Issue no: 1022/116
• FEBRUARY 13 - 15, 2018
• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue...
Georgian Post to Launch an E-commerce Platform in May 2018
NEWS PAGE 3
In Optimism We Trust! ISET PAGE 4
ON THE PROS & CONS OF TOURISM
A look at the reality of making Georgia's economy 'tourism first.'
Georgian Qvevri Wines & Winemaking Culture Presented in France
BUSINESS PAGE 5
Nenad Pejic: Partnership with Rustavi 2 “Out of the Question” POLITICS PAGE 10
EP Vice President on the Muktharli Case
BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
eorgian Qvevri wines and Georgia’s winemaking traditions were presented in France, the National Wine Agency of Georgia (GNWA) reports, with Georgian Qvevri wine producers participating in two exhibitions of natural wines, ‘Les Penitentes’ in the city of Anzhe and ‘La Dive Boutteille’ in the city of Saumur, France. ‘La Dive Boutteille’ is one the largest natural wine exhibitions in France, and is hosted by famous French winemakers, while the most famous natural wine producers from all over the world traditionally attend the ‘Les Penitentes’ exhibition. “The Georgian wine stand this year was visited by internationally renowned wine expert, Isabel Lejeron,” the GNWA stated. Continued on page 7
Naftogaz Ukraine to Resume Gazprom Purchases from March
POLITICS PAGE 10
Photo: Georgian wines presented in France. Source: National Wine Agency of Georgia
James Blunt will Perform Famous Hits on Independence Day SOCIETY PAGE 11 Prepared for Georgia Today Business by
STOCKS BGEOGroup(BGEOLN) GHG(GHGLN) TBCBankGroup(TBCGLN)
COMMODITIES CrudeOil,Brent(US$/bbl) GoldSpot(US$/OZ)
FEBRUARY 13 - 15, 2018
Geostat Interactive Maps: Tbilisi is the Most Populated Area in Georgia
Georgian Students to Hold Rally in Support of Deceased Workers BY THEA MORRISON
O Photo: Tbilisi is the most populated place in Georgia. Source: bpn.ge
BY THEA MORRISON
he National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat) has prepared a number of interactive maps according to the 2014 General Population Census results, through the Geographic Information Systems, according to which the most populated area in Georgia is the capital - Tbilisi. According to the interactive maps, the population density in the capital is 2198.8 people per square kilometer, which is the highest indicator in the country. After the capital, the Adjara region is the most densely populated area with 115.2 people per square kilometer, followed by Imereti - 83.2 people per sq. km, and Shida Kartli Region - 76.8 people per sq. km. Less densely populated regions of Georgia are: Samtskhe-Javakheti - 25.0 people km2, followed by Mtskheta-Mtianeti - 16.9, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti - 7.0 people per km2. The most densely populated area within the capital, is Didube district, where the population density is 8,523.1 people per km2. Didube is followed by Isani - 7,360.2 people, and Chugureti district - 4,547.4
people per km2. The least densely populated areas in Tbilisi are: Samgori district, where the population density on one square kilomenter is 1,386.5 people, Krtsanisi district - 1,269.5 people and Mtatsminda region - 654.2. The interactive thematic maps were prepared on the level of regional and self-governing units and for different types of settlement. The maps cover information about geographical distribution, density, age, gender, ethnicity, knowledge of the Georgian language, religion, level of education, economic activity, households and living conditions. According to Geostat, the interactive maps were processed in line with Eurostat recommendations. Furthermore, 1 km2 geographic grid was used for distribution of the number of population. The above-mentioned approach is used by the statistical institutes of the EU member states and provides exhaustive visualization of census results that is especially important in terms of spatial analysis. Geostat implemented Geographic Information Systems during the 2014 General Population Census field work. It improves data accuracy and quality, saves resources, and simplifies data collection and monitoring of field work.
n February 14, Tbilisi State University students’ movement Auditorium 115 plans to hold a protest rally and march in solidarity with Georgian workers who were injured or killed due to a lack of safety norms in the country. “From 2011 to 2017, 1,209 workers died or received injuries due to the absence of proper state labor safety laws. This is a war between the people and the probusiness elite state,” the Movement stated. The protesters will march from the
main building of Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University to the old parliament on Rustaveli Avenue. Auditorium 115 also plans to hold a similar rally in Georgia’s Black Sea coastal city Batumi. The rally was organized after a 26-yearold construction worker, Jarji Janjalashvili, fell off the 5th floor of a building and died five days ago. His death allegedly occurred due to a breach in safety norms at the construction site. Janjalashvili is the third construction worker to die at work this year. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has already launched an investigation into the case. The Labor Inspection Service of the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs is also studying the case. They have stated that safety norms were not
observed on site. The employer company, Capital Construction, says the worker was instructed to work inside the building and claim the incident was an accident. The Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) believe the State has no proper labor law to prevent such cases in future and is calling on Parliament to speed up adoption of the Labor Safety Law already initiated. The draft Law on Labor Safety was submitted to Parliament on June 1, 2017 and approved by MPs at the first hearing. On February 5, 2018, when the Parliamentary had to discuss the draft with a second hearing, the government asked for additional time, adding that they needed to discuss the issue further.
Photo source: Netgazeti
Azeri Journalist Says Georgian PM Is Linked to His Abduction BY THEA MORRISON
zerbaijani journalist Afgan M u k h t a rl i , a l l e ge d ly abducted in Tbilisi in May 2017, and sentenced to six years in prison by the Balakan District Court in Azerbaijan in January 2018, has accused Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili of being involved in his abduction. Mukhtarli was released from prison for 48 hours to visit the graves of his underage niece and nephew, who died just before the New Year. In his brother’s house in an Azerbaijani village, the journalist spoke to Georgia’s local Rustavi 2 TV and remembered the details of his abduction. He said he was not far from his home when three Georgian men, dressed in the uniform of criminal police, kidnapped him and pushed into a car. Mukhtarli says he was taken to Lagodekghi, Kakheti, then a bag was put over his head and he was put into another car. “I told them not to stab me and just shoot me. I also asked them to tell my wife never to return to Azerbaijan…They told me nothing bad would happen to
me,” the journalist said. He told Rustavi 2 that after changing three cars, he realized he was in Azerbaijan, where money was planted on him and he was accused of “police resistance, smuggling and illegal crossing of the border.” “My abduction was perfectly planned as no-one hindered my transfer to the Azerbaijani side. I am sure that the Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili is linked to this case, otherwise the people would not have been able to organize such a high-level kidnapping,” the journalist stressed, adding if not Kvirikashvili, then Georgia’s ex-PM and founder of the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, must have been involved in his kidnapping.
