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Issue no: 1192/201

• OCTOBER 8 - 10, 2019


In this week’s issue...



Positive messages flow on the German President's visit to Georgia


Weekly Entrepreneurial News @entrepreneur.ge NEWS PAGE 2


President Awards Golden Fleece Order to Rose Gottemoeller NEWS PAGE 2

October 2019 Agri Review: New Draft Strategy of Georgia’s Rural & Agricultural Development 2021-2027 ISET PAGE 4

Azerbaijan Tourism Board Opens ‘Azerbaijan. Travel’ Visitor Center in Tbilisi

Image source: CNN.com

Countries Recognizing Breakaway Abkhazia, S. Ossetia Not to Get US Financing in 2020


Rose Gottemoeller on Georgia Keeping Its Eye on the NATO Prize POLITICS PAGE 9


Dato Turashvili: Freedom Factory Will Help to Create a Free Society


ountries that recognize the independence of Georgia’s Russian-occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions will not receive funding from the United States budget in 2020 as the have in the previous three years. The US Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2020 State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) appropriations draft bill which, along with the funding for US global health programs at the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), determines US priorities in support and assistance for its partner countries. Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the 2020 Fiscal Year Bill contains an important record in terms of the de-occupation and non-recog-


In your Face, part II: Becho, Svaneti CULTURE PAGE 11 Prepared for Georgia Today Business by

Markets Asof04ͲOctͲ2019

Image source: azernews.az


nition of Georgian breakaway regions. According to the ministry, the law provides for an unprecedented increase in budgetary allocations for Georgia. “The funding provided under this law will not benefit any central government if the US Secretary of State establishes and reports to the Appropriations Committee that the country has recognized or has established diplomatic relations with Russian-occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali / South Ossetia,” the statement reads. It is noteworthy that such a record was made in the law in 2017 and the ministry says that any funding provided by this law may not be used by Russia to support the occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Continued on page 2









































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OCTOBER 8 - 10, 2019

@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: Influence Georgia, the winner of the 2nd round of the grant program of the Georgian Innovations and Technologies Agency (GITA), has launched an investment agreement with David Zerah, the investor of the Global Startup Fund. The winning project will be financed by GITA and the Global Startup Fund with 50% each. Influence Georgia envisages the development of a fully automatized influence marketing platform. The aim of the project is to make the company’s product the world’s leading influence marketing platform, boasting two directions: e-commerce and travel. On November 8-10, Tbilisi is to host the regional Startup Grind Europe-Asia Connect, the largest international network of startup founders. The event is to bring together more than 30 speakers from over 20 countries, successful startups, companies operating in the sphere of technologies, as well as experts in the field. The aim? To make the region attractive for globally successful businesses,to support the development of technologies and to attract investments into the country. Startup Grind is the largest international network for startups, boasting more than 600 representations and 2 million members worldwide. Stack is a Georgian startup which is launching an alternative internet browser. The app is set for a lot of success and has already been named as Georgia’s business card on the world map of internet applications. Austrian 360 LAB Accelerator has recently selected Stack among its 5 best apps. Through engagement in the acceleration process, the startup obtained an investment worth a million and upgraded to a new level of development. Stack was co-founded by Giorgi Laliashvili. 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

On the German President’s Visit to Georgia BY THE GT TEAM


erman President FrankWalter Steinmeier is paying an official visit to Georgia with his wife Elke Budenbender. Steinmeier has so far met with Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili at the Atoneli Presidential Palace and Georgian PM Giorgi Gakharia. He is also set to meet with Parliament Speaker Archil Talakvadze and His Holiness and Beatitude Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II. During the visit, Steinmeier will also meet with Georgian businessmen in Tbilisi and visit several wineries in the Kakheti region of western Georgia, Alaverdi Monastery and the Palace of King Erekle II. The visit will end on October 8. Steinmeier last visited Georgia in 2016 when he was serving as Foreign Minister of Germany. Steinmeier’s meeting with his Georgian counterpart Salome Zurabishvili on Sunday was followed by a joint statement for the media, where the presidents of the two countries discussed a number of important issues. While speaking about the GermanGeorgian relations, President Steinmeier accentuated the successful cooperation that has been established between the countries over the past few years and highlighted the cultural perspectives of that collaboration, in particular the Frankfurt Book Fair 2018, where Georgia enjoyed the status of Guest of Honor, as one of the best examples. He noted that the event much contributed to introducing various Georgian authors to German audiences. He added that there is a lot

of information about Georgia in the German press and other media resources. “In almost all newspapers and magazines there are articles about Georgian literature, the country’s culture, as well as offers to travel to the region of Svaneti or participate in harvesting in Kakheti,” stated Steinmeier, noting that through the detailed information about the country, Georgia has become very attractive for German tourists. At the German President’s meeting with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, the parties focused on the successful German-Georgian cooperation, as well as the potential for the enhancement of economic links in numerous sectors. The problem of the occupation currently faced by Georgia and the difficult situation present in the occupied regions of the country were also discussed at the meeting, seeing the Head of the Georgian Government accentuating the

vital importance of introducing the development of events in Georgia’s occupied territories at high level international and bilateral formats. PM Gakharia expressed gratitude to Germany for its involvement in the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM). The progress achieved by Georgia on the path to European and Euro-Atlantic integration was also underlined at the meeting, with Gakharia highlighting the role of German experts in the implementation of the NATO-Georgia Substantial Package. "Germany's support has a tremendous importance in the European and EuroAtlantic integration of Georgia. Your official visit confirms that Germany regards Georgia as its reliable partner,” the PM told the German President. Along with political and economic partnership, the parties also spoke about collaborating in the spheres of culture and education.

to non-NATO countries in Afghanistan. The Order of the Golden Fleece is an honor awarded by the Government of

Georgia. It was established in 1998 and comes next in rank to the Order of St. Nicholas. The Order is named after the mythical Golden Fleece, which was held

in Colchis in what is now western Georgia.

Image source: 1tv.ge

President Awards Golden Fleece Order to Rose Gottemoeller BY ANA DUMBADZE


eorgian President Salome Zurabishvili awarded the Order of the Golden Fleece to the NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller at Friday's meeting in Georgia's coastal city of Batumi. Before handing over the award, Zurabishvili addressed the Deputy Secretary General and the audience, noting that Gottemoeller had dedicated her entire life to peace. "Our cooperation is aimed at strengthening peace in this region, which is increasingly important in today's world. What you have done to support Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and to enhance NATO's support for Georgia, is clear in an extraordinary year for Georgia-NATO relations. I think that awarding you today is a way for Georgia

to recognize you as a friend of Georgia. I want to say on behalf of the people of Georgia that you are and will remain a friend of our nation. We will always welcome you in Batumi as well as in other parts of the country. It is a sign that our cooperation with NATO is a direction that should continue, be strengthened and lead us to the ultimate goal,” she said. In turn, Rose Gottemoeller thanked President Zurabishvili for the award and emphasized that she is looking forward to the day when Georgia will become a member of the Alliance. “I want to thank Mrs. President and the Government of Georgia. I am honored to have such a prestigious Order. NATO's unique partnership with Georgia is 30 years old and during that period, our ties have only deepened. Georgia will become a NATO member one day and I am looking forward to that day," she said, adding that Georgia is one of the largest contributors

Read our interview with Ms Gottemoeller on page 9.

