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Issue no: 1225



In this week’s issue... Georgian FM Meets with High Officials in Washington NEWS PAGE 2

Three Dead, over 170 Injured as Plane Crashes in Istanbul NEWS PAGE 3

Public Defender on Baghdati Tragedy and the Problem of Poverty POLITICS PAGE 4

FOCUS ON A WINNING CITY Tbilisi comes 3rd in Europe's Best Destinations 2020


OSCE/ODIHR Releases Opinion on Proposed Amendments to Georgian Election Code BY TEA MARIAMIDZE

NGOs Urge Prosecutor’s Council Not to Nominate ExProsecutor for Same Position POLITICS PAGE 5

Flamingo Hotel Lounge - Treat Yourself to a Little Luxury BUSINESS PAGE 7

Georgia’s Tourist Boom in January 2020 BUSINESS PAGE 7


he OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) released its opinion on the draft amendments to the Organic Law of Georgia ‘Election Code of Georgia,’ saying the choice of the electoral system is a sovereign decision of the state so long as the chosen electoral system is consistent with the state’s obligations under international law. OSCE/ODIHR’s opinion regarding the amendments to the election code of Georgia was requested by Nino Lomjaria, Public Defender of Georgia, on December 9, 2019. The key notes listed in the document read that the international standards do not offer definitions for electoral systems, and that whether a particular system should be categorized as a majoritarian, proportional, hybrid, or better understood through another classification, is the subject of political and legal studies and scholarly opinion. Continued on page 6 Image source: CoE

NEW YORKER Opens a New Store in Tbilisi! BUSINESS PAGE 8

Winter at Last: Etseri, Svaneti SOCIETY PAGE 9

BI Auction for Young Artists CULTURE PAGE 11

11th Tbilisi Burns Supper Raises over 80K for Charity CULTURE PAGE 11




FEBRUARY 7 - 10, 2020

Georgian FM Meets with High Officials in Washington BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI

Image source: europeanbestdestinations.com

Tbilisi Comes 3rd in Europe's Best Travel Destinations 2020 BY ANA DUMBADZE


eorgia’s capital Tbilisi has taken third place in international competition European Best Destinations 2020. Photographs by eight photographers from different districts of Tbilisi were submitted for the international competition. The voting began on January 15 and ended on February 5. A special hashtag #votefortbilisi was created to support the Georgian capital in the competition. The first place went to Colmar, France, the second – Athens, Greece. European Best Destinations wrote that Tbilisi is "more trendy than ever in 2020" and that "it is a perfect destination for those interested in culture, gastronomy, diversity." “The Capital of Georgia is more trendy than ever in 2020; it is the ideal destination for culture, gastronomy, diversity and architecture lovers. The “wow”

effect is guaranteed," they said, adding that "Magnificent Haussmannian buildings mingle with buildings dating from the Middle Ages; one can also see neoclassical, Soviet and extremely modern buildings." "Tbilisi is respectful of its past and turned towards the future, its youth and tomorrow’s challenges. Be sure to climb to the top of Tbilisi and admire the Kartlis Deda statue, the protector of the city. This site offers an exceptional panorama of the Georgian capital, the Peace Bridge, the Metekhi Church, the thermal baths, the new theater and the Mtatsminda Amusement Park for young and old; there are hundreds of unique experiences to live in Tbilisi. "The Georgian capital is stunning in spring and summer when nature wakes up, and in winter with its thousands of light bulbs and Christmas decorations and market," the web portal European Best Destinations reads. The survey 'Best Destinations to Travel in Europe in 2020' has been carried out for 11 years. More than 600,000 people voted for their favorite destination by taking part in the poll this year.


n the wake of the Georgian Prime Minister receiving letters of critique and guidelines for improvement from Washington, David Zalkaliani, the Foreign Minister, visited the American capital to meet with representatives and officials to discuss the subject. US Senators Jim Risch, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Jeanne Shaheen, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, delivered a collaborative statement after the meeting with FM David Zalkaliani. “Senator Shaheen and I had a productive conversation with Foreign Minister Zalkaliani today. After our recent letter to Prime Minister Gakharia, we reiterated our concerns about a weakening in the Georgian democracy and governance. We also discussed the current situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Georgian territories illegally occupied by Russia since 2008. The Russian Federation continues to move its fences into Georgia, annexing small bits of land each time. The United States remains committed to supporting Georgia’s transition towards democracy, but we must continue to see positive improvements. We are not asking Georgia to be perfect, but the government must show us it is serious about its pursuit of democracy,” said Senator Risch. “I was glad to meet with Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani this afternoon and have the opportunity to address several issues related to our nations’ partnership, particularly Georgia’s com-

mitment to democracy and good governance. Senator Risch and I have a storied, bipartisan history in support of Georgia’s peaceful transition to democracy. In 2012, we participated in Georgia’s historic 2012 election as international monitors and were encouraged with their progress. As I’ve said before, democracy is a longterm effort, and Georgia, in particular, has faced outsized challenges posed by Russia. I’ll continue to urge Prime Minister Gakharia and the Georgian government to hold fast to their commitments to strengthen democratic institutions, promote judicial independence, move forward on promised electoral reforms and respect civil society engagement,” said Senator Shaheen after the meeting. The FM also met with David Nunes, Republican Congressman, who reasserted his backing of Georgia’s EuroAtlantic integration. He also emphasized that Georgia is an important contributor

to the security of the Alliance, and the United States is fixed to pursuing a tight partnership with the country. “We will continue a firm partnership with Georgia. The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress want NATO to be molded into a more resilient Alliance for us to be able to help countries like Georgia. Georgia is putting outstanding effort into Afghanistan, in our collective battle against terrorism. I am happy to have met with Georgia’s Foreign Minister. We will continue our close partnership with Georgia, in accordance with the country’s strengthening and economic prosperity.” Says Congressman Nunes. The official meeting encompassed focal topics such as Georgian-American strategic relations, Georgia’s European integration and the progress in this field, as well as America’s stance and aid in realizing these goals.




