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Issue no: 953

• JUNE 9 - 12, 2017



In this week’s issue...

Source: IWPR

UNM Offers Rustavi 2 TV Anchor as Mayoral Candidate NEWS PAGE 3

The Enduring Trilateral Format: Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan POLITICS PAGE 4

FOCUS ON GEO-AZERI-TURK RELATIONS Arrests and 'kidnappings' are tarnishing an otherwise fantastic relationship PAGE


Georgia: Russia Trying to Avoid Mutual Customs Agreement BY THEA MORRISON


Business Forum "Construction Georgia 2017" BUSINESS PAGE 11

Beauty Needs No Sacrifice- First Georgian Organic Makeup Products SOCIETY PAGE 12

Tbilisi to Host Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Conceptual Artists


eorgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) says that the Russian Federation’s statement about involving de facto South Ossetia (Tskhinvali) region in the agreement of Russia and Georgia over customs administration and commercial monitoring represents “a clear attempt to avoid the implementation of the agreement”. Official Tbilisi underlines that the object and purpose of the agreement is to monitor trade between Georgia and the Russian Federation. The MFA says that with the support of partner state-Switzerland, important steps have been taken to make this document practical. However, the Georgian side says that the comment made by the Russian Federation, about involving Georgia’s breakaway Tskhinvali in the agreement, brings the process to a deadlock. “The Russian side is trying to portray the occupied Tskhinvali region as a participant in the above-mentioned agreement, which clearly contradicts the principles and purpose of this agreement,” Georgian MFA stated. The ministry also added that such interpreta-

Benjamin Fricke on Georgia’s Uncertain Future


tion of the agreement is “unacceptable to the Georgian side, well-known by the Russian side”. “We call on the Russian Federation to return to the legal framework, review its unconstructive position and to fulfill its international obligations,” Official Tbilisi stressed. So-called President of de facto South Ossetia, Anatoly Bibilov, stated at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum that they are ready to ensure cargo

transit from Russia as an equal partner. The MFA of Russia released a statement saying they welcome a “constructive and responsible position representing a real prospect for the development of trade-economic communication in Transcaucasia.” Russia also called on Georgia to show a similar constructive spirit. Continued on page 2




JUNE 9 - 12, 2017

Georgia: Russia Trying to Avoid Mutual Customs Agreement Continued from page 1

“The practical realization of the agreement would contribute significantly to international trade in the region. Unfortunately, the Georgian side refrains from completing the commitments within the framework of the agreement. We are hopeful the position will change,” Russian MFA stated. On November 9, 2011, in Geneva, with the participation of Switzerland, Georgia and the Russian Federation agreed on having a neutral company monitor the movement of goods. The Swiss Confederation was tasked with selecting a neutral private company in consultation with Georgia and the Russian Federation. The agreement does not mention any geographic name, only geographic coor-

dinates. The agreement establishes three trade corridors: Adler – Zugdidi; the village of Nar (North Ossetia) – Gori; and Zemo Larsi – Kazbegi. All goods entering and exiting these corridors would be subjected to monitoring by the neutral private company. The sides agreed to create a mechanism of customs administration and monitoring of trade in goods. The mechanism’s functions included gathering and sharing information, ensuring transparency, data transfer, crime and smuggling prevention, and examining suspicious cargo. Moreover, Georgia and Russia decided that the mechanism would entail both an Electronic Data Exchange System (EDES) and International Monitoring System (IMS).

Tbilisi Mayor: New Payment System to Be Introduced on Buses

Georgia to Have New 5 GEL Banknotes from September BY THEA MORRISON


fter releasing updated 20, 50 and 100 GEL banknotes, the National Bank of Georgia (NBG) is going to release new 5 GEL banknotes in September. The announcement was made by NBG Head Koba Gvenetadze at a press conference on Wednesday. "The process of upgrading Lari banknotes is still in progress[…]The upgraded 5 Lari banknotes will be issued from the 1st of September 2017 and will be in circulation with the banknotes of the previous issues,” he said. Gvenetadze added that original Lari banknote themes have been preserved on the upgraded banknotes. The front side features the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University building as well as a portrait of Ivane Javakhishvili with improved relief quality and volume. The rear features Niko Pirosmani’s

paintings “A Fisherman in a Red Shirt” and “Threshing”, as well as Georgia's coat of arms. The updated 5 GEL banknote is protected with modern technological security features that at the same time are easily intelligible to users. The banknotes will also have improved features for the visually impaired. The NBG Head also

added that the new banknotes are made with special materials and security mechanisms to help them stand up to contamination and natural wear-andtear. The designer of new 5 GEL banknotes is Bacha Malazonia. The NBG says they will update the 10 GEL banknotes in the future.

NGOs Stage Protest in Support of Arrested Turkish College Manager BY THEA MORRISON BY THEA MORRISON


bilisi Mayor Davit Narmania says that City Hall will soon announce a competition to establish a universal payment system in municipal transport that allows payment of fares not only with metro cards but with a variety of different bank cards. The mayor says that the aim of the initiative is to

ensure a comfortable payment process for locals and tourists. “The changes are aimed at improvement of quality. At the moment, no consultations are underway concerning tariffs and other issues. The payment system is becoming better,” Narmania said. The mayor added that modernization of public transport is one of the priorities of City Hall. “The buses project was the first stage. A metropolitan modernization project is also underway, which is our next priority,” he said.


on-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have gathered at the government administration in support of Mustafa Emre Cabuk, one of the managers of the Turkish Demirel College, who was sentenced to three-month pre-extradition detention over alleged links to a terrorist organization. As part of their protests, they wore handcuffs while

pretending to study. They say this is to demonstrate that Cabuk is being unfairly investigated considering he was only engaged in educational activities in Georgia. The spouse of Emre Cabuk and some students also joined the protesters. The manager of Demireli College was arrested on May 24. Tbilisi City Court ruled on May 25 that Cabuk would stay in three-month pre-extradition detention. The decision was made the day after an official visit of the Turkish prime minister and cabinet members to Georgia.

Cabuk's lawyer Soso Baratashvili says that his client is not guilty, and he is accused of having links to the organization FETO, registered in the United States and associated with Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of orchestrating a military coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. Baratashvili is sure that Cabuk was detained at the request of the Turkish government. Cabuk denies all allegations and says that he has been carrying out only educational activities during his 15-year stay in Georgia.




UNM Offers Rustavi 2 TV Anchor as Mayoral Candidate “I’ll announce my decision in the next few days,” Udumashvili said. According to unofficial information, the UNM’s second mayoral candidate might be one of their leaders, Nika Melia. As for the parliamentary minority, European Georgia, they already have an official candidate for the post – Elene Khoshtaria. So far, she is the only official candidate from all parties. The independent candidate of Tbilisi City Council and environmentalist Alexander Elisashvili may also run but has yet to decide. Some time ago, Elisashvili confirmed that he had discussed the issue with the Republicans and Free Democrats non-parliamentary opposition parties. The ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party



pposition party the United NationalMovement(UNM) has offered oppositionmindedRustavi2TVanchor, Zaal Udumashvili as their candidate for Tbilisi Mayor. Udumashvili has confirmed that he received the offer from the UNM but added he has not yet made up his mind. He made the statement at Tbilisi International Airport on Wednesday, as he returned from a trip to Ukraine and a meeting with former President Mikheil Saakashvili and other National Movement leaders who are in exile there.

will likely nominate second Vice-Premier and Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze for the post of city mayor. Georgia’s Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze is sure no opposition candidate can win the Mayor’s election and is “confident that the GD candidate will win the race and become a good Mayor for the capital”. Parliamentary majority leader, Archil Talakvadze, says the GD has chosen Kaladze but the final decision will be made after their next council meeting. “Our decision will be declared by the Prime Minister. As for Kakha Kaladze, he is the forward of our team,” Takalvadze confirmed. The local elections will be held this autumn, most likely in October.

Georgian Airways Launches Tbilisi-London Flights BY THEA MORRISON


bilisi and London are now linked with a new direct flight by Georgian Airways. The airline will serve passengers on the route between Tbilisi-London using a Boeing 737-700 aircraft. The Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, attended the presenta-

tion of the new flight with Britain’s Ambassador to Georgia, Justin McKenzie Smith. The PM expressed hope that the new flight will contribute to increased cooperation between Georgia and the UK, strengthened ties between the Georgian and British people and increased tourism. “Road infrastructure, a hotel network and a number of tourist destinations are developing in Georgia. I hope these flights will continue even after the tourist season has finished,” Kvirikash-

vili said. He added that at present Georgia has 21 flight destinations to 13 European countries and the number of those travelling from Georgian airports in Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi has increased by 47% in the last five months. Ambassador Justin McKenzie Smith agreed that the journey between London and Tbilisi has now become easier and shorter. “Links between Britain and Georgia, in all kinds of areas, are expanding quickly," he added.




JUNE 9 - 12, 2017

The Enduring Trilateral Format: Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan BY EMIL AVDALIANI


he former Soviet space has seen a number of political andeconomicalliances.Some of them, such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), work only nominally; GUAM, another regional cooperation endeavor, resurfaced only recently. In Central Asia, any deep cooperation agreements between the countries largely failed in the 1990s and early 2000s. However, it is in the South Caucasus- where we have a perennial

Despite the three countries’ evidently divergent strategic paths, the basis for trilateral cooperation has only increased

conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, multiple breakaway territories and varied religious settings- that the cooperation between Turkey-Azerbaijan-Georgia, or so-called trilateral cooperation, continues to be a strong one. Moreover, over the past several years, since the trilateral cooperation was first introduced in May 2012 in Batumi, engagement between the three countries even increased. The countries initially pledged to deepen defense ties. And indeed, the defense cooperation between the countries increased and we witnessed numerous joint military exercises and sharing of intelligence between the three militaries. Moreover, the countries also cooperate on exchange of military staff and military expertise. The last meeting between the three defense ministers took place on May 25 in Batumi. The enduring cooperation was tested by overshadowing developments around Georgia. The government of the country has been criticized both internally and internationally for shutting doors to Azerbaijani dissidents and arrests of those wanted by Turkey. But the durability of strategic partnership takes precedence as the three countries need each other. Military cooperation, although not ambitious enough to cause fears in Moscow, along with railways and pipelines, represents a far greater sticking point for the countries than arrests of dissidents or other figures. Thus, for instance, the Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isık noted that the three

countries have “exemplary relations.” He also added that “new projects will be developed within the framework of the Tripartite Ministerial format.” From his side the Georgian Defense Minister Levan Izoria mentioned said the sides discussed the future of the tripartite format and exchanged views on how to increase the cooperation to a higher level. Similar statements were made by the Azerbaijani Defense Minister Colonel Zakir Hasanov. Considering how shaky and fast-moving is the regional political and security landscape in the South Caucasus and the Black Sea, the cooperation between the three countries is certainly important. The trilateral alliance is altogether noteworthy as is consists of NATO member and EU-hopeful Turkey, EU/NATOoriented Georgia, and Azerbaijan which up until now has avoided joining any

large economic or military alliances. The format, as said first inaugurated in 2012, has even seen the change of governments. For instance, in Georgia, the United National Movement was replaced by the Georgian Dream. While Turkey moved from close cooperation with Moscow to adversary and back again. However, despite the three countries’ evidently divergent strategic paths, the basis for trilateral cooperation has only increased. Every country of the three needs the others. Turkey wants a more stable Georgia with deeper economic and energy relations, while Azerbaijan, in the light of uncertainties regarding Nagorno Karabakh, needs Turkey’s backing. Georgia, in between, under pressure from Russia and being dependent on transit, in turn needs both Turkey and Azerbaijan. Moreover, the two countries are Tbilisi’s biggest trade partners and investment sources.