Countries Recognizing Breakaway Abkhazia, S. Ossetia Not to Get US Financing in 2020 Continued from page 1 “The bill calls on the US Treasury Department to provide appropriate guidance to US Executive Directors of International Financial Institutions in order to prevent them from financing any program (including loan, credit or guarantee) that violates Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Georgian MFA said. Moreover, the Foreign Ministry underlined that the amount of financial aid allocated to Georgia in the 2020 draft

has been significantly increased, to $132,025,000, which is the highest benchmark seen in Georgia-US relations. Georgia is set to receive $40 million in funding under the Foreign Military Financing Fund (FMF) which is $5 million more than the funding allocated in 2019. In addition, the bill provides $285 million for Western European and Eurasian countries, including Georgia, to support their Western integration. Georgia’s Foreign Ministry says that

according to the draft law, part of the funding should be used to fulfill EU association agreements and trade agreements with Eastern Partnership countries, as well as to reduce the impact of external economic factors and political and economic pressure from the Russian Federation. To note, the US FY2019 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill reads that it provides increased support for Georgia, with more than $127 million in aid. This is $22 million more than in

2018. The budget allocates $275 million in total for countries in Eastern Europe and Eurasia to develop law enforcement and security capabilities, to approximate with the EU and NATO and resist political and economic pressure from Russia. It also prohibits support for any programs which violate Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity. The August 2008 war left 20% of Georgian territories occupied by Russia, which set up military bases in these regions and deployed its troops there. Following

Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru and Vanuatu also recognized these regions as countries. However, the latter withdrew its recognition in 2013. Last year, Syria also expressed its support to these de facto regions and it was added by the US to the list of countries banned from receiving US aid. The remainder of the international community says occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia are parts of Georgia and call on Russia to withdraw its forces from these territories.




Russian Airlines Demand Compensation after Travel Embargo on Georgia BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI


ussian airline Pobeda has requested that the Ministry of Transport of Russia define the deadlines on when they will be reimbursed for the financial damages the company has suffered due to the Russian-initiated travel embargo on direct flights to Georgia, media outlet Ekho Kavkaza reports. On July 8, Russia initiated a travel embargo on Georgia, suspending all direct flights to the country. This move

came after Russian MP Sergey Gavrilov's visit to Tbilisi, seeing him addressing the Assembly on Orthodoxy from the House Speaker’s chair. This action sparked protests all over Tbilisi, while Russia currently occupies Georgian territory. The agency mentions that disrupting flights to Tbilisi and Batumi has cost Pobeda airlines up to $8 million in losses. S7 estimate they have a loss of around $9 million, while Red Wings airline specified that its loss amounted to $3 million, Kommersant reported. Before the embargo, Aeroflot, Pobeda, S7, Ural Airlines, Red Wings and Smartavia all carried out flights to Georgia.

New Developments at the Davit Gareji Monastery Complex BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI


he Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan, together with the regional administration of the Agstafa province, organized a tour within the context of the ‘Days of European Heritage’ (EHD) to the Georgian monastery complex of Davit Gareji (the 'Keshikchidag State Cultural Reserve' for Azerbaijan). The director of the reserve, Musa Mirzaliev, informed the visitors about the natural and manmade caves crafted by their ancestors in the early medieval period. The march also took participants to visit two Albanian temples located at a distance of 1.5 kilometers from one

Image Source: Infoteka24.ru

another. According to Mirzaliev, the Caucasian Albanians constructed the temples from indigenous stones. Besides the representative, Deputy of the Executive Office of the Agstafa region, Lala Eyyubova, also told the participants that the reserve is associated with the ancient history of the Azerbaijani people. The tour took place in the Azerbaijani language. Infoteka24 emphasized the close ties the First Lady of Azerbaijan has with UNESCO and, according to the Russian news source, the Georgian historical monastery complex of David Gareji may someday be acknowledged as the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has ordered a new Keshikchi Gala border station on the national border with Georgia in the Agstafa region, covering the complex of Keshikchidag caves, as well as the Georgian

David Gareji monastery complex, Interfax-Azerbaijan reports. The opening ceremony of the outpost was attended by Colonel-General Elchin Guliyev and the head of the Administration of the Agstafa region. During the speech, Guliyev noted the effective realization of the approach for safeguarding the state-border. “The Azerbaijan-Georgia state border is a border of a strategic partnership. Azerbaijani border guards carry out mutually beneficial high-level cooperation with their Georgian counterparts,” Guliyev remarked. The outpost is equipped with all essential apparatus and meets modern requirements. It is located at the cultural reserve of ‘Keshikchidag’ and covers a large geographical area, including the state border with Georgia.




OCTOBER 8 - 10, 2019

October 2019 Agri Review: New Draft Strategy of Georgia’s Rural & Agricultural Development 2021-2027


n 30 August 2019, a public hearing to discuss Georgia’s Rural and Agricultural Development Strategy for 2021-2027 was conducted at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture (MEPA). The new strategy document represents a roadmap for Georgia’s rural and agricultural development for the next decade. The strategy outlines three major goals to be achieved by 2027: 1. Increasing the competitiveness of agricultural and non-agricultural sectors; 2. Sustainable management of natural resources, preservation of ecosystems, and climate change adaptation; 3. Ensuring food/feed safety and the development of efficient veterinary and plant protection systems. Each goal has a set of indicators with respective baseline and target values. Four of the indicators used to measure the competitiveness of agricultural and non-agricultural sectors (Goal 1) are summarized in more detail below (Table 1).

dicted to grow by only 36% (almost three times less). This increase is again defined in nominal terms, while in real terms, the income of rural families might deteriorate given the high inflation rate. It should be noted that the strategy does not sufficiently cover such important topics as agricultural land registration, consolidation and market development, or of youth involvement in agriculture. Both of these issues are extremely important for the sustainable development of the sector.