Georgia to Host Largest Tourism Exhibition-Fair in Berlin in 2022 Image source: ABC News

Three Dead, over 170 Injured as Plane Crashes in Istanbul BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE


n the evening of February 5, an 11-yearold Pegasus Boeing 737 skidded off the runway as it was flying into Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen International Airport. The passenger jet then broke apart, killing three, according to the reports at time of going to press, and injuring 179. Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya said the plane failed to "hold onto the runway" as it was buffeted by strong winds and heavy rain lashing Istanbul. "We are deeply saddened ... [But] we are very happy that we escaped a greater accident," Yerlikaya added, explaining that the plane could have burst into flames and killed everyone on board. Indeed, the videos that were shared on international media, displaying what the Transport Ministry called the “rough landing,” show that some parts of the plane were on fire. The plane crashed into a field and broke into three pieces. The passengers were left with no other choice than to scramble through the fuselage to escape. The Boeing 737 operated by Turkish low-cost carrier Pegasus Airlines had come from the Aegean port city of Izmir, NTV television reported. It was carrying 177 passengers and six crew members, the governor said, while Turkish media reports said there were 12 children on board. Early on Thursday, Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca reported that three people had died and 179

were taken to different hospitals. "We were [on the runway] for some 20 or 30 seconds, then all of a sudden we flew off it; it happened in seconds," survivor Dogus Bilgic, 24, one of the first passengers to get out, told NTV. NTV showed images of the seriously damaged airplane with flames inside, which were later put out by firefighters. The television broadcaster also reported that among those injured were the plane's two pilots, who, it said, “were in a serious condition.” Pegasus is a privately-owned, low-cost carrier based in Istanbul that flies 97 routes to destinations in Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, but mostly within Turkey. The Boeing 737 crash in Istanbul came not even a month after a Pegasus plane skidded off the runway at the same Sabiha Gokcen International Airport. On January 7, a Pegasus plane with 164 people on board skidded off the runway, that time not causing injuries to any passenger. "Pegasus are known for their low fares but it would be unfair to brand them as unsafe just because they offer competitive fares," Alex Macheras said. "But there will be serious questions asked now that this airline has suffered what is now its second runway excursion in just four weeks at this point," he added. The airport temporarily shut down following the incident, and dozens of rescue crew members rushed to the scene. Prosecutors have launched an investigation to determine if there was anything else other than bad weather that caused the Boeing 737 crash.

All in a Name

Image source: jam-news.net



he revolutionary urges have slowed as quickly as they emerged. Nobody knows where ex-de-facto President Raul Khajimba went after the “fatal” day of January 13, and no one’s really interested. Instead, the locals are focused on the hero of that same day, Aslan Bzhania, and his scandalous statements. In his interview with Georgian media, he talked about the need to initiate direct dialogue between Tbilisi and Sokhumi. “It doesn’t matter in what format, it is foremost important that we listen to each other,” he told Interpressnews. This statement came like lightning out of the blue, and yesterday’s hero quickly became today’s traitor. What did they not say about Bzhania, from the ending of his surname to his non-aggression pact. Union of Veterans ‘Aruaa’ accused Bzhania of dis-

regarding the 1992-93 war. “Until a non-aggression pact is signed and while Georgia denies the pretentions it has and refuses to recognize the statehood of the Abkhazian Republic, political dialogue is out of the question”. Then came an analysis of Bzhania’s surname: “The surnames of our presidents – Ardzinba, Baghapsh, Ankvab, Khajimba – never end with ‘ia,’ and nor should this tradition be violated,” some wrote on social media. The fact that this issue was stressed once again shows the perspectives of a Georgian-Abkhazian dialogue. However, it is notable that the Abkhazian endings of surnames have never brought anything good to de-facto presidents: quite the contrary. For instance, neither his surname nor being an ally of Russia helped the first “president” of occupied Abkhazia, Vladislav Ardzinba, just as in the cases of his successors. Ardzinba died unexpectedly, as did the second president Bagapsh. Alexandre Ankvab was a bit luckier, surviving five political assassination attempts. Continued on page 5


eorgia will host the world's largest tourism exhibition-fair in Berlin in 2022- Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said at Thursday's government meeting. The head of government emphasized that this is a major achievement, which envisages more than 180 participating countries and an international coverage figure of more than 1 billion people. “You know that tourism is one of the most important driving forces of our economy and the fastest growing and developing sector. Of course, this will be another step forward to make tourism, as a field, more prosperous and dynamic for the Georgian economy. The effect of tourism flow is very high and I am sure that all our citizens will feel the result

of participating in this exhibition with an increase in the number of tourists visiting the country. Every citizen of Georgia should know that a tourist arriving in the country is another example of success,” the PM said. As the Leading Travel Trade Show, ITB Berlin is the foremost business platform for global touristic offers. In addition to very high exhibitor satisfaction (over 90%), the numbers offer more proof: This is where supply meets demand. Participation in ITB Berlin means: • 6 continents • More than 180 Countries • 1,000 Qualified Top Buyers • 10,000 Exhibitors • More than 113,500 Trade Visitors • 160,000 visitors in total




FEBRUARY 7 - 10, 2020

Public Defender on Baghdati Tragedy & the Problem of Poverty BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE AND ANA DUMBADZE


