ s Aver si No w Selling Georgia’ gia’s ersi Now Rig a Vir us Cancer Trea tment Riga irus eatment
Chairman of Scientific Council and Representative of International Virotherapy Center, Prof. Ivars Kalvins; Founder of Aversi Pharma, Paata Kurtanidze; Dermatovenerolog, and President of the Georgian Association of Photodermatology and Skin Cancer, Dr. Lali Mekokishvili; and Medical Director of International Vinotherapy Center, Dr. Kaspars Losans.
By Eka Karsaulidze Latvian scientists have arrived in Georgia to present first virotheraphy medicine – Riga Virus (Rigvir), which is now available in Aversi pharmacy. It is one of the most easy-to-use methods for cancer treatment, which is gradually being proven throughout the world. The Rigvir virus, once injected into the human body, finds cancer cells and destroys them, also activating the immune system and improving the quality of life of the patient. It is not genetically modified, can be used on an outpatient basis and does not have side effects. Rigvir can cure Melanoma, Colorectal, Stomach, Pancreatic, Kidney, Uterine, Bladder, Lung, Prostate Cancers and Sarcoma of several types. Long-term clinical studies and a few thousand people who tried out this medicine on themselves confirm the success of the treatment. It does not cause any side effects except a temperature of 37.2 degrees for a few days after injection. “Studies into this virus began in 1960, so we can say that this is one of the most studied viruses and the results are accurate. Almost all of our patients went into remission. That said, according to our estimates, about 30% of patients are not affected by Rigvir because they have special proteins that neutralize the virus. But we have already figured out how to block the action of these proteins and improve the medicine,” said Prof. Ivars Kalvins, Chairman of the Scientific Council and Representative of the International Virotherapy Center. Prof. Kalvins also recommends alternating the Rigvir injection with radiation and chemotherapy to achieve a better effect, but not both at the same time. “It is known that, during chemotherapy, the immune system becomes greatly
weakened, and Rigvir needs to have a strong immune system to attack cancer cells with double the power,” he explained. Rigvir can even be used to treat melanoma, one of the most common types of cancer, and today one of the most progressive cancers. “In Georgia, the risk of melanoma and skin cancer is quite high,” said Dr. Lali Mekokishvili, Dermatovenerolog, and the President of Georgian Association of Photodermatology and Skin Cancer. “Many people use solariums and it is dangerous in the sun here but people don’t use skin protection creams. At the same time, it is difficult to identify this cancer in its early stages, and it is very difficult to treat with chemotherapy. Therefore, any new medications in this area will save patients. And Rigvir has a really impressive performance in this regard.” In the framework of their visit to Georgia, Latvian scientists held a seminar for fifty Georgian oncologists who now have the full right to use Rigvir in treating patients. “This virus was developed by Latvian scientists, and we are pleased to come to Georgia and share our experiences with local doctors,” said Dr. Kaspars Losans, Medical Director of International Vinotherapy Center. “It has proven itself in our homeland. Moreover, people from all over the world come to Latvia to get Rigvir, so we are very happy that now local patients here will have the opportunity to buy this medicine in Georgia.” Rigvir was officially registered by the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia on February 15, 2015 and is already available in Aversi pharmacy at #148 David Agmashenebeli Avenue. The price of one bottle is 1,050 Lari.
CULTURE Metonidz e Concer or F lood Victims Wows Audience Metonidze Concertt ffor Flood By Maka Lomadze “Grief and Sorrow does not quit us, but still, we laugh, instead of crying” extract from one of songs, conveying the Georgian spirit Among a number of charity concerts being staged to help those affected by the Tbilisi flood, Nato Metonidze’s solo program was one of the most remarkable at Tbilisi Concert Hall on June 30 and July 1. The immortal tunes by classical Georgian composers, and virtuoso performing of Nika Rachveli on piano together with the national Symphonic Orchestra and the vision of famous and already renowned stage director Davit Doiashvili, wowed spectators. Starting with Mozart’s “Requiem”, the show was difficult to be genre-defined with elements of classical and drama evident. Together with the soloist, actresses from the Music and Drama Theater took part, as well as a special guest – former soloist of Sukhishvili National Ballet, Tea Darchia. The actresses represented the thoughts of a human being, which are often contradictory. The performance called “Introspection” was divided into cantos, starting with the prologue. Here, the story starts from a Soviet childhood and continues with the music school, followed by the famous children’s ensemble Mziuri, before a depiction of the traumatic 1990s when Georgia struggled in the early days of independence. The leitmotif of the performance is a phrase from childhood: “When you are desperate, look up into the sky, and you will guess, that these are not mere clouds, but the white horses, that lead you to the magic world where they sing splendidly.”