2 3 4




On a monthly basis, the country’s price levels increased between June-September 2019. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) in September 2019 was 1.7% higher than in August 2019. While in August, the corresponding price increase was 0.8% from July 2019. In June, the monthover-month change in the CPI was -1% (compared to May 2019). During the same period, prices for food and nonalcoholic beverages, measured by the Food Price Index (FPI), also exhibited




Output of agricultural production and food M i l l i o n 4,653 9,300 12,000 made from processing GEL agricultural products Output in the business M i l l i o n -450 770 sector GEL Export of food and M i l l i o n 316 959 1,300 agricultural products USD Average monthly income of rural houseGEL 447 880 1,200 holds

Increase Increase between between 2009- 20182027* 2018 100%








Source: GeoStat, 2019; Note: *Based on draft strategy projections. Note: All numbers are in nominal value.

Indicator 1. The new draft strategy suggests that, in comparison to 2018, by 2027 the output of all agro-food production (primary as well as processing) will increase by 29% in nominal value. If we compare this growth to the same indicator for the past ten years (2009-2018), it is more than three times lower. Equally, the inflation between 2009-2018 was about 35%, and if the same inflation rate is maintained over the next ten years, the total value of agro-food production, in real terms, might not increase at all or only increase very slightly. Indicator 3. According to the new draft strategy, the export of agro-food products is projected to increase by 36% within the next ten years. This figure is also rather low compared to the growth rate of 200% over the last ten years (2009-2018). Such high growth rates, as observed from 2009-2018, clearly cannot always be maintained, however the projection is still quite slight. Indicator 4. Between 2009-2018, the average monthly income of rural households increased by 97%, whereas over the next ten years this indicator is pre-

Year-over-year total Georgian exports increased by 7% from January-September (from 2,448 mln. USD in 2018 to 2,617 mln. USD in 2019). While these total exports increased, agricultural exports and imports, as well as total imports, declined. The latter decreased by 6% (from 6,698 mln. USD in 2018 to 6,290 mln. USD in 2019), whilst agricultural exports declined by 13% and there was a 12% reduction in agricultural imports.


Table 1. Indicators from the strategy



Table 2. Annual changes in CPI and FPI

an upward trend. In September 2019, food prices increased by 3.3% compared to August, while the corresponding month-over-month price change was 1.5% in August 2019 and 0.2% in July. From an annual perspective, from JuneSeptember 2019, the CPI has been increasing. In August 2019, the CPI increased by 4.9% compared to the previous August of 2018. In September 2019, annual inflation marked its highest level, 6.4%, for the period (Table 2). In September 2019, the year-over-year prices for food and non-alcoholic beverages increased drastically by 11.7%, contributing 3.49 percentage points to the change in the total CPI. The main drivers were price fluctuations in the following sub-groups: fish (+16.3%); milk, cheese, and eggs (+14.6%); sugar, jam, and confectionary (+13.2); meat (+12.6%) and bread and cereals (+10.8%).

SPOTLIGHT Annual food inflation has reached its highest levels since August 2011: in September 2019, the year-over-year prices for food and non-alcoholic beverages

increased considerably, by 11.7% compared to September 2018. During the same period, the Georgian lari depreciated against the US dollar by 14%. Furthermore, the exchange rate between the lari and the dollar also reached its highest level, at 2.97 (NBG, 2019). The depreciation of the Georgian lari put upward pressure on the prices of imported goods, including imported food products. Georgia is a net importer of the following commodities: Fish - In September 2019, fish prices experienced a significant 16.3% increase in comparison to September 2018. Geostat data shows that the core prices of frozen fish (17%) and smoked fish (17%) increased. Sugar, jam, honey, chocolate, and confectionaries - From this group sugar prices increased the most, by 33% on an annual basis. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that international prices of sugar increased by 4.1% compared to September 2018. Aside from the depreciation of the lari, international trends might have placed additional upward pressure on sugar prices. Wheat bread and cereals - Starting from November 2018, products in this category have been, on average, trading above last year’s prices. In September 2019, the price of wheat bread increased by 11.4% following the increased price of wheat flour (a 14.8% increase on an Table 3. Top agricultural export commodities

annual basis). Milk, cheese, and eggs - The exchange rate is partially responsible for the upward trend in price. The sharpest price increases were observed in Imeruli cheese (26%), reflecting the increased price of raw milk (9%). Due to the depreciation of the lari against the dollar, the price of imported milk powder (used as a substitute for fresh milk) increased, which forced up the price of cheese.

INTERNATIONAL PRICES Between June-August 2019, international prices decreased for three consecutive months. In September, the Food Price Index, measured by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), remained unchanged compared to August 2019. The price for sugar decreased (-3.9%). Whereas, prices increased for vegetable oil (1.4%). It is noteworthy that prices for meat (0.8%), dairy (-0.6%), and cereal (-0.1%) remained largely unchanged from the previous month. From an annual perspective, international prices are higher than last year: the FAO September 2019 Food Price Index increased by 3.3% compared to September 2018. Annual price increases were observed for meat (10.8%), sugar (4.1%), dairy (1.3%), and vegetable oil (0.6%). Whereas, prices decreased for cereal (-3.9%).

According to the latest statistics, wine holds first place within Georgian agricultural export products from JanuarySeptember 2019; the share of wine in total agricultural exports is 22%. Mineral waters and alcoholic spirits stand at second and third place, with respective shares of 14% and 11%. The top ten products also include cigarettes (6%), hazelnuts (5%), alongside other agricultural products. It is noteworthy that after the extremely successful export years of 2013-2016, when hazelnut exports averaged 176 mln. USD, the average export value was just 76 mln. USD in the last two years (2017 and 2018). Since this January-September, hazelnut exports have reached just 32 mln. USD, signaling that 2019 might be even worse than the previous years in terms of hazelnut export. Overall, the export of the top ten products constitutes almost 70% of total Georgian agricultural export (Table 3). For the top agricultural import products, wheat and meslin keep their traditional first place, constituting 8% of total agricultural imports. Wheat is followed by cigarettes (6%) and poultry (4%). The other major import products are chocolate, other food preparations, bread, pastry, cakes, etc. The share of major products from the total agricultural import varies from 2% to 8%. Imports of the top ten agricultural products together constitute 38% of total agricultural imports.



