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Issue no: 1130/170

• MARCH 5 - 7, 2019



In this week’s issue... Weekly Entrepreneurial News @entrepreneur.ge NEWS PAGE 2

SOCAR Might Increase Gas Supply to Georgia


GT speaks to his lawyer


Image source: newsfeeds.media and Andy Stenning

Rural Support Program Kicks Off in Borjomi BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE


n late January, the Georgian Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure (MRDI) announced a new initiative titled Rural Support Program. The program, aimed at contributing to the development of rural areas, will allow the residents of 3,700 villages to vote on how to allocate funds locally, primarily to small infrastructure projects. This past Thursday, the program commenced with activities in the village of Tabatskuri, in the Borjomi Municipality. So far, 2,300 villages have made decisions regarding small infrastructure projects in the field of agriculture. Continued on page 3 Image source: Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure


February Agri Review: Land Market Developments ISET PAGE 4

Anaklia Education Hub & MSME Grants Program to Promote the Region BUSINESS PAGE 8

HUAWEI Rewards All Showroom Guests with Gifts at Tbilisi Mall BUSINESS PAGE 10 Prepared for Georgia Today Business by

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@entrepreneur.ge Gamarjoba! I’m the Editor-in-Chief of the Georgian edition of Entrepreneur magazine and I’m here to share the top weekly Entrepreneurial news with you: David Mosiashvili is a 34-year-old single father who started his business along with his two children, offering hand-made brooches under the name of ‘Dema’. The primary factor for him in creating the start-up was that his children be involved, one of whom is five-year-old Demetre who suffers from cerebral palsy. The ever more popular brooches comprise wood-processing, painting and designing and are already being snapped up by shops wanting ‘Dema’ products. The entrepreneurs have their own studio with a wide range of equipment and, with the help of a grant, aim to expand the variety and quantity of their works. ‘-20%’ is the label found on wine bottles produced by 24-year-old Nikoloz Markozashvili in the village of Ditsi (Gori). The design is a loud protest towards the Russian occupation of the Georgian regions, and Ditsi itself is located adjacent to the occupied territory of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia). Wine is produced from two local grape varieties. At first, Markozashvili aimed merely to protest the occupation with his product, but the taste of the wine has proved just as popular, and interest has already been heard from France. Markozashvili has thus decided to expand his business to produce up to 1,000 bottles this spring and increase that number again next year. Georgian cannery company Kula is to build a new factory, which, according to founder Vano Goglidze, will primarily be focused on manufacturing bio products. The construction works are already complete and involved consultation with German experts in order for the company to receive certification for the production of bio products. The cost for the launch of the new line amounts to approximately $2 million. Kula was founded in 2009 and has opened three factories to date, all of them located in the Karaleti village of the Gori region. Follow the Entrepreneur Georgia Instagram page to get the latest updates from Georgian Entrepreneurs. For doing business with Georgian Entrepreneurs, write us on business@entrepreneur.ge


MARCH 5 - 7, 2019

Comprehensive Support For 12 Protected Areas in Georgia

Image Source: UNDP Georgia



eorgia is to receive assistance to conserve and protect its unique biodiversity through a five-year initiative supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The overall budget amounts to $10 million and aims to enhance the management and financial sustainability of Georgia's Protected Areas.

Iuri Nozadze, Deputy Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, pointed out the importance of the program as the number of protected territories is expected to increase by up to 20% in the next eight years. "It is important to gain more knowledge and make Georgia's Protected Areas more efficient and sustainable," he said. The joint initiative of the Agency of Protected Areas of Georgia, UNDP, GEF, CNF and Bank of Georgia will run until 2023 and aims to support comprehensively the 12 major natural reserves (Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park, Lagodekhi Protected Areas, Vash-

lovani Protected Areas, Tusheti Protected Areas, Tusheti Protected Landscape, Mtirala National Park, Javakheti National Park, Kazbegi National Park, Algeti National Park, Kintrishi Protected Areas, Machakhela National Park and Pshav-Khevsureti Protected Areas). Support will come in the financial, technical assistance and consultative form. UNDP Head in Georgia, Louisa Vinton, underlined the importance of such projects and of the Protected Areas in general: "Without biological diversity, there is no other life on Earth, including our own,” she rightly noted.




SOCAR Might Increase Gas Supply to Georgia BY THEA MORRISON


zerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR says they might increase gas supply from Azerbaijan to Georgia by 11%, announced Azerbaijani news agency ‘Trend.’ “SOCAR Georgia Gas LLC imported around 500 million cubic meters of natural gas to Georgia from early 2019 to late February this year. The company plans to directly supply an approximate additional 1.26 billion cubic meters of gas to Georgia by late 2019,” the company said. SOCAR also said that, in total, gas supplies from Azerbaijan to Georgia this year via all suppliers may exceed 2.45 billion cubic meters of gas, noting that it is 11% more than in 2018. Earlier, the company said that the Georgian subsidiary of SOCAR plans to put into operation a multifunctional gas station in Georgia by mid-2019. The information was released by the director of the company, Mahir Mammadov, who told Trend that the com-

pany plans to build two new gas filling stations in Georgia. “One of these stations has already been commissioned, and the construction of a multifunctional complex in the Terjola district continues and will be completed by mid-2019. The complex, which will be located on the main Tbilisi-Batumi road, along with petrol and gas-filling stations, will combine a shopping center, public catering facilities and parking for cars,” he said. Currently, SOCAR is the major supplier of natural gas, oil and oil products to Georgia. SOCAR’s subsidiaries are engaged in expansion and modernization of the country’s gas distribution systems, development of filling stations under SOCAR’s brand and have an oil terminal in Georgia’s Kulevi Black Sea Port, which supplies Azerbaijani oil and oil products to the world markets. SOCAR exports gas extracted at Azerbaijani fields through its own funds to Georgia without the participation of foreign companies. Moreover, Georgia receives Azerbaijani gas extracted at Shah Deniz offshore field with participation of SOCAR and foreign companies.