The whole program is based on Georgian movie music. The first song Metonidze sang was that of Ioseb Bardanashvili from the film “Everyone Wishes Love” followed by Revaz Laghidze’s theme from “Khevisberi Gocha”, Alexander Rakviashvili’s song “Beat the drums” from the movie “Mziuri”, Davit Toradze’s music from the feature film “Are all Humans Men?”, Bidzina Kvernadze’s theme from the film “White Flags”, and Manana Menabde’s song from the film “Day has always lit the night.” There was only one newly written theme which was by Nika Rachveli titled “Guria Mountains”. The program ended with Sulkhan Tsintsadze’s Bashiachuki song from the movie of the same name. “This is the introspection, passed by one person, and as it reaches the present time, we could not possibly neglect such a serious event as the natural disaster is, that reverberates in our memory. There-
fore, we have changed the finale and end the show with this episode,” Davit Doiashvili told journalists just before the show. Metonidze, a marvelous singer, also commented: “The project implies in itself to tell my story, but it has nothing to do with my private tales. This is our route since our birth until today. While following this path of events, it turned out that we very much touched all the political pitfalls that took place in the near past in our country. We could not avoid politics, because it used to and still occupies such a big role that without mentioning it, our tale would not be complete. We named it ‘intro-spection’ because we do not convey the mere information, but we aim to express our emotions towards particular events, show the attitude of our trio – me, Doi [Davit Doiashvili], and Nika [Nikoloz Rachveli]. The story is told by me together with actresses, but you will find out that this is the story of all of us, [Georgians].” “Nato Metonidze is one of the main heroines in my private as well as my creative life. We have been friends and partners for 12 years now, since the first solo-concert of hers. So, this project turned out to be too sensitive for both of us,” Nika Rachveli told Georgia Today. There were two musical themes from the theatre too: Gia Kancheli’s music from legendary performances of “Richard the Third” and “Khanuma”, staged by Robet Sturua. The main surprise for the audience was the debut of Nika Rachveli in the part of a singer and an actor playing the part of Nato’s sweetheart, which was met with a stream of applause.
JULY 3 - 9
Melua and BCGG Fundraise for Tbilisi Flood Victims
Katie Melua (center) and guests at the London BGCC fund-raiser.
By Katie Ruth Davies World renowned Georgian singer and British citizen Katie Melua performed at a charity concert on Friday June 26, organized by the British Georgian Chamber of Commerce (BGCC) together with the Kartveli Fund and Project Artbeat. The initiative actually came from Natia Abramia, a Georgian Journalist who works for the BBC and lives in London who suggested organizing a charity evening which would include a small performance by Katie Melua to raise funds for the victims of the June 13 Tbilisi floods. “We did our best to find a suitable venue at short notice,” said BGCC’s Senior Trade Advisor, George Rurua. “We managed to get a beautiful spot (Startisans), which is located on Shelton Street in Covent Garden.” At the event, Georgian food and wine was sold along with jewelry and artwork donated by Georgian artists and designers. “We had prints by famous contemporary artist Eter Chkadua, who was
present at the event and who signed her work, and jewelry by David Koma and Eshvi which was donated by Natia Chkhartishvili, founder of Eshvi Jewelry. “There was also a performance from our friends, Welsh choir “Eschoir,” who offered their support by coming to our event and singing, together with Katie Melua. “We also had a charity auction (for some donated items) by Georgian Investment Banker David Gigauri,” Rurua told Georgia Today. It was said to have been a wonderful evening which was well attended by the Georgian community in the UK together with friends and supporters of Georgia living in London. The event raised almost £8000 which will go towards the Tbilisi Dog Shelter, Tbilisi Zoo and families who lost their homes to the devastating flood. “We would like to offer special thanks to the Georgian Embassy for their support and LAGVINARI Winery and Georgian Wine Society,” said BGCC Director, Mako Abashidze