New EU-AFD Development Project Launched

Photo: Frankfurt School of Finance and Management



ast week, the European Union (EU) and L’Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) launched a largescale new development initiative designed to support small-scale commercial farms and cooperatives in Georgia. The project, titled Finance & Extension & Cooperative Development for Georgian Farmers (FinExCoop Georgia), kicked off with a launch conference on Thursday, October 3. Over the next four years, the EU and AFD will spend

four million EUR on the project, which operates within the EU’s ENPARD Program. ENPARD (European Neighborhood Program for Agriculture and Rural Development) began in 2013 and has a total budget of 179.5 million EUR. Its goal is to provide economic opportunities in rural areas and reduce poverty in Georgia. While many ENPARD projects are focused on specific municipalities, FinExCoop Georgia addresses access to finance and extension by smallscale farms and cooperatives across the country using a pilot-project approach. The project is implemented in partnership with the consulting and development firm Frankfurt School of Finance &

Negotiations Ongoing on Future Cooperation with Azerbaijan in the Field of Tourism



ariam Kvrivishvili, Head of the National Tourism Administration of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, met with Fuad Nagiyev, the Chairman of the National Tourism Agency of Azerbaijan, to discuss future possible cooperation plans. The meeting was also attended by Florian Sengstschmid, Executive Director of the Tourism Council of Azerbaijan. The sides discussed cooperation between the two countries in the field of tourism. Issues related to business tourism development and working out

joint tourism packages were discussed. “We had a very interesting meeting with our Azerbaijani counterparts, we discussed many interesting topics, including the implementation of new projects by joint forces, and shared experience in the tourism sector,” Kvrivishvili said. “The demand for the region in the eyes of international travelers is growing. Therefore, it is important to carry out GeorgiaAzerbaijan combined tours. We think we will increase awareness of the region by also uniting forces in countries such as China, Japan and so on.” Azerbaijan is an important tourist market for Georgia. The neighboring country is among those boasting the highest tourist numbers coming to Georgia. The meeting was also attended by the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Georgia, Dursun Hasanov.

Management, well known international non-governmental organization Mercy Corps, one of the leading national non-governmental organizations in the country, Rural Development for Future Georgia (RDFG), and French institution, Chambre d’Agriculture du Loiret. Thursday’s conference opened with remarks by Giorgi Khanishvili, First Deputy Minister of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, George Dehoux, Program Manager for Agriculture and Food Safety at the EU Delegation to Georgia, and Gaëlle Assayag, Head of AFD’s regional office for the South Caucasus. All the speakers emphasized the importance of extending credit to small


farmers and the value of having high quality extension services available, both public and private. “We expect our new FinExCoop project to positively contribute to the new approaches to deal with the strategic challenges for the future of Georgian agriculture, rural development and the development of the more inclusive pattern of economic development required by Georgia’s advanced democratic institutions,” said Dehoux. The conference brought together key stakeholders in Georgia’s agricultural sector to inform them on the objectives and expected results of the project and to receive feedback from other actors active in the field, including representatives of the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture, ENPARD implementing partners, international donors and financial institutions, international and local NGOs, leading agricultural cooperatives and unions, and farmers themselves. The event finished with a conversation from a panel of experts whose sectors will be involved in FinExCoop Georgia, moderated by project lead Christophe Cordonnier. AFD is a public financial institution which serves as the main actor for implementing France’s development policy worldwide. AFD works in many sectors – agriculture, energy, health, biodiversity, water, digital technologies – and its action is fully in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2018, it earmarked EUR 11.4bn to finance development projects. Since 2016, AFD has been working with the Government of Georgia to establish a strong, productive partnership. They currently have an active portfolio of 250 million EUR in Georgia. FinExCoop Georgia ties into AFD’s network of global programming that aims to increase financial inclusion and access to markets for small-scale commercial farmers. A preliminary component of the project was financed by Proparco, an AFD subsidiary dedicated to supporting the private sector, through agro-credit lines extended to two major Georgian financial institutions.




OCTOBER 8 - 10, 2019

Eurasian Economic Union Might Expand BY EMIL AVDALIANI


s the strained Russia-EU relations somewhat softened recently, and a rising cooperation is being seen over questions such as Ukraine and Moldova, Russia is on the economic offensive throughout the former Soviet space. Valentina Matviyenko, a high ranking Russian official, announced recently that Uzbekistan had already decided to join the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and that final preparations are taking place in that regard. Uzbekistan is arguably the most important country in Central Asia as it is the only state bordering all four "stans" (Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan) of the region. From a purely geographic perspective, influence over Uzbekistan would increase Russian clout throughout the entire Central Asia. Uzbekistan's importance is also maximized by the fact that it possesses a pretty competitive industrial sector

capable of producing various machinery and other vital products. Uzbekistan's membership of the EEU will also be a win for Moscow because of the latter's quiet competition with the Chinese over the region, specifically in the economic and slightly military realms. As China rolls out its flagship Belt and Road Initiative, Uzbekistan is of primary importance to Beijing. True, membership of the EEU will not mean cutting off trade between Uzbekistan and China, and the latter will certainly continue investing in the Uzbek economy. However, though no open animosity exists between Beijing and Moscow on Central Asia issues, Tashkent's choice to become a member of the EEU will serve as a certain limit to rising Chinese ambitions. On the other crucial front of Russia's borderlands, Moscow is seemingly close to reaching a higher level of integration with Belarus (a country already an EEU member) by 2022. Though Minsk has officially refuted Russian plans on economic integration, it is clear that pressure from Moscow is indeed mounting and it is becoming increasingly difficult

Image source: Vestnik Kavkasia

for Belarus to withstand various Russian moves. Both events, which, at least according to the open source material, are likely to

take place in the near future, will strengthen Russia's position in Eurasia. It will also increase the EEU's position and make the bloc economically more attractive for

non-member former Soviet states such as Azerbaijan and potentially for Middle East powers (Iran and Turkey). Though the expansion is a good indicator of Russia's fortunes, in the long run it shows the limit of the EEU and Moscow's strength. Still without Ukraine, the EEU is a constrained market, solely dominated by Russia, both economically, militarily and in terms of population numbers. In fact, as I have written in several articles for GT, nowadays the expansion of Russian economic (i.e. geopolitical) interests in Belarus and Uzbekistan is logical, as avenues for Moscow's active foreign policy are limited to Central Asia and Belarus. Elsewhere (Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia), the Russian influence reached a certain limit, going beyond which would see Moscow needing to increase its military pressure in those countries. Thus, Economic competition around Georgia and in wider Eurasia is intensifying, with large states increase their efforts to get smaller ones into their respective economic zones. All this is likely to build up geopolitical tensions in the super-continent.