Image source: azernews.az

IMF Predicts Georgia's Economic Growth Will Be 4.6% in 2019 BY THEA MORRISON


fter completing a visit to Georgia, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that Georgia’s economic growth will be 4.6% this year. The IMF recommended the Georgian authorities advance structural reforms and stressed the need for continued efforts to promote inclusive growth and higher economic resilience to external shocks. “The authorities introduced measures to limit household indebtedness and revised the fiscal rule. They are also progressing toward a new insolvency law, a more automated VAT refund system, and a strengthened banking

resolution framework,” the statement reads. Significant infrastructure investment is expected to compensate for weaker external demand and slower credit growth. Scaling up infrastructure expenditure will need to be accompanied by improved project selection and management,” the IMF said. The team added that “current account deficit is projected at around 8% of GDP, owing to still-robust growth in exports and remittances.” The representatives of the IMF also noted that the Georgian banking sector remains well capitalized, liquid, and profitable. The IMF team was led by Mercedes Vera-Martin and they visited Tbilisi February 20-26, to discuss recent economic and financial developments and progress with structural reforms.

Rural Support Program Kicks Off in Borjomi Continued from page 1 Projects include rehabilitation of drinking water reservoirs and drainage channels, building or repairing community event halls, covering water wells, building or renovating kindergarten playgrounds, repairing bridges, installing street lights, restoring a cemetery gate and water supply, rehabilitating a library and creating a visitor reception area, arranging a “heroes memorial” and culture house, installing a pedestrian bridge and paving internal roads, and arranging a public exercise space.

The projects should all be approved by the City Halls of the villages’ respective municipalities by April 1, after which construction on the projects is expected to begin. If City Halls fail to approve the spending of the funds allocated to them by the central government, or residents cannot come to a consensus on what small projects to finance, the funds will be returned to the state budget and used to support other rural development projects. In rural support programs, small infrastructural projects are financed in municipalities. Villages are allocated an amount between 5-20 thousand GEL ($1.9

– 7.5 mln), depending on population size. Projects are also expected to be cofinanced, from international donor organizations, the municipal budget, or other available funds. Over a two-month period, meetings are being held between executive and legislative authorities, municipalities, and representatives of local self-government bodies such as Local Action Groups. During these meetings, the parties discuss issues of funding projects in rural areas, the target populations’ needs, and village conditions. When the program was announced,

Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure Maia Tskitishvili emphasized the importance of including the local population in the decision-making process, saying, “We see a very important platform being created. Direct communication will take place between the central and local governments and the local population.” The initiative is part of the government’s efforts to decentralize power, giving more autonomy to municipalities, and to improve the quality of life in rural areas, stemming what could become catastrophic waves of rural-urban migration, or emigration abroad.

In pre-planning phases of the program, MRDI officials met with municipal authorities in 800 villages. Among the projects with the highest demand are repairs to drinking water infrastructure, irrigation and drainage systems, road and bridge renovations, installation of street lighting, and building or improving sporting and cultural facilities. A total of 40 million GEL ($15 mln) is being allocated for the initiative – double the original sum. The Rural Support Program was expanded a month after it was announced, on February 1, due to high demand and popularity.




MARCH 5 - 7, 2019

February Agri Review: Land Market Developments U nderdevelopment of the land market is a major obstacle behind the development of Georgian agriculture. A significant number of unregistered plots of land prevent land consolidation and increases in agricultural productivity. According

in the total CPI. In January 2019, the sharpest price changes, on an annual basis, were observed within the following subgroups: fish (+12.3%), bread and cereals (+10%), vegetables (+6.5%).


In January 2019, prices in the vegetable

pared to January 2018. The main driver was the price of maize, which rose due to adverse weather conditions in South America. Furthermore, there was a hike in rice prices, reflecting both the increased demand for Japonica supplies and the appreciated Thai Baht. On an annual basis, dairy prices also increased somewhat, by

Figure 2. Annual changes in vegetable prices

Figure 1. Number of Registered Plots and Registered Land Area, by Regions


to the Ministry of Justice, as of February 2019, in the framework of the land registration reform, since 2016, there are 543,139 citizens who have registered 130,943 ha of land; 1,431 legal entities which have registered 1,793 ha; and 34,131 state entities with 169,241 ha of registered land. Thus far, until 1 August 2016, 1,212,173 ha of land had been registered and an additional 301,976 ha have been registered since then. Therefore, the total area registered is 1,514,149 ha, which accounts for 45% of all agricultural lands, leaving 55% remaining unregistered. As for the regional distribution of lands registered after 1 August 2016, the largest area was recorded in Kakheti, whilst the greatest number of plots was in Imereti (see Figure 1). The average size of a registered plot is 0.5 ha.

DOMESTIC PRICES On a monthly basis, the country’s price levels have increased slightly. Where the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in January 2019 was 1.3% higher compared to the previous month. While in comparison to January 2018, the CPI experienced a 2.2% increase. For food and non-alcoholic beverages, the month-over-month prices increased by 3.2%, contributing to a 0.98 percent overall change in CPI. The main drivers were the price fluctuations in the following sub-groups: vegetables (+15.8%), milk, cheese, and eggs (+4.7%), bread and cereals (+1.4%). On an annual basis for food and nonalcoholic beverages, prices increased by 3.2%, contributing to a 1.0 percent change

category increased by 15.8% compared to December 2018. On an annual basis, prices in this group increased by 6.5%. According to Geostat data, cabbage prices displayed the largest increase, of 75%, in January 2019, in comparison to the previous year (Figure 2). Considering that the year has just begun, the increase in cabbage prices is quite surprising. While, trade statistics reveal that both the import value and quantity of cabbage trade follow increasing trends. In January 2019, the import value amounted to 80,311 USD, 82% higher than the 44,048 USD of January 2018. Within the same period, the quantity of imported cabbage increased dramatically by 132%, from 200.64 tons to 466.38 tons. Typically, an increase in import contributes to a decrease in price, unless domestic production and stocks are extremely low. If domestic production is indeed low, it might have caused a shortage in supply and therefore an increase in price. As statistics on domestic production are not yet available, it is difficult to discern the exact reason for the increased prices.

INTERNATIONAL PRICES In January 2019, international prices maintained a downward trend. The Food Price Index, measured by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), decreased by 2.2%, compared to January 2018. The main drivers were the weaker prices of vegetable oil (-19.6%), sugar (-9%), and meat (-2.7%). Whereas, the Cereal Price Index experienced a significant 7.3% increase, com-

1.2%, in reaction to the increased internal demand on dairy products in Europe.

TRADE HIGHLIGHTS In January 2019, Georgia’s agricultural exports (including food) equaled approximately 47 million USD, which is greater than a fourth of Gerogia’s total export value. Comparing this indicator to January 2018, the share is down by 2 percentage points. While for imports in January 2019, Georgia’s agro imports exceeded 66 million USD, which is almost 14% of the country’s total imports. Year over year (compared to January 2018), agricultural imports dropped by 15%.