PM: Since 2012 our Gov't Is Committed to Human Rights under Ivanishvili's Guidance


ur government has always focused on human rights since 2012 and it all started under the guidance of Bidzina Ivanishvili then Prime Minister of Georgia. We started work on a long-term Strategy on Human rights in 2013 - stated the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia. “We are now embarking on a new stage of a long-term Strategy on Human Rights to be drafted this year,” he added at the Executive Government Meeting Thursday. Gakharia noted that authorities will be using every possible platform in the development of the strategy, both domestically and from overseas. “Our team in the government has always focused on human rights since 2012, and it all started under the guidance of Bidzina Ivanishvili, then-Prime Minister of Georgia. We started work on a long-term Strategy on Human rights in 2013, which was fully executed and incorporated in the implementation of each reform. This year we

will start work on a new stage of a longterm Strategy on Human Rights, which will be of paramount importance, and we will be using every possible platform both domestically and from overseas when developing it. This is the most important format of a joint endeavor and I call upon every one of you to take an active part in it within the scope of your competences," he said. He then touched upon a Donor Coordination Forum held in Tbilisi last week and noted that cooperation with international partners is important for the Government of Georgia, especially in the implementation of reforms. “The key priority of our team in the Government is to ensure a fast pace of economic growth, job creation, education reform, as well as security and open governance, of course. All of these directions were discussed in detail at the Donor Coordination Conference and we got the full support of our international partners towards reforms to be implemented in these areas".

he Public Defender Nino Lomjaria released a statem e n t i n wh i c h s h e expresses her deep sorrow over the tragedy that occurred in the Baghdati municipality on February 4, offering sympathy to the family members and relatives of the deceased. She also noted that the unresolved problem of poverty needs to be addressed. “Unfortunately, child poverty and inadequate living standards have remained unresolved for years [in Georgia]. This can endanger the health and lives of children. The childcare and social systems fail to protect children from extreme poverty. The programs offered by the State to families living in poverty are not oriented to individual needs or timely prevention; therefore, the socio-economic situation of such families has remained the same over the years. Under the current social policy, it is difficult to satisfy even the basic needs of children living in poor families. “Provision of adequate housing is also a challenge. There are no effective, resultoriented support programs at the municipal level to provide safe, stable housing for families living in extremely difficult and dangerous infrastructural conditions together with their children “The problem of child poverty was highlighted in a UNICEF report, according to which the number of children living under subsistence minimum has significantly increased, seeing every fifth child living in a household the minimum needs of which are not satisfied,” reads the Facebook post.

Image source: Ombudsman on Facebook

The Ombudsman urged the government to take action. “The Public Defender calls on the state agencies to timely reform the social and child care systems…it is important to assess the basic needs of such families, review the effectiveness of social programs and their relevance to the existing needs. If necessary, human and financial resources should be increased both at the level of the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia and selfgovernments. Also, the involvement and experience of both the state agencies and the civil sector should be actively considered in the given process. A fire killed six, including a pregnant mother and her four children, in the Baghdadi municipality, Georgia's Imereti

region, on Tuesday. They were survived by their father and grandmother, who were not in the house at the time. Neighbors say there was no electricity or gas in the wooden house and the tragic accident was likely caused by a fire in the fireplace. Reportedly, the family had moved into the abandoned house on Tsereteli Street in Baghdadi just a few days prior, being socially vulnerable and having no other place of residence. Mayor Archil Goksadze noted that the family had been deprived of social assistance temporarily, for a month, for verification purposes, and the money had been transferred to them in full in December. They were also receiving benefits as a ‘multiple children’ family, he said.




NGOs Urge Prosecutor’s Council Not to Nominate Ex-Prosecutor for Same Position BY TEA MARIAMIDZE


eventeen NGOs based in Georgia, including the Georgian Young Lawyers' Association, have called on the Prosecutor's Council not to nominate former Prosecutor General Irakli Shotadze for the post of Prosecutor General. On February 5, the Georgian Civil Society National Platform for the Eastern Partnership released a statement on the Prosecutor General's competition, signed by 17 NGOs. The organizations urge the Prosecutorial Council not to nominate Irakli Shotadze's candidacy to Parliament, and in choosing another candidate, to prove the candidate's minimal compliance with the requirements of the Prosecutor General post. The NGOs also request Parliament to "make a final decision after communication and consensus with the various political forces which would promote the political neutrality and legitimacy of the newly appointed Prosecutor General." On December 12, 2019, after Prosecutor General Shalva Tadumadze was elected Judge of the Supreme Court, the position of Prosecutor General became vacant. The Prosecutorial Council needed to select three candidates and then vote separately for each. In said procedure, a candidate who receives more than two-thirds of the Prosecutorial Council votes shall be presented to Parliament for approval. At the final stage, the nominee needs the support of at least 76 MPs to be elected to the post of Prosecutor General. The Prosecutorial Council has already begun the process of selecting a nominee for the new Prosecutor General. The process of interviewing these candidates is ongoing. There have been numerous announcements regarding the ongoing competition, and the situation has been commented on by the Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary, which criticized the transparency and fairness of the process, speaking about the lack of selection procedures and main criteria, underlining the importance of political consen-

Image source: Imedi News

sus and freedom from political influence. On January 16, it was announced that the Technical University had nominated Irakli Shotadze, who resigned from the same post in 2018. Shotadze, former Chief Prosecutor, resigned on May 31, 2018, after large-scale protests were launched regarding the high-profile “Khorava Street” case, which involved the murder of two teenagers by their schoolmates. The protests were launched in response to distrust in the investigative procedures and a number of flaws found in the case. Upon his resignation in 2018, Shotadze announced he was stepping down to meet the demand of the protestors that he do so, and to defuse the “unrest in the country”. However, during his interview for the Prosecutor General’s post early this month, he said his resignation was logical in those circumstances and he would do the same again.