EBRD Vice-President: Georgian Economy Is Very Diversified BY TEA MARIAMIDZE


r Jurgen Rigterink, First Vice-President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), says that the economy of Georgia is “very diversified.” In an interview with Analitika, Rigterink said that a diverse economy means that active steps are necessary in many fields. “I do not want to limit myself to focusing only on certain sectors. Georgia's economy is very diversified, which means that we have to be active in many areas,” he said. The First Vice-President of the EBRD, who paid his first official visit to Georgia in late September, said the EBRD is increasingly getting involved in the energy and renewable energy sectors. “We believe the SMEs sector, as in every other country, is the backbone of the economy. However, for us, as a very large bank that has one office in Georgia with only 35 employees, it is very difficult to directly access all businesses in this sector. So we do this together with our partners - commercial banks that are our funding intermediaries,” he explained. He said Georgian businesses need not only financial but also consulting support. "We also have an advisory service where we have already assisted 3,000 representatives in this sector - tips include IT issues, risk management, web hosting

Image source: kmu.gov.ua

- any practical issues,” he told Analitika. Regarding the business climate in the country, Rigterink said he has heard from many businesses and other sources that there is some volatility in the country's economy and there is a danger that the business climate will stop improving. He held back from assessing these

statements but advised the government to work first and foremost to give investors the expectation and confidence to operate in a sustainable investment environment. On his meeting with the new Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Gakharia, the EBRD First Vice-President said the

topic of the pace of regulations was also on the agenda. “On the initiative of the EBRD, there is a Board of Investors in the country. The Prime Minister praised the council as a very valuable tool and promised to listen to businesses more,” he said. He noted that the Board of Investors

is a very effective communication framework between the public and private sectors. "Important investors in the country have the opportunity to have direct contact with the Prime Minister and with the country's leadership in general. Usually, this is a very effective way to resolve important issues in the form of consultations with the private sector,” he added. Rigterink also said that the main achievements of the Council are certain examples related to the process of harmonization with the EU and the legislation related to agricultural land management. Regarding the frequent governmental reshuffles in Georgia, he said that the EBRD is not a political organization to assess this, but noted that in general, frequent shifts in governments bring a number of challenges and uncertainties. He noted, however, that the governmental changes in recent years have not created any real problems for the Georgian economy. “If you look at the macroeconomic indicators, GDP growth, inflation, fiscal deficit - all these areas are quite stable,” Rigterink said. “The EBRD is not a political organization. We want to work with all governments. We do not do it for the governments but for the Georgian people,” he stressed. One of the EBRD’s key aims is to support the development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises which are crucial to nurturing a private sector economy. It has already allocated investments worth $3.4 billion in total in Georgia in 235 projects.



Azerbaijan Tourism Board Opens ‘Azerbaijan. Travel’ Visitor Center in Tbilisi



he Azerbaijan Tourism Board (ATB), the national body that supports Azerbaijan’s growing tourism industry, opened the ‘Azerbaijan. Travel’ visitor center in the heart of Tbilisi, on central Rustaveli Avenue, on October 6. The opening brought together key travel industry leaders and media representatives to build valuable connections between the two countries. The center is a unique concept as it gives people an opportunity to learn about the diverse experiences that Azerbaijan has to offer. With displays and information, it will also house a travel agency which can provide details on tours and trips and even take bookings. “Our countries are united by the values that bring good neighbors and close friends together,” said Fuad Naghiyev, Chairman of the State Tourism Agency of Azerbaijan. “This morning we had a meeting with Mariam Kvrivishvili, the Head of the Georgian National Tourism Administration. During the meeting we discussed a wide range of issues, including, for example, the need to develop joint regional tours that cover Georgia and Azerbaijan. [see GT page 5] The ‘Azerbaijan. Travel’ visitor center was a natural progression as we grow our relationship and visitor numbers rise.” “We would like to warmly welcome the Azerbaijan Travel Board,” said Mariam Kvrivishvili, the Head of the Georgian National Tourism Administration. “Georgia has a very lasting, historic and close friendly relationship with Azerbaijan. We’ve

implemented many important events and projects together in the international arena. There is a huge potential for tourism development in both countries and we can attract even more visitors through the concept of combined tours, which is becoming quite popular nowadays. The fact that Azerbaijan opened a visitor center in Tbilisi will help our citizens to discover the history and culture of Azerbaijan and at the same time will contribute to deepening relations and cooperation between the two countries.” “We have enjoyed close ties between our two countries and the opening of ‘Azerbaijan. Travel’ underpins our commitment to Georgia and its residents,” noted Florian Sengstschmid, CEO of the Azerbaijan Tourism Board. “Azerbaijan is the ideal destination for numerous reasons. With excellent connectivity and a wide variety of experiences, Baku is an affluent city with modern infrastructure. The Azerbaijani people are excited to share their culture, cuisine and country with visitors from Georgia.” Georgia makes up 22% of Azerbaijan’s current in-bound travelers and, with a direct flight from Tbilisi, improved direct railroad and land routes as well as a visa-free regime for Georgian passport holders, this is expected to increase in 2020. Azerbaijan expects to rise through the ranks of countries with a high tourism contribution to its national GDP, forecast to be at 6% per annum over the course of the next 10 years ranking it amongst the world’s top 20 high potential countries. This follows the launch of ATB’s marketing campaign “Take another look” which encourages travelers to discover Azerbaijan’s hidden gems and aims to double current in-bound tourism by 2023.

Georgian Dream Official Accused of Sexual Harassment by Employee BY ANA DUMBADZE


lia Jishkariani, MP of the Tbilisi City Assembly and official of the ruling Georgian Dream party, was accused of sexual harassment and physical abuse by his assistant, Tamta Todadze, who claims that he beat her after she refused to engage in sexual activity with him. She claims the incident was not properly investigated by law enforcement agencies, the majority MP was not questioned in time and was summoned for questioning only after the public directly demanded he be charged. “If he was not a government official, he would already have been arrested,” Todadze told media. The MP denies the rape attempt and accused the former aide of trying to blackmail him. Jishkariani's assistant still has evidence of violence on her body, in bruises, a fact which has been confirmed by the LEPL Levan Samkharauli National Forensics Bureau. However, the Prosecutor's Office of Georgia has not yet granted her victim status, nor has Ilia Jishkarian been officially charged. The above resulted in outrage in society and a public meeting outside the Prosecutor's Office was

scheduled for 7 pm Monday as a show of solidarity for the victim. Even so, some members of society, women among them, have taken to social media to insult the woman and accuse her of leading Jishkariani on or outright lying about the incident. A fellow GD MP even called her a "prostitute". The Ministry of Internal Affairs says that the investigation is underway and all the relevant procedures are being conducted to establish the truth. “An investigation is underway to establish the objective truth regarding the mentioned case. The crime scene was examined, witnesses were interviewed and expertise was scheduled,” the MIA stated.