WHAT'S ON IN TBILISI THEATRE GABRIADZE THEATRE Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 July 3 MARSHAL DE FANTIE’S DIAMOND Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 10, 15 Lari July 4 RAMONA Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 10, 15 Lari MOVEMENT THEATRE Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 July 3, 4, 5 IGI (HE) Jemal Karchkhadze Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze Choreographers: Giorgi Gongadze and Lasha Robakidze Scenography: Anuka Murvanidze Dolls: Irakli Khoshtaria Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: From15 Lari CINEMA AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 299 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge July 3-9 INSIDE OUT Directed by Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen Cast: Pete Docter (story), Ronaldo Del Carmen (story) (as Ronnie del Carmen) Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama Language: English Start time: 17:15 Ticket price: 9.50 – 10.50 Lari
JURASSIC WORLD Directed by Colin Trevorrow Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 22:30 Ticket price: 11.50 – 12.50 Lari TERMINATOR GENESIS Directed by Alan Taylor Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 11:45, 17:00, 19:50, 22:30 Ticket price: 7:50 – 12.50 Lari MAGIC MIKE XXL Directed by Gregory Jacobs Cast: Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music Language: Russian Start time: 11:40, 22:30 Ticket price: 8:50 – 12.50 Lari RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 255 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge
TERMINATOR GENESIS (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 11:45, 14:30, 17:15 Ticket price: 7:50 – 12.50 Lari MAGIC MIKE XXL (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 17:00, 20:00, 22:35 Ticket price: 9.50 – 12.50 Lari MUSEUM MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 1 Rustaveli ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22 The exhibition is dedicated to the history of the anti-occupational, nationalliberation movement of Georgia and to the victims of the Soviet political repression throughout this period. SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM OF GEORGIA Address: 3 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22
June 17- July 17 THE EXHIBITION “THE CAUCASUS FRONT THROUGH NINO JORJADZE’S CAMERA LENS” IS DEDICATED TO THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF WWI. PIROSMANI’S 150TH Alongside Pirosmani masterpieces, the National Gallery is hosting the works of David Kakabadze (18891952) and Lado Gudiashvili (18961980) together with sculptures of Iakob Nikoladze (1876-1951). GAMREKELI GALLERY Address: 14 Ingorokva St. July 2-15 OLEG TIMCHENKO’S SOLO EXHIBITION CULMINATION SFUMATO GALLERY Address: 19 Ingorokva Str. July 7 JEMAL KUKHALASHVILI SOLO EXHIBITION, “ARTSERIA” MUSIC
POLTERGEIST Directed by Gil Kenan Cast: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Kennedi Clements Genre: Horror, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 14:40, 22:20 Ticket price: 8.50 – 12.50 Lari
"ARCHAEOLOGICAL TREASURE" June 27 – October 31 “GEORGIANS IN WORLD WAR II” IS AN EXHIBITION DEDICATED TO THE 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE VICTORY OVER FASCISM.
Tickets: Tbilisi Open Air box office in front of the Tbilisi Sports Palace Working hours – everyday: 11:00 AM – 08:00 PM www.tbilisiopenair.ge/en
LOST IN KARASTAN Directed by Ben Hopkins Cast: Matthew Macfadyen, MyAnna Buring, Noah Taylor Genre: Comedy Language: Russian Start time: 16:00 Ticket price: 9.50 – 10.50 Lari
IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81
Hualing Group and AlterVision present: TBILISI OPEN AIR 2015. 5-day Open Air festival at Tbilisi Sea New City. 5-day pass price – 110 Lari
JURASSIC WORLD (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 11:55, 19:35 Ticket price: 11.50 – 12.50 Lari
SERGO PARAJANOVI – “21ST CENTURY DREAM” GALLERY THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge
TBILISI OPEN AIR 2015
July 3-7 Line-up: July 3 Zemfira, Aquarium, Tiger Lillies, Mellow, Ducktape. Main Stage Kollektiv Turmstrasse, Stephan Bodzin, The Forest, Greenbeam &
Leon, Newa. Golden Stage/Night Doors open: 15:00 Ticket price: 40 Lari July 4 Archive, Soap&Skin, Gravity, The Black Marrows, The Mins. Main Stage Green Room feat Dato Lomidze, DaD, Erekle Deisadze & Vinda Folio. Golden Stage/Day Mujuice, Oimactta, Zurkin, Berika. Golden Stage/Night Doors open: 12:00 Ticket price: 40 Lari July 5 Black Label Society, The Bambir, Sophie Villy, Scratch The Floor, Newcomer 2015. Main Stage Denis Jones, Belly Hole Freak, Old Road Band. Golden Stage/Day Gui Boratto, Bacho & Cobert, Vako Key, Bero, Tomma. Golden Stage/Night Doors open: 12:00 Ticket price: 30 Lari July 6 Beth Hart, Kill it Kid, Salio, MAMM, The Jetbird. Main Stage The Georgians, The Pulse, Miles Davis Tribute Project. Golden Stage/Day Gacha, Vaska, Gabunia, Vako T, Lasha Craft. Golden Stage/Night Doors open: July 6 - 12:00 Ticket price: 30 Lari July 7 Placebo, Loudspeakers, The Bearfox, Afternoon Version, Newcomer 2015. Main Stage Lady Heroine, Mother on Mondays, The Window. Golden Stage/Day Doors Open: 12:00 Ticket price: 50 Lari