All in a Name Continued from page 3

The surname didn’t help Khajimba either, as, despite being very stubborn, he was still forced out of office. So perhaps the Georgian sounding “ia” ending will actually prove a good sign for the future “president,” and, in fact, all the alleged candidates at the moment boast the same ending: Bzhan-ia, Khazar-ia and Kvitsin-ia. There were responses to Bzhania’s statement in Tbilisi too, where it caught the interest of the circles involved in export, no, not interest- it would be better to say suspicion: suspicion as to why the political elite of Abkhazia raised the issue at all. The opinion of the government and experts divided mainly around the possible dialogue format, the response of the Chief of Security was the most surprising: “We have the Geneva format, where we are discussing all the pressing issues and, of course, if [Bzhania’s] initiatives are raised within the format, we will discuss them actively,” said Khojevanishvili. It was a practical refusal to the Abkhazian signal rather than an agreement, once again proving that the Georgian Dream has no masterplan with regards to the occupied territories. Ex GD Minister Paata Zakareishvili, said: “I don’t think the Georgian government will use this opportunity. The State Security Service representative has already

answered, saying we should talk in Geneva. This answer was incorrect. If we want to start any relations with Abkhazians, we should not be answering in an arrogant manner. We do not regard the Abkhazian party as equal...because Russia tells us to talk directly to Abkhazians and Ossetians, it is unacceptable for us. But why should we be interested in what Russia say? Often, Russia says what should not happen: it is completely out of the Russian interests that we start such a dialogue. What Russia wants in reality is to isolate Abkhazia and we are aiding them in this,” he said. Who will start the dialogue with Tbilisi from Sokhumi, if it happens at all, will be revealed on March 22, when the Abkhazian’s choose the de facto president. Regardless of who will come to office on the occupied territory, whether for or against the dialogue with Tbilisi, they will not start real negotiations because they know that the issues for real negotiations can only be the following: return of the IDPs and the determination of the status of Abkhazia according to the Constitution of Georgia. Hence, despite the constant unrest, the separatists will be sticking to their lives in “regulated chaos” provoked by Moscow, rather than clearing up relations with Georgia and putting into question their “historic victory” (as they call it) gained with the support of Moscow in 1993.

“That was my decision and I made it in the interests of the Prosecutor's Office and the State. There was a special situation at that time. There was a problem of communication with the public on a really serious criminal case. Political groups and parties often try to use such cases for their own political gains. Such a situation and misunderstanding in society was mainly caused by the political parties, which manipulated this tragedy and misled the public," he said. However, the statement of the nongovernmental sector reads that Shotadze, as a leader, failed to perform his duties in the judicial process, adding that, by law, a Prosecutor General can become a person with high authority. “Shotadze does not meet this criterion; moreover, his attempt to return to this post two years after leaving it questions his honesty and his ability to take responsibility,” the statement reads. Irakli Shotadze’s candidacy was supported by a number of the ruling party members and officials. Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze noted that during Shotadze’s term in the Prosecutor’s Office many important cases were investigated which had not been opened previously. “I think that Shotadze will surely have support from the ruling party,” he added.




FEBRUARY 7 - 10, 2020

OSCE/ODIHR Releases Opinion on Proposed Amendments to Georgian Election Code Continued from page 1 “The choice of an electoral system should be subject to a broad and inclusive debate that allows relevant stakeholders to bring forward positive and negative effects of the reform. Any proposed changes have to be carefully considered, and should be adopted through a process that facilitates a large consensus among political parties,” the opinion reads. The document states that international practice recommends that key aspects of electoral legislation should not be open to amendment less than one year before an election. “The draft proposes changes in the fundamental elements of electoral law, including the electoral system. International good practice recommends that key aspects of electoral legislation not be open to amendment less than one year before an election. The change would be implemented by amendments to the organic law, which, according to the Constitution, can be changed by a simple majority of votes in Parliament,” the statement reads. In addition, the opinion notes that the proposed amendments do not introduce changes affecting compliance with the principles of universal, free, secret and direct suffrage, as well as periodic elections. The organization also listed some

recommendations: • Amend the provision on how voters are required to mark the ballot to ensure that ballots where the will of the voter is clearly expressed are not considered invalid; • Reconsider the provision that disregards votes for the party lists of voters who voted in favor of a winning independent candidate in the majoritarian race in that district; • Ensure the deadline for the Central Election Commission (CEC) to summarize final election results does not go beyond the period necessary for this purpose and is in line with deadlines for election disputes; and revisit the method for selecting the sub-district in which by-elections will be held to provide a politically neutral mechanism; • Undertake analysis and, if necessary, include additional provisions to ensure as equal a distribution of seats between the new multi-member constituencies as possible; • Review the draft law to omit provisions which are not being amended, clarify which provisions are replaced, and ensure consistency of the amendments with the current provisions of the Election Code Initially, the draft amendments envisaged the electoral system for the upcoming parliamentary elections due to take place in autumn, 2020. However, the constitutional amendments of 23 March

2018 introduced a fully proportional electoral system from the 2024 parliamentary elections. Thus, the 2020 parliamentary elections are currently subject to transitional provisions of these amendments which maintain the existing electoral system and provides 77 members of the parliament to be elected through a proportional system and 73 members of the parliament to be elected through a majoritarian system for the term of four years. Accordingly, the current Election Code provides for a mixed electoral system, which includes a majoritarian and a proportional component. In the majoritarian component, members are elected in single-mandate constituencies by an absolute majority of votes. If no candidate obtains the required majority of votes in the first round of voting, a second round is held between two candidates with the highest results. The proportional component is based on a closed list proportional representation system. The mandates distributed under the proportional component do not depend on the results of the majoritarian component. The OSCE/ODIHR noted that, following the political agreement to amend the constitution and introduce a fully proportional system ahead of the 2020 parliamentary elections on 28 June 2019, the draft constitutional amendment was initiated by 93 members of parliament from the ruling Georgian Dream (GD)