OCTOBER 8 - 10, 2019

Price, Camera Capabilities, Durability & Fast Charging - HUAWEI Knows Exactly What Customers Want TRANSLATED BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI


ales of the P Smart Z series smartphones at HUAWEI's partner stores in Georgia began three months ago. The new model, with its unique combination of progressive technology, revolutionary aesthetic design and affordable price, has proven a hit with Georgian consumers. "Technology of the Future in a Budget Smartphone" was the assessment made globally and on the Georgian market, and it is not unfounded: this is a smartphone which allows customers to keep up with the times and share in future technology. The HUAWEI P Smart Z is designed primarily for students and young professionals, that is, for consumers who want to enjoy future technologies, but periodically have to manage their own small business and spend a great deal of time on learning and education. Why do Georgian consumers choose HUAWEI smartphones? Because the company always offers the best equipment in the market, knowing exactly what customers want and putting their interests at first place, camera capabilities, durability and fast charging. The HUAWEI P Smart Z is the latest

model of HUAWEI's budget P Smart series, with a ditch-free screen and popup camera only found in flagships. With AI, the HUAWEI P smart Z can detect more than 500 scenes, analyzing and optimizing scenes and guaranteeing your photos will always be clear and precise - these are the benefits that make Georgian consumers’ choice easier. As the HUAWEI Georgia office explains, due to its features the HUAWEI P smart Z is designed for younger users and is preferable both in design and technical

features of camera, battery and processor. "When it comes to the P smart Z's features, of course, we have to consider it in terms of the appropriate price category,” says Tinatin Japaridze, representative of HUAWEI's Marketing Department. “At the price it costs today, the P smart Z is definitely the best choice. And what makes it stand out is the allnew pop-up innovative Selfie camera, which as soon as you turn on the Selfie mode, automatically emerges from the phone body in seconds. At the expense

of the built-in and auto-rotating camera in this body, screen space was saved, as we no longer have a front-facing camera and therefore the screen is larger and of course offers a wider image.” Japaridze adds that the AI camera system, in this price category, really is one of the most attractive factors for customers who are less confident shooting details in a photo as a professional would. Al, offering assistance by itself adjusting the colors, lighting, identifying the object and determining the way to capture the best result. “Smartphones are a device we constantly need, much more so for the younger generation- it has become an integral part of their lives. All our contacts, information, games, apps, etc. are there. Consequently, a dead phone is a big pain, and that is why the HUAWEI P smart Z is the best choice for the younger generation that needs a durable smartphone,” the HUAWEI Georgia representative states. The HUAWEI P smart Z comes equipped with AI and the Kirin 710F, ensuring smooth handling of all necessary tasks. What's more, with its camera lens provides crystal-clear imaging, with the perfect perception of details, and lighting adjustment technology. The P Smart Z is equipped with a 16MP + 8 MP + 2MP triple camera system. The 8 MP camera is capable of shooting at a 120-degree width which is very handy

for views, and the 2MP sensor works in coordination with the main camera and allows you to shoot SLR quality photos. The screen of the P Smart Z is distinguished by the fact that it has no frame and slider to create a full screen. By relocating the front camera, earpiece, and light sensor, the HUAWEI created a sleek 19.5:9 screen aspect ratio. With a 2340 x 1080 Full HD display and a pixel density of 391 PPI the HUAWEI screen appears to work like a magnifying glass, accurately capturing all the details while the rich color palette creates a vibrant, blazing, visual effect with bold textures and sharp features. In the end, the HUAWEI P smart Z is the best choice for users needing all those important features at the same time as affordability. 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.

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Rose Gottemoeller on Georgia Keeping Its Eye on the NATO Prize



hat to expect from the fast-approaching London Summit, how NATO is to assist Georgia in enhancing Black Sea security and why the higher-ups at Brussels not so keen on the so-called “Rasmussen formula”, according to which Georgia could become a member of the Alliance without Article 5, that of collective defense and security, covering the occupied territories temporarily. All these questions GEORGIA TODAY and the Georgian Institute for Security Policy (GiSP) posed to the NATO Deputy Secretary General, Rose Gottemoller, during the recent visit of the North Atlantic Council to Batumi.

WHAT CAN GEORGIA EXPECT FROM THE LONDON SUMMIT? IT SEEMS UNLIKELY IT WILL RECEIVE THAT CHERISHED MAP AND THERE’S ALREADY A ‘SUBSTANTIAL PACKAGE.’ Well, let me stress that the London meeting is not a summit meeting, so there won't be any partners there. I've

What NATO needs is a big sea change, something which is very important for Georgia

been urging Georgia to think about our NATO Engagers event, an event that will take place during the London summit - a public event that will allow Georgia to really speak about how far it has come on the path of Euro-Atlantic integration and to really make a strong public case. But I do want to stress for your audience that it is not a summit meeting, so there won't be any partners present there at all. That said, we've had a lot of success with the substantial NATO-Georgia package and now I think we're at a place where Georgia is moving from being in a kind of mentorship relationship with NATO, where NATO is the mentor and Georgia is paying attention, to a more equal partnership where Georgia has actually been providing increasing security in the NATO context for many years; you've already been a very strong supporter of our resolute support mission in Afghanistan and the ISAF mission before that. Georgia has been a really strong partner in so many ways and now I think we need to focus on building up that partnership and really looking at what you need for your security and then how we can interact in a way to provide it.

IS THERE ALREADY AN UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT’S NEEDED? We are here in Batumi to visit Georgia’s Coast Guard vessels and the crews who have been trained with NATO help. I see recognition that Black Sea security is going to be an important priority area to move forward on and there are other areas that we can continue on the path, the Joint Training and Evaluation Center (JTEC) being a great example of something NATO was very happy with this year when the NATO Georgia exercise took place in March. Georgia is really pulling its own weight now and so we want to continue to work with you on more and more sophisticated exercise activities and really be able to use the JTEC to its full potential. What NATO

needs, and I think it’s a big something, is a sea change, which is very important for Georgia. Some of the threats coming at us every day, like the cyber threats, hybrid threats, are something that sadly Georgia has a great deal of experience with. This is another direction of the potential symbiotic relationship we can continue, seeing NATO helping Georgia to address these threats and it helping us to understand them.

REGARDING BLACK SEA SECURITY, GEORGIA IS A COUNTRY THAT CANNOT BOAST OF ANY SUBSTANTIAL FLEET. HOW IMPORTANT A ROLE CAN IT FEASIBLY PLAY? I'm a great admirer of the Coast Guard, the US Coast Guard, any Coast Guard, because they are right at the center of border security from the sea side, from the ocean side, for their nations. What the Georgian Coast Guard is doing is extraordinarily important. Obviously, you are a Black Sea littoral state, so it's most important to protect your shores from the security challenges that can come at you, whether they're from a country such as Russia promulgating or whether you have another problem to deal with such as illegal smuggling. It's very important that your borders be defended and the Coast Guard provides for that.

WOULD IT BE WISHFUL THINKING TO HOPE THIS WILL TRANSLATE INTO SOME SORT OF TECHNICAL DEFENSIVE CAPACITY? It is important to always focus on deterrence and defense, and that means having the capability, capacity and training to deter any possible aggressor. This is something that every country works on every day: enhancing their deterrence and defense capacity, and Georgia is no different in that regard.