“The whole Interior Ministry of Georgia and Lagodekhi Police Department Chief were also involved,” he added, accusing both the Georgian and Azerbaijani sides of cooperation against him. The journalist says the reason for his abduction and transfer is that he, like many other Azeri journalists, is in opposition to the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Alyiev. “My family and other activists knew that we were being watched in Tbilisi. We addressed the police several days before my kidnapping, asking for proper action and help,” Mukhtarli told Netgazeti. In his interview, the journalist addressed the Georgian people and thanked them
for their support. "I want to thank the Georgian people and my colleagues for their solidarity. I lived in Tbilisi for 2 years and gained many friends during this time,” he said. Mukhtarli is a political migrant who left Azerbaijan around four years ago. In Tbilisi, he held protests in front of the Azerbaijan Embassy and wrote about the persecution of Azerbaijani activists in Georgia. He disappeared on May 29, 2017, and the following day was “found” in the Baku police department. Georgian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), opposition parties, as well as international organizations like Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the United States Depart-
Photo: Afghan Mukhtarli accuses Georgian and Azerbaijani sides in cooperation against him. Source: Free Press Unlimited
ment of State have called for the release of the Azeri journalist several times, claiming his detention is politically motivated. Eka Beselia, Chairperson of the Parliament’s Legal Issues Committee, says the allegations of the Azerbaijani journalist against the Georgian government and Prime Minister are “slander.” "This is a classic example of defamation. The investigation into this case is ongoing and almost all persons who had any information have been interrogated. Such accusations are false and slanderous," Beselia told reporters. Sozar Subari, Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia, also commented on Mukhtarli’s accusations, saying his statements are “not serious.” According to him, the version of kidnapping from Tbilisi center is “absurd.” "I understand that a person in jail has many troubles, but no one should tell lies, especially a journalist," said the Minister. Afgan Mukhtarli has addressed the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg and filed a lawsuit against the Georgian and Azerbaijani governments.
GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 13 - 15, 2018
The Morning Claret: The Real Story Behind Georgian Wine BY TAMZIN WHITEWOOD
T Photo: Dimitry Kumsishvili at the presentation of the New E-Commerce Platform
Georgian Post to Launch an E-commerce Platform in May 2018 BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
eorgian Post is to launch a new e-commerce platform to start operating in May 2018, the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Dimitry Kumsishvili, announced last week. The e-commerce platform is expected to enable Georgian consumers, as well as small and medium-sized businesses to order, buy and sell products through the platform app, within Georgia and outside the country, while Georgian Post will be in charge of delivery services. Minister Kumishvili noted that there are numerous examples of how the existing leading e-commerce companies today, such as Ebay, Amazon, and Alibaba, have changed the culture and habits of consumers. “On one hand, e-commerce makes it easier for businesses to sell their products globally and, on the other,
it gives a wide and competitive choice for consumers,” Kumsishvili said. E-commerce development is “impossible without postal services functioning correctly,” he said, emphasizing the importance of the new e-commerce platform in Georgia. Georgian Post has already set up one of the components of the e-commerce platform, a website called Maleo, designed to serve those living in the regions of Georgia, enabling them to order products from international online shopping platforms and receive them in Georgian Post’s service centers with the same tariffs as applied in the bigger cities across the country. Levan Chikvaidze, General Director of Georgian Post, presented the Maleo service: “With the platform we’re launching, customers will be able to buy or sell products via e-commerce; local entrepreneurs will have a chance to export their products. The platform has both social and commercial components.
Maleo is a service which enables customers in Georgia to buy products through e-commerce platforms internationally and receive them at their actual addresses. Its difference from any other companies operating in Georgia is that those living in Mestia, Khulo, or Akhmeta will receive products, delivered for the same price as those who live in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, or other big cities of Georgia,” Chikvaidze said. During the presentation of the Maleo service, Minister Kumsishvili noted that a law on e-commerce is to be adopted in 2018, expected to bring into force European regulations for e-commerce in Georgia. “Adopting this law will establish international standards with regards to the e-commerce in Georgia, increase trust towards online shopping platforms, and be seen as a possibility to grow Georgia’s export potential, helping local small and medium businesses to export their products to the international markets,” Kumsishvili states.
he famous wine magazine, The Morning Claret, has published an in-depth, perhaps even controversial, story about Georgian wine and its role throughout Soviet times. Whilst Georgians are incredibly proud about their wine-making history, with the country having been official named ‘The Cradle of Wine’ by Le Cite Du Vin in Bordeaux, France, for its ancient Qvevri wine-making; this article puts a different spin on things. “This romantic tale of clay pots and peasant farmers toiling in the fields is a heavily abridged edit of the full story. The iconic Qvevri all but died out in commercial winemaking during the late 20th century, and, to date, traditionally made Qvevri wines account for perhaps 3% or less of Georgia’s total wine production,” author Simon Woolf, says. Yet, while it may seem as if this is a criticism of Georgia, the reality, accord-
ing to the article, is the contrary. Woolf explains that 60% of exported Georgian wine ends up in Russia, and that the demand for it, during soviet times at least, was so strong that new, quicker methods of making wine had to be considered. “It’s also a tale of mass produced semisweet wine, made to satisfy a thirsty Russian market. This ever-popular product, epitomized by wines such as Alazani Valley (a generic style, even though it sounds like a producer) or Kindzmarauli, represents around 50% of the country’s total output. And Russia is still the biggest customer, lapping up about 60% of Georgia’s total wine exports by volume.” It is worth reading the whole article to really understand the author’s point, as the message, otherwise, could be easily misconstrued. Times were different under soviet occupation, and Georgians have, proudly, kept their wine-making traditions alive during some of its hardest times. Full article at: http://www.themorningclaret. com/2018/the-real-story-behind-georgianwine/
FEBRUARY 13 - 15, 2018
In Optimism We Trust!
verall, the BCI gained 3.2 points compared to Q4 2017. Expectations in the private sector in Georgia increased by 15.5 percentage points, and reached 48.9 index points (up from 33.4 points in Q4). Business performance over the past three months decreased significantly, reaching nearly 35.1 points (decreasing from 50.7), indicating a decline in production/turnover/ sales. Improved expectations could outweigh the decreased performance of the past three months, which led to an insignificant raise in overall BCI. The BCI index increased in the financial (+11.1), service (+14.0) and others (+4.0) sectors, and worsened in the manufacturing (-28.1) agriculture (-8.3), construction (-8.1) and retail trade (-2.8) sectors.
The actual performance of businesses significantly decreased compared to the fourth quarter of 2017. In the Q1 2018 reporting period, sales (production or turnover) of the 240 firms surveyed decreased from 50.7 (Q4 2017) to 35.1 (Q1 2018). A significant increase in performance was observed only in the financial (+46.6) and others (+52.2) sectors. Significant improvement means that in these sectors, the weighted balance between positive and negative responses decreased compared to the previous quarter. In all other sectors, production/ turnover/sales for the past three months worsened, with the highest drop recorded for the construction (-101.3), agriculture (-40.2) and manufacturing (-40.2) sectors. Compared to the previous quarter, a higher share of surveyed firms (63%) stated that employment remained the same over the past three months. Fewer businesses reported either decreases or increases in employment. Moreover, 48% of firms claimed that their business activities remained unchanged over the past three months, while 30% of participants stated that they had improved their performance (which was a decrease of 15 percentage points over the previous quarter).