In January 2019, the Georgian export of tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes (HS codes 2401-2403) grew more than threefold compared to January 2018, and they reached almost 16 million USD in value. Moreover, the export value also significantly exceeded the corresponding import and the trade surplus (3.7 million USD), and exceeded its previous record by a 0.1 million USD margin. (Figure 3) An upward trend in tobacco trade has been apparent since 2017, and as the share of low-value unmanufactured tobacco and tobacco refuse in 2018 held a much smaller portion of total imports than export, the trend is moreover expected to follow the same pattern in the near future. It would seem that increased taxes and additional regulations push Georgian tobacco producers/importers to search for alternative markets in which to sell their value-added final products.

POLICY WATCH The Organic Law on Agricultural Lands was initiated by the Agrarian Committee The Chair of the Agrarian Issues Committee, Otar Danelia, presented the draft law on Agricultural lands along with a subsidiary legislation package to the Agrarian Committee. While the draft law regulates the major principles of property rights, food security, land liquid-

Figure 3. Tobacco and Manufactured Tobacco Substitutes

ity issues, etc., the subsidiary legislation focuses on the sustainable management of land resources. According to Otar Danelia, the Committee lobbies for the creation of a National Agency for Land Management, which would be responsible for the classification of agricultural lands, status related issues, and an analysis of land balance. Yet another issue raised in the draft law relates to fines for non-operated land. According to the Committee Chair, such regulation will create further incentives for land owners to operate their agricultural land. Foreign ownership of agricultural land was also discussed during the presentation, and as stated in the Constitution of Georgia, foreign ownership of agricultural land by foreigner is prohibited. New rules for labelling of food products New regulations regarding the labelling of food products entered into force on 1 March 2019. The regulations state that the amount of information on labels must increase. The rules also define the font size for labels, as well as the location for the various types of information on a label. The rules require that all information on the label is exact, clear and easily understandable for the consumer. (See page 6 for more information).



Sarpi Border Checkpoint Renews Operations

Image source: Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development



he Sarpi border checkpoint opened in 2011 on Georgia’s Black Sea Coast, on the border between Georgia and Turkey. It is primarily known for its unique architectural monument, a white, undulating sculptural building that suggests a towering stack of smooth beach rocks, or the winding coastline where the small town of Sarpi sits. The sculpture, designed by J Mayer H architects, adorns one of Georgia’s most important border crossing points. The latest figures from the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development show that the Sarpi checkpoint sees, on average, approximately 1000 trucks, 2000 passenger cars, 400 buses and 25,000 pedestrians crossing the border each day during the summer, the high season for tourists. In early September, Tornike Rizhvadze, Chairman of the Government of Ajara, visited the Sarpi checkpoint where he met with the Chairman of the Turkish Chamber of Commerce and Exchanges to inspect renovation works being conducted on the Turkish side. Rizhvadze also attended a special presentation on the renovation project. The work was scheduled to be completed by the end of October, the Public Broadcaster Ajara TV reported. The renovation works were delayed, but finally, last week, the renewed checkpoint had a ceremonial reopening, attended by Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia Giorgi Kobulia, Minister of Trade of the Republic of Turkey Ruhsar Pekcan, and Chairman Rizhvadze. Speaking at the event, Kobulia thanked the Turkish authorities for implementing what he called an “important project,” emphasizing the value of strong economic relations between the two countries and the role that well-functioning customs checkpoints play in this regard. Each infrastructure project has great potential, Kobulia explained, which can be unlocked by the flexibility of border customs procedures. “Today's ceremony proves once again the

strong will of Georgia and the Republic of Turkey in the direction of further development of a strategic partnership and relations,” said Kobulia. The border crossing at Sarpi not only facilitates trade through the transportation of goods between Georgia and Turkey, but also supports GeorgiaTurkey relations economically, culturally and socially. Kobulia shared his hope that the renewed infrastructure will give rise to trade and closer relations between the two countries. He also noted that Georgia is currently undergoing a critical transformation, expanding its role as a transport corridor. He expressed plans to further explore potential transit routes and cargo traffic between Georgia and Turkey. In 2019, Georgia’s customs system will implement a significant reform of the digitalization of customs services, enabling all customs services to be delivered electronically. The reform is part of Georgia’s effort to draw more international shipping business and improve its reputation as a major Eurasia transit corridor. “I hope that the Georgian and Turkish customs administrations will be united in this [digitalization] project. Deepening the exchange of information electronically will further the improvement of customs control systems and the development of the risk management process, and improve cooperation, which is conducive to business development,” Kobulia said, adding that the new reforms “will facilitate the establishment of equal and fair opportunities for the development of businesses.” For countries in the Trans-Caspian East-West Trade and Transit Corridor, which brings together Central Asia and the Caspian and Black Sea strategic regions to form a viable trade and transit corridor between East and West, special importance is given to the development of attractive and competitive transit models. The Ministry of Economy insists that establishing unified principles of development in the customs sphere is of critical importance, especially considering that Turkey is one of Georgia’s most important trading partners by volume, and strengthening the customs sphere will be particularly important against the background of growing economic trends.

Record Number of People Visit Georgia's Preserved Areas in 2018



or the first time in the history of the Agency of Protected Areas, more than a million people visited Georgia's National Parks. In 2018, the number of visitors to national parks in Georgia amounted to 1,130,462 visits, which is an 18% increase compared to the same period of the previous year. 53% of the visitors were Georgians and 47% of them foreigners. Among the foreigners who visited the preserved territories, the majority were from

Germany, Poland, Israel, Ukraine, and Russia. The most visited territories last year were: Prometheus Cave; Martvili Canyon, Kazbegi National Park Tbilisi National Park and Okatse Canyon. During 2018, revenues received from ecotourism services amounted to GEL 8,417,991, which is 87% higher than the revenues of the same period in 2017. The Agency of Protected Areas says that infrastructure and rehabilitation works are underway in the national parks to boost ecotourism in 2019. A new ecotourism sight will be opened this year for tourists: a natural monument of the Okatse Waterfall, where an ecotourism trail and infrastructure have been arranged.