JULY 3 - 9
Cowboy Blues: Etseri, Svaneti By Tony Hanmer You did ask for this, I reminded myself as the phone rang at 5:19 am. You did ask Ramaz to wake you up to go get the cows with him if he was leaving early in the morning. It’s true, I did. So there was no one to blame but myself. Once the village fields free themselves of snow in late spring, they’re available for a while for our cows to graze in. Usually there are a couple of locations they hit, one after another, the migration occurring as one field’s gate is closed and another’s opened. Word gets around both the cows and their owners, and we know where to send them, when. In summer, though, the best pastures are halfway up a nearby mountain, the distant top of which has a tiny lake and an ancient stone church. The lake reflects Mt. Ushba magnificently, a photographer’s dream, but it’s about a seven-hour hike to it. I’ve only been up there once, and that was on horseback. The Mountain was kind enough to show itself, reflection and all, and I was delighted with the results. The cows don’t get that high, but believe me, it’s far enough, their good grass. A few ruined or still used wooden huts allow one to overnight in rustic comfort, away from the pesky distrac-
tions of cell-phone signal or electricity, drinking and washing with water from a delicious nearby spring and cooking on a wood stove. Problem is, they like it so much up there that, although one may lead them a short way to the village outskirts and mountain’s edge every morning and they’ll go up alone, they must be fetched back every evening. Either on foot or on horseback. Until late autumn. Otherwise they’ll get used to spending the night up there... This chore has usually been done by teenagers or their fathers on a rotating basis, according to whose animals are actually up there. Our one cow has subdivided into three now, so I feel more responsibility towards doing
my part in this time-consuming operation. So it was time for me to refresh myself on the tortuous way and pitch in. On the way back, in the stunning Caucasus scenery which I honestly would have appreciated more after a cup of coffee and a bite to eat, Ramaz and I got to talking about the problem, soon joined by another of our neighbors whose animals are more in number than ours together and pasture in one herd with them. I told them that I’m just not going to let my three cattle out today after milking the one; I’ll rather give them some of our hay from the store and keep them in. They’re tired, I’m tired, enough for today! I’m not doing this again tomorrow before sunrise!
He had the suggestion of hiring a local person to do the trip every evening, by horse, and bring the herd of our three houses back. If we could divide the cost proportionally by our numbers of animals, I was in, I said. (It works out to about 18 GEL/month for me.) More discussion with the other neighbor, and it was a done deal, at least theoretically. Ramaz will seek the person to hire and, if he succeeds, our worries in this regard will be over. Although the walk is into glorious territory, which I never tire of seeing, it’s about a three-hour round trip up a good kilometer of altitude, and this on a daily basis I could do without. While the calves won’t stray, and will catch up with the herd, the older ones are a bit less inclined simply to go where they’re told. There are all sorts of side paths for them to take and disappear into the forest, and while a local like Ramaz knows all of these forks like the tendons on the back of his hand, I don’t. If I had to do this alone, I can think of a few ways I could get it wrong and need to call for help, which would be embarrassing as
well as frustrating. So my cows are chewing over their fate, punished with an indoor stay until the matter is resolved and the new system is up and running. We still have about a stack’s worth of good last winter’s hay for them to eat, along with what I or someone else better than me scythes off our land now. I really hope it won’t be just a great idea which failed to come into reality, because I do have other things to do around the house and farm and school, a whole list of them. Whoever takes up the job offer will earn not only my share of their salary, but also a healthy dollop of my gratitude. P.s. I can now add that the Wrangler has been found—the teenage son of one of our close neighbors, whom I previously described in another GT article some years ago by the title “Grim Reaper as a Happy 12 Year Old”! His first shift is this evening as I write, and we three participating families are delighted to have the Cow Problem stricken off the list of our common frustrations.