(-1.1) and financial ( -11.2). The highest increase was reported in the construction and service sectors (see the table).
SALES PRICES EXPECTATIONS
EXPECTATIONS The Expectations Index increased by 15.5 index points in the first quarter of 2018. Expectations about the next three months improved almost in all sectors, except manufacturing (-67.2), agriculture
the future. 59% of the surveyed firms expected that the economic condition of their businesses would improve over the next three months, and 32% did not expect any changes in the future, while a lower share of businesses expect their business conditions to worsen.
The majority (65%) of surveyed businesses do not expect any changes in employment over the next three months. Furthermore, 29% of firms stated that they would employ more employees in
The Sale Price Expectation Index decreased from 17.2 points (Q4 2017) to 11.2 points (Q1 2018). The decrease in the Index is driven by the agriculture, construction and retail trade sectors. The retail trade sector's sales price expectations decreased the most, by -36.6 points. The service sector expects a noticeable increase in prices
over the next three months. The overall Sales Price Expectations Index decreased for both large companies and SMEs. The majority (73%) of all surveyed firms are not going to change the prices they charge over the next three months. Only 4% of firms expect to decrease prices, and 23% expect to increase prices in the future.
LIMITING FACTORS A low level of consumption activities and lack of access to financing continue
10 Galaktion Street
to be two of the most significant obstacles for businesses. From a total of 240 firms participating in the survey, 22% of large sized firms and 30% of SMEs noted that lack of access to finance was their main obstacle. Meanwhile, 24% of large firms and 32% of SMEs chose lack of demand as the main limiting factor for further business development.
METHODOLOGY The ISET Policy Institute, working in
partnership with the International Chamber of Commerce in Georgia (ICC), implemented the Business Confidence Survey in December 2013, and publishes the Business Confidence Index (BCI) on a quarterly basis. Confidence is measured through a simple survey instrument targeted at top business executives. The survey is online. Answers obtained from the surveys are aggregated in the form of â€œbalances.â€? Balances are constructed as the difference between the percentage of respondents giving positive and negative replies. The methodology for compiling the indices is based on the Joint Harmonised EU Programme of Business and Consumer Surveys.
Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail: email@example.com
GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 13 - 15, 2018
Naftogaz Ukraine to Resume Gazprom Purchases from March and 2016. Naftogaz asked the court to review the gas prices, return the overpayment and cancel the ban on the further resale of gas. In December 2017, the Stockholm arbitration concluded that the Ukrainian company has no right to review prices for gas received from May 2011 to April 2014. The court ordered Naftogaz to pay Gazprom $2 billion for gas already supplied. Under the court's decision, the Ukrainian side should also purchase $5 billion cubic meters of gas annually from Russia. The take-and-pay condition (annual payment of the minimum volume of gas) is still valid. The official representatives of the Head of Gazprom, Alexei Miller and Sergey Kupriyanov, told RBC (RosBiznesKonsalting - a large Russian media group headquartered in Moscow) that the company needed to “implement the outcome of Stockholm in the contract before signing an agreement.”
BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE
aftogaz Ukraine plans to begin purchasing gas from Gazprom next month, said Head of the Board of the Ukrainian company, Andrei Kobolev, UNIAN reports. “We held several rounds of negotiations. The company hopes to implement the decision of the Stockholm arbitration relating to the contract of sale, possibly within a month. We hope this will give us an opportunity to start gas purchases from Gazprom in March this year,” Kobolev said. Gazprom and Naftogaz had been litigating in Stockholm arbitration since 2014 regarding contracts for gas supplies concluded in 2009. Gazprom claims that Ukraine received gas in periods from 2012 to 2014, and in some parts of 2015
Meet the Men behind Woland’s Speakeasy towards development in general. If you inject the cocktail culture, it’s already an important step to increasing the pull for people to stay in or visit Tbilisi. Our ambition is to make Tbilisi the first cocktail hub in Caucasus, and I’m 100% sure that Woland’s will be an asset to this.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT GEORGIA?
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY SOFO JAVAKHISHVILI
he Speakeasy bar concept is growing internationally, and, thanks to the two gentlemen you’ll meet below, the city of Tbilisi is now among those keeping up with the trend. Woland’s Speakeasy, with its distinct 1920s Prohibition vibe, is tucked away at 2 Ivane Machabeli Street, in a brick cellar hidden behind a bookcase in a book-cafe. Follow the steps down into the magical renovated basement for a nocturnal activity alternative of style, signature cocktails, live piano music and cigars. GEORGIA TODAY met Amir Zafari, Founder, and Grant Freeman, Co-Founder and Bar Manager, to find out more.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR A SPEAKEASY IN TBILISI? AMIR: I spent couple of months in Ukraine and this was my first visit to a Speakeasy concept bar. I always wanted to have a different type of workplace outside my main job, which is all about calculation and analytics. I met Grant a year ago and he proposed the idea of opening the first Speakeasy in Georgia. We wanted to offer something exceptional and fill a gap in the market; to enrich the city and make it even more diverse for visitors and locals. Every step that is made in this country somehow effects the different circles and helps
AMIR: First, how calm, safe and beautiful this country is. People are very kind here and the best way to be friends with a Georgian is to show you respect them and to speak their language. Georgia has a long military history because of its geopolitical location, and I suppose this effected people, the way they understand foreigners; the statue of Mother Georgia [Kartlis Deda, on the hill above the capital] is a great way to emphasize the Georgian character- sword or wine cupit depends how you act with them. You cannot be close to someone if you have second-hand conversations with locals, so I decided to learn Georgian. Counting on a translator sometimes means the feelings and emotions are lost. I would say that the best thing about Georgia is the people. Another reason is food and nature. I already know how to make ‘Ojakhuri,’ one of my favorite clay pot meals.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU FACED WHILE SETTING UP THE BUSINESS HERE? AMIR: Considering the fact that unemployment is still a problem in Georgia, there is a lack of specific skills for simple occupations such as waiter/waitress. Georgia has huge potential in the tour-
ism and hospitality field, and I believe locals working in these areas need to be aware of their responsibilities and the specifics of the service system.