The three countries do not align because of a common threat. Nevertheless, they all feel Russian pressure on various fronts from Syria to Abkhazia and S. Ossetia/ Samachablo to Nagorno Karabakh. Even in Baku, the skepticism around Russia grows as recently Moscow abolished the All-Russian Azerbaijan Congress. The trilateral cooperation between Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan seems to be based on mutual interests and geopolitical challenges. The countries are less concerned with different religions, foreign policy vectors, etc. All three see how interdependent they are and there are clear imperatives (internal problems, foreign pressure) to increase the cooperation within the format. In other words, energy and transport infrastructure tying the three states, such as the Baku-TbilisiKars pipeline, take precedence. And this geopolitical thinking, in fact, has been the key to the trilateralism’s continued relevance. True, the countries still lack a common agenda on how to further develop the military cooperation, and there are not yet any concrete mechanisms on how to deal commonly with foreign challenges, but the format nevertheless has proved to be a long-lasting one. The countries are clever to not posture themselves as creating a definite military alliance in order not to provoke Russia, rather using the trilateral format to stress the importance of economic and energy cooperation, potentially backed if/when necessary by deeper military cooperation.




he 5th of June proved to be a historic day for the small Balkan nation as the country became the 29th member of NATO. Georgia watched with great interest, what with our country’s undisclosed desire to join the ranks of the North Atlantic alliance. How did it come that they were first? What did they do to deserve a MAP ahead of us? These were some of the questions entertained by the more Euroskeptically inclined members of our society. We tried to look for a middle ground and asked these very questions to… A Croatian. Bernard Karakas is the editor-in-chief of the Vecernij List, Croatia’s biggest daily newspaper and he was only too keen to discuss Montenegro’s ongoing NATO adventure with GEORGIA TODAY and Panorama TV Talk Show. “First and foremost, it’s a preventive measure on behalf of Europe and the West in general,” he tells us. “Its goal is to weaken Russia’s presence in the region and most importantly, to deny Russia access to the Adriatic Sea. This, in the long run, would prevent scenarios such as the one that is unfolding in Ukraine right now happening in the Balkans. Keep in mind that not so long ago, about 10 years or so, Montenegro was quite close to Russia, right before the ex-PM Milo Djukanovic, who is still a de-facto ruler of the country, did a U-turn on the Kremlin to prolong his political lifespan. We shouldn’t forget Serbia, either – the main leverage of the Kremlin in the Balkans.

Of course they’re unhappy- it’s a major blow to Russian interests in the region. It’s, as they like to call it, “A NATO Expansion”. But then what can they really do to stop it from happening? Unlike Georgia and Ukraine, Montenegro was never considered as “Russia’s backyard”. So, we don’t expect major changes. Sure, there might be some uproar, some clashes and so on, but generally we in the Balkans pull these things off just perfectly without Russian intervention. Sad to admit it, but it has become a know-how of sorts for us.

HOW CAN MONTENEGRO CONTRIBUTE TO INTERNATIONAL SECURITY (SINCE IT'S A SMALL COUNTRY WITH ONLY 600,000 INHABITANTS) Funny question, that. Nobody asks Montenegro to contribute anything, really – their prime contribution will be the fact that Russia won’t have a potential access route into the Adriatic Sea, which will save NATO and the West a lot of headache for years to come. So, Montenegro is in there mainly thanks to its geographical proximity.

Bernard Karakas, the editor-in-chief of the Vecernij List, Croatia’s biggest daily newspaper


AT LEAST NOT BEHIND MONTENEGRO OR SERBIA It’s more sad than naïve, really. If you compare democratic standards between Georgia and Montenegro, then the later doesn’t even come close, but Montenegro is, figuratively speaking, a brick in the wall that NATO is building in front of Russia. It’s one small, yet crucial part of the puzzle that NATO has been assembling for quite a while now. Slovenia, Croatia, now Montenegro – this means ensuring the security of the Adriatic, and to a larger extent, the Mediterranean Sea… And mind you, the Adriatic is a lot closer to Western Europe than the Black Sea is. To wrap it up, Montenegro has the luxury to trade over things with NATO, while Georgia is not so lucky. It has nothing to do with Montenegro being democratic or not. Take Albania – this country has nothing to do with democracy whatsoever, yet is a NATO member already, for geopolitical reasons.

SO, IT’S ALL DOUBLE STANDARDS AND NOTHING TO DO WITH REFORMS AND DEMOCRACY? Not exactly. Both are very much needed and welcomed, but at the end of the day, it’s still a political question. Georgia being a post-soviet republic is yet another stumbling block. With Putin being firmly at the helm of Russia and more often than not dictating the foreign policy trends to the whole world, the European leaders are afraid to provoke him. That’s the main reason Georgia isn’t already a NATO member. So, it doesn’t need to compare itself with Montenegro or Albania – that’s a futile endeavor… It’s the geopolitical situation that has the Alliance’s collective hands tied, not a lack of effort on Georgia’s part.




JUNE 9 - 12, 2017


Illustration: Tom Casson


eorgian political scandals seem to have no end. One hasn’t finished yet and already the next one begins. This could be seen in last week’s political calendar. Just as the steam from the so-called scandalous conspiracy against the Patriarch seemed to be dissipating, Rustavi 2 threw another one at the Georgian Dream’s government: according to their information, the Azerbaijani journalist abducted recently in Tbilisi was discovered in the central detention isolator of Baku’s Border Service. And so the new scandal began, developing with such “speed” that the governments of both Georgia and Azerbaijan were obliged to issue official statements. However, instead of giving answers, these gave rise to yet more questions. Soon, the European Union and the US Department of State got involved and the scandal became bigger than anyone could have imagined. So what was so different about this case that has caused so much tension? The wife of the kidnapped journalist, Khadija Ismayilova, declared that on May 29, Mukhtarli was allegedly kidnapped from Chonkadze Street in Tbilisi, forced into a car with his hands tied, eyes covered, and was beaten. Afterwards, the silent kidnappers supposedly changed car twice and in the third car the journalist heard the people talking in Azerbaijani. Afgan Mukhtarli was let out of the car in the neutral border zone of Georgia and Azerbaijani and led towards the checkpoint, where he was arrested by the border guards. And it was this information that stirred protests among the NGOs who were later joined by a range of “big” political players. About the same scenario was seen in 2004, when Russia placed an ultimatum on the then-newly chosen President Mikheil Saakashvili to transfer two refugees from Chechnya which the Kremlin had accused of terrorism. Notably, the case of the

two people had been reviewed by the court during President Shevardnadze’s government, with the “evidence” of the Russian Prosecutor's Office making innocents of both. Upon the return of President Saakashvili to Tbilisi, the Georgian special service kidnapped the Chechens and took them to the Larsi checkpoint to the Russians. For some reason, this case didn’t catch the expected attention of NGOs or society at that time. In 2010, an Iranian scientist, who visited Georgia as a tourist, disappeared. Later, he was found in prison across the ocean; the Israeli press actively discussed the idea that he might have been “interesting” because he had some connection with Tehran's "nuclear program". Surprisingly, this case

wasn’t followed by any significant protests, either; but didn’t all three of these cases exemplify the same level of violation of the country’s sovereignty and legislation? In reality, as harsh as it may sound, both current and the former governments have been acting based on the limited capabilities of our small, weak, vulnerable and helpless country amid the uncontrollably cynical world that we are living in. The only difference is in the fact that Georgian Dream has let the genie out of the bottle so much so that putting it back is no longer possible. To put it more bluntly, before coming to power, the GD talked much about the authoritarian system of the United National Movement and how “amazed

Europe was with the new Georgian democracy”and now they are inevitably facing a dead end. Most importantly, they have found themselves caught in the trap of international politics without allies. What they are left with is a claim to being completely uninvolved in the abduction of Afgan Mukhtarli. And by doing so, they are only further deteriorating their situation and reinforcing their complete powerlessness. Notably, very soon, the Georgian government will be facing a new challenge of whether to extradite one of the Private Demirel College managers Mustafa Emer Çabuk to the Turkish government, who is also accused of terrorism, but this time by the Turkish government and not the Russian.

Information Campaign on Arbitration Kicks Off in Georgia


he Alternative Dispute Resolution as an effective tool for citizens, businesses and legal professionals will be the focus of an information campaign to kick off in June 2017 in eight Georgian cities. The campaign is initiated by the Georgian International Arbitration Centre (GIAC) and will be supported by the European Union (EU) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with contributions from the Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI). The campaign was announced on June 5, 2017, at the first workshop in Telavi, east Georgia. The event brought together representatives of local businesses and lawyers. Nino Chikovani, President of the Georgian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), and Shombi Sharp, Deputy Head of UNDP in Georgia, opened the event. This was followed by a presentation by Beka Injia, GIAC Secretary-General, who spoke about the importance of Alternative Dispute Resolution for legal environment and business development, and introduced activities of the Georgian International Arbitration Centre (GIAC). Liana Kartsivadze, legal expert of the European Union and United Nations program “Justice for All”, addressed procedural aspects of arbitration and noted international experience in this area. The seminar participants also discussed the new Fast Track Arbitration Rules tailor-made by the Georgian International Arbitration Center (GIAC) for speedy and effective dispute resolution. The information campaign will run until July 30, with a series of similar workshops in Gori, Akhaltsikhe, Zugdidi, Poti, Ozurgeti, Batumi and Kutaisi. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) helps disputing parties come to an agreement short of

litigation. The rising popularity of ADR can be attributed to the increasing caseload of courts, higher level of confidentiality and lower costs than in litigation cases. Arbitration is one of the most commonly used ADR mechanisms particularly favored by businesses. Despite the obvious advantages, ADR awareness in Georgia is still extremely low, which has become the main reason behind the information campaign initiated by the Georgian International Arbitration Centre (GIAC). The European Union and UNDP promote Alternative Dispute Resolution in Georgia within the framework of their project to ensure better accessibility, quality and scope of free legal aid and payable legal services as well as alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, including arbitration and mediation. This project is part of the comprehensive EU4Justice Program, a cooperation framework between Georgia and the European Union in the justice sector with a current EU budget allocation of EUR 50 million, which also includes cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, prosecutorial, judiciary and penitentiary institutions.