WHAT IMPORTANCE COULD THE ANAKLIA DEEP SEA PORT PLAY FROM NATO’S PERSPECTIVE? I have been hearing quite a bit about the Anaklia Port since I've been here, and I had read about it in the press. I'll say that NATO is interested in ensuring economic health for the countries in the region; it makes for better security if a country is enjoying economic benefits from trade and economic relationships to the degree which a new port here in Georgia will help create. I think it will be good for Georgia's economic health and in the end your security and stability.



Not only in building resilience, though that is certainly part of it, but also in building capacity; in making sure you have the maritime situational awareness capability and making sure there's a constantly good flow of information. One of the things we're doing is working on better sharing of information, including intelligence sharing. All of these things will be important when continuing to develop Georgia's capacity and are mutually beneficial and good for NATO as well.

There has not been any discussion in NATO about it, and one message I'd like to stress is in terms of discussion and debate among any NATO allied member country or among our partners: it's really up to you what you want to discuss but I think from our perspective we really want to focus with our allies on Georgia being an aspiring NATO member; to focus on what needs to be done keep our eye on the prize. That's why we want to focus on what Georgia needs to do to acquire NATO member-

Georgia needs to develop consensus among NATO members about embracing it as a full member of NATO ship and that means continuing to work on your reform processes, political reforms, reforms in the defense establishment and continuing to work with NATO allies. We believe it's important to keep your eye on what will help you move toward NATO membership.

IF WE WERE TO SAY ‘YES WE WANT [RASMUSSEN’S OPTION],’ WOULD NATO BE EAGER TO DISCUSS IT? Well let me put it this way, I think it's up to you to discuss and debate any matter and of course you know we're willing to listen to your conclusions, but the important thing for Georgia over time is to develop consensus among NATO members about embracing Georgia as a full member of NATO; so what you need to do is focus on building up Georgia's capability and capacity for deterrence and defense and on being a security provider; to me that is the prize you need to keep your eye on.




OCTOBER 8 - 10, 2019

Dato Turashvili: Freedom Factory Will Help to Create a Free Society



n initiative group presented the idea and platform ‘Freedom Factory,’ where organizers discussed several important projects and noted that the "distribution" of the idea of freedom would begin by the end of the year. In a word, a space will be created in Tbilisi, on the territory of Wine Factory #1 on Petriashvili Street, that will be a completely new and innovative, cultural platform for new discoveries, creators and interesting people, adventurers and those who love learning, leisure and entertainment.. "Freedom Factory is for those for whom freedom matters,” writer Dato Turashvili noted at the presentation. “I like the idea of the Freedom Factory,” he said. “Sandro Kakulia came up with it. The Freedom Factory, like all factories on earth, must create; produce something. The clever function of the Freedom Factory will be to create free Men. This will be an open society, absolutely free. In itself, the words Freedom Factory makes this space exist in this principle. David Sarajishvili was the greatest Maecenas. Almost everyone who received

an education in the 19th century and created 20th century Georgia, was funded by David. The only one he didn’t fund was Vano Sarajishvili, only because his surname was Sarajishvili. He didn't want anyone to think it was nepotism. David's name is related to the house at Machabeli. We are accustomed to the fact that the Writers Union was there for 70 years, even before the Writers' Union was established in 1917, but functionally later became a Soviet structure. In fact, David Sarajishvili's dream was to create a space not only for writers but for all artists. There is already a tradition at the Writers' House, a place associated with literature, writers and poets. So the idea of setting up a ‘Freedom Factory’ is really very good. It will be a space where not only writers and poets visit, but also everybody for whom freedom is a priority. Any representative of any field, any artist will be welcome here!” At the presentation, Turashvili recalled many fragments of Georgian history and spoke about the importance of freedom. As he says, "There Is No Freedom Where There Is No Justice" "Unfortunately, it happened that for objective or subjective reasons, we could not create such a free society," Turashvili said, adding that although the country regained its independence it was much more difficult to return the freedom.

“We got back independence but freedom was much more difficult. There Is No Freedom Where There Is No Justice. Until we have an independent court, the court cannot be fair. This is out of the question." There will be a lecture room at the Freedom Factory where a person can come and leave freer than they were before. “Of course, not all educated people are free. Education is the key to being freer than we are," the writer noted. The Freedom Factory will contribute to the creation of a free society, for which three key principles will be uniquely important: judicial independence, free and democratic elections, and a tradition of ownership. "Unfortunately, we haven't been free for so many centuries, we have been conquered for so long that the most important fundamental has been eluded and we were starting out. I want our Freedom Factory to be the greatest source of free society that will not allow what has been repeated many times. We passed the fate of our country on to others, assuming they would take care of it. And it didn't turn out so well,” Turashvili said. The presentation also revealed that Tbilisi will soon be adding a wine museum. Sandro Kakulia, co-founder of Freedom Factory, said that Georgia, a

country with a centuries-old wine history, will soon have a wine museum. “Tbilisi, our capital, cradle of wine, with hundreds of millennia of history, unfortunately does not have a wine or vine museum. The Wine Museum is an important project we are working on today,” said Kakulia. Goga Kalandadze, one of the owners of Wine Factory #1, together with his partner Zaza Dudauri, presented to the public the place where the wine museum will be located. “I have opened the first ideas of a wine museum with my partner Zaza Dudauri. Wine is Georgia’s favorite and most beloved product; something which has preserved our identity,” he said. “Freedom is the foremost thing that a person has, which can either be taken away or granted. Freedom is an infinite

notion that the more one tries to feel, to understand its essence, the more it is eluded. Freedom doesn't close anything, it doesn't start anything, it doesn't end anything. Freedom is also that a person is born, freedom is that he/she dies ... 'Freedom Factory' is for this and for those who aspire to it - to be free,” said writer Besik Kharanauli at the launch. The Freedom Factory Initiative Group invites all free and libertarian people for whom the fight for civil liberties are essential and who agree with and share the content of these principles. Anyone who has interesting and creative ideas, works or inventions and wants to receive knowledge or share their experiences with others is invited to realize themselves in a free environment, anyone who can put at least one brick in the building of freedom.

Bocuse d’Or Georgia: Countdown to the National Audition for the Largest Gastronomic Championship TRANSLATED BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA


n November 2-3, 2019, the 11th pavilion of the Expo Georgia Convention Center is to host the National Audition of the largest gastronomic championship Bocuse d’Or for the first time. Eight out of 100 applicants are to be selected within the scope of Bocuse d’Or Georgia, whose dishes will be

assessed by a jury made up of Georgian and foreign chefs. The winners of the national competition will travel to Tallinn, Estonia, to Bocuse d’Or Europe. If they are successful, Georgia will participate in the Bocuse d’Or Grand Finale in 2021, in France, where finalists from 24 countries will strive to win the highest award –the Bocuse d’Or. Georgia’s participation in the Bocuse d’Or culinary competition represents a unique opportunity for the country to introduce and promote itself as well as its rich gastronomic culture.