WHAT ARE THE KEYS TO SUCCESS FOR PLACES LIKE THE SPEAKEASY? AMIR: I always think from the perspective of a customer: for me, service and staff are the main reason to choose a place to visit, followed by interior design, music and bartenders. If I see that a bar has a professional bartender, I’m always curious to taste the cocktails made in a proficient way. It’s essential to treat customers as individuals. We have worldfamous bartender Kirill Ledashchev offering a range of signature drinks to meet all sorts of tastes. Woland’s aims to be part of the international Speakeasy world, and we’re planning to organize international bartender masterclasses and competitions around the Caucasus. Tbilisi will be attached to an international chain of Mixology and we aim to take it to a worldwide level.
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO COME TO GEORGIA? GRANT: I came to Georgia in May 2012 as the part of the Teach & Learn in Georgia program. I was going through hard times back in States and any time the Caucasus came up, it seemed like a place where you can either lose or find yourself. I’d been a chef in various restaurants and I felt I needed a break. Coming to Georgia healed me in a way, and I taught for a year in an amazing Georgian village.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE AS A BUSINESSPERSON IN GEORGIA? GRANT: I had a small café, Rosemary, with a Georgian business partner. It was a very positive experience for me. There were some property owner issues, among others, which is why the place was closed. My recommendation would be when opening a restaurant or bar in Georgia, owning a place would be the first option or find a reliable proprietor!
WHAT ARE THE STRATEGIC FIELDS TO BE IMPROVED IN GEORGIA? GRANT: Distribution and logistics. for any business, specifically for hospitality, you need good distribution companies.
The major issue is that the companies there are here don’t offer distribution for small orders, cutting out small restaurants or bars and meaning smaller locales are forced to set higher prices for customers. Going to such places should not be luxury.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF TBILISI NIGHTLIFE? GRANT: In the five years I’ve been living in Tbilisi, the nightlife has improved greatly. Before, there was not much beyond a few clubs in the main tourist areas where the prices were above average. In general, I see lot changing to the better, with more bars popping up by the year. There are a lot more options for a good night out now.
WHAT MAKES WOLAND’S SPEAKEASY STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD? GRANT: Regardless of what country you’re from, everyone likes the idea of knowing something that other people don’t. Woland’s Speakeasy is a way to escape reality and travel back in time to an era when people used to sit and chat in a classy ambiance sipping '20s-era
cocktails, like Manhattans. There is a certain coolness about the Great War generation and they wanted to prove it to society. Everything is so fast and instant now and the quality is not always so good. Woland’s is about enjoying the moment along with high-quality service.
FEBRUARY 13 - 15, 2018
DipSki2018: Georgian Gov’t Hosts Diplomats on Georgia’s Slopes At the DipSki 2018 opening ceremony, UN Resident Coordinator, UNDP Resident Representative and UNFPA Representative in Georgia, Niels Scott, adressed the participants, congratulating the organizers before going on to talk about the resort and competition. “I stand here looking across this fantastic landscape and the green that Georgia has, and I appreciate the country’s fantastic assets and number of resorts. Today we will not only enjoy the skiing but also the hospitality!” Within the frames of DipSki2018, the participants of the tournament visited the Adventure Tourism School, which is located at the highest point in Europe at an altitude of 2800m above sea level. The school offers professional training in the field of adventure tourism and other high-risk activities and creates a more secure environment in this direction. In parallel to the skiing competition, the event participants took part in a
BY SOFO JAVAKHISHVILI
n the initiative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, the Diplomatic Ski Competition 'DipSki2018' was held in Gudauri on February 10, 2018, co-organized by the Mountain Resorts Development Agency and the Permanent Coordinator of the United Nations Office in Georgia. The tournament was held for the second time and aimed at promoting Georgian mountain ski resorts. The 'DipSki2018' competition was attended by representatives of the accredited diplo-
matic corps, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cabinet of Ministers. “Over the past year, the government has taken significant steps towards improving infrastructure and the development of the winter tourism sector,” said Georgian Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikheil Janelidze at the opening ceremony of DipSki 2018 diplomatic skiing tournament. “The flow of visitors to Georgia's winter resorts is increasing, as we offer them world-class recreational and entertainment resources. Winter resorts are a sustainable development component of Georgia that ensures employment opportunities and additional revenues for each Georgian family. The development of winter resorts
simulation ‘avalanche rescue’ scenario set up by the Adventure School. The winners of the ski tournament were awarded with specially created trophies for the event, and the participants of the simulation of the adventure school were awarded with certificates. Foreign diplomat Barbara Koehler, the Swiss ambassador to Georgia and Peter Danis, head of the EU Delegation to Georgia, took the first place in the nomination of the among diplomat women and men. The winners from other official agencies were Ekaterine Alania (Georgian National Tourism Administration) and Vasil Kvantaliani (Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Diplomatic ski competition - 'Dipski' is the initiative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, which was held the last year and became a tradition. Partners of 'DipSki2018' are the Mountain Resorts Development Agency and the United Nations Permanent Coordinator's Office.
will have a positive impact on many sectors of tourism, such as agriculture, transport, service and communication.” The government is to work out a stepby-step plan, the Minister went on. “We believe that this is a perfect plan, seeing rapid and efficient implementation of winter resort infrastructure. We face another important challenge, too: Georgia applied to host the 2023 skiing and snowboarding Fristal World Championship. We look forward to a positive decision in this direction, and the enormous stimulus it would be to improving infrastructure to the right level. In addition, this would help increase awareness of our country and engage youth in sporting activities.”
If EU Gas Directive Amended, Nord Stream 2 Will Ask for Damage Compensation BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE
f changes are made to the EU Gas Directive, which the European Commission is insisting on, Nord Stream 2 AG will ask for damage compensation, said Matthias Warnig, Executive Director of the company responsible for the construction and operation of the Nord Stream submarine gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. “I could not understand how the extension of the European Gas Directive to gas pipelines outside the EU internal market should function,” Warnig said in an interview with the German WirtschaftsWoche. “And if the EU regulations are changed to our detriment, the issue of compensation for damages will be raised,” he said, adding that Nord Stream 2 invested in the project based on the existing EU Gas Directive. Hot discussions abound surrounding the Nord Stream 2 project. Germany, for one, cannot be called a big fan of Russia in many political processes. More precisely, at present it is a sharp critic of the Russian Federation in the political sphere. But finance and economics are sacred.
Germany has very serious reasons to buy gas from this project, to which Brussels is sharply opposed: the German desire to get lower prices for Russian "blue fuel," and plans to ultimately abandon coal generation. Therefore, Berlin is opposed to many initiatives put forward by the European Commission (EC), whose goal is to block or delay the project, with German bureaucracy stubbornly defending the interests of those German energy concerns involved in the project. Germany openly states that the EC could not provide “any explanations or understandable arguments that would show how the proposed changes can contribute to the goals of the energy union.” The lawyers of the German government believe that these demands “are not applicable from the point of view of the European or from the point of view of international law.” US chances to block the project would have been much higher if American banks were interested in doing so. The US political elite never tiring of throwing lightning at Russia is one thing, but for bankers money is everything and they go on skillfully avoiding the directions of the State Department. In November 2017, JP Morgan Chase and Japanese Mizuho Bank Ltd, one of the largest financial services companies
in Japan, and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, a Japanese multinational banking and financial services company, issued
a loan to Gazprom of EUR 1 billion. At about the same time, maybe even a little earlier, Washington finally dropped the
visor and openly declared that in every possible way it would interfere with the construction of the Nord Stream 2.
GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 13 - 15, 2018
Georgian Parliament to Adopt New Law on Military Reserves
BY MÁTÉ FÖLDI
n February 7, the Parliament endorsed Georgia’s new military reserve system, concluding an almost year-long process on its reform. The amendments bill, which was drafted by the Ministry of Defense, will come into effect on June 1 this year. The law stipulates that the new military reserve system will have two parts: the active reserve and the mobilization component. There will, however, be three subcomponents to the active reserve: the reserves of the armed forces will be made up of former servicemen and law enforcement officers. It will ensure an “immediate involvement of reservists, as well as strengthening and supporting the armed forces;” there will be a territorial reserve established under the National Guard that will provide support to the armed forces in their respective territorial units; highly skilled professionals will make up the specialized reserve that will helped the armed forces deal with specific tasks. The active
reserve will be voluntary, with recruits (aged 18-65) signed on five-year contracts. The wages of active reserve members will comprise of 20% of the salary of their respective military ranks in addition to full military salary during service. It will be paid on a monthly basis. Meanwhile, a mobilization reserve will be created to support the armed forces during emergency situations and wartime. Service in this component will be compulsory, with the age of recruits ranging from 18 to 60 years old. The number of active reserve force members will be set by the Georgian government, while that of the mobilization forces will be set by the General Staff of the Defense Ministry. According to the Defense Ministry, a pilot project in 2018 will see 260 servicemen recruited to the active reserve forces, with a total of 1.37m set aside for their salaries, food, equipment and training. The new military reserve concept is based on the Strategic Defense Review for 2017-2020, and reflects the total defense approach, which the document as defense “on the country’s whole territory, with full national effort, employing both military and civilian resources.”
Georgian Qvevri Wines & Winemaking Culture Presented in France Continued from page 1 Georgian wines were presented at the exhibitions for the 8th time this year, and saw participation of wine companies ‘Iago's Wine,’ ‘Mandili,’ ‘Pheasant's Tears,’ ‘Marani Lagazi,’ ‘GOGO Wine / Artanuli Wine,’ ‘Kortavebis Marani,’ ‘Ramaz Nikoladze's Wine Cellar’ and ‘Oqro's Wine.’ Georgian wine tastings will be held in specialized wine shops and bars in the French cities of Nantes, Rennes and Lorriane. The GNWA states that 100,000 bottles of Georgian wine were exported to France in 2017, 178% more than the previous year, the main export share of which was Qvevri wines. In January 2018, according to the GNWA, 12 million bottles of wine were exported from Georgia to 24 countries worldwide, which is said to be 18% higher than the same period of 2017. The overall value amounted to $11.4 million approximately, making 31% growth y/y. Export, according to the GNWA, also increased to Kazakhstan by 108%, Hong Kong (100%), Japan (95%), Latvia (90%), Ukraine (55%), Russia (24%), Poland (13%), Israel (12%), and The Netherlands by 39%. The top exporter countries for Georgian wine are: Russia, Ukraine, China, Kazakhstan and Poland.
FEBRUARY 13 - 15, 2018
Developing Agritourism in Mukhrani
For Whom the Bell Tolls: Demands for Vasil Maghlaperidze’s Resignation BY MÁTÉ FÖLDI
six-point plan to “resolve the crisis” at the Georgian Public Broadcaster (GPB) has been published by over 70 Georgian NGOs and prominent cultural figures: it includes a call for the resignation of Vasil Maghlaperidze, the Head of GPB. In a statement realized on February 9, signatories including the Open Society Georgia Foundation, Georgia’s Reform Associates (GRASS), rights group EMC, and the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information voiced their concerns over the “deep institutional crisis in the GPB”, stating that the cost to taxpayers is undergoing annual increases while trust in the broadcaster is “critically low”. Announcing the start of “a movement for reforming the Public Broadcaster”, the statement said that, “Unfortunately, the Public Broadcaster fails to serve the interests of the public, is unable to fulfil its legal role; and acts instead as a media organization that is in service of political party interests.” Furthermore, the statement called upon the Prime Minister to meet the group so that the demands and opinions could be presented and possible solutions
discussed. Additionally, the statement also demanded GTB’s General Director and Board of Trustees to be summoned before Parliament at a public hearing where the extent to which GTB’s fulfilment of its legal obligations could be examined. The signatories believe that Maghlaperidze should resign due to the number of inconsistent and questionable decisions taken by GPB during his tenure. These included a “vague plan to reform the broadcaster; implementing a closed staffing policy, whereby journalists from the former Prime Minister’s TV station were employed through uncompetitive procedures; suspicious tenders; failure to fulfil program priorities; assuming an editorial policy that was loyal towards the government; closing the broadcaster’s European Office, etc.” The statement also demands that an external audit be conducted to examine GPB’s conduct over the past twelve months, due to the identification of significant managerial and financial transgressions by the State Audit Office. The signatories also called for parliament to not overrule the President’s veto of amendments to the Law on Public Broadcasting, claiming that the “amendments initiated by the Public Broadcaster reduce its openness and transparency, increase the risk of corruption, and significantly damage the advertising market.”
INTERVIEW BY MÁTÉ FÖLDI
eter Mac Nulty was appointed Managing Director of Tourism Development International in January 2001. He has extensive experience in the field of tourism project management, strategic planning and marketing and has been responsible for the direction of over 200 major tourism projects, including tourism research programs, feasibility studies, capacity building, marketing and branding strategies and strategic tourism studies. He has worked on tourism and leisure projects in the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Gulf Region. Tourism Development International (TDI) was founded in Ireland in 1988. The company has consistently endeavored to provide consultancy and research advice which is pragmatic and sustainable for the tourism and leisure industries worldwide, doing so through its team of experts and with the support of specialist consultants grounded in the industry. GEORGIA TODAY sat down with Peter to talk about their project in Mukhrani.