GIP Commentary: Georgia’s Image Tarnished by Relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan BY MARIAM GRIGALASHVILI AND JOSEPH LARSEN

Source: IWPR


n international relations, image matters. This is especially true for small states such as Georgia. The country’s image has suffered since Afgan Mukhtarli, an Azerbaijani investigative journalist who moved to Georgia in 2015, went missing from Tbilisi on May 29. According to a report by Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty, he appeared in a detention facility in Baku a day later. Mukhtarli’s lawyer, Elchin Sadigov, told reporters that the journalist was kidnapped near his home in Tbilisi by persons he believes are representatives of the Georgian state security service. According to Sagidov, the captors covered Mukhtarli’s head and drove for hours before taking him across the border into Azerbaijan, where his presence was confirmed on May 31. A statement by Amnesty International said that Mukhtarli is at risk of torture. Moreover, another recent case has damaged Georgia’s reputation. Mustafa Emre Chabuk, a Turkish school teacher, was arrested by Georgian police--at the request of the Turkish government-on suspicion of supporting terrorism. He was placed in pre-trial detention on May 25. He faces imminent risk of extradition, according to a report by Amnesty International. The report warns that if extradited, Chabuk will be at risk of torture and other human rights violations by the Turkish authorities. Chabuk is accused of having ties to US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government blames for last year’s failed coup attempt. Implications for Georgian-Azerbaijani relations: • The Mukhtarli incident has damaged Georgia’s image domestically and internationally. Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili admitted that the case dealt a blow to Georgia's image as a regional leader in media freedom and human rights. Margvelashvili referred to the incident as a "serious challenge to our statehood and sovereignty." Levan Asatiani, Amnesty International’s chief official in the South Caucasus, accused the Georgian authorities of being complicit in the abduction. The US State Department refrained from direct criticism of Georgia but nonetheless reported being “disturbed” by the incident. Several ambassadors, notably from the United States and Germany, have voiced concerns with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, calling for a full investigation with the results disclosed immediately. Otherwise, Georgia’s image will be put in question. • The incident has also cast doubts about Georgia’s ability to withstand pressure applied by a key strategic partner. Earlier this year, Georgia and Azerbaijan signed a natural gas agreement viewed as favorable to Georgia’s interests. Under the terms of the agreement, Azerbaijan will meet all of Georgia’s domestic demand in 2017, obviating the need to purchase additional supplies from Russia. The Mukhtarli case has fueled speculation that Georgia is cooperating with Azerbaijan’s security service in exchange for favorable terms on the provision of gas. Such criticisms have been building up for some time, as the government refused to grant safe haven to several Azerbaijani dissidents earlier this year. • Azerbaijan’s heavyhanded approach is counter-productive because it undermines strategic relations between Baku and Tbilisi. Additionally, it fur-

ther alienates Georgia’s population--including an influential section of civil society--from both governments. The Azerbaijani authorities must understand that Georgia’s obligations undertaken under its Association Agreement with the European Union are real and cannot be flouted. • The incident in any case will have a negative impact on international perceptions of the level of democracy and human rights protection in Georgia. At best, the authorities failed to stop Mukhtarli and his captors at the border, let alone keep him safe. At worst, members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs actively participated in his abduction. Implications for Georgian-Turkish relations: • The case of Mustafa Emre Chabuk highlights Georgia’s vulnerability to pressure imposed by a larger strategic partner. His arrest came shortly after an official visit to Tbilisi by Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, and is understandably seen as the government bowing to external pressure. The case poses a dilemma for Georgia: On the one hand, there is an official request for extradition from the Turkish government; on the other hand, there is the probability that Chabuk’s rights will be violated if extradited. If the Georgian government does not extradite Chabuk, tensions may grow between the two countries. The Turkish government will perceive it as a diplomatic affront and as tacit support for the plotters of last year’s attempted coup. However, if Georgia does extradite, it will be in violation of international human rights obligations, causing serious damage to the country’s image and credibility. • A number of concrete areas could potentially be adversely affected by worsened relations between Georgia and Turkey. These include: 1) cooperation on implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project; 2) Turkish support for Georgia’s accession to NATO; 3) Turkish diplomatic support for Georgia in international bodies such as the UN and OSCE; 4) the visa free regime between Turkey and Georgia; and 5) bilateral trade relations. • As Georgia is not able totacklethisproblemalone,

it should attempt to involve relevant international organizations (Council of Europe, European Court of Justice, and diplomatic missions) in the Chabuk case, and take a decision based on these consultations. However, Georgia must approach this delicately, both adhering to its human rights obligations and managing its strategic partnership with Turkey.

The Georgian Institute of Politics was founded in 2011 to strengthen institutions and promote good governance and development through policy research and advocacy in Georgia. It publishes its blog with Georgia Today twice per month. Check out our website in English and Georgian at gip.ge for more blogs, data, and analyses.

Messe Frankfurt to Hold International Exhibition Tendence 2017 in Frankfurt, June 24-27, 2017

New, exciting and creative ideas are abound at Tendence. The exhibition hosts over 1000 participants and is home to a wide range of quality products from home furnishings and decoration to gifts, jewelry and accessories. A large selection of mid to upper price segments can be found, representing the latest collections for spring, summer and beyond.

DWV is offering support to Georgian citizens, exhibition members and visitors wishing to organize their attendance at Tendence 2017.

Don't miss the chance to expand your business network and introduce your products to the world!

Source: report.az

For more information visit tendence. messefrankfurt.com and contact Zaira Soloeva +995 599 011082 E: zaira.soloeva@georgien.ahk.de




JUNE 9 - 12, 2017

Flagrant Secularism in Church Christian Orthodox Church goers are convinced forever and irrefutably that the Orthodox belief is the strongest among the extant Christian denominations in the entire world, but based on what’s going on in the Georgian Church today, nobody could say it’s the most sacred venue of saints. The issue in question and its development have finally staggered the remnants of my belief that the Church can teach me morals and ethics. What I see is the unmitigated secularism with all its vices and humane erroneousness happening in our church. I am earnestly surprised that people still want to go to church, but that’s probably an individual belief in God – not in the organized faith called religion. Judge me as you wish, but I feel myself a better person for not being involved in church life than anybody else who is. I hate the entire skullduggery I hear and see in the realm of our longstanding traditional faith. I don’t even understand what those grandly and expensively frocked and equipped men are talking about. What do lawyers have to do with the Church? The Church should have its own things to do – kind, elevated, tolerant and wise. Do they have time in there to wax so secular? Unbelievable! As a consequence of the scandalous incident of the supposed poisoning of His Holiness, one of those clergymen is arrested, ready to do time for God knows how long. Others are still at large, but are suspected for criminal acts. But that’s all OK – almost! The most deplorable side of the situation is aggravated even more by what is happening with the Patriarch’s image and stance, especially at his age of unbidden caducity. Somebody has managed – very wrongly and viciously – to hurt the man’s great name and fame. One of the evaluations of the demoralizing happenings that I have recently heard is that Church needs as much management and leadership with a strong hand as any other segment of human activity. The Church is even more difficult to lead and manage and let it function on the level of its genuine vocation. We need our Church, but not as it stands right now. We need it intact, pristine and lofty as it has always been with its heroic past and individuals, and with its indispensable role of a spiritual leader of the nation.



ot always, but right now, I'm awfully happy that I’m not registered as a believer, and I have my reasons for it. I know well what the Church means in the history of Georgia and in the current life of its populous parish, and I have a lot of respect for their feelings. What bothers me, though, is that the Church today looks like a regular industry, ridden with outrageous scandals. We hear that somebody wanted to take our Patriarch’s life, and to this end, that ‘somebody’ had clandestinely purchased poisonous material, strong enough to assassinate the holy man. The investigation into the alleged crime has been ongoing for months now, with zero results. Moreover, the more time passes, the more the plot thickens…and the characters involved are multiplying like mushrooms. In this sickening process, we, the watchers of the filthy story, are gradually coming to believe that the Church is not much different from the rest of our life’s regular components: the lay want to have fun and frolic around, so do the clergy; the lay want to drive expensive modern cars and use overly sophisticated cell phones, so do the clergy; the lay want to drink and go garrulous, so do the clergy; the lay want to make a fortune overnight, so do the clergy; the lay go out and do business, so do the clergy; the lay go on TV and radio with big mouths to somehow justify the alleged wrongdoings, so do the clergy. Both use the same style of parlance, same vocabulary, same stresses and accents, same ups and downs, same slang, same everything. So, what’s the difference between the two? The only difference is the social status – the clergy preach and the lay listen. The result – zilch! I understand well that what I’m saying can be construed as atheist’s talk, but no- I’m just a regular pursuant of the truth. And where the truth might be is either egregiously obfuscated or deliberately concealed so tightly and masterfully that centuries will pass and the people will never know it.

Appointment of New Deputy Chief Prosecutor Raises Suspicion in Civil Sector BY THEA MORRISON

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he appointment of Giorgi Badashvili, a former Head of the Investigation Service of the Ministry of Finance of Georgia, to the post of Deputy Chief Prosecutor raised many questions among the civil sector and opposition parties. In 2014-2015, Badashvili served as Chief Prosecutor and the current Chief Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze was his deputy. He also held the position of Head of the Investigation Unit of the Prosecutor’s Office (POG) of Georgia in 2013. The Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) GYLA believes that Badashvili’s appointment is not well-grounded. “A person who used to work in the POG for many years and who could not show himself well returns to the same structure. We would like to know what the argument was for such decision,” GYLA Head Ana Natsvlishvili stressed. The same question was raised by the NGO Transparency International (TI) Georgia. "In connection with law enforcement officers, we see they are often moved from one position to another. We cannot understand it,” Eka Gigauri, Executive Director of the TI, said, adding that there are suspicion in society about the existence of informal influence in law enforcement bodies. “It is important for us to know very clearly why a specific person is appointed to a particular position and what this person has done to be liked or disliked," Gigauri said. The opposition parties spoke out about the existence of so-called clans within the state bodies. They believe that there was a controversy between the clans of Finance Ministry and the POG and Badashvili’s appointment was the result of this. Opposition party European Georgia says such facts are bad for the country.

“The exchange of staff does not change anything and the informal governing will still exist,” Otar Kakhidze from European Georgia said, underlining that by informal influence he means ex-Chief Prosecutor, Otar Partskhaladze. The United National Movement (UNM) has the same position on the issue. “It seems Badashvili will be more comfortable in the POG…The biggest problem is that today we have clans and Mafia governing us,” said Deputy Chairman of the UNM Political Council, Zaza Bibilashvili. Justice Minister Thea Tsulukiani says that Badashvili returned to the POG because Chef Prosecutor Irakli Shotadze requested the addition of one more deputy prosecutor. “The request was approved by the government after which I made changes to the list of staff,” she said. Eka Beselia, Majority member, says that rumors about the reason behind Badashvili’s appointment are false. “I know Badashvili quite well and I think his skills will be good for the POG and for all of us,” Beselia noted.




Benjamin Fricke on Georgia’s Uncertain Future INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE


eorgia at the Crossroads: An Uncertain Future – Benjamin Fricke pulled no punches when presenting his views during a public lecture at The Institute of World Politics (Washington DC) last month. As there is an acute shortage of international scholars that can deliver a viable, well thought out analysis (emphasis on adjectives) on Georgia, GEORGIA TODAY and Panorama TV show dully jumped at the chance to interview the German born scholar who is currently pying his trade as a Scientific Associate at Konrad-AdenauerStiftung's regional program in the South Caucasus.

LET’S DISCUSS 1990S GEORGIA. WHAT WERE THE MILESTONES AND CHALLENGES SINCE INDEPENDENCE? Coming from a country that was divided by a cold war as the consequence of WWII, I can draw a clear conclusion that Georgia by itself did a marvelous job in managing this transition from a soviet republic into an independent country. Of course, we have to understand the 90s as the wild period. There was a shortage of food, electricity, and even Tbilisi metro was closed. Georgia was knee-deep in corruption. We should not forget that in the Soviet Union there was a decentralized system in the republics- they were supposed to function themselves as one union. So, it was very tough for this country to transition itself into a self-sustaining economy. The “wild 90s” as we sometime call it were very hard for Georgians. But then again, I believe that it helped to form Georgia’s identity. And it is a time many Georgians do not want go back to. If I talk to Georgians younger than me and hear them say that Stalin was a good man and he did good things like winning WWII and building up the Soviet Union, then that most likely comes from that period of time because they had delusions in the 1990s and an urge to romanticize a period in which they, especially the older felt everything functioned and was organized better. But, obviously, the 90s meant hardship for people and that eventually led to the Rose revolution. I think Georgia’s difference compared to other Southern Caucasus countries was that it had an opportunity to actually manage a democratic revolution that changed the political and economic system of the country.