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party. However, in the vote on the constitutional amendments on 14 November, a constitutional majority was not reached. On 4 December, a group of 29 opposition MPs initiated a new proposal to amend the election code. The amendments envisage a system in which, instead of the two-round system in single-mandate constituencies, 73 members of parliament would be elected from multimandate constituencies. Thus, voters would cast one vote and candidates with the most votes would obtain seats. The remaining 77 members of parliament would be elected through a closed list system. In contrast to the current mixed system, the distribution of seats in the proportional component would be linked to the performance in the multi-mandate constituencies and the stated aim of the proposed system is to deliver a more proportional outcome between the votes cast and the number of seats won. “The choice of the electoral system is a sovereign decision of the state, so long as the chosen electoral system is consistent with the state’s obligations under international law. International standards do not prescribe the choice of electoral systems,” the organization said. Opposition ‘European Georgia’ member Sergi Kapanadze says that the opinion of OSCE/ODIHR shows that the so called German Model, suggested by the opposition, does not contradict the

Georgian constitution, as stated by the ruling party, and it is also in line with international standards. “The OSCE concludes that this model is in line with international standards. It says that any model offered will have to be agreed between the parties and there must be a consensus...There is no word in the report that this proposed reform is unconstitutional. Moreover, the OSCE / ODIHR directly stresses that the model we propose, which involves multi-mandate constituencies, can be considered as a majoritarian component of the electoral system,” the MP noted, adding the OSCE conclusion is to confirm that the model proposed by the opposition can be put to the vote in Parliament. However, the ruling GD’s position is that the proposed model is not constitutional and they refuse to discuss it. The leader of the parliamentary majority, Mamuka Mdinaradze, says the opposition is trying to mislead society when they claim the model is in line with the Georgian Constitution. “It was, is, and will not be possible to determine that the German model is compatible with the Georgian Constitution...This cannot be written anywhere and no one would state this...They [the opposition] are manipulating words to lie to society and make them believe that it was written so in the report,” Mdinaradze said.




Flamingo Hotel Lounge - Treat Yourself to a Little Luxury

Georgia’s Tourist Boom in January 2020


s of January 2020, a record number of 633,201 international travellers visited Georgia. The increase is +19.8% compared to the same period last year. "More than 363,614 tourist visits were seen in the same period, which is a 18.9% increase," says Mariam Kvrivishvili, the head of the National Tourism Administration. The information was provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia to the National Tourism Administration of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development. “These results are especially vital as they represent the fruitfulness of the activities that the National Tourism Administration has undertaken in 2019 in the realm of marketing on the international arena. We have achieved a joint result, which is crucial for the development of tourism in our country,“ Kvrivishvili added.

Following Russia's imposition of aviation restrictions, the Georgian government has been working arduously to minimize probable negative consequences for the tourism industry. In 2019, the National Tourism Administration undertook major marketing activities targeted at multiple international markets. There have been numerous largescale campaigns about Georgia through various influential international media outlets and online platforms. Most international visits came from Azerbaijan (+34.9%), Armenia (+17.5%), Russia (+1.1%) and Turkey (+16.6%). Georgia’s tourism sector saw a significant visitor boost from the following countries: Israel +57.3%, Saudi Arabia +49.8%, Kazakhstan +44.8%, Kuwait +44.6%.VisitsalsoincreasedfromEUcountries,among them Italy +133.1%, Poland +82.9%, France +46.8%, and Lietua +43.7%.


hen you’re in an opulent hotel like the ritzy Ambassadori, you know that the bar will be a stunner. Designed to resemble an affluent Florence palazzo, the Flamingo bar-lounge emanates Old World grandeur. The bar is brimming with vintage filled spaces, soft lighting, a vivid color palette, slanted wood panels and delicate velvet ornaments; Flamingo is a veritable oasis of luxury and comfort at the gateway to the Old Tbilisi district. That Flamingo conveys the best of Italian architectural elegance is no exaggeration. Artisans straight from Florence designed the sofas and armchairs, while the illumination elements come directly from the ‘Light District’ in Veneto and are signed by Il Paralume Marina. The flamboyant Flamingo sets a new benchmark not merely with its enthralling design but also its sterling service. When the lounge opened in 2018, it was conceived as a bar offering a carefully selected

variety of unique hand-crafted cocktails, 100-yearold French exclusive wines and a unique range of whiskeys, all there to grant lofty relaxation. To this concept delectable Japanese cuisine was lately added. Already a favorite of sushi savants for a while now, Flamingo’s glistening combination platters range from Flamingo rolls filled with first-rate black caviar; delicious seafood soup with coconut milk and Thai basil; to tatakis’ served with the freshest red tuna in town. The breadth of this restaurant’s fish selection is thrilling - adventurous eaters will not be disappointed. Flamingo is one of the few venues in Tbilisi offering live music every weekend. Guests are pampered with amazing events and shows with ever-changing themes, ranging from Disco, Jazz, Mexican, French and ‘Boogie Wonderland’ nights. Karaoke is also available to offer guests further delight. Over the course of little more than a year, Flamingo has come to represent one of Tbilisi’s best places for a classy retreat.

One Worker Dead, One Injured on Worksite in Tbilisi

Puri Guliani – this is what our ancestors called pastries that they earnestly created all over Georgia with variety of fillings. These pastries were later shared with important and beloved people, marking the significance of the dishes. BY ANA DUMBADZE


construction worker died and another was injured after falling out of a building on a worksite near metro station 'Gotsiridze' in Tbilisi. The injured worker has been hospitalized. The health condition of the 26-year-old man is said to be critical. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reports that an investigation is in progress under Paragraph II, Article 240 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, involving breach of safety regulations during mining, construction or other works. According to the decision of the Labor Inspection Department of the Ministry of Health, construction works were immediately suspended. Beka Peradze, head of the Department, told report-

ers that the Labor Inspectorate has started investigating the incident. Critical violations of labor security were reported at the scene. "I would like to express my condolences for this tragic accident. The Labor Inspection has launched investigative procedures. Our employees are working on site. At this stage, we have decided to suspend the work process due to critical safety violations discovered there, which are incompatible with the legislation," he said. Peradze pointed out that every company has an obligation to ensure safety standards. "There are many construction companies throughout the country, and the labor safety law applies to economic activity in all sectors. Accordingly, all companies are obliged to ensure safety standards. The State, in this case, provides selective control and certain supervision. The investigation is underway in the case and in the near future we will have more opportunity to comment," he noted.