TELL US ABOUT TOURISM DEVELOPMENT INTERNATIONAL AND ITS HISTORY WITH GEORGIA Through a range of services, which includes strategic tourism master planning, feasibility studies, capacity building and training, business plans and economic studies, market research, and marketing, we have reached many sectors in many countries. Our work has taken us throughout Ireland and beyond to Europe, Asia, the USA, the Middle East, and Africa in an industry which is now amongst the largest in the world. TDI is familiar with Georgia and its tourism sector. The company recently completed a significant consultancy assignment on behalf of World Bank/ Municipal Development Fund of Georgia (MDF). The project, Tourism and Project Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Activities in the Kakheti Region, was conducted over an 18-month timeframe from January 2016 with the objective of monitoring the impact of the Regional Development Project (RDP) in the Kakheti region. In 2016, TDI prepared the Mukhrani Village Tourism Development Plan on behalf of the Foundation for Economic Development of Mukhrani. This project gave TDI an insight into the key issues and challenges facing the Mukhrani community, along with the opportunities for tourism development.
TELL US MORE ABOUT THE MUKHRANI PROJECT The objective of the Project is to build the capacity of local businesses, residents and other stakeholders, with a particular emphasis on women and youth, to improve backward linkages between tourism and primary agriculture in Mukhrani village. The training program is implemented by us on behalf of EBRD and managed by a team of six, which comprises international and Georgian experts, led by myself.
WHY MUKHRANI? Mukhrani village has significant untapped potential for tourism development. The village has a range of significant historic assets including Mukhrani Citadel, Niko the Boer’s Castle, internationally significant Roman ruins at Dzalisi, and Chateau Mukhrani. In addition, Mukhrani has intangible heritage such as the production of traditional foods which could also have an appeal for international visitors. In 2016, the Foundation for the Economic Development of Mukhrani commissioned us to prepare a Tourism Development Plan for Mukhrani. The plan set out proposals for the long-term conservation of Mukhrani’s built heritage and the sustainable development of tourism, including agritourism. The Tourism Development Plan highlighted the need for tourism investment and training measures. What we saw is that the village has a number of strengths, namely it being a center of food production/agrarian economy and having a natural environment. The community there is friendly and hospitable and actively seeks to support tourism while being able to show off its local traditions and culture e.g. wrestling. There is a wealth of opportunities open to Mukhrani. There’s a growing market of active, wealthy, independent travelers looking for alternative holiday experiences, and Mukhrani is ideally placed for such purpose- within close proximity of Mukhrani is Mtskheta, an existing tourism hub and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The village is also located on the national wine tourism route. The community could really capitalize on Mukhrani’s historic role as a regional center of food production and trade and should consider developing festivals and events based around food and heritage.
DOES MUKHRANI HAVE ANY WEAKNESSES OR FACE ANY THREATS? Mukhrani’s weaknesses include a lack of awareness of its potential as a tourist destination, seen by the absence of ‘market ready’ attractions, very limited accommodation/restaurant base, limited visitor facilities i.e. toilets, information/orientation for visitors, lack of tourism knowledge, skills and training and current unsafe food hygiene practices. The threats to Mukhrani are an overall lack of outside awareness of Mukhrani, the cost of conservation of built heritage, and a lack of capacity to respond to market opportunities e.g. accommodation, visitor facilities.
WHAT EFFECT WILL THE SUCCESS OR FAILURE OF MUKHRANI HAVE ON FUTURE PROJECTS? DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING ELSE PLANNED, OR IN THE WORKS IN GEORGIA AT THE MOMENT? Mukhrani has been selected as a Pilot Area for the project as it is well suited for agritourism. Success in tourism will depend on a range of factors including level of investment in infrastructure, tourism product development and the establishment of new tourism enterprises. This capacity building program is aimed at facilitating the further development of agritourism enterprises in Mukhrani.
GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 13 - 15, 2018
#VisitGeorgia: The Ups & Downs of the Georgian Tourism Industry BY MÁTÉ FÖLDI
ourism is a big deal for Georgia. According to the National Tourism Administration, in 2017, the country welcomed 7,554,936 international visitors, of which 3,478,932 (46.04%) were tourists. Considering that Georgia has a total population of 3,718,200, those are some pretty impressive figures. Not only did, as of the third quarter of 2017, tourism provide $2.2b (USD) in Foreign Exchange income to the nation’s coffers, representing 7% of GDP in the same period, the number of tourists increased by 27.9% compared to 2016. Such a large number of visitors necessitates a sizeable number of employees in the hospitality industry. To that end, the number of employees in this sector doubled over the last five years, with its share of the total number of employment increasing from 3.4% to 5.4%, according to the National Statistics Office of Georgia. These figures, however, do not cover the entirety of the tourism and travel industry, which includes tour operators, transport companies, and other services. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, “In 2016, Travel & Tourism directly supported 122,000 jobs (6.8% of total employment). This is expected to rise by 5.9% in 2017, and rise by 2.5% pa to 165,000 jobs (9.2% of total employment) in 2027.” Meanwhile, its total contribution, “including jobs indirectly supported by the industry was 23.4% of total employment (420,500 jobs). This is expected to rise by 5.0% in 2017 to 441,500 jobs, and rise by 2.2% pa, (30.7% of total).” Indeed, while in Soviet times, Georgia was a popular tourist destination for citizens, in the last decade, the sector has clearly sky-rocketed. This year, Georgia is officially playing with the big boys, after ranking seventh on Lonely Planet’s “Top Ten Countries to Visit in 2018,” Tbilisi making it onto National Geographic’s “Top Ten Places You Need to Visit in 2018,” and The Guardian’s “Where to go on holiday in 2018 — the Hotlist”. Lest we forget, Georgia will also host the final round of the International Forum of Innovations for the Hospitality and Tourism Industry this autumn, the significance of which was outlined by the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Dimitry Kumsishvili and George Chogovadze, the Head of the National Tourism Administration. “Hosting an International Forum of Innovations for the Hospitality and Tourism Industry in Georgia is hugely important for us. All the best innovative ideas generated in the hospitality industry globally will be discussed in Georgia during the forum, whilst on the other hand, it will give us the possibility to organize competitions in the country, fostering new ideas. Overall, this will bring our country improved and better services that we could offer to our tourists,” Kumsishvili said.