GOING TO THE ROSE REVOLUTION AFTERMATH. DID GEORGIA DEVELOP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION? THERE ARE CRITICS WHO CLAIM THAT GEORGIA IS DERAILING ITSELF FROM THE DEMOCRATIC PATH AND SOMEHOW MOVING TOWARDS THE RUSSIAN POLE The Rose revolution was a breaking point in Georgian history. And compared to other countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan, Georgia managed to get a party into power that reformed the country. It had a very dramatic police reform. It put anti-corruption measures in place

We can even fall back and neglect reforms achieved in recent years because people are either not qualified to run the country, have different intentions with regards where the country is going, or they are useful idiots for someone else

which were extremely necessary to ensure a functioning infrastructure and administration. I always like to use example of that “mushroom building” – the Public Service hall. I don’t think I know any place in Germany where you can go and find everything under one roof. Everything is transparent. Because corruption is a disease in every functioning country. This is the first thing that needs to be fought. That was well done and needs to be continued. But you asked whether Georgia is derailing right now. I do believe that there are some signs which should be looked at and they are a little bit worrisome. We’ve seen some stagnation in the will to reform. If you look at the current government of Georgia – it is not the right thing to have one person who has a lot of money running the government or pretty much pulling the strings behind the scenes. People really need to understand this. It’s the oligarchic system in Russia that has always broken Russian civil society’s neck. For Georgia, it is very important to keep a close eye on strengthening civil society and public involvement in government.

LET’S TALK ABOUT GEORGIA’S EURO-ATLANTIC INTEGRATION. HOW REALISTIC AND ACHIEVABLE ARE THESE ASPIRATIONS? If you look at Georgia’s engagement with NATO, over the years 11,000 Georgian troops have fought in Afghanistan, give or take. That’s an impressive number for a country the size of Georgia. Many politicians and reps of NATO and the EU very much appreciate this. They see Georgia’s commitment not only to NATO but also to fighting organized crime. The Georgian authorities have done a marvelous job in prosecuting them. And by looking at the visa liberalization, we can see that Georgia has been rewarded for this. Of course, the EU itself is a state in need of improvement. We have economic troubles in southern Europe, Brexit; we had recent elections in France, and we still have debt problems... So, the EU and its member states are very much absorbed with their domestic problems. All things considered, I think Georgia has been put back on the political map and it make sure it stays there.


a problem selling land to foreigners per se. Yet, checking someone who wants to buy land and to see the true intentions behind it as well as where money is coming from is essential in those cases to prevent corruption, money laundering or even a land grab. I’ve always been a proponent of private property rights and freedom of investment. Because after all this is the main backbone of the German economy with its middle-sized businesses, innovation and investments. On the other hand, it also depends on what any land buyer is trying to achieve. Georgia’s just signed a FTA with China. If you look at Chinese behavior in some African countries, that is also a new form of economic-colonialism. They brought their own workers, they built infrastructure to connect to the mines and ports. So they had the strategic infrastructure in the places they needed. And this is what they used the property for. Hardly anyone from the local population

benefited from that expect for cheap products coming back to Africa and to some extend loans provided by the Chinese government. And it is mostly Chinese-backed companies that are doing exceptionally well. I think this really needs to be considered if you make a decision whether or not to sell your land or find alternatives such as a Hong Kong style land lease.

COULD THAT HAPPEN IN GEORGIA? I’m sure such things can happen anywhere in a very similar way. I hope Georgians are aware of the experiences some African countries had. Because it was to some extent a new form of neo-colonialism and again is a different player who also may be in cahoots with Russia to some extent. I think Georgia has to be wary of this position globally and to pay attention what it sells to whom under which circumstances.

Irakli Kovzanadze: Investors Not Worried about Article 94 in Constitution

Sometimes, I can’t follow the trend of thought which applies in these processes, either. The only thing I can say is of all countries that could potentially become an associate or a member of NATO and or the EU, Georgia has done its homework at the best.

SO, GEORGIA DESERVES IT? I think by all standards Georgia would be the most appropriate candidate.

GEORGIA AT A CROSSROADS. WHAT’S NEXT FOR THIS COUNTRY? If you look at developments of the last months and years - it is at a pivotal point right now. We can even fall back and neglect reforms achieved in recent years because people are either not qualified to run the country, they have different intentions with regards where the country is going right now, or they are useful idiots for someone else. The Georgian public needs to live up to their democratic rights they have hard earned after 2003.

THERE IS NO CONSENSUS IN GEORGIA REGARDING LEGAL CHANGES ON SELLING OF LAND TO FOREIGN CITIZENS. SOME MEMBERS OF THE GOVERNMENT THINK THAT THE LANDS SHOULD BE SOLD TO FOREIGNERS WITH A VIEW TO DEVELOP AGRICULTURE AND ATTRACT INVESTMENTS, AMID CONCERNS IN SOCIETY OF SUCH SALE. WHAT IS YOUR OPINION? I see why that would be a debating point. Property is to some extent responsibility but is also power. I think Georgians really need to come to terms themselves whether or not and under what conditions they are selling the land and to whom they are selling their land. I would not personally have


he Parliament’s Finance and Budget Committee hosted a discussion of the new constitution draft, chaired by Irakli Kovzanadze, the Chairman of Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament of Georgia. The Finance and Budget Committee provided several arguments and comments on the draft of amendments to the Constitution, including the issue concerning the National Bank audit by the State, supported by the Chairman of the Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze. Parliament’s Finance and Budget Committee fully supported the proposed draft at the first hearing. Irakli Kovzanadze has said that investors are sat-

isfied and calm about the existence of Article 94, which enables decision-making only by referendum, and that it should not be removed from the Constitution. “The 94th article must stay in the Constitution,” Kovzanadze said at a committee meeting, referring to the draft law on amendments to the Constitution, adding that the abovementioned article in the Constitution offers a stable and calm environment for investors which is good for our economic development. “I believe that the 94th article should stay untouched in the constitutional changing project, as it creates a soft environment for investors and I think that it is very important for the future,” he declared.




JUNE 9 - 12, 2017

Putting Georgian Youth to Work through Education & Entrepreneurship


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t is well known that unemployment is one of the most acute problems in Georgia. Considering the fact that youth represents 22.5% of the population, it is clear how paramount it is to take care of the future generations. On June 5, the Youth Employment Forum was held at Fabrika, organized by G4G, YES-Georgia, ZRDA Activity in Georgia, Ph International, Crystal and Chemonics, and funded by USAID. The theme? Internships, entrepreneurships, co-financing and providing youngsters aged 15-29 with information about job opportunities. Of the abovementioned 22.5%, almost a third of young people in Georgia is unemployed. The recent studies suggest that considerable positive growth will not be observed in this regard for some time to come. Youth employment is thus believed to be a pressing issue and major challenge faced by policy and development actors in Georgia. The objective of the forum was to provide a platform for reflection and discussion in order to assess the achievements and challenges and revisit current practices and strategies for youth employment. It brought together government decision-makers and business representatives, international and local organizations and education experts to discuss solutions and strategies to increase the employability of the youth of Georgia. The agenda consisted of a number of keynote sessions and panels that reflected the current opportunities and challenges to youth employment and explored potential policy options, reviewing the gaps and lessons learned and discussing progress made towards ensuring youth employment. The forum not only provided a platform to ensure that the employment issues of Georgian youth are on the policy agenda, but also contributed to the USAID-funded YES-Georgia project’s key goals of advancing and advocating for youth employment issues (a project initiated by Crystal Fund, PH International and MFO Crystal). The co-organizers of the event, USAID G4G and ZRDA, are also actively working on youth programs. The outcome of the event is a Forum Report with the keynote speakers’ speeches. major findings, and recommendations to the government and all stakeholders working towards youth policy development and implementation in Georgia. Parallel to the Forum, Yes-Georgia, G4G and ZRDA organized the Expo of their projects and the beneficiary companies/organizations presented their ongoing activities and results. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Maia Eristavi, Advocacy and Capacity Building Component Leader of G4G: “The USAID-funded project ‘Government for Growth’ coordinated this event and is involved in a youth internship program. We have a very high percentage of youth employment. 47% of our youth

are now employed. But it’s not only youth activitywe are also supporting youth for their future employment, advising our beneficiary organizations, mainly businesses and business associations, to hire them in order to continue their career in the private sector. According to our statistics, we feel that ‘employment after internship’ should be developed in the country. This is one of the major components that youth can really use,” she said, adding that the aim of the project is to develop partnership with the private sector and government, supporting the public-private dialogue. “Youth unemployment is quite an acute issue, and it’s increasing, not decreasing. The project we’re implementing is about youth entrepreneurship and income generation. We needed to focus on state-level policy and participation so that everyone is participating in resolving this problem. They asked questions and received answers from the representatives of the ministries and various departments and sectors. We invited governmental and non-governmental institutions, the business sector, as well as a lot of youth. The project YESGEORGIA is focusing on the main political issues. It’s about supporting youth entrepreneurship and young people’s internship programs. We support young people to self-employ themselves, but also companies to employ them. We created a young entrepreneurs’ school so that young people aged 16-27, irrespective of their educational background, can participate, including from the regions. This time, 15 municipalities are involved and Tbilisi, too.” Amanda Tsutskiridze is a young girl living in Kutaisi who, together with her friends, received co-funding to purchase a part of the neighboring forest territory. She plans to develop it into a very popular tourism destination which will include cultural tourism. “We named our territory Green Wood. We bought some land and tents, too. We’ll build Swedish cabins which are energy efficient and healthy.” GEORGIA TODAY learned that currently, energy and water management professions are at a deficit in the Georgian market. Reportedly, Georgians still think that vocational education is not popular and still prefer to study in economics, business and legal faculties. One of the main messages of the forum was market demand. They might want to become lawyers, but the market cannot tolerate such an abundance. So, they have to be informed first and foremost and make their professional choice afterwards. Thanks to USAID, the program teaches beneficiaries how to become entrepreneurs and later, are co-financed. The attendance at the forum was very high. Let’s hope that it will be fruitful for as many youngsters as possible. Interested parties can received the latest updates on https:// www.facebook.com/G4G-305788096275110/ The Forum is expected to have laid the foundation for an annual event that will help coordinate and advance youth employment issues in Georgia.