Tony Hanmer runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ . He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti
Sukhishvili Geor gian Na tional Georgian National Ballet Does it Again
Photo by Zviad Nikolaishvili/GT, showing Prima Ballerina Irma Nioradze, Head of the Cultural Events Center Ia Makatsaria, Minister of Culture Mikheil Giorgadze, Nino Sukhishvili and Iliko Sukhishvili Jr. at the press conference last Thursday.
By Katie Ruth Davies The audience at the 70th Anniversary charity performance, dedicated to the victims of the June 13 flood in Tbilisi, were left in awe at the quality and energy of the Sukhishvili Georgian National Ballet last night, June 27. The show took place in the Tbilisi Concert Hall with every seat taken as an eager crowd of every age and social status eagerly sat through nearly two hours of non-stop whirling, leaping, sword fights, achingly-beautiful dancesteps on tiptoe, and richly decorated costumes. Present in the vast audience were Prime Minister Garibashvili, Tbilisi Mayor, Narmania, and the Minister of Culture and Monument Protection, Mikheil Giorgadze, who gave the introductory speech. In honor of the special anniversary charity event, Sukhishvili had some very special guests dancing with them, including the Hett International Danstheater who have been collaborating with Sukhishvili since 1997, and Ilia Kuznetsov, People’s Artist of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania. People’s Artist of Russia and President of the charity foundation ‘Culture to Children,’ Ilze Liepa, danced the Jeirani as the solo female. Dressed in
bright green and sparkling gold, Liepa wowed the audiences with her hand movements and brilliant smile. “It’s great that the new generation of the Sukhishvili-Ramishvili family is true to the top quality standards set by their grandparents. Moreover, by modernizing it, they bring folklore close to the hearts of the young generation,” Liepa said. Prima Ballerina Irma Nioradze also took to the stage, in a bright red twinkling dress, dancing the Kharachokheli. “I started my work with Georgian dance,” Nioradze said. “And being here, part of this delightful celebration today, is a great honor for me.” The performance would not have been complete without the presence of Georgia’s favourite Prima Ballerina, Nina Ananiashvili, who did not fail to disappoint when she danced, whith grace and characteristic flare, the Ilouri, a white star against the black of the male dancers behind her. Further respect and special mention should go to the brilliant orchestra of drummers, guitarists and accordion players, without whom the atmosphere could not have been as electric and emotional. If you haven’t seen world-renowned Sukhishvili in action yet, make sure you’re first in line for tickets to the next show!
JULY 3 - 9
The Transcaucasian Trail – Two Americans Americans,, One Vision them to play volleyball or swim in a mountainous lake with them. Wild animals are not uncommon along much of the trail, but that doesn’t seem to bother them. “Wolves don’t worry me,” claimed the intrepid Stephens while Haack added “I encountered a bear in Georgia once and just ran away.” Humans are of more interest to the hikers, and it was in far west Svaneti that they had met an unlikely hotelier, who had built a two-story complex for what he assumed would be an influx of guests as money poured into Svaneti as a tourist destination. Stephens and Haack may have been his first visitors, they weren’t sure, but businesses like this along the route are extremely enthusiastic about the Americans’ mission, which could, if it fulfils its large potential, herald a fresh interest and commercial stream into rural parts of the Caucasus. The second stretch of the trail they tackled was more successful, in Svaneti, a more popular part of the route in terms of hikers. It is also more thoroughly mapped but Haack and
Paul meets Valera, a “mountain man extraordinaire”, in Svaneti.