“Our goal is to transform Georgia into a tourism mecca, both in the region and globally, and this project will help put Georgia on the map as a major center for new ideas and innovations” Chogovadze added. As is plain to see, tourism is an important source of revenue for the country, as well as a means of promoting its profile internationally (Georgian wine’s lack of celebrity status in the world at large is criminal; one can only hope that increased tourism is one way of remedying this). Tbilisi has reaped many benefits from the ever-increasing international exposure and the concomitant gentrification that certain parts of the city have undergone. As Ketevan Ebanoidze, one of the founders of Impact Hub Tbilisi, told me in a November 2017 interview, “With respect to Fabrika and Impact Hub, I believe that it has gone a long way towards actually helping the neighborhood and benefiting the local community. Before Fabrika was built, this part of Tbilisi was lifeless: nothing was happening here. Now it has become a lot more popular, with a greater flow of tourists and business, which has resulted not only in greater economic capital, but also an increase in the creative capital of locals as they look to come up with new business ideas to tap into the attention that Fabrika has brought to the area.” Furthermore, Tbilisi’s vibrant and burgeoning bar and nightlife scene has undergone vast improvement over the past years, and the effect of tourism on the development of the city and the blossoming of the hospitality industry and cannot be overstated. With an increased number of tourists, a greater variety and higher quality of services has been demanded that has created an added incentive for competition and innovation to improve on existing services and fill the gaps in the market. As word gets out about how awesome Tbilisi is, more tourists visit, and the cycle continues. AirBnb, too, has allowed many locals to cash in on the boom and make a killing during the summer. This is a truth that I only know too well: I’m getting kicked out of my flat in Saburtalo at the end of April because, at $30 a night, the $800-$900 per month my landlord makes from the start of May until the end of September far exceeds the $300 off-season rent that I have been paying her. And when you consider that the average Georgian monthly salary is 940 GEL ($381.34), that’s taking into account the incomes of the wealthy stratum of society, thereby painting a generously misguided picture of what the majority of Georgians live off, those figures are truly incredible. My straight white European male privilege counts for nothing against the mighty capitalist forces. Tbilisi’s magnetism has also allowed for the local creative sector to flourish. As Ryan McCarrel, owner of Fotografia photo gallery, explained: “I set up the gallery because I thought there was a growing market for the work of Georgian artists that are quite accomplished. I don't run the gallery for a profit, but to help support the work of artists. This
Photo source: sourcemagazine.org.uk
would not have been possible without tourism. In the six months we’ve been open, we’ve been able to leverage the growth of tourism and the market for high quality Georgian photographic art into several thousand GEL which we are very happy to have been able to pass on to the artists directly (after paying for rent and salaries, of course). While it may not be much, it's just the beginning, and without the growing tourism sector it would have been impossible, as the domestic market for photographic art is just not there yet.” McCarrel, however, was wary of the good guidance and direction that Tbilisi’s continued development will need in order to maximize its touristic appeal. “There are several large-scale investments which are not doing enough to support the cultural producers which make Tbilisi a vibrant European capital city. I think that the Adjara group, with Fabrika, is a good example of a company which is in the tourism industry but also provides spaces for local creative types. Other development projects like the new Galleria have provided almost no space for this or opportunity for Georgia's burgeoning creative industry. This is a real shame, as tourism relies on the cultural output of a city: this is what makes it interesting.” Yet, there is also a dark side to a booming tourism industry. As Futurist Gary Whitehill told me after attending a Georgian Startup Grind event at the invitation of G4G/USAID in September, “Without leadership, Georgians will further suffocate in the quicksand that is a tourism-first strategy. A
recent statement from the Minister of Finance that “tourism is the best export,” shows a dire lack of understanding of how to develop the country for the long-term. It’s pathetically ridiculous. What the next trick politicians like to enforce is the outdated conventional wisdom of exporting services. But once again, this is not a viable long-term strategy for economic development in the 21st Century. The country needs to architect its future around pillars of value creation instead of tourism and services, which are forms of exploitation.” Indeed, a burgeoning tourism sector, especially in developing countries like Georgia, is no guarantee of it being beneficial to the many. In an unequal society like the one we have here, where the majority of the population earn so little that they simply cannot afford the necessary resources and infrastructure to get ahead and compete in the industry, the possibility of the rich getting richer and the poor staying poorer is very likely, if not guaranteed. Ciarán Miqeladze of Post Pravda hits the nail on the head for the risks and challenges faced by the Georgian people: “In an economy like Georgia’s, where 35% of the economy is controlled by businessman and former Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, and minimal redistribution exists, it would appear that tourism is primed to continue contributing to inequality. One must begin to think that tourism offers little hope for working class Georgians but instead merely enables foreign investors and the upper class to profit off the backs of those who are suffering most.”
RETAIL FPI | No Cows, No Milk?!
n the first half of February, ISET’s Retail Food Price Index increased by 4.8% y/y (compared to February 2017). On a monthly basis (compared to January 2018), food prices in Tbilisi’s major supermarkets held relatively steady and decreased only slightly by 0.1%. The sharpest bi-weekly price changes were recorded for fruits and vegetables. Prices increased the most for eggplant (38%), garlic (19%), and carrots (8.2%). The largest price drops were observed for tangerines (5%), cucumbers (5%), and coriander (2%).
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE DAIRY MARKET Dairy prices showed a strong start for the year. As shown in the diagram, in January 2018, prices are higher for all dairy products compared to the same month of 2017: milk (12%), cheese (11%), butter (11%), and matsoni (5%). Given that in winter there is a shortage in milk supply, increased dairy prices in that period can be explained by seasonality. While seasonality is a good explanation for monthly changes, it cannot explain annual changes in prices. Trade data, on the contrary, can provide some interesting insights. According to the export data, export of live bovine animals increased in 2017 compared to
the previous year. Thus, the number of live bovine animals exported in 2017 amounted to 132,799 head, which is 34% higher than the same indicator in 2016. The export of fresh meat in 2017 has also increased significantly, by 22%, compared to the previous year. It might be the case that both heifers and cows are exported, therefore, increased exports of live bovine animals, alongside increased exports of meat, might explain a reduction in the supply of milk and resulting higher dairy prices. It is worth noting that import data shows a significant 42% increase in milk and milk product imports in January 2018, as compared to January 2017. It appears that Georgian retailers try, although not very successfully, to fill the shortage in milk supply with imported dairy products.
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FEBRUARY 13 - 15, 2018
Nenad Pejic: Partnership with Rustavi 2 “Out of the Question” BY MÁTÉ FÖLDI
ditor-in-Chief and VicePresident of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/ RL) Nenad Pejic has confirmed that they are no longer considering a partnership with Rustavi 2. Pejic was in Georgia last week to allay the concerns of a number of local NGOs following their publication of an open letter demanding answers. Their concerns were over reports that RFE/RL was pressuring its Georgian branch, Radio Tavisupleba, to cooperate with Rustavi 2. At a private meeting, Pejic assured the
representatives of the organizations that Radio Tavisupleba’s editorial policy will remain unchanged, Natia Kuprashvili, the Head of the Journalism Resource Centre, told Liberali. “The Vice-President said they want to have a wider reach and better results, which is very logical from the management. He did not speak about firing anyone from the staff. Quite to the contrary, that it’s important to improve their work, train them, and achieve better results”, Kuprashvili said. The new management of Radio Tavisupleba will reportedly be selected through an open call following the dismissal of its previous head, Davit Kakabadze, and the resignation-inprotest of bureau chief Marina Vashakmadze.