Business Forum "Construction Georgia 2017" BY MAKA LOMADZE


n June 6, at the Hotels & Preference Hualing Tbilisi, BUSINESS GEORGIA organized the Business Forum CONSTRUCTION GEORGIA 2017 at which the construction business was discussed as one of the fastest growing sectors in Georgia. The event's main goal was to emphasize the role of the construction sector in the economic growth of the country and the significant impact of standardization on the construction sector. The themes included Market Specifications, Supply & demand correlation on the market and the impact of urbanization on field development; The cause of providers, spectrum of the resources necessary for construction and their compliance with quality; Investing & Funding: Funding the construction business and existing risk factors; Construction sector – an attractive field for investors, implemented investments; Safety and Standards: safety issues meeting the standards and the role of regulations; Infrastructural base necessary for effective functioning of the field; Strategy: Cluster policy of managing a construction business; and Energy efficiency standards in construction – strategy and obligations for 2022. BUSINESS GEORGIA is distinguished for its organizing of business forums and, by defining relevant topics, it emphasizes the facts and processes that reflect the business environment in the country. By conducting subject based, industry based and regional business forums, the company aims to provide all interested parties with relevant information and support those involved in the process of

forming the business climate for strategic business development in Georgia. The business forum at Hualing brought together around 300 participants, including high level government officials, commercial and international sectors, entrepreneurs and start-ups, construction and developer companies, importer and exporter company representatives, investors, financial institutions, insurance sector, investment companies, consult-

ing sector, media, Chambers of Commerce and Industry, alongside individuals who represent decision-making organizations and play a key role in creating effective business environment and developing further process. Karina Jansone, representative of the EU delegation to Georgia, focused on energy efficiency, saying that it is often forgotten, but this is a very important topic, related to creating jobs and eco-

nomic growth, “We are increasing this ambition in the EU and other countries, including in Georgia. Energy efficiency is a growing field in EU world cooperation. The EU can be a partner for the private sector, including the construction sector. All our cooperation will be conditional on developing a sound and sustainable energy framework, which will also include energy efficiency in the construction field. One of the [themes]

would be raising the awareness of the population and developing a proper understanding of energy efficiency”. Ana Gogishvili, Director General of BUSINESS GEORGIA talked to GEORGIA TODAY fresh after the forum: “Our forums are created in order to enable the public and private sectors, as well as international sectors, to have discussions, solve problems, outline plans for the future and share their opinions with one another in the same space. This was the first construction forum of ours, which we began working on after conducting a large market survey. The next forum will be held at the end of July and will focus on real estate. It will be attended by representatives of broker companies and investment funds of various countries”. Reportedly, before that, at the end of June, BUSINESS GEORGIA plans a business forum Women in Business. GEORGIA TODAY also spoke to Zura Tsiklauri, interim Head of the Service of Architecture under Tbilisi City Hall, about the unlawful constructions which have been quite abundant, which often threaten to destroy green zones, including parks and other recreation zones: “I can tell you that at present, illegal constructions are maximally restricted. There may be old projects that are still ongoing but we have an approach to have as much free and green space as possible, which will be by all means included in the development plan of the city”. According to the National Statistics Office of Georgia, construction has increased by 70 percent in Tbilisi and by 63 percent in Adjara. 64,692 employees are working in the construction field. However, the coin has two sides and while the boost to the economy is good, our green spaces must also be protected.


Escaped from Alcatraz! Charity Swim Raises $5000 for Georgian Mental Health Services BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES


n June 4, Georgia-based Brit, Robin ForestierWalker, who has been reporting for Al Jazeera English from Europe and Central Asia since 2008, successfully swam the 2km stretch of water from the Californian Alcatraz prison to the mainland in order to raise money towards improving mental health services, in particular for people suffering from mental disorders such as schizophrenia, in Georgia. "I’m asking people to consider making a donation via the generosity.com website,” Robin said before the swim. “So far, we’ve raised about $5000. There are some good charities [in Georgia] working in mental health and a little can go a long way." Robin was inspired to make the swim by the tragic suicide of his cousin’s son, Jack Rohman, who was suffering from schizophrenia. “His father Keith found solace in swimming and he and I discovered a mutual love of open-water distance swimming,” Robin told GEORGIA

TODAY. “When Keith proposed Alcatraz, I said let’s do it for charity. Keith has since raised almost $20,000 for mental health in the US, which is a fabulous result”. We spoke to Robin the day after his massive feat, which saw him braving 2km of icy water with 800 other swimmers. “I walked with more than 800 swimmers towards two passenger ferries which took everyone out to the starting position. It was a very friendly atmos-

phere and everyone was chatting and making new friends. We stopped 100m off the island from where the prison complex could clearly be seen, then it was time for everyone to jump overboard, lemming fashion, into the Bay water,” Robin told us. “Fortunately, swimming Tbilisi Sea in April had prepared me for the chilly Bay waters and the conditions could not have been more perfect, with beautiful sunny skies and calm waters, and a wonderful view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Canoeists and small boats sur-

rounded the swimmers like a flotilla. Then they blew the starting horn and we were off. Obviously, with 800 swimmers in the water, you can imagine that it was quite busy, and there were more than a few flailing arms and legs to avoid, but once I got into my rhythm, I just kept my head down and aimed for the sighting boat, emerging on the shore about 40 minutes later”. Both Robin and Keith found the experience emotional. “Keith and I are very happy to have completed this iconic

swim and are still dreaming about the experience. It was also emotional for Keith who put a laminated photograph of Jack under his wetsuit against his chest”. Robin is now taking some time out before returning to Tbilisi in July where he has already lined up some meetings to help allocate the funds. “I've now raised over $5000 and I'm delighted with this result, though the fundraiser remains open”. Robin has yet to allocate the money, “but GCRT and Maclean have been helping,” he says. “One option is to try to pilot a new scheme such as a helpline or messaging service targeting young people, or some form of online resource with information to help them understand what’s happening and where they can go for help. Another option is to fund an awareness-raising project. It may also be that we donate the money to an initiative that is already up and running.” Robin’s future plans? He and Keith are already thinking about where their next swim will be! To donate, go to: https://www.generosity. com/medical-fundraising/escaping-alcatrazfor-mental-health-in-georgia




JUNE 9 - 12, 2017

Tbilisi Kindergarten Entertains Diplomats BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE


bilisi N162 municipal kindergarten welcomed special guests on Thursday – First Secretaries of the Embassies of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan to Georgia: Mr. Daniyal Toishubekov and his wife from Kazakhstan and Mr. Vugar Mustafayev from Azerbaijan, were welcomed by the children and the head of the Tbilisi Municipal Kindergarten Management Agency, Temur Tordinava, with a spectacular show held as the part of the week dedicated to International Children’s Day. Members of the Parliament of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili and Mariam Jashi, Mtatsminda District Governor Gela Archvadze and Member of the Tbilisi

City Assembly, Jaba Jishkariani, were also present at the event. After the Dance of the Flowers performed by the children in the kindergarten yard as a welcome show, the honorary guests were led to the concert hall, where the director of the N162 Kindergarten, Nino Tsiklauri, delivered an opening speech and led a brief photo presentation of the work performed during past three years in the preschool institution, hailing the reforms carried out by the current administration of the Tbilisi City Hall. The children sang in Georgian and English, and performed national and international dances, earning a standing ovation from the guests. Director Tsiklauri thanked the audience for their visit and the parents of two pupils at the Kindergarten, Dimitri Dolaberidze and Katie Ruth Davies, for

Beauty Needs No Sacrifice- First Georgian Organic Makeup Products BY MARIKO NATSARISHVILI


he human skin wraps and protects our bodies. It constitutes a living, dynamic tissue system. It has the remarkable ability to absorb applied products, partially or completely, into the bloodstream. In fact, up to 60% of the products we use on our skin as makeup are absorbed and deposited into the circulatory system. What’s more, chemically reactive beauty products may not only ruin your physical appearance and cause painful allergies, they can go so far as to interfere with your respiratory system, causing serious breathing disorders. With this in mind, two Georgian girls from Batumi, Nini Resulidze and Mariam Ghlonti, who study at the Business Administration faculty of the GeorgianAmerican University, decided to make the first Georgian 100% organic makeup products. “A year ago, we visited Bulgaria to attend a conference and saw huge number of rose-fragrant cosmetics, produced locally, being sold next to traditional souvenirs. That’s when we realized that creating Georgian cosmetics could be attractive in many ways and from that moment we started to work tirelessly on the best formulas for our products,” the girls told GEORGIA TODAY. The pair studied cosmetics, the compositions and the risks involved in not using quality ingredients. “Our product has more advantages compared to exported brands: the first thing is that this is a purely Georgian product, the second is that it is organic and no chemical impurities are used. Local honey wax, shea butter, castor oil and coconut oil, and other organic pigments are the main ingredients of our products. Our main mission was to cre-

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ate organic products which would not harm human beings, because beauty should not cause damage or require sacrifice,” Resulidze said. They named the cosmetics line ‘Gisheri,’ which comes from the Georgian 12th century epic-poem ‘The Knight in the Panther's Skin,’ in which the beauty of a woman is told using the same word. ‘Gisheri’ is metaphor for refined taste. “At first, we had three products: nail polish, matte lipstick and lip gloss. We created 50 pieces of each. We were excited since we did not know how customers would react to cosmetics made in Georgia. We were surprised when they sold over a weekend,” Ghlonti told us. The girls are planning to set up a salesdesk in Batumi City Mall and later visit Tbilisi and offer the products to Georgian and international visitors to the capital. After gaining recognition around the country, they want to open a shop. Their long-term goal is to export the products to Europe.

organizing the event. Mrs Toishubekov then gifted an illustrated bilingual (English-Russian) book of Kazakh legends to the kindergarten library.

“The involvement of and cooperation with different international organizations with the purpose of improving the preschool education legislation of Geor-

gia is crucial for the proper development of the system,” Tordinava stressed. “We have carried out significant reforms for the development of the preschool education institutions and this process is still in progress. We have ambitions, yet we also acknowledge that there are more challenges and in this reality, international involvement is crucial, especially in terms of improving legislation and sharing international experience”. MP Mariam Jashi, who chairs the parliamentary committee for education and is intensively engaged in the work for the development of the preschool education legislation, including the introduction of national standards and authorization of kindergartens, praised the reforms carried out under the management of Tordinava, saying the progress in Tbilisi municipal kindergartens was obvious and impressive.

The Frog that Croaks in the Water BY TAMZIN WHITEWOOD


akaki tskalshi kikinebs – ring any bells? When I think back to my first days in Georgia, as a foreigner and not having much of an idea about the culture, identity or indeed, language of the former soviet republic, it makes me smile. Not simply because they are fond memories, but because the identity of that person eludes me. I don’t really recognise her anymore. This, if memory serves, was back in 2014. Personal ties took me, quite happily so, to the country. I remember it vividly. I instantly fell in love with Tbilisi, coming from London, I had never seen such contrast before. Yet, one prominent memory will always stay with me. Looking out of the window of a cab from Tbilisi airport to Didube, with a jawdropping type expression on my face, trying to avidly comprehend how people could actually understand the Georgian alphabet, and pronounce letters that, to my naive ears, sounded incomprehensible. I’m not going to bore you with anything other than my quest to learn the language, for fear of rambling on. Suffice to say, my initial trip took me to three Georgian cities, all in stark contrast to the other. Tbilisi, Batumi and, rather significantly, Zugdidi. I had already brushed up on my Russian before arriving, as I knew that English, at least outside of the capital, was not widely spoken. Sitting around the table in the Kakhati region of Zugdidi, at a Supra my hosts had put on in honor of my arrival, I vividly remember a dear, dear lady, whom will always stay in my heart, slowly going through the Georgian alphabet and asking me to repeat. Wait right there; let me paint you a little picture, this very evening was the first time I’d ever ‘tasted’ Chacha. I was already two shots down. Megrelian Chacha is stronger than any other, and at this early stage and in my slightly intoxicated

Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: info@peoplescafe.ge

state, I pathetically thought I could repeat back what was being said to me. Wrong. My vain efforts were met with uncontrollable laughter. Three letters in particular. If you are not Georgian, and have had some time in this country, no doubt you’ll know what these three letters are. ყ – Well blow me down, this ain’t a letter, it’s a trick of the tongue, no?! No. It is a letter, and one I thought I would never be able to master კ– Ok, so a hard ‘K’ right? So why am I being told that I’m pronouncing it incorrectly? It’s what I like to call ‘the click’ – The word Yes (in Georgian: კი) is a prime example of this, and where ‘the click’ is best displayed. წ– A jumple of letters all rolled into one! ‘Tz’ was a real enemy of mine in the beginning. So I suppose back then, looking back, I admitted defeat. I gave up trying and stuck to Russian. Then something weird happened.. My life then took me back to London for a while, but I would come back to Georgia every couple of months and drive by the same places. So, to my actual point, what was the triggering factor in my learning of the language? The word ‘Lombardi’. I kid you not. There in an area stretching from the church on Rustaveli, up until the beginning of Vake on Chavchavadze, that has Lombardi’s (Bureau de change) a plenty. So those were my first letters, simply because they were blasted everywhere and I knew what it said. Having 8 letters under my belt, I thought I’d test the waters and see if I could go any further. I went to Biblus books and bought a children’s book on the Georgian alphabet. A…B…G… three more. Maybe this seemingly impossible language was possible after all, just maybe? My linguistic skills improved slowly over the next year, with frequent visits to Georgia, me listening to Georgian radio and news in my office in London, and a year to the day that I first visited Georgia, I decided to move there. I got a job as a Medical Director and my daily sentence

structure mostly consisted of an English base, with some Russian words thrown in and ending it with ‘Aba ra’ – I didn’t really know what I was saying, but knew I could finish off a sentence this way without sounding too conspicuous. I recently had a conversation with my friend about the meaning of the word ‘Aba’, and how it can be translated into English. To this day, I cannot find one single word to define its numerous connotations in Georgian. I owe a lot to my job there, and to the people I had around me. I truly believe that if they had have spoken more English, my level of Georgian would not be where it’s at today. As the days, weeks and months rolled by, I found myself conversing more and more in Georgian; sometimes without even realizing it. I am frequently asked by Georgians and foreigners alike, how I learnt the language and more specifically, how I learnt to pronounce the letters. The secret? I have no friggin’ clue. All I can say is I immersed myself in Georgian life. Not an ex-pat one. I had one British friend in Tbilisi, that was it. The rest of my beloved friends were Georgian speakers only. So, the only methodology I can come up with to explain my attainment was that firstly, I had no choice, I chose to really listen and mostly importantly, I TRIED. Sure, I failed on many an occasion, but if I hadn’t given it a go, I’d be no nearer to success. As I look back on my article here, I realize that, once again, I’ve swayed from point to point. Let me conclude by saying this: I am now somewhere near fluent in Georgian. However, I’m not exceptionally intelligent, don’t have a ridiculously high IQ , nor am I a book worm who studied the language nonstop until perfection, at least in my eyes, was attained. No, I lived it. I breathed it. Most importantly still, I had a true passion for the language, and the country. I still do. I encourage those of you who may have some reservations about giving it a go, to really try. It’s possible. I arrive at Tbilisi airport to the greeting of ‘’You’re the English girl who speaks Georgian, right?’’ – enough of an incentive for me.



The Delegation of the European Union to Georgia is searching for a property to be leased or purchased, to be used for office purposes


JUNE 9 - 12, 2017

Reading the Ezo: Reporting Back from the Stadslab Tbilisi Urban Design Masterclass Part II BY ROBERT ISAF AND THE STADSLAB EUROPEAN URBAN DESIGN LABORATORY


bilisi, and central Tbilisi especially, is built behind its facades. Over the course of five days in one of Tbilisi’s most quickly-changing neighborhoods, the Stadslab Masterclass worked to understand the traditional Tbilisi courtyard, or ezo, one of the city’s most important physical and social structures.


This property should meet the European Union's requirements, concerning quality of construction, space, security and location. It should comprise a lot with a stand-alone building located at a minimum distance of 15m. (ideally 20m.) from the perimeter of the lot, in particular from neighboring streets and surrounded by a boundary wall. The building's surface area should be between 1 700 and 1 900 m² and should consist of a maximum of 4 floors. The property should be situated within the city limits of Tbilisi. Its location should be easily accessible and consistent with the needs of representation and visibility of an important diplomatic mission. The required office space should be suitable for hosting around 60 members of staff either in individual offices or in shared offices and in open space in different combinations. It should also provide an adequate number of meeting rooms, one multi-purpose conference room of approximately 140 square meters, as well as archive spaces, storage rooms, server room, kitchenette and lavatories. Sufficient natural light is a pre-requisite for the offices; rooms without windows can only be foreseen for archiving, photocopying, etc. Energy-efficient, "green buildings" will be considered with preference. The total 1 700 – 1 900 square meters as indicated above should include corridors, entrance hall, reception area, and internal staircases but not parking spaces and areas entirely dedicated to technical equipment. A minimum 30 parking slots should be available within the perimeter boundary of the compound. The office space must be compliant with all local building standards and regulations, in particular in terms of occupational health & safety, fire prevention and anti-seismic construction codes. Compliance with EU standards or other international standards is a valuable asset. The overall quality of finishing as well as the technical and mechanical equipment facilities should be in line with EU or international standards. The office space should be available for occupation, after construction or fitting-out works completion, on 1 August 2019. Offers may include either: - Proposals from private constructors to develop, sell or lease a bespoke office facility to shelter the European Delegation - Proposals to rent or sell existing suitable buildings, including if in need of refurbishment. In case of rental, the building will stay the property of the owner, while the European Union will enter into a long-term agreement assumed to be for 10 to 20 years minimum, with an option to extend and/or even purchase at a further stage. Submitted proposals should provide: • A full description of the lot and/or the existing building • Spreadsheets of surfaces in square meters • Detailed information on the construction proposal • In case of a construction proposal, information on building company • Information on rental and sale conditions, including rental price per square meter. Proposals must be submitted: a. either by post or by courier not later than 16:00 on 20 June 2017 to the address indicated hereunder. b. or delivered by hand not later than 16.00 on 20 June 2017 to the address indicated hereunder For further information please liaise with the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia at DELEGATION-GEORGIA-HOA@ eeas.europa.eu Address of the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia: 38 Nino Chkheidze Street 0102 Tbilisi - Georgia Tel.: 995 294 37 63

The situation as we see it now is that economic pressures – the same faced worldwide – are encouraging the disintegration of the courtyard community as a social institution, depriving Tbilisi of what could form the solid foundation of a strong, positive, equitable, and prosperous municipal future. Economic pressures, however, would have taken some time longer before posing a real threat to our study area had it not been for the intentional catalyst introduced by policymakers. Government intervention into our study area, as indicated before, and although well-intentioned, has to be evaluated at this point as more harmful than helpful. Pedestrianization can only be deemed a success if the purposes of the final development match and address the needs of those most likely daily to walk there. On Aghmashenebeli, this is only debatably the case. Not to say there are no individual successes in the New Tiflis development; to be sure, there is a tangible positive impact for those able to take advantage of newfound tourist attention and raised rents and prices. The development is certainly popular to tourists and citizens alike as a clean, attractive, and relatively pricy café district. The question is whether a café district with a touristic bent was really the best use for the street or fulfilled the area’s most immediate needs. What was once a green and picturesque street has lost its tree and vine cover to strangely uninviting benches and expensive cafes, a change that can be heard lamented in conversation with families living just off the renovated street. As a result of the influx of foot traffic, and especially touristic foot traffic, many courtyards on the street itself keep their gates closed that through daytime would have been open before; cars are exiled from their owners’ yards on account of restricted access times; and rising prices encourage tourist-oriented businesses in buying out residential owners, further fracturing long-established communities. None of these need to be read as necessarily negative changes, but they certainly are changes for many residents’ ways of life, often quite uncomfortable ones, with the potential for causing much more significant and uncomfortable change in the future. Looking as an outsider it seems unclear whether those changes were truly justified or necessitated by the New Tifilis development as completed. More obviously troubling is the disregard with which the aesthetic restoration work itself was undertaken. On the main street, facades that ought to have been regarded as shared cultural heritage were not restored, but replaced. Cheap materials and shoddy craftsmanship are painfully obvious at, if not the first, then certainly the second glance. The end result is certainly better than earlier attempts at renovation – further north on Aghmashenebeli, for instance, or even

more painfully in the district below Narikala – and it should be granted that the government made at least an effort to consider conservation in their selection of tenders. Nevertheless, that same municipal government insisted the actual work be completed before elections, a time frame that made meaningful conservation of the street’s once-gorgeous Art Nouveau facades essentially impossible. A lack of worker oversight sealed the street’s fate. The sitting government did win its return, so perhaps, despite our criticisms, we will have to admit that the project did succeed in its political aims. But it remains in many ways illconceived, socially harmful, and architecturally inadequate. That is to say, for the city and nation as cultural inheritors, for the neighborhood as a whole, for the wide swath of households living within walking distance of a newly walkable street, it remains difficult from an urban design perspective to view this as a success.

A TALE OF TWO COURTYARDS Perhaps counterintuitively, an ideal foil for the New Tiflis project exists in the form of Fabrika, a private development located only blocks away and opened at roughly the same time. Fabrika has taken over a previously closed space, a Sovietera sewing factory, and opened it to the entire city. Its own inner space has been transformed into a new, publicly accessible ‘courtyard’. Despite its unabashed market-oriented and commercial purpose, inflated prices, and entirely private ownership, Fabrika arguably serves a more successful public role than the ostensibly social New Tiflis does. This is perhaps precisely because it confines its interventions to a particular purpose, to private building stock and to the semi-

public space of a courtyard, rather than intruding upon the fully public space of the street. Despite its touristic function – it is advertised primarily as a hostel, and a massive one at that – Fabrika seems to engage with the Tbilisi community far more effectively than New Tiflis does, not least with an array of second-location storefronts for locally owned businesses. Its owners, moreover, appear to have taken seriously their role as agents of historic preservation, maintaining and even highlighting the industrial heritage of its building for the benefit of visitors and citizens alike. The comparisons raise important questions for policy makers, developers, designers and preservationists going forward. It isn’t clear that the public sector is the most effective agent for responsible intervention in Tbilisi’s core. Neither, though, can the private sector be looked to for the necessary maintenance of individual buildings and courtyards that, legally, the city does provide. We certainly are not presuming to offer complete solutions as a result of our short study period. The best we can offer is frank observations and enthusiastic ideas. If only by contributing a new set of eyes and fresh perspectives to what we know is already a vigorous discussion, we hope we can contribute in some small positive way to an ever-more lovely Tbilisi. The Stadslab European Urban Design Laboratory is a Dutch think tank and design lab for cities, connected to Fontys University (www. Stadslab.eu). The workshop was co-organized by Tbilisi-based NGO Urban Experiments Group. This two-part article serves both as a basic introduction to the topic for new Tbiliselebi and interested outsiders, and as a very brief report back to our host city.