MARCH 5 - 7, 2019

A Song About Seven Foka Sisters BY ERIC LIVNY


hen Saint Nino, one of Georgia’s most venerated saints, traveled to Mtskheta back in the fourth century, she stopped to erect a grapevine cross in Foka, a small settlement on the shores of Lake Paravani some 2000 meters above sea level. Saint Nino must have traveled during the summer since, even today, Foka is very difficult to reach for about six months of the year. Heaps of snow block all major access roads during the long and cold winter. In 1992, as Georgia was going through the most painful period in its recent history, six young Georgian women decided to make Foka their home. The first 10 years or so were about physical survival: digging their houses deep into the ground to withstand strong winds and temperatures in the -15-25ºC (-5-13ºF) range; collecting enough wood to keep themselves warm; growing and storing potatoes and other basic foodstuffs; and managing a difficult relationship with their Armenian neighbors. By early 2000s, different winds started blowing in Foka. The first business idea was to revive the local tradition of cheesemaking, which was brought to Samtskhe Javakheti by Catholic missionaries back in the 18th century. While failing to make it into the mainstream of Georgian cuisine, the so-called ‘blue cheese’ (a version of Roquefort) survived in Samtskhe Javakheti’s alpine zone because of its superior storability. Storability is what made this cheese a good choice for the isolated Foka community. After a bit of local experimentation (and a study tour in France), the blue cheese became a commercial success with tourists visiting the area and in

Tbilisi. And since the long winter days were good for learning and experimentation, what followed was a flurry of creativity and innovation. More than 20 cheese varieties in most surprising colors, shapes, and flavors; jams combing local (and not only) berries, spices and herbs; honey; truffles and chocolates; vodka; unrefined oils and vinegar; cloisonné enamel, jewelry and ceramics. The menu of products suggests great marketing skills as well as a fascination with trying out new things. How about black-currant jams with almond nut, fig with ginger, or banana and carrots with lemon? Should you care for chocolate, ever tried the dried oranges and gingelly flavor? What may be thyme-flavored vodka is marketed as Wild Alpine thyme aged with alcohol. And then, of course,

there are all the cheeses… When visiting Foka for the first time in summer 2015, I was captivated by the stunning aesthetics of the place. The deep sense of love, peace and harmony emanating from every little detail here – the stones of the buildings, the wood of the furniture, and the cute paper packaging – was clearly something to be shared with others. And so, a couple months later I was back with a group of ISET’s agricultural economics students and faculty. When viewed from the economic perspective, the seven-strong pack of Foka women are organized as a small agribusiness. During the short alpine summer, they produce honey and run a little dairy farm, the source of milk for their cheese factory. The highlands provide them with berries, flowers and herbs

which they use to spice up all of their food products. Yet, instead of maximizing individual profits, they seek community development and harmony, both inside the group and among them and their immediate environment. All of their profits are reinvested into new project ideas and activities.

WHEN I FIND MYSELF IN TIMES OF TROUBLE… A strong sense of common destiny and of commitment permeates everything that happens at Foka. The oldest among the six sisters, the leader of the pack, was only 24 when the group settled in Foka. She started out as a student of biophysics in the prestigious Moscow State University but discontinued her studies after a year of soul searching. At the urging of her

parents, she did complete her degree in Tbilisi. By then, however, she already knew her destiny would take her elsewhere. Her natural charisma and talent were the glue that kept the group together through all the difficult years. She radiated light and energy on her colleagues and the environment. The group acquired many friends, including those in the Georgian expat community, who helped with money, business ideas and connections. Even local villagers came to appreciate the hard working women and their leader. Little by little they were convinced to allow their children to come near and be taught arts and crafts, foreign languages (though not Georgian!) and computer skills. Ironically, the tipping point arrived when one of the village girls won a 1000 GEL prize in a national essay competition! Once trust was established, the locals started eagerly imitating their neighbors by planting trees (something hitherto unthinkable in Samtskhe Javakheti), and even trying new kinds of farming and business activities – beekeeping, hospitality services, etc. Many changes are already visible for any passerby, such as new roofs and better taken care of public spaces. Other improvements – village-level cooperation on milk collection and, most certainly, children’s education, while quite tangible, would require a more discerning eye. * * * In case it was not clear, the Foka sisters are nuns, and their Mother Mary is in fact called Mother Elizabeth. While they have the ability, they are not on a mission to build a business empire. Rather, they remain a very small community of seven women trying to balance hard work with learning and spirituality. Yet, their achievements should shine on all of us, giving strength to desolate communities and desperate families, and inspiring the Georgian nation as a whole.

New Product Labeling Rules Come into Force in Georgia BY THEA MORRISON


rom March 1, new rules of product labeling entered into force in Georgia, envisaging more protection of consumers’ rights by better informing them about the foodstuffs they are buying. The National Food Agency says the regulations aim to provide consumers with the best possible information about the product and thus promote their health and rights. The regulations foresee there being more compulsory information on the label about the product, as well as information related to food safety. It is now considered a violation if the label does not contain information about food composition, nutritional value and allergy risks. The font size of the information on the label and the form of information about the product has been determined by the regulations. The label information should

be accurate, clear, easy to understand and visible to consumers and must inform them about protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamin and mineral content in the product. Under the new regulations, no information is permitted on food product labels which does not refer to the composition of the product or which make it look better than it really is. The label also has to contain information about the production manufacture date, best before date and expiry date. The label must also inform customers about the storage rules for the product. The changes read that the business operator, including the importer, is responsible for placing and presenting information about a particular product. According to the National Food Agency, the new technical regulations demand full protection of consumers' health and interests while providing information on food, enabling users to be more informed to make a better choice. In case of violations of the new rules, small business operators will be fined GEL 200, while larger business opera-

Image source: themoneypages.com

tors by GEL 400. If the offence is repeated during the same year, the fine will be GEL 600. The new technical regulations for pro-

viding consumers more information on food products were to have been launched from September 1, 2018. However, at the request of the business sector and the

recommendation of the Business Ombudsman, the activation of the new regulations was postponed by six months and took effect on March 1.