That’s why we call our Sakhabazo (bakery) and kitchen Puri Guliani. Here we bring history to life and contribute to the everlasting tradition of Georgian baking. Every day our team creates new variations of traditional dishes, Guliani breads, pastries and mouthwatering desserts by using only Georgian wheat and regional products.

Saarbrucken Square, Tbilisi Call: 577 00 00 83 9:00AM - 11:00PM




FEBRUARY 7 - 10, 2020

NEW YORKER Opens a New Store in Tbilisi! ADVERTORIAL


n February 15, 2020, the international young fashion company NEW YORKER is going to celebrate a grand opening party in the SC Saburtalo City Mall. It’s going to be the fourth NEW YORKER store in Tbilisi. The grand opening is going to follow on Saturday, February 15, 2020, in the SC Saburtalo City Mall.

On about 950 m² of sales spaces, NEW YORKER offers a wide range of the latest trends and fashion highlights for women and men. NEW YORKER celebrates this grand new opening with many exclusive shopping deals. From February 15 until 16, customers get 20% off the new collection in the new store in the SC Saburtalo City Mall. First customers after the ribbon cutting will get special gifts: more than 50 NEW YORKER's gift cards and 100 NEW YORKER bags. Be one of the first customers after the

ribbon cutting to receive special gifts:1st customer – Gift Card of 250 GEL, 2nd customer – Gift Card of 200 GEL, 3rd customer – Gift Card of 150GEL, next 20 customers– Gift Card of 50 GEL, next 30 customers– Gift Card of 30 GEL and next 100 customers– NEW YORKER Bag There also will be many great entertainments during the opening day! While you’re enjoying shopping in our new store, a DJ Anna Sue will be there to provide a party atmosphere. In addition, there will be Fashion show to present the newest NEW YORKER styles. You

can also have some fun at our photo booth! The NEW YORKER team welcomes you to the grand opening party of the new store in the SC Saburtalo City Mall on Saturday, February 15, 2020 at 10.00 am! NEW YORKER Store SC Saburtalo City Mall Kavtaradze 1, 1 Petre Kavtaradze St 0177 Tbilisi Opening hours: Monday - Sunday 10:00 – 22:00 The philosophy of NEW YORKER’s

slogan ‘Dress for the moment’ is that every moment is unique. Just like any look. To be real, to experiment and to reinvent oneself again and again- these are the values that NEW YORKER always maintains. The assortment of NEW YORKER is multifarious; the brand offers styles for any unique occasion: from casual street looks and sporty outfits to chic pieces ideal for going out. With the latest fashion trends and always something to offer for any taste, the New Yorker store is a must go place for fashion trendsetters.



Winter at Last: Etseri, Svaneti BLOG BY TONY HANMER


few days ago we had a date unique in history, never to be repeated. Of course, you might say that about every date, but this one had some extra special features, all to do with palindromes, sequences which are the same when read forwards and backwards. You might be familiar with some of these in word or letter form, such as what the First Man might have said to the First Woman: “Madam, I’m Adam.” Or the potted history of the engineering project of a century, which cut two whole continents apart at their narrowest join: A man, a plan, a canal—Panama. (This one also has several much longer, and thus even cleverer, versions.) So February 2, 2020 was a numerical palindrome by the reckoning of all 3 of the universal dating systems of the world (those agreeing on the BC/AD cut, anyway): 02/02/2020. There have been other palindromic dates in the last millennium, and there will be others in the future, too. But only this one, falling in a year with 366 days, can be described as being a palindromic number of days into the year (33), with the remaining number of days also a palindrome (333)! Unique indeed. The month has also seen a sudden change, in Svaneti, from “hardly winter” to “definitely winter”. Not so much in terms of cold, which was normal or colder at the formal beginning of the season and since has been mostly mild, not far below freezing. But the amount of snow suddenly dumped on us in a single day, about 1 meter, forcefully reminded us of when we are in the year. More is coming as I write this, wreaking havoc on Svaneti’s power lines and electrical supply. The tractor supposed to service our village has yet to appear at all, though it is rumored to be planning a working

appearance today. High time. Current village roads here feature a set of 2 tire tracks with 20-30 cm of snow between them and over 1 m outside them; so if you meet another car, it might be catastrophic for either of you to avoid the other: you might swerve into a place from which no amount of winter tires of chains could extricate you. Partly because the temperature, and the particular structure of this snow, make it like driving through very soft sand. I do need to drive down to the bettercleaned main road occasionally, to meet shop supply minivans which cannot or will not come up to us in such conditions. My new winter tires have so far saved me from getting stuck even once, and I haven’t put on chains at all, not even for the really frustrating last few meters, former years and other vehicles, of needing to back into my garage. But at the moment there’s a 4x4 car parked in a cleared spot in our yard, outside the garage: my neighbor couldn’t get up the hill at 10 last night, and asked

to park there. Another 4x4 waits outside the gate for its owner, a local guide, to return in a few hours from taking his party of 4 Brits on a skiing expedition: same problem. I don’t need to drive down for at least another few days, so, here’s hoping I can avoid the big bad roads until they’re a little tamer. I don’t relish trying my skills on them! But that tractor better be more than a rumor, or I’ll have plenty more questions for our mayor and the local government. Like: where’s the money for this item in the budget actually gone, now that we need it the most?! Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 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