GT Education Inspires Logos Pupils BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE


eorgia Today last week presented its June edition of GT Education to the upper school students of Logos. The group were introduced to the monthly newspaper and given a competitive reading task with prizes given by the Editor-in-Chief Katie Ruth Davies related to her Young Adult book saga ‘Blood Omen’. The pupils were asked specific questions related to the chosen article, which was presented, as are all stories in the 16-page newspaper, with a glossary and extra information on the topic. The aim of the newspaper is to provide school teachers throughout Georgia with extra monthly classroom language material which can be used not only to boost student engagement with and use of the English language, but to inform and inspire them. Stories are of a social and cultural nature and relate to the latest good causes, reforms and programs. Other articles relate to specific careers. Two activity sheets are provided by the British Council in Georgia and another by Finca Bank which aims to offer small doses of financial awareness-raising to the typical class-

room environment. The teachers in attendance at Logos Tbilisi also got to see how a typical classroom news-analysis activity can work. In this case, the Editor, Ms Davies, introduced the topic via the given ‘Food for Thought’ questions before reading, noting that, alternatively, the questions can be used to open discussion and sum up after reading. The students were invited to contribute their own work to a future issue of the newspaper as a way of encouraging and inspiring use of the English language and highlighting the direction of journalism. Logos School was founded in 2010 on the initiative of US-educated Giorgi Chavleishvili, who graduated from the Virginia Saint Anne's Belfild High School and Hamilton's Liberal Arts University. Gia Murghulia, Barbara Jimeli-Sulashvili, Ketevan Batsankalashvili and Irina Sharabidze participated in determining the basic principles of the educational program and teaching methodology at the school, supported by the Advisory Board members: Doctor of Psychological Knowledge, Nino Gogichadze; Hamilton University professors Todd Franklin and Barbara Haysel; John Haysel, one of the directors of the financial department of Hamilton University, and Philip Briland, the director of HEOP's New York State Branch.

Logos is a member of several international organizations: NACAC - National Association of College Admission Counselors, College Board and Common Application. The school partners count the American University of Rome, Saint Anne's Belfield School and Princeton Review. Accepting children from the 7th grade and offering 30-40% of subjects taught in English, the school academic program covers the requirements envisaged by the Georgian National Curriculum and includes SAT and TOEFL tests which enable pupils to continue their studies both in Georgia and in the best universities of Europe and America. 136 students have so far graduated from Logos Georgia, 68 of whom went on to enroll in various prestigious universities throughout the world with scholarships totaling some $3,532.000, while others were enrolled in top Georgian universities (Free University, Caucasus University, Georgian University, GeorgianAmerican University, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Black Sea International University, etc.), having received more than 285,000 GEL as grants. The success of the school is determined by highly qualified staff and teachers both local and foreign, as well as its Liberal Arts program and modern teaching program.





JUNE 9 - 12, 2017

Blues Diva Sharon Lewis to Open the First Blues Fest in Georgia BY MAKA LOMADZE


oward Reich, Musical Critic of the Chicago Tribune, assessed Sharon Lewis’ strong, touching voice as “the eighth wonder of the music world.” Lewis is one of those 10 renowned soloists who took part in the unique concert Blues Mamas for Obama, in 2012. Her voice is compared to such renowned vocalists as Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Koko Taylor. Like other blues divas, she started singing before she could talk. She played on her red little tambourine and sang gospel together with her sisters in the church. After leaving Texas for Chicago, having merged gospel with delta-blues (one of the old regional variations of country blues), influenced by Texas and Chicago blues schools, her performing manner became amazingly distinguished. Lewis is to open the first blues festival in Georgia to take place on June 17. Sharon has been a headliner of the Chicago Blues Festival for years and is a resident performer at Buddy Guy's Legends and Rosa's Lounge – major blues clubs of Chicago. In 2009, ‘Sharon Lewis &Texas Fire’ entered the list of the top 15 blues bands of America. By means of the prestigious magazine “Blues Revue”, the album released in 2011 titled “The Real Deal,” acquired international acclaim. During her music career, Sharon has stepped forward with such blues and soul legends as Koko Taylor, Son Seals, Denise LaSalle, Robben Ford, Coco Montoya, Billy Branch, Melvin Taylor, Sugar Blue, Mumford & Sons and many others. She has visited half the globe with concert tours and in June, will come to Georgia. In Lagodekhi, in the open air of “BLUESVILLAGE” space, her incomparable voice will sound for the first time for the Georgian audience. Joining her will be the following:

SHANNA WATERSTOWN A popular singer who has toured the globe, Shanna’s concerts are sell-outs in the US, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria and in many other countries. Since her childhood, she has been keen on soul, gospel and country music and has emerged on stage with such stars as James Brown, Buddy Guy, Maceo Parker, Matt Bianco, Louisiana Red and Mud Morganfield. Her first album released in 2008, titled “Inside My Blues”, is ample with traditional melodies of Gospel and Blues, and brought international appraisal to the singer. She lives in Paris where she is considered an indelible jazz performer. Elegant Shanna Waterstown, with a distinguished sensitive voice, will meet the Georgian listeners on Friday, July 7, instead of the scheduled Saturday, due to her busy agenda.

STEVE MORRISON With his strange manner of guitar-playing, Steve has conquered all the European festivals and performing arenas and last year, he conquered the TV space as a finalist of “Guitar Star”. What exactly are those traits that make his signature so distinguished? Steve Morrison creates a unique playing style by means of lingering chords on bass until the singing melody starts to run nonstop. All six compact discs of Steve Morrison are sold with record indices. There are a lot of original songs in his repertoire that he performs accompanied with witty comments, peerless guitar chords and a sensitive voice. Steve Morrison is referred to in the music world as a “one man band”. He has been able to merge the energetic rhythms of John Lee Hooker with the mellifluousness of Ry Cooder. Thus, he received a unique, vigorous blues voice. Warm melodies, performed with a British accent, naturally create a dancing mood. The public at “BLUESVILLAGE” on July 29, will have a chance to enjoy his talent.



25th Anniversary of BulgarianGeorgian Diplomatic Relations Marked by Exhibition & Screening BY MAKA LOMADZE

Georgian Ensembles to Perform at Georgia-China Anniversary Event in Beijing BY THEA MORRISON



n June 5, on the occasion of the establishment of the anniversary of diplomatic relations with Georgia, the Bulgarian Embassy hosted the exhibition of two Bulgarian painters with Georgian roots or connections, and one Georgian artist, on the premises of the Georgian National Museum. Dessislava Ivanova, Ambassador of Bulgaria to Georgia, opened the celebration: “Our diplomatic relations began on June 5, 1992, shortly after Georgia regained its independence. Our countries enjoy excellent bilateral relations and pursue an intensive dialogue, marked by friendship, trust and shared values and interests.” She mentioned that both countries are proud of a rich and ancient history, focusing on the fact that “we have never fought against each other, but quite the contrary: our peoples have mutually contributed to each other’s cultural and economic prosperity”. In the ancient bilateral relations, the Petritsoni (Bachkovo) Monastery and San Stefano Treaty merited a special mention. “We are pleased and honored to host this important event,” said Davit Lortkipanidze, Director General of Georgian National Museum. “25 years of our connection is official but our contact goes back to the Middle Ages. In our archaeological exhibition, we have an exhibit on the legendary Kolkhis and I believe Kolkhis and Trakia were interconnected many years ago. So, I think we should celebrate not 25 years, but 2,500 years of relations. I am really pleased that,

Photo by the Georgian National Museum

symbolically, we met at the museum and we met to present modern art. Art meets science and that makes culture”. The paintings of Marina Mavrova, a Bulgarian artist living in Georgia, Pavla Platonova, the youngest participant and partly of Georgian origin, and Vera Kikodze, Georgian painter – a trio of three women- were exhibited. Platonova has Georgian citizenship and was born in Minsk, but studied illustration in Bulgaria. She has traveled a lot, and this rich box of impressions is reflected on her works. Spectators had a chance to see her paintings of Georgia. “I am a quarter Georgian. The Bulgarian Embassy in Georgia was searching for Bulgarian painters with Georgian roots, and I found out about it. In some ways, Georgia and Bulgaria are similar and in some ways, different. These points are interesting for my work,” the young painter said. On January 1, the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria assumed the functions of

a NATO Contact Point Embassy in Georgia for the second time. In 2018, Bulgaria will hold the rotating presidency of the EU. The Embassy of Bulgaria believes that these are additional and important opportunities to enhance bilateral relations and evidence of Bulgaria’s firm support of Georgia’s European and EuroAtlantic perspective. Hope was expressed that visa liberalization will boost exchange in all fields of cooperation, including tourism. It was also mentioned that Bulgaria is among the top ten trade partners of Georgia. The occasion was capped with the screening of Bulgarian contemporary film “Judgment”, which has received many international and national prizes, having been screened in Athens, Paris, USA, Tallinn, Haifa, Bulgaria and more. WHERE: The Georgian National Museum, Rustaveli Street 3


n June 14 and 15, a cultural event will be held in Beijing in connection with the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties between Georgia and the People’s Republic of China. The festivities will include a Georgian wine tasting and a photo exhibition of Georgian traditional dress at the Beijing Concert Hall at 19:00. After an official reception at 19:30, a grand concert will be held where ‘Voisa’ will be performed by composer Giorgi Mikadze and the Basiani ensemble. The Georgian State Academic Ensemble, Rustavi, dancers will also take part in the concert. ‘Voisa’ is the joint musical project of Giorgi Mikadze and Basiani which was recently performed in a prestigious New York concert hall. The music director of the project is the pianist and composer

Giorgi Mikadze, who wrote a composition especially for Basiani and his band – ‘Voisa’ – to showcase Georgian culture in the world art space. The delegation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, led by Davit Jalaghania, are to visit Beijing to attend the festivities. The occasion will also bring together members of the Georgian Diaspora, representatives of the cultural industry, Georgian Ambassador to China, Davit Aptsiauri, and representatives of the Chinese government, diplomatic corps and private sector. The project was organized by the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China, the Association of Friendship with the Foreign Countries of China, and the Embassy of Georgia to China. The sponsors of the project are "China CEFC Energy Company Limited", "ChinaGeorgia Friendship Association" and Charity Fund "Georgian Chunt.” The project is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia.




JUNE 9 - 12, 2017


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 June 10, 14 L'ELISIR D'AMORE Starring: Giorgi Davitadze (Nemorino), Mariana Beridze (Adina), Lasha Sesitashvili (Belcore), Zaal Khelaia (Dulcamara), Tinatin Mamulashvili (Giannetta) Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater Choir, Orchestra. Conductor- Zaza Azmaiparashvili Director, Set and Costume Designer- Fernando Botero Assistant Director- Victor Garcia Sierra Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-50 GEL June 15 L'ELISIR D'AMORE Starring: Irakli Murjikneli (Nemorino), Mariana Beridze (Adina), Otar Nakashidze (Belcore), George Chelidze (Dulcamara), Tinatin Mamulashvili (Giannetta) Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater Choir, Orchestra Conductor- Fabrizio Cassi Director, Set and Costume Designer- Fernando Botero Assistant Director- Victor Garcia Sierra Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-60 GEL

MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 June 9, 11 DON JUAN Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikolava Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL June 9 RECITATIVE IN THE CITY Kakha Bakuradze, Sandro Nikoladze, Irakli Menagarishvili Special guest- Giorgi Shalutashvili Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 10 GEL June 10 SILENCE REHERSAL! Kakha Bakuradze, Sandro Nikoladze, Irakli Menagarishvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL GEORGIAN STATE PANTOMIME THEATER Address: 37 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 63 14 June 9, 10 STOP AIDS Directed by David Shalikashvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 9 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93

TBILISI NODAR DUMBADZE STATE CENTRAL CHILDREN'S THEATER Address: 99/1 Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 95 39 27

June 10 DIAMOND OF MARSHAL DE FANT’E Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL

June 9 EVANGELION Choregraphical drama based on the Bible Choregraphy- Gia Margania Language: Georgian English subtitles Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 8-14 GEL

June 11 STALINGRAD Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL

June 11 KOLOBOK Directed by Anatoli Lobov Language: Russian Start time: 12:00 Ticket: 6-12 GEL

June 15 AUTUMN OF MY SPRING Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL


AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari June 9-15 THE MUMMY Directed by Alex Kurtzman Cast: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy Language: English Start time: 19:45 Language: Russian Start time: 16:16, 19:30, 22:15 Ticket: 9-14 GEL MANIFESTO Directed by Julian Rosefeldt Cast: Cate Blanchett, Erika Bauer, Ruby Bustamante Genre: Drama Language: English Start time: 17:20, 22:15 Russian Subtitles Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 11-14 GEL WONDER WOMAN Directed by Patty Jenkins Cast: Gal Gadot, David Thewlis, Robin Wright Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy Language: Russian Start time: 14:20, 16:30, 22:05 Ticket: 9-14 GEL PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES Directed by Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg Cast: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy Language: Russian Start time: 13:30, 19:15 Ticket: 9-14 GEL BAYWATCH Directed by Seth Gordon Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Priyanka Chopra Genre: Action, Comedy, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 22:05 Ticket: 13-14 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge

Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL June 9-15


THE MUMMY (Info Above) Language: Russian Start time: 12:05, 14:10, 17:30, 20:00, 22:35 Ticket: 9-14 GEL

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS Address: 1 Gudiashvili Str.