EP Vice President on the Muktharli Case EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY STEVEN GREY
he Muktharli saga continues: the imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist, on a two day leave to attend the funeral of his close relatives, told press that his kidnapping from Tbilisi last year took place with the direct participation of Ex PM Ivanishvili, with the knowledge of current Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili. While the government summarily dismissed Muktharli’s claims, it is undeniable that cases like his make onlookers question whether everything’s right with cherished Georgian democracy. One such case is that of Mustafa Emre Cabuk, a Turkish teacher who has spent months in pre-detention on largely dubious charges, awaiting (and dreading) subsequent extradition to Turkey, where he says he’ll be presented with a mock trial and inhuman treatment in prison. Both Muktharli and Cabuk’s cases have become topics of discussion between Georgian authorities and their Western partners, something that Vice President of the European Parliament, Finnish MEP, Heidi Hautala was only too keen to underline in an interview with GEORGIA TODAY.
MANY IN GEORGIA AND THE WEST ASSUME THE GOV’T OF GEORGIA IS BEING BULLIED BY THE TURKISH GOV’T INTO KEEPING CABUK IN DETENTION. WOULD YOU AGREE? I’ve mentioned the Cabuk case several times to my colleagues in Georgian Parliament, to the Minister of State for Euro-Atlantic integration, and my good old friend Dolidze, with whom we share Euronest co-presidency. I have the impression that Georgia was persistent to pressure because I was confident that the Georgian Members of Parliament and Government would understand it to be really very damaging for the reputation and the standards achieved by Georgia if they caved in to pressure from Turkey. As for Muktharli, I can quote your former ombudsman on the Mukhtarli case, in one of his last statements: “After six months, the Prosecutor’s Office has not informed the public of the results of the investigation, which would have strengthened confidence in an effective investigation.” It’s a serious case and it’s also about the sovereignty of Georgia. Now is when the Georgian government can show that the rule of law is really in place and it is able to defend it; yes, maintain friendly relations with neighboring countries, but rule of law should come first.
WOULD YOU SAY THAT THERE NEEDS TO BE PRESSURE FROM THE WEST AS LEVERAGE TO COUNTER THE TURKISH REQUESTS? The European Parliament adopted a resolution right after the abduction of Mukhtarli. You can see that the Mukhtarli case is also mentioned in the Association Agreement implementation report. It’s something that raises a lot of eyebrows and is something of a test, as there are questions about the constituency of the reform of the judiciary. And in the Mukhtarli case, one has to point out that it has raised some very serious questions about of the position of the security services of Georgia. Where do they stand? I understand that the Minister of Interior was dismissed with very little explanation of what happened. It’s a bit of an indication to me that there’s something that the government is not openly investigating and not openly discussing with the public to create confidence. I think the government should take a different line, say, ‘yes we are unambiguously in favor of the rule of law, we will do all that is needed because we cannot accept the pressure.’ That’s my position.
IS GEORGIA’S WESTERN IMAGE AND REPUTATION BEING CHALLENGED NOW?
At this point, maybe. I think both the independent and opposition media have the right to point to the danger that could arise, and we may be seeing it already. We know that Georgian Dream was going to be an alternative to the Saakashvili regime but I think this whole thing should move to the next step: that all the, let’s say, “bad legacy” of the Saakashvili era should be dealt with, but with the understanding that some is still prevalent in the current regime.
YOU MENTIONED TEST SEVERAL TIMES, BUT EVERY TEST IS FOLLOWED BY AN EXAMINATION OF RESULTS. WHEN DO WE GET TO
THE STAGE WHERE THE EU GIVES THE MARKS? I’d say that reasonable time for the Mukhtarli case investigation has already passed. Some evidence may be disappearing. I don’t know what the European Commission is going to do about it, but they should have paid more attention to the Mukhtarli case. Of course, we know that Azerbaijan is very far from those democratic standards that we can see evolving in Georgia, but it’s not a consolation, really. We cannot compare two countries, but we have to come to a point. But as far as I know, the case is already in Strasbourg. The answer to your question is that, luckily, we have this supranational court.
GEORGIA TODAY FEBRUARY 13 - 15, 2018
James Blunt will Perform Famous Hits on Independence Day
ver 18 million albums sold worldwide – an impressive number for the British superstar James Blunt. His debut album Back to Bedlam, was included in the UK’s top selling albums of the 2000s. In 2017, the singer released his fifth album Afterlove, and started a world tour in which Georgia is to be included. There are some interesting facts about the famous hit You're Beautiful. The song was a great success for the singer, and was the third to be released by him. It won several awards. Blunt has been playing this extraordinary song at all of his concerts and important events. It was thanks to this that James won awards for his bestselling album. This song has a real personable meaning for the singer. He devoted it to his former girlfriend. The video depicts a Japanese ‘traditional’ suicide attempt. At the end of the video, the singer turns to the water to show that he can no longer live without love. Although the aforementioned hit is not his favorite creation, he said he would not stop performing the song as his concerts, because
it is a favorite song of amongst his fans, whom he adores. In general, music has become an integral part of James Blunt's life. As he says, during a military placement in Kosovo, he took his guitar with him and performed songs for the locals and the army. During this period, he wrote the song No Bravery. James Blunt will visit Tbilisi on May 26, Georgian Independence Day. According to the organizers, the singer and composer will perform all of his hits, including Goodbye My Lover" and "You're Beautiful". Festival tickets can be purchased on tkt.ge. The event is organized by the international company Black Pearl Live, which collaborates with top performers from around the world. The international promotion company Black Pearl Live is based in Georgia, which cooperates with the world's top performers. The company has ambitious goals in the Georgian market. Black Pearl Live aims to carry out large-scale festivals, concerts and shows to make Georgia a home of cultural events.
Fun Facts: The Most Popular Names in Georgia
BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
ollowing information from the Public Service Development Agency, statistically, the names George and Nino are the most commonly used in Georgia. There are 191,390 people named George living in the country, and 115,120 Nino’s. Other popular men’s names include Davit (67,418), Aleksandre (41,270), Luka (38,670), Nikoloz (36,239), Irakli (35,940) and Zurab (31,606). As for women’s names: Mariam (67,406), Tamar (50,393), Anna (47,662) Maia (47,349),
Nana (42,706), Natia (38,246), Elene (34,825), Manana (34,236), Ketevan (32,572) and Natela (29,191) have been listed as the most popular. As for last names, data from the Public Service Development Agency says that the most common last names in Georgia are: Beridze (29,055), which tops the list, followed by Kapanadze (19,182), Gelashvili (18,265), Maisuradze (16,194), Mamedov (14,735), Giorgadze (14,145), Lomidze (13,054) Tsiklauri (12,996), Mamedova (12,779) and Bolkvadze (12,730). Nozadze, Kvaratskhelia, Khutsishvili, Abuladze, Mikeladze, Shengelia, Tabatadze, Abashidze, Aliev and Diasamidze are also among the most common last names in Georgia.
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February 13 - 15, 2018