The Potential of the North-South Trade Corridor BY EMIL AVDALIANI


ne of the major historical obstacles for Russian territorial (or simply geopolitical) expansion over the past several centuries has been the Caucasus Mountains. Thence comes Russia’s permanent drive to reduce the role of the mountain range through artificial construction of passes and roads into the South Caucasus. The success of these policies has been largely dependent on how Russia was allowed into the South Caucasus at any given time. From the Russian perspective, the Georgians, who control all major access through the Caucasus, could not be trusted. To alleviate this, the Russians had to have their own territorial strongholds - that's how we come to Georgia being constantly invaded and its various regions being from time to time under the Russian protectorate. Beyond this purely military aspect, minimizing the role of the impassable Caucasus range has had the Russians working on extending their economic

Image source: vestnikkavkaza.net

power. When the territory was under Moscow’s direct control in the Soviet period, or earlier in the Romanov epoch, the Russians were keen on using/exporting local natural resources. Since the Soviet Union’s dissolution, Russia's primary drive has been to increase trade with and buy crucial infrastructure (pipelines, railroads etc.) from the South

Caucasus countries. The North-South Economic Corridor project runs from Russia to Azerbaijan, Iran and then to the Persian Gulf and possibly to India too. This is an ambitious project, with goods from India and Iran able bypass the Suez Canal and reach Europe (the Baltic Sea) through Azerbaijani and Russian territories. In

fact, this potential route is shorter than the one via the Suez Canal. The talk on implementation of the North-South Corridor has been going on for some time, and substantial progress has already been made on the Astara Railway which connects the Iranian and Azerbaijani railway networks. Somehow related to the implementation of this economic corridor might be cooling of tensions around the Caspian Sea, as seen last year. Ironically, Russia’s problems with the West and Moscow’s pivot to the Middle East and Asia-Pacific (in whatever form its takes) has pushed the country to find other great trade partners. India, via Iran, would serve the Russians perfectly. Teheran and Moscow are both under Western sanctions and this, too, might be a very good incentive to aim for success in the Corridor project. In other words, an increased emphasis on Moscow’s economic interests through and around the Caspian Sea to India and Iran is related to larger geopolitical developments of Russia being shut off in the West and having no other opportunity but to move southwards. Arguably the biggest winner in the project will be Azerbaijan, which will

benefit from its strategic position not only as a hub for east-west trade and energy routes, but also for north-south commerce. However, it is still very unlikely that much of the India-Europe trade could be diverted to the North-South Corridor. In fact, as is always the case with new trade routes, quite some time will be needed to pull the project off the ground, a crucial obstacle being the heavy economic sanctions imposed by the US on Iran which could easily undermine the efficiency of the project. Overall, this and in coming years, we will see an intensified struggle between the regional powers surrounding the South Caucasus for laying down new trade routes, pipelines and roads, etc. In fact, a very good example of this is the reports in the media that Chechnya plans to build a road to Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge. Yet another development surrounds Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (the so-called “South Ossetia”) regions, where the Russians want to have trade routes passing through the breakaway territories to connect with Armenia. Again, this is all part of Russia’s drive to minimize the impassability of the Caucasus range.

Japan Funds 4 Green & Humanitarian Projects in Georgia BY AMY JONES


he Japanese government has pledged $293,264 towards four projects in Georgia. Officials signed the agreement ‘Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects’ on

28 February. The projects are: Environment and Development and Bediani Children Center will construct potato storage units in Tsalka municipality to help eco-migrants in the region to earn more income. The Japanese government has given $86,525 towards the project. Two biological brick workshops will be built in Tsalka municipality. The project

will facilitate the replacement of firewood with biologically clean bricks, helping to prvent further deforestation in Georgia. As the bricks cost around half the price of firewood, it should also improve the economic situation for eco migrants in Tsalka. The Japanese government has given $71,498 towards this project. The Agricultural Hub in Akhaltsikhe will be rehabilitated to include an agri-

Photo source - Wikipedia

cultural laboratory and training center for farmers. It will provide soil, water and dairy product testing facilities. The rehabilitation should enable the production of biologically clean agricultural produce as well as promote responsible farming. The Japanese government has given

$71,547 to this project. $63,693 has been given to HALO demining NGO to use in demining projects in Chonto village in Imereti. The Japanese government has funded more than 170 projects since 1998, amounting to $17,171,529.




MARCH 5 - 7, 2019

Anaklia Education Hub & MSME Grants Program to Promote the Region


n February 28, the CEO of Anaklia Development Consortium (ADC) Levan Akhvlediani, USAID Mission Director Peter Wiebler and the Governor of the region of SamegreloZemo Svaneti, Aleksandre Motserelia opened the Anaklia Education Hub and announced the launch of the MSME Grants Program within the scope of the Anaklia Community and Economic Development (ACED) program, in the Palm Beach Hotel in Anaklia. Anaklia Community and Economic Development (ACED) is a joint initiative of Anaklia Development Consortium and USAID Zrda Activity, designed to promote the regional economic development of Anaklia and its surrounding environs, support the increase of the competitiveness and growth of MSMEs in the region, build and sustain a qualified workforce to meet the high demands of the market for the port operations, as well as the wider economy in the region, and facilitate the development of community infrastructure necessary to the region. “USAID is extremely proud for the collabortaion with the Anaklia Development Consortium and support small and medium-sized enterprises and businesses here, in the communities around Anaklia. We will help these MSMEs to create jobs, expand and become competitive in Anaklia, as well as across the entire Georgia,” USAID Mission Director Peter Wiebler told The Messenger.

With this in mind, ACED program is launching the first in Anaklia Education Hub aimed to open an access to skills development for future employment opportunities within the port itself and surrounding businesses, expected to develop alongside the growth of the port and the free economic zone. The Anaklia Education Hub will offer a variety of training courses in English language, and computer

skills, entrepreneurship, Business Administration, tourism and agriculture that will increase the professional capacity of local population by offering a series of interventions to support a sustainable transformational development of the local communities. “Our key aim is to train locals to become better professionals and to employ them, as well as sup-

port MSMEs and promote regional economic development. We are more than happy to cooperate with USAID/Zrda. With the joint efforts we will manage to strengthen the region, create employment opportunities and train as many people as possible to have good professionals after the first phase of the Anaklia Deep Sea Port is completed,”the CEO of Anaklia Development Consortium Levan Akhvlediani said. ACED also introduces the grant program for agriculture and non-agriculture sector development to support micro, small and medium size enterprise growth in line with the technical support to improve business and technical skills through trainings. The Anaklia Community and Economic Development Program will provide support to communities in the West Georgia to maximize their ability to capitalize on the economic development opportunities presented by the $2.5 billion Anaklia Deep Sea Port mega project, which is a joint initiative of the Georgian-U.S. consortium. The new deep-water port is expected to transform Georgia into a regional economic hub and a key link and transport corridor between Asia and Europe. Construction of Georgia’s first deep sea port started in December 2017, and the first phase of the project - construction of the primary container terminal - will be completed by the end of 2020, which also coincides with the timeline of the joint development program between USAID Zrda and ADC.

Party for a Cause: Raising Funds for Children’s Wheelchairs at Betsy’s


usiness and Finance Consulting (BFC) is to host a party on March 9 at Betsy's Hotel in order to raise money for children's wheelchairs. Business and Finance Consulting wants you to impact lives for good, while having fun. On Saturday, March 9, it will host a party at Betsy's Hotel at 32/34 Kote Makashvili Street. All proceeds will go to help MAC Georgia buy specialized wheelchairs for children with disabilities. Donations will be matched through EBRD's Community Initiatives Program.