WONDER WOMAN (Info Above) Start time: 12:00, 16:05, 19:10 Ticket: 13-14 GEL BAYWATCH (Info Above) Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (Info Above) Start time: 16:40, 22:30 Ticket: 9-14 GEL MUSEUM



THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge June 8 – September 11 EXHIBITION CONSTELLATION Artworks by Chinese contemporary artists- Ai Weiwei, Hu Xiaoyuan, Li Shurui, Liu Wei, Lu Pingyuan, Lu Shanchuan, Ma Qiusha, Wang Guangle, Wang Sishun, Wang Yuyang, Xie Molin, Xu Qu, Xu Zhen, Yan Xing, Zhang Ding, Zhang Zhenyu, Zhao Yao and Zhao Zhao. MUSIC

MTATSMINDA PARK June 10 EZO FESTIVAL A music and arts festival organized by the MZESUMZIRA Community. Lineup: BEARFOX NIIK MGVIMELI AND CUDI TESLI Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL GEM FEST 2017 July 14 – August 14 https://gemfestival.com Start time: 9:00 – 12:00 Tickets: Opening Pass: 60 GEL, 3 Days Pass: 120 GEL, Week Multi Pass: 170 GEL, Multi Pass: 500 GEL, VIP Pass 2000 GEL. TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 June 10 NODIKO TATISHVILI The project ALEXANDRE BASIALAIA– THE FAIRY TALE OF LOVE The songs of Alexandre Basilaia will be performed by Mariam Roinishvili, Maka Zambakhidze, Neka Sebiskveradze, Sofo Khalvashi, Salome Bakuradze, Sofo Gelovani and Tika Maxaldiani. Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20-50 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE Address: 8 Griboedov St. Telephone: 2 93 46 24 June 10 TENGIZ AMIREJIBI V INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL Participants: Teimuraz Gugushvili, Marika Machitidze, Mikheil Kiria, Mariam Gulordava, Natalia Kutateladze, Viktoria Chaplinskaia In program: Puccini, Rossini, Verdi, Mascagni, Gounod, Tchaikovsky, Flotow, Rimsky-Korsakov, Taktakishvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5-15 GEL June 13 DAWN OF MIDI SOU 2017 - Another Sea A chamber Jazz Trio from Brooklyn celebrates acoustic music in compositional forms of contemporary electronic music. Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 10-50 GEL June 14 GEORGIAN TRADITIONAL MUSIC CONCERT Solo concert of Folk Ensemble ERTHOBA Start time: 18:30 Ticket: 6-15 GEL



Tbilisi to Host Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Conceptual Artists



hirty-five works of eighteen worldrenowned contemporary Chinese artists: Ai Weiwei, Chen Wei, Hu Xiadyuan, Li Shurui, Liu Wei, Lu Pingyuan, Lu Shangchuan, Ma Qiusha, Wang Guangle, Wang Yuyang, Xie Molin, Xu Qu, Xu Zhen, Yan Xing, Zhang Ding, Zhang Zhenyu, Zhao Yao, and Zhao, Zhao are to be showcased at an exhibition entitled ‘Constellation,’ at the Dimitri Shevardnadze National Gallery in Tbilisi from June 8 to September 11, 2017. John Dodelande, is the organizer of and inspiration behind the exhibition, who also happens to have Georgian citizenship. John says he contacted the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia with the idea of bringing contemporary Chinese art to Tbilisi. “It was a good idea to start an exhibition here in Georgia, in Tbilisi, before it travels further in Caucasus to Azerbaijan and then Iran,” John told GEORGIA TODAY. John is an avid art collector, who is most passionate about Chinese art in particular, which gave him the impulse to share his admiration and passion with other art lovers. “John Dodelande’s collection is truly unique, both in terms of art and in political meaning,” says Olga Babluani, founder of BiO International, a media partner of the exhibition and John’s friend. “For any individual, seeing this exhibition would be like a breath of oxygen. Economic ties between China and Georgia, particularly in terms of the strengthening of Silk Road economic relations, brought to the political agenda by the Chinese government this year, is very interesting for our future. Being actively involved in different spheres, and in this particular case through the sphere of art, is a part of this dynamic. Artists express themselves differently, their communication language is vast; they can reach millions. China is the strongest force in the world today. These artists introduce modern reality, political, social, economic… We hear it, we see it, we wake up and feel it in a noisy time machine”. She goes on to point out that not everyone is capable of feeling art; “We’re constantly improving our taste as we live. We need to learn how to understand it and learning it needs time. It’s hard to awaken great feelings in individuals crushed in everyday struggles even with art, our own feelings covered in concrete, that defer us from machines, like laughing, sleeping, pain, regret, thinking, transformation and growth, all of it is needed to be able to feel and understand the beauty, in other words, we need art for our souls, to build an anti-dictatorship,” Babluani says, explaining why, in her opinion, this exhibition is important.

The exhibition is happening for the first time in the Caucasus, an excellent opportunity to experience the best of Chinese contemporary art without leaving Georgia. “If they want to see good art, they have to come and see the exhibition. Some of these artists will be exhibited at the Guggenheim in six months- we brought really great artists to Georgia,” Dodelande says. “They talk about the century, they talk about energy, they talk about today, they talk about the switch of power between the West and the East,” he adds, highlighting the messages that the artists bring up in their works. “They have interesting things to say, I think they say more about nowadays, about your generation and their generation, dealing with isssues of everyday life, the dynamic of an everyday life in a specific context. For example, the paintings of Zhao, Zhao, are abstract, telling a personal history, switched and converted into an art object. All these things deal with a perfect intelligence, and this is what interested me,” says Ami Barak, curator, acclaimed art critic and curator from France, former director of the Frac (regional collection of contemporary art) Languedoc-Roussillon, General Associated Curator of “Public Treasuries, 20 Years of Creation in the Fracs” and former President of the International Association of Contemporary Art Curators, former Head of the Visual Art Department at the City Council of Paris Artistic Director and Coordinator of ‘Nuit Blanche’ (“Sleepless Night” Contemporay Art Festival). “When you prepare an exhibition you are dealing with images. These are very good works, very interesting artists from China, and I think it will be a fantastic exhibition,” Barak told us. “To make an outstanding exhibition, you have to choose a good artist and put up a display which has a certain coherence, which means making a type of display that allows the visitors to walk into the exhibition through the works and have a feeling that they get the message” We asked him why Chinese art is so popular today. “It’s not just the art, China is a world manufacturerit’s a very powerful economy, and they have a very long tradition of a great art, a very rich one and in the last twenty-five years it developed in an amazing way,” he says. “Today, I would say the vocabulary is global; you deal with abstraction, with realism, the painting, the sculpture, the installations, they use the same tools. The difference is in the cultural background of the artists, different political story and history, the power of the tradition, social gaps, the idea of being a part of the moment, and wherever they live, in any of the big cities in China, these artists have a very rich cultural tradition. This generation of artists is much more contemporary,” Barak said, adding that he found Georgia a fantastic country and wishes to come back to explore it more.



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Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Maka Lomadze, Tim Ogden, Joseph Larsen, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Nino Gugunishvili, Thea Morrison Photographer: Irakli Dolidze



Net Results: Etseri, Svaneti



walked away thinking we’d won it all, and no one told me otherwise. Every now and then there’s a sports day held in our part of Svaneti, in which several villages come together and compete in various activities, mostly boys and men. Such a day came recently to Etseri, hosting Pari, Nak’ra and Chuberi, as well as participating itself. First there was a horse race, which we won soundly, in the person of a jockey-size high school graduate who also trains in Judo. This old Japanese sport was next, with several levels, all Etseri boys as far as I could tell. We pulled out mats onto the gymnasium floor and they went at it in pairs, following the proper rituals of bowing and handshaking into the bargain, dressed correctly, too. It looks quite challenging in any weight class; combinations of grabs, throws and pinning moves to out-maneuver your opponent and win points until a victory can be declared. While the Judo was happening, across the volleyball net a punishing circle ball game began. If you got “out,” you had to crouch “in” the circle and be bombarded by its members via volleyball, as hard as they liked; but if you caught the ball, then you and all your fellow “inmates” were freed to join the circle, attacking the unfortunate one whose ball you caught. Girls and boys alike played this, with no holds barred, including some of my group of ten guests, who learned to “give as good as they got”. Eventually, it was time for what seemed to be the main event, men’s volleyball, involving all four villages. I stayed almost until the end, enjoying the spectacle, varying my photographs between slower shutter speeds to blur the furious action and faster ones to freeze it. Noting the seriousness with which this set of games was played, the arguments between team members and with the referees, I could see that

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the two millennia-old warrior reputation of Svan men, first noted by Strabo to their glory, continues alive and well nowadays. They couldn’t resist slamming the ball right at the net, but there were several levels to this mode of play. Blockers were always ready, usually in pairs, jumping simultaneously. Their block might in turn bounce off your still upraised fist; back to them! Or if your slam got through, it might be travelling fast enough to end up out of bounds: point to them! The speed of the ball varied from moment to moment, between slams and gentler volleys, and it could gain a point at any speed, too, although obviously the faster moves are harder to react to. Power was not always key, as hitting walls or ceiling would cost you the point. (An organized dog fight interrupted proceedings between village sets, but this was over before we even got to the arena; just as well, too, as it’s illegal!) Each village’s games against another were best of three, and it was here that I misunderstood the flow. Didn’t they tell me that Chuberi was out, Pari and Nak’ra would vie for the semi-final, and we would play the victor for the final? So, when we beat Pari in our third game after losing the first one to them, I thought it was all over, congratulated the winners, and went home, by which time it was necessary to attend to the evening barn chores anyway. Only to hear the next morning that Chuberi had beaten us for the overall win! Ah well, sometimes my Georgian fails me, perhaps more often than I care to admit. But it had been a thrilling day, and a welcome break in our late spring routines, which we all enjoyed, final win or no. 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 1500 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 #953  

June 9 - 12, 2017

Issue #953  

June 9 - 12, 2017