FEBRUARY 7 - 10, 2020


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 February 8, 9 PAGLIACCI Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera Starring: Teimuraz Gugushvili, Irina Taboridze, Sulkhan Gvelesiani, Alfonso Mujica, Tamaz Saginadze. Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater Soloists, Chorus, Orchestra. Conductor- Zaza Azmaiparashvili Director- Temur Chkheidze, Set, Costume and Lighting Designer- George Alexi– Meskhishvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-80 GEL RUSTAVELI THEATER 17 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 72 68 68 www.rustavelitheatre.ge February 7 DOVIN-DOVEN-DOVLI… A contemporary ballet based on Galaktion Tabidze’s poetry Original idea of the ballet and choreography of ‘The Moon Over Mtatsminda’– Giorgi Aleksidze Choreographer– Mariam Aleksidze Director– Gela Kandelaki Music Cast: Dancers of the Giorgi Aleksidze Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet Company: Mariam Darchia, Tinatin Mtchedlidze, Mariam Koiava, Natalia Kukuladze, Gvantsa Gelashvili ,Erekle Zhghenti, Martin Chlumsky, Tinatin Baramidze. Music: Claude Debussy’s Claire de Lune, Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No 9 Adagio, Alban Berg’s Lulu Suite variations. Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-20 GEL

GABRIADZE THEATER 14 Shavteli Str. February 7 THE AUTUMN OF MY SPRINGTIME Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL February 8 RAMONA Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL February 9 STALINGRAD Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. February 7 PARADISO Directed by Irakli Khoshtaria Author: Ketevan Chachanidze Choreographer: Lasha Robakidze Start time: 20:00 Price: 10 GEL February 8 DIVINE COMEDY Based on the work of Dante Alighieri Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze Choreographer: Lasha Robakidze Start time: 20:00 Price: 20 GEL February 9 MAGICAL NIGHTS Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze, Davit Kakulia Choreographer: Lasha Robakidze Starring: Jonathan Rousselle, Ekaterine Gabashvili, Niniko Avaliani, Viktoria Kosova,

Tazo Kikalishvili Start time: 13:00 Price: 10 GEL February 9 THE TEMPEST Based on the work of William Shakespeare Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze Choreographer: Lasha Robakidze Scenography: Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Price: 10, 15 GEL February 13 INTRO Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Sandro Nikoladze's Musical Allegory Composer: Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15 GEL Every Wednesday A LO CUBANO NIGHTS Cuban dancers masterclass Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 GEL

Dgebuadze, Natia Demurishvili, Nino Simonishvili



Until February 29 Georgian National Museum and the Embassy of Italy in Georgia present the exhibition ROMA AETERNA. MASTERPIECES OF ROMAN SCULPTURE FROM THE DINO AND ERNESTA SANTARELLI FOUNDATION National Gallery features 33 sculptures depicting the stages of artistic or stylistic evolution from the Roman Republic to Neoclassical era.

February 7-19 PERSONAL EXHIBITION OF ABSTRACT PAINTER AVTO MOSIASHVILI For his 80th birthday 30 artworks representing his individual sharp vision and unique mastery as one of the first abstractionists in the Georgian art space. February 8-18 DMITRY BRICKMAN’S EXHIBITION ‘JERUSALEM IS NOT JUST A CITY’ MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge



The exhibition hall is equipped with monitors, where visitors can see documentaries of various historical events. MUSEUM OF ILLUSIONS 10 Betlemi Str. Discover the Museum of Illusions Be brave and jump into an illusion created by the Vortex, deform the image of yourself in the Mirror Room, free yourself in the Infinity Room, resist the laws of gravity and size, and take selfies in every possible pose. Enjoy the collection of holograms and discover optical illusions. GALLERY

Until February 9 EXHIBITION "CHINESE ART IN GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM" dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China and a book by Irina Koshoridze, Marina


SPHERO City Mall Saburtalo, Veranda, II Floor A domed cognitive-entertainment space where you can become part of an impressive 360-degree panorama image. For all ages. TBILISI DIGITAL SPACE Tbilisi Mall The first museum of digital art in Tbilisi. See Vazha-Pshavela's "Dried beech", a world of torches, and a digital space decorated with various graphic and visuals effects. In the main hall, through video projections and mirrors, you will discover that there is no boundary between Man and nature. Ticket: 10-30 GEL MUSIC

PULSAR BAR 12 Leonidze Str. February 7 JAM! EVENTS/ PYRAWEED/ ENNUI • JAM PYRAWEED (az) ENNUI (ge) Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 12-20 GEL DJ. KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE 123a D. Agmashenebeli Ave. February 8 CONCERT OF SYMPHONIC MUSIC Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra Conductor: Maestro David Mukeria. Symphony No.9 “From the New World” of famous Czech composer Antonin Dvorak, Concerto No.1 of Peter Tchaikovsky, which will be performed by pianist- Datuna Aladashvili. Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-20 GEL February 13 CONCERT OF GEORGE OAKLEY’S MUSIC Dedicated to the memory of his father– famous scientist Anatol Oakley Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 15 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Agmashenebeli Ave. February 11 JAM SESSION Impro music Every Tuesday Musical director- Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 21:00 Price: 10 GEL