The event will be held from 19:00 until 24:00 and will include a presentation by MAC CEO, Jeremy Gaskill, as well as musical performances by Paul Rimple and the Natural Born Lovers, The Double G's featuring Sandy Higgs, and classical guitarist Tako Asanidze. A raffle with over 50 amazing prizes as well as a silent auction will also be provided. Tickets are GEL 100 and include access to an appetizer buffet, free wine, and Ronny's Pizza. They can be picked up Monday-Friday from 10:00 until 18:00 at MAC Georgia's office at 3 Lado Kavsadze Street, or reserved in advance by contacting +995.555.63.95.50. Space is limited so please buy your tickets today. Founded in 2008, MAC Georgia works to transform the lives of the most vulnerable by providing them the services and resources they need to reach their full potential. The right wheelchair, if fitted correctly, can change a child’s life. In many cases it means the difference between health and chronic illness, inclusion and isolation, independence and dependence - in some cases, even life and death. With more than two years of field testing behind them, MAC has identified a number of reasonably priced chairs that are well suited to the realities of Georgia. These wheelchairs range in complexity and will significantly help to improve posture, mitigate secondary complications, and promote a better overall quality of life. MAC has a team of clinicians who are trained to assess and fit children in the right wheelchair. With your help, they will work to ensure that each child in Georgia has access to the support they need. 100% of funds raised will go towards the purchase of wheelchairs for disabled children in Georgia. MAC will cover all transportation and administration fees. The campaign is also supported by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which will match 100% of donations raised by the end of March 2019. Business and Finance Consulting (BFC) is a Swissbased consulting firm with a presence in Georgia since 2003. BFC contributes to financial sector development via management consulting, analytics, and, research, and has successfully implemented 147 projects in 68 countries in the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Asia, MENA and Sub-Saharan Africa. Date: March 9 Time: 19:00 – 24:00 Location: Betsy’s Hotel: 32/34 Kote Makashvili St Entrance: GEL 100 - Includes Appetizer buffet, Ronny's pizza, and wine Raffle: GEL 5/ticket - GEL 20/5 tickets - GEL 100/40 tickets - GEL 200/100 tickets



United Agro Projects: A Life Line in Rural Georgia

Image source - APMA



ast week, Agro Leader Ltd opened a new fruit and vegetable preserve factory in Ptsala village in the Shida Kartli region in eastern Georgia. Financed by the United Agro Project, the factory is another promising project to open in rural Georgia. The factory will be used to preserve up to 720 tones of fruits and vegetables each year to be sold at local markets. Agro Leader Ltd received over $453,932 from the United Agro Project to fund the construction of the factory. The village will benefit from the additional jobs it creates: 20 permanent staff and 10 seasonal staff will work in the factory. Georgia has a long-standing tradition as an agricultural country. Indeed, rural Georgia is heavily reliant on agriculture. With 22 micro-climates, ranging from cool and dry to warm and humid, Georgia has an especially long harvesting season and a variety of growing conditions. Today, agriculture accounts for 8.1% of Georgia’s GDP. Around 55% of the labor force in Georgia is employed by agriculture, although much of these roles are subsitence farming. Given the importance of agriculture in Georgia, projects such as those financed by the United Agro Project are vital for the rural economy. Launched in 2013 by former Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, The United Agro Project has financed over 188 new factories to date. The Shida Kartili region has already benefited from 23 new factories. The United Agro project was launched to improve agricultural production, storage, and sale in Georgia. “We have decided from today to gather all ongoing projects under the United Agro Project to make our work more efficient and enable people

to benefit more from state agricultural changes,” said former PM Kvirikashvili at the project launch. There are various projects joined under the umbrella of the project, including: ‘Plant the Future,’ a project which hopes to promote effective cultivation of agricultural land in Georgia; the ‘Georgian Tea Plantation Rehabilitation Program,’ to encourage high-quality tea production; the 'Program of Agro-production Promotion’ within the framework of the Agriculture Modernization; the ‘Market Access and Resilience Project;’ ‘Young Entrepreneur, a program supporting youth in rural areas; as well as the co-financing of agro-processing and storage enterprises, agro-insurance, and the ‘Preferential Agrocredit Project.’ The Agrocredit Project has proven to be especially successful, enabling farmers to access longterm loans with preferential conditions. From 2013 - 2016, the government issued loans worth over $222,428,131 to more than 700,000 Georgian agriculturalists. Despite the success of various agricultural projects, rural areas often still suffer from a lack of infrastructure and access to resources, and poor economic standards. In addition, problems such as the stink bug invasion which began in 2015 has made agriculture even more challenging in Georgia. Although projects such as the United Agro Project and funding from abroad, like that received from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), help to ease the burden, farmers still struggle. Georgia’s rural population is decreasing as the people increasingly choose to move to larger towns and cities. In fact, the rural population decreased from 48.2% in 2011 to 46.3% in 2014. The success of projects such as the United Agro Project will prove vital in curbing this trend and continuing to progress Georgian agriculture in the right direction.

Georgian PM: Relations with EU at All Time High BY THEA MORRISON


eorgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze says that the country’s relations with the European Union have never been so advanced, adding that Georgia is successfully implementing its responsibilities to the EU. The PM said important reforms have been carried out in the country in terms of both legislative and institutional alignment, which is a mandatory precondition for the country's European and EuroAtlantic integration. “I believe that we have sufficient resources to fulfill a part of our obligations ahead of schedule," he noted. Bakhtadze made the comment at the joint meeting of the Government Commission on EU Integration and the State Commission on NATO Integration. The information about the 5th Meeting of the Georgia-EU Association Council, scheduled for March 5 in Brussels, was provided to the meeting participants where the Georgian side will present the EU Integration Roadmap. “In Brussels, together with the EU side, we will summarize our progress toward European integration and present the EU Integration Roadmap, a very important document enabling us to consolidate our progress under European integration and to take further steps beyond the Association Agreement, toward deeper and more comprehensive integration, including sectoral integration,” he explained.