By Alastair Watt Deserted Svan villages, defiantly lingering mid-summer snow and a border guards’ volleyball tournament in Kakheti are just some of the discoveries which have been made so far by Jeff Haack and Paul Stephens, two former Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) from different ends of the United States, united by one vision – the Transcaucasian Trail. “We have a vision, to walk and map the Transcaucasian Trail, to write a guide book and bring this scenic trek through a variety of cultures to the world’s attention,” outlined Stephens, originally from Indiana, who had served as a PCV in Georgia’s far western region of Adjara in the mid-2000s. He and his partner in vision Haack, who was stationed in Imereti during his PCV days, have been taking a wellearned break in Tbilisi recently, meeting with various government bodies, journalists and a growing band of curious parties who see real value and potential in their mission. The duo intend to extensively document the route and educate interested trekkers and others about the historical sites, and different cultures sampled along the way. Ultimately, the intention is to make the Transcaucasian Trail a trekking expedition on par with famous routes across the world, such as Scotland’s West Highland Way. “In summer 2015 we will be trekking a route from the Black Sea to the Caspian, We’ll be joined along the way by fellow enthusiasts, working together to chart the epic trail,” boldly claims the Trail’s well-written website (www.transcaucasiantrail.org) but, as
the duo revealed, it quickly became apparent that their initial goal to trek from the coast of Abkhazia in the west to Azerbaijan in the east would not be possible for a variety of reasons. Above all, the duet would have to become a solo as Haack picked up an untimely foot injury shortly before the trail was to be blazed. On top of that, the levels of snow still lingering along parts of the trail rendered certain sections impassable. “Abkhazia generally gets a ton of snowfall, but this winter was an especially snowy one across the region. Of course, we had planned to start from the Black Sea and move from west to east across the region, but realized that would be unwise if not impossible,” revealed Haack and Stephens who soon devised another approach, which, though less romantic, would be more practical. They have instead been mapping the route in different sections which avoids having to wait for the stubborn Abkhazian snow to melt and allows them to hit the trail as soon as possible. Haack, a native of Southern California with an infectiously laid back attitude, explained that due to his ailing foot, his role had been to put the vast amount of data and information collected by Stephens into maps which has earned him the nickname “Data”. He has also been driving into the depths of the Georgian Caucasus to find the trail itself – a task that involved a lot of stopping and asking for directions, and some memorable encounters with the natives of Georgia’s mountainous frontier. As with most PCVs, Haack and
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Stephens have a grasp of the Georgian language that puts most expats to shame, so communication had not been a problem. Stephens pointed out that future Transcaucasian trail-goers would still manage without language skills, particularly after their guide book has been written and published. The first stretch of the trail was to be from Lagodekhi in Georgia’s eastern region of Kakheti and it was here that Stephens, accompanied by fellow hiker Matt, would discover that winter in the heights of the Caucasus, like an uninvited but drunk party guest, tends to hang around. “The rangers had warned us there would be snow but we hadn’t realized just how much was still up there. After a windy but dry night we got up in the morning and set out across the snowfields. Immediately, we realized how difficult it would be to make our next goal, Black Rock Lake at 2800 meters,” writes Stephens, who was soon deciding to turn back. “We’d take 5 or 6 careful steps with the snow holding out weight and then suddenly the next step would break through the top-crust and we’d be waist deep in snow. We had to turn back and wait for summer to finally come to the highlands of eastern Georgia. If only I had my skis!” Nevertheless, their excursion to Kakheti had uncovered an unexpected ally – border guards. “While we expected the border guards to take an interest in our activites, we didn’t expect so much assistance,” write the pair in their blog. Some had taken the Americans on horseback while others had invited
Stephens have found that to be as much of a hindrance as a help at times, with many maps inaccurate and/or out of date. This only amplifies their belief that the Transcaucasian Trail project is a thoroughly worthwhile concern. “We’ve met numerous hikers already who have similar problems, namely getting lost. This reaffirms how important it is to establish great trails, provide solid information and make hiking the Caucasus an even more rewarding experience,” say Haack and Stephens. The Americans will be staying in Georgia for the bulk of the summer to cover as much of the trail as possible but both are fully aware that this is a mission that may take years, particularly with the more politically sensitive stretches of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Azerbaijan still to come. However, Haack and Stephens share a devotion to seeing the project through and a love for the Caucasus and its curiosities that is sure to make the Transcaucasian Trail well-worn in years to come.
Jeff plotting the Transcaucasian Trail with another helpful local.
OBITUARY Department of Languages and Literature University of Warsaw. Institute of Oriental Studies Krakowskie Przedmiescie 26/28 00-927 Warsaw, Poland 2 July, 2015 The Georgian National Academy of Sciences is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Prof. Jan Braun, Foreign Member of the Georgian National Academy of Sciences, and conveys its sympathy and support to the University of Warsaw, his colleagues and family. Sincerely Yours, Academician Giorgi Kvesitadze President of GNAS
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