BI Auction for Young Artists BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE


ka Bokuchava, an art collector and gallery owner, and Bengü Akçardak Küçük met each other back in 2015. This year, they celebrate not only the fifth year of their friendship, but the fourth anniversary of their business partnership as well. Bengü and Ika met in an art event in 2015 and in 2016, BI Auction Company was officially established. BI Auction is the first art auction in Georgia which aims to promote Georgian art and artists, and the culture of art-making, while expanding the art-market. For their seventh annual BI Auction event, the duo chose to focus on young Georgian artists, calling the 2020 auc-

tion ‘BI Auction for Young Artists.’ “They are the future,” Bengü explained. “We want to encourage them to keep making their art. It can be very difficult for an artist to create while also stressing about selling their works. We’d like to make that a little easier for them, give them experiences, teach them a few things.” The event was a combination of competition, ceremony and exhibition, kicking off on Friday, January 31, sponsored by IArt and WE’AR ART. The same day, five winners were announced among the participants. Their awards included the opportunity to participate in BI Auction Classical next to famous Georgian artists. “They are all winners to us. I was very impressed with the quality of the young artists’ works. You can really see when

looking at them that they have put their heart and soul into their art,” Bengü told GEORGIA TODAY. “And because of that, we decided to organize a special auction for all the artists who applied to our first BI Competition for Young Artists under 30 years old.” The open call was announced in November 2019. Mariam Baidoshvili, a graduate of Tbilisi State Academy of Arts, and Mari (Ia) Chanturia, were two of the 22 applicants who expressed their desire to exhibit what they had been working on. “I saw the call for applicants for this exhibition-auction on the internet and I applied right away. Three of my pieces are exhibited here tonight,” Mariam told us. “This exhibition definitely serves a good cause: not many things happen in Georgia that help artists out. The BI

Auction is a step forward. We’re all very excited to have our works exhibited. I really hope the organizers keep on developing their events, I wish them all the luck in the world!” “I’ve been painting my whole life,” Mari told us. “But it's only a few years since I started publically displaying my works.” When speaking about the BI auction, Mari voiced the words of the organizer, saying she feels like a winner. “I’m happy these kinds of events are finally happening in our country as they help artists shine some light on their pieces. As society gets to know these artists, they are encouraged to continue their hard work.” In four years, BI Auction "for ART" has organized six events and presented

more than 350 paintings by 100 Georgian artists. The auction policy is aimed at fully displaying the Georgian art-market and for this reason it also encourages young artists to appear before the audience right next to the established ones. Further underlining their support of Georgian artists, the 7th edition of BI Auction, titled ‘Only for Young Artists’ will feature all 43 paintings of the 22 artists. “I think this event was a big success: we discovered great artists and encouraged them to develop their skills and techniques even more,” Bengü told GEORGIA TODAY. The exhibition was open until February 6.

11th Tbilisi Burns Supper Raises over 80K for Charity “All three charities have a proven record of doing tremendous work for the community, so we know that all money raised is going to be put to excellent use,” Watt told GEORGIA TODAY. “When doing such a major event, it’s important to have absolute trust in the beneficiaries, and we certainly have that. It’s also a broad spectrum of causes, meaning that the funds raised can have a positive impact on various people and aspects of Georgia”. The charity auction raised nearly $15,000, including big winning bids for artist Levan Mosiashvili artworks. The



n February 1, the hotel Sheraton Grand Tbilisi Metechi Palace hosted the 11th charity gala event held in honor of renowned 18th century Scottish poet, Robert Burns. Raising over 80 thousand GEL for charity, the evening followed the long tradition of Burns Suppers, with sumptuous food and plentiful drink, punctuated by toasts and Scottish country dancing. “We gathered to once again celebrate the life and work of prominent Scottish poet Burns. This year’s event was especially exciting for those interested in Scottish poetry, music and cuisine. This is a charity project. With the funds raised through the charity auction and raffle, we help three selected beneficiaries in Georgia,” said one of the organizers of the event, Alastair Watt. Guests were greeted by the incomparable sound of traditional Scottish bagpipes, and the festivities were opened with Burns’ poems and a presentation

Old hands at Scottish dance led eager learners in bouncy and jolly jigs across the dancefloor in a party that ran on, as promised, “well into the wee hours”. Event organizers Maite Iniesta Ortiz, Sara Anna Modzmanashvili-Kemecsei, Oliko Watt and Alastair Watt all expressed their pleasure that the Burns Supper tradition in Tbilisi had been continued successfully for another year, despite the departure from Tbilisi of its magnificent originator Fiona Coxshall, in 2017. “We hope to have done Fiona proud again," the organizers said.

of the traditional Scottish delicacy, haggis. The Parade of the Haggis, led by piper Kenny Donaldson, was both emphatic and impressive. The celebration was attended by over 200 guests. Among the honorable attendees of the event were US Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Rood, Dutch–Georgian activist and diplomat Sandra Elisabeth Roelofs-Saakashvili, Turkish Ambassador Fatma Seren Yazgan, newly appointed US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan and the UK Ambassador to Georgia, Justin McKenzie Smith. Elizabeth Rood stole the show with her poetic reply to the toast to the lassies, using some Georgian words that many otherwise struggle to pronounce. Three charitable causes, Temi Community (caring for a wide range of vulnerable people), Catharsis (helping the homeless elderly by providing hot meals) and Dog Organization Georgia (providing shelter for stray animals along with sterilization, vaccination and adoption programs), will each receive a very welcome financial boost after this 11th successful and much-enjoyed celebration of Burns Night.



Commercial Director: Iva Merabishvili Marketing Manager: Sesili Tikaradze


raffle was similarly successful, as tickets worth over 7000 GEL were sold, with the victors picking up various wonderful prizes. The guests were particularly impressed with the traditional Scottish dishes served, among them haggis with tatties, but the Butterscoth and Pear Tart served for dessert was for many the true highlight. During the event, guests got to enjoy live music performed by the Glencraig Band, who fly in every year to play in Tbilisi: Nicol McLaren (accordion), Isobelle Hodgson (piano), and Maggie Adamson (fiddle).


Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

Journalists: Ana Dumbadze, Vazha Tavberidze, Nini Dakhundaridze, Tea Mariamidze, Tony Hanmer, Emil Avdaliani, Zaza Jgarkava, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Beka Alexishvili, Elene Dzebizashvili, Maka Bibilashvili

Photographer: Irakli Dolidze Website Manager/Editor: Katie Ruth Davies Layout: Misha Mchedlishvili Webmaster: Sergey Gevenov Circulation Managers: David Kerdikashvili, David Djandjgava


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1225  

February 7 - 10, 2020

Issue #1225  

February 7 - 10, 2020