Image source: PM’s Press Office

The Prime Minister emphasized the importance of the visa-free travel with the EU, obtained by the country in March 2018. “Ensuring a flawless visa-waiver process is one of our government's top priorities because, besides practical benefits, visa-free travel also carries political weight,” he said. The joint meeting of the commissions approved Georgia's Annual National Program, one of the crucial NATO membership mechanisms. According to Bakhtadze, Georgia is a special and reliable partner to NATO, as evidenced by the strong messages made at the recent Munich Security Conference. “This year, we are hosting NATO's Secretary General, Military Committee, and North Atlantic Council, which is a great honor and, at the same time, responsibility. Still, all this reiterates that Georgia-NATO relations have advances to a new level," he added.





MARCH 5 - 7, 2019

HUAWEI Rewards All Showroom Guests with Gifts at Tbilisi Mall



n March 2, the HUAWEI Company opened a showroom in the main hall of Tbilisi Mall, where smartphones of the HUAWEI Mate20 series and other products of the company were presented. Customers had a chance to discover the capa-

bilities of HYAWEI Mate20 by taking pictures, trying the macro system of shooting, charging the smartphone and testing the fingerprint unlocking feature. The visitors were certainly assured of the strength of the fast charging of the model and had a lot of fun at the showroom. They were also given an opportunity to take pictures at the HUAWEI stand and print them on site free of charge. Those that shared a photo via social media were awarded special gifts from HUAWEI. The

company also held a raffle for guests. The Huawei stand will be in place until March 8 at Tbilisi mall, with a number of surprises awaiting guests. HUAWEI presented the brand new Mate20 series of smartphones in October last year. According to expert evaluation, the Mate20 series represents an incredible achievement in the sphere of innovative technologies. The HUAWEI Mate20 is equipped with the most advanced and smallest Kirin 980 processor of 7 nanometers, which is 20% more efficient and consumes 40% less time than its predecessor. The Kirin 980 is also the first processor with a CortexA76 based core, which is 75% more powerful and 58% more effective than the last generation. HUAWEI Mate20 smartphones feature a unique unblock function through fingerprint installed in the display, and a wireless reverse charging capability. The best old traditions remain in the new smartphone and all three main cameras have been produced as a result of HUAWEI’s collaboration with Leica, which enables pictures to be taken at a minimal distance and keeps focus even with objects 2.5cm from the lens. The new model features a strengthened lens of 16mm, guaranteeing new possibilities for customers. The HUAWEI Mate20 series is also outstanding in the colored portrait video capabilities, created on the basis of arti-

The UK Bridge Education Fair



n March 2, Rooms Hotel Tbilisi hosted the 9th annual education fair organized by the UK Bridge education agency, seeing

leading institutions including summer schools, English language courses and universities presenting their programs to guests. GEORGIA TODAY attended the event and spoke with some of the participants. The CEO of Central Film School, Rory Curley, shared his experience with us. “This is the first time we, myself and the

school, have come to Georgia, and its an area we’ve been greatly interested in for a long time. I joined the team of the Central Film School nearly two years ago, and since then have been travelling a lot to launch projects which help us promote our institution on the world markets. As the school has never travelled abroad before, it was quite difficult

ficial intelligence. Using artificial intelligence, the HUAWEI Mate20 is able to isolate a person’s face and combine it with colors that best complement his/ her look. Along with the core functions, the new model of HUAWEI is equipped with a more sophisticated and powerful battery. The 4200 mAh battery and 40 watt fast charging technology allow the smartphone battery to reach 70% charge in just 30 minutes. HUAWEI products and services are available in more than 170 countries and

are used by a third of the world's population. There are 16 research and development centers operating worldwide in the USA, Germany, Sweden, Russia, India and China. HUAWEI Consumer BG is one of HUAWEI's three business units, mainly focusing on Smartphones, personal computers, tablets and cloud services. HUAWEI Global Network is based on 20 years’ experience in the telecommunications business and serves to provide innovative technologies to customers around the world.

to choose the right destination. As a film school, we try to expose ourselves to countries which have a developed cultural life and express an interest in the creative arts. Tbilisi is a city with a growing reputation in this respect. It is considered the cultural center of the Caucasus,” Curley said, adding: “Even though we have one Georgian student at our school, we are looking forward to grabbing the attention of more Georgians through our various programs.” The representatives of the worldrenowned Instituto Marangoni also spoke about the importance of the Tbilisi education fair. “It is the 5th time I’m attending this event. It’s always nice and fruitful to be here as there is a lot of interest among Georgian students in art, fashion and design studies abroad- and Marangoni offers top-level programs in these fields.” It was also intriguing to find out whether the success of the Georgian fashion designers abroad had increased the desire of the institution to attend the event. “We don’t really choose our destinations according to the success of the local designers. Even though the Georgian fashion designers are really skilled and recognized worldwide, we mostly explore the general interest of our target audience. I truly believe that Georgian stu-

dents are very creative and passionate about fashion, as well as product and interior design,” – the Regional Emission Manager of Instituto Marangoni told us. “Our summer school has been participating in the UK Bridge Education Fair for seven years, since 2013,” the representative of the Buckswood Overseas Summer School told us. “The students we host from Georgia are unique. I find Georgians to be very creative and very expressive. I think it’s a great fair to attract the attention of a number of new students to our program.” The UK Bridge education agency was established in 2008 by Nutsa Kuridze and Anka Vetsko. The company has for 10 years been helping those who aspire to continue studies abroad to choose the most suitable language courses, summer schools, undergraduate and postgraduate programs. Three years after the launch of UK Bridge, Kuridze and Vetsko established the first International Education Fair in Georgia. World-renowned educational institutions, including the University of St. Andrews, Kings College London, Naba & Domus Academy, Anglo-American University, Toulouse Business School and many others, travel to Georgia once a year to deliver information about their study programs to potential clientele.

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rit Jack Shepherd, who was convicted of manslaughter and escaped to Georgia, has been the talk of British press since he handed himself over to police on January 23. With his extradition hearing looming, Shepherd's Georgian lawyer (one of a three-man defense team) Mariam Kublashvili sat down with GEORGIA TODAY for an exclusive interview.

WHAT WAS YOUR MOTIVATION TO TAKE ON SHEPHERD’S CASE? Because he called me and asked to be his lawyer; because I listened to his story and I believe he is innocent. This is a huge challenge for me as this case is international. I also want to address the rumors and lies that have been reported by the tabloid press saying that I received GBP 15,000 to defend him. That’s an outright lie. It is, in fact, a rather nominal fee, an incredibly modest amount even by Georgian standards. Why did I say yes, then? Because this man needed my help to prove his truth. Money had nothing to do with it.