Bocuse d’Or Georgia is organized by the consulting agency Gastronaut. The project is presented by the Gastronomic Association of Georgia and supported by the Georgian Culinary Federation and the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia. In 2019, Georgia participated in the world-renowned culinary exhibition Sihra (within which Bocuse d’Or was launched) for the first time. The Georgian cuisine received a positive evaluation, which then led to the country’s being invited to take part in the Bocuse d’Or championship.




IERI – A Unique Concept Store in Tbilisi BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE


he capital city of Georgia is fast becoming a mustvisit city on the lists of international travelers, grabbing attention with its harmonic combination of historical roots and contemporary revolution. Along with the booming popularity, Tbilisi is acquiring more and more concepts. And with Georgian designers now well-placed as icons of the global fashion scene, fashion in Tbilisi is becoming one of its most recognisable images. Right in the heart of Wine District in the Tbilisi Vera district, new multifunctional concept store IERI has opened. Creativity with a Georgian core is seen even in the location of the store; its site being the first floor of a historic winery (Wine Factory N1). The name of the store is a concept itself - it doesn’t have a literal meaning in English as it is one of those complex Georgian words: IERI means look, appearance, image, outfit and attitude. And it’s a brand new concept for Tbilisi, being a store, a gallery, a coffee-spot, a wine-bar, a place to meet and a place to be. With just a glance at the interior design of the place or the collection IERI has to offer, it is evident that the founders and managers are professionals. Anka Tsitsishvili, well-known fashion expert, is a creative director and a buyer for IERI. Sofia Guguberidze, an international expert in luxury business management, is the project director. The design of IERI was made in cooperation with Georgian studio ‘Objects,’ under the ownership of Keti Asatiani and Nuka Korinteli. The IERI concept store presents 25 designers who are originally from Georgia or who have found their inspiration here: 0711, Atare Anbani, Babukhadia, Crosty, Eshvi, George Bezani, George

Image Source: IERI Concept Store

Keburia, Idée Fixe, Ingorokva, Lalo, Le Chic Radical, Le Mocassin Zippe, Liya, Materiel, Moods Collection, Ria Keburia, Situationist, Sofio Gongli, Tatuna, Tiko Paksa, and Tushuri. The Georgian element of the store is strengthened by the handmade collection from the Samoseli Pirveli Atelier, which produces Georgian traditional clothing, and a collection of

antique carpets. David Koma, Tata Naka and other big names joined in the FallWinter 2019/20 season. GEORGIA TODAY talked to the representatives of the IERI concept store, who told us that the collections presented will change with the season. They also revealed their plan to expand both in real-life and on electronic platforms: “In

the next few weeks, we are going to open an online store that will offer world-wide shipping,” they said. They also reported they will play a big role in the upcoming Mercedes Benz Tbilisi Fashion Week. IERI’s main aim is to change the stereotypical perception of the country and to develop the fashion retail industry. IERI is the first store to gather all Geor-

gian brands in one unique space. It's more of an “inspiration spot” than just a concept store, since most of the pieces are exclusively presented there. The IERI team is currently in talks with other iconic Georgian and Georgia-inspired fashion designers, and so is promising Tbilisi yet more concepts of Georgian fashion scenes within its walls.

In your Face, part II: Becho, Svaneti BY TONY HANMER


ast month, I found myself photographing Mt Ushba reflected in a small pond above Mazeri, part of Becho. But I could get closer, so I began walking up. There were plenty of thistles, as well as the last remnants of mountain wildflowers, but this being mid-September, autumn colors were just beginning to turn the local palette redder and yellower. The way was not hard, but at this altitude, my legs certainly protested at the climb. However, Becho kindly remained in sight, clouds building but far from obscuring it yet, and this called me on. Everywhere I walked, there was evidence that cows had been there too; they seem to prefer the higher mountain grass enough to make the effort to reach it. But the vegetation waned with the height, and rock took over. Both small outcrops of lumpy rocks and the prevalent, thin-layered slate were everywhere. The latter gets pummeled and broken thinner and thinner, smaller

and smaller, by the ferocious action of water and ice breaking it apart over each winter. Soon I was scrambling up scree, which at least had the advantage of being made of flat pieces rather than more slippery round ones due to its composition. Every now and then I stopped to catch my breath, and several times I took a set



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of vertical photos overlapping to make a full stitched 360-degree panorama for later. There were enough clouds in the far off landscape to make it much more interesting than a simple blue sky: always a bonus for the landscape photographer. Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” played over and over as my inner inspirational soundtrack.

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Samantha Guthrie, Beka Alexishvili, Tea Mariamidze, Ana Dumbadze, Ketevan Kvaratskheliya Photographer: Irakli Dolidze

At one point I startled a huge golden eagle only about 10 m away from me, and it magnificently took wing and was gone. With my widest-angle lens on the camera at the time, it would have been very small in the frame anyway. But the images remain in my memory to treasure. Finally, I reached a point where a whole other side of Ushba’s surroundings was revealed, along with its main glacier now at about eye level, the drops precipitous. Here, the swivel of my feet while getting my 360s was precarious, and I did it slowly so as not to end up falling thousands of feet! Up ahead I could see a signpost, put there somehow by my friend Richard Baerug, who runs his own hotel at the top of Mazeri, https://www.grandhotelushba.com/ and does a lot for the local community’s tourism and development. Later, he wrote to me that this sign is at about 3100 m, twice the height of our own guest house. Another 1600 m or so would see you at the twin summits of Ushba… if you survived. But I was 2/3 of the way there. Far enough! The Mountain had cooperated gloriously, but only just; starting to wrap itself up with clouds just as I strained the last

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few steps up and put my hand on the signpost for a final shot. Then, a long scramble back down, other leg muscles now protesting, to the car and pond, either of which I could obliterate with my pinky fingernail from the distance. I had my shots, over 160 of them, and was delirious with joy. I also suggested to Gigla and Marta, my local hosts, that they make this trip a special offer to their guests for a day. Drive up before or after breakfast, and have 1 or 2 meals up there along with the walk. It’s a unique opportunity to get so close to one of the world’s most beautiful peaks, safely and without too much effort. Next on my list: paragliding around Ushba at some point! (IF I can take a camera; otherwise likely not.) 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


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1192 Business  

October 8 - 10, 2019

Issue #1192 Business  

October 8 - 10, 2019