THE QUESTION ON EVERYONE’S MIND IS – WILL YOU BE FIGHTING HIS EXTRADITION TO THE END? We fought the immediate extradition request because we believe that all the extradition procedures that exist in Georgian and international laws should be respected and followed. Contrary to what British media seems to believe, you cannot coerce a sovereign country that abides by the law into handing over people like that. It’s our obligation to study the case documents and to have sufficient

information about the case before extraditing. We need to make sure extradition is safe for him and that he won’t have issues in a UK prison. There are many other things that need to be figured out and anticipated before we extradite. We do understand that some people and politicians are very interested in fast extradition, but legal decisions should be made by lawyers, according to the law, and the decisions should not be influenced by external opinions or pressure. So, we will make the decision. If there is a reason to fight extradition, we will fight it and if there is a reason to support the extradition, we will.

to marry Charlotte. He never said that and neither did I. All I told them was he took her seriously, she wasn’t his plaything or something like that. And there are lots of such misinterpretations, for which we will be seeking legal action because they harm the process, they create confusion, and confusion is not good for justice. I see that the tabloid media have no regard for Jack’s life, no regard for his family, no regard for me and my personal life, but, apparently, they also have no regard for Charlotte Brown’s family either: the aim of their reporting is to make them angry, to madden and anger them with lies.



First, Jack doesn’t consider himself guilty or the direct cause of Charlotte’s death: he could neither save her nor prevent the accident that happened. As for extradition, he has a well-founded fear that in British prison he will face violence and danger and that Charlotte’s father will use his influence to this end. He doesn’t think it’s safe for him, as there have been several threats made not only against him, but also against his family and lawyers. Not to mention the absolutely biased and subjective coverage from the tabloid press, those media outlets who have been disseminating lies and falsehoods in recent weeks – and I’ve got some very specific examples too. Here is one: The Daily Mail wrote that I told them Jack was going to claim citizenship to avoid extradition. That’s a lie, twisting my words. Another tabloid printed pictures allegedly showing Jack with a Georgian girlfriend: they’ve got two photos and in one of them there is a Georgian man that they mistook for Jack. Here is another lie: that Jack said he was going

It was his decision to surrender to the police, and the correct one. He is ready to collaborate with the investigation and with court. He is ready to give testimony to the Appellate Court based on the new circumstances and answer all questions during direct and cross-examinations. The Court of First Instance gave a guilty verdict without giving a chance for the accused to speak, though his testimony would have been direct evidence. He never got to look into the jury members’ eyes and have a chance to talk about the details from his perspective. So, his decision to surrender, to fight in legal ways and try to give detailed information to the judges, is a huge plus that will help the court find out the truth.

WHAT FRAME OF MIND IS JACK SHEPHERD CURRENTLY IN? His current psychological state is quite complex and I’m not able to give you a definitive answer. We want to invite international experts to assess his psychological state as I have reason to believe

Shepherd's Georgian lawyer (one of a three-man defense team), Mariam Kublashvili. By Andy Stenning

that even in March, he was suffering from acute depression: he was in shock and agony after the witch hunt by the tabloid press, from the injustice and, above all, because of the tragedy that happened. This all combined to cause a severe depression that he is in even to this day. Not a single psychological assessment has been done, something I found surprising. I believe this anxiety is also key to the second incident involving a fight in a bar.

has access to a TV and can read books, which is what he is doing most of the time: educating himself.



Jack is in Gldani #8 prison now. The cell he is in satisfies international requirements. There are two other inmates. He

IS HE WILLING TO SPEAK TO THE BROWN FAMILY? Yes, he wants to. He wants to have an honest conversation with them, to tell them what he is experiencing and talk about the details of that fateful day. He wants to explain that it wasn’t his fault and that he couldn’t prevent what happened.

He is. Very much so. He regrets her death and that he wasn’t able to prevent it. He regrets running away and not giving a full account of himself at the court, which made Charlotte’s parents believe he was guilty.

Armenian PM Condemns March 1 2008 Deadly Crackdown of Peaceful Protest BY KAREN TOVMASYAN


n March 1, people took the streets of Yerevan to hold their traditional march to the site of the tragic events of March 2008 when the government opened fire on a peaceful demonstration. People walked with pictures of the victims and posters demanding punishment for the former President of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan, who is currently under arrest on charges of overthrowing the constitutional order and violating the constitution involving the army in a protest crackdown. Since 2009, every year people in Armenia march to the location of the tragedy and lay flowers in memory of the victims. But where previously this procession was organized by the opposition and is generally ignored by the government, this year the march and commemoration

were actually organized by the government itself. PM Pashinyan, who was one of the key figures of the opposition movement of 2008 and was arrested for the protests and imprisoned, addressed the nation



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on the day, condemning the deadly crackdown on the peaceful protest. The Head of State also made a special apology in the name of the state for using state institutions in a deadly crackdown on the peaceful demonstration 11 years ago.

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Samantha Guthrie, Amy Jones, Thea Morrison, Ana Dumbadze, Ketevan Kvaratskheliya Photographer: Irakli Dolidze

He also led the march to the location of the tragedy. The protest movement in 2008 came as a result of falsifications of the presidential elections on February 19, 2008. The main opposition candidate, the First President of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosyan (1991-1998), refused to recognize the election results and the victory of PM Serzh Sargsyan and applied to the constitutional court demanding an annulment of the results and for there to be new presidential elections. He raised a huge public movement in support of his demands and organized a 10-day sit-in and non-stop demonstrations in Freedom Square in Yerevan city center. The demonstrations soon brought results as more key officials joined the opposition movement and the government was paralyzed. On the 10th consecutive day of the demonstrations, on the eve of the Constitutional Court’s discussion of the application of the opposition candidate, police forces attacked the peaceful gathering in

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the middle of the night. The former President of Armenia Robert Kocharyan, in violation of the law, had announced a state of emergency and told police and army forces to attack. They opened deadly fire and killed 10 and caused over 250 demonstrators to be injured. In the days following the event, Kocharyan's regime arrested most of the opposition leaders of Armenia and gagged the media. It was one of the most tragic days in modern Armenian history. After the Velvet Revolution, the new authorities reopened the investigation and charged Kocharyan and the key officials of the army for overthrowing the constitutional order. Kocharyan's arrest brought open critique of Russian President Putin and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov. He was the first president to be arrested in the post-soviet space. The new Armenian government has stated its willingness to fully investigate the tragedy and bring to responsibility all the former officials connected with the tragedy.


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1130 Business  

March 5 - 7, 2019

Issue #1130 Business  

March 5 - 7, 2019