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Issue no: 1218/214

• JANUARY 14 - 16, 2020 • PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

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

World Economic Outlook in Emerging Markets & Developing Economies Q4 2019 BUSINESS PAGE 4

The Fate of Anaklia after Anaklia Development Consortium

FOCUS

ON EUROPEAN SUPPORT 2020

We take a look at the ways the EU is supporting Georgia's development

PAGE 7,8

Georgian Tourism Administration Head Sums up 2019 BY TEA MARIAMIDZE

BUSINESS PAGE 5

Georgian Library Opens in Qatar University BUSINESS PAGE 6

Messe Frankfurt Presents Ambiente 2020: The Trade Fair Where the Future Becomes the Present BUSINESS PAGE 9

Chinese New Year & Spring Festival Celebrated in Berlin CULTURE PAGE 10

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The Year of the Rat: War, Elections, Merabishvili & the EU Summit

eorgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA) Head, Mariam Kvrivishvili, says that 2019 was full of difficulties for Georgia in terms of tourism and yet it hosted a recordnumber of visitors. “9,357,964 international travelers visited Georgia in 2019, an increase of 7.8% compared to 2018. The number of international visitors amounted to 7,725,774, which is 7.3% more compared to 2018. The

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Image source: avianews.ge

number of tourist visits was 5,080,478, which is 323,658 more than in 2018, an increase of 6.8%,” Kvrivishvili said. She noted that most of the international visitors came from Azerbaijan (+7.2%), Russia (+4.8%), Armenia (+7.6%) and Turkey (+5.3%) and the positive trend was maintained by the EU countries. Continued on page 6

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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

JANUARY 14 - 16, 2020

@entrepreneur.ge Gamarjoba! I’m the Editor-in-Chief of the Georgian edition of Entrepreneur magazine and I’m here to share the top weekly Entrepreneurial news with you:

Tensions Growing in Sokhumi as De-facto President of Abkhazia Resigns

Founded by Mariam Markarovi, Georgian brand Pavone produces exclusive handmade glass jewelry and interior accessories. It is known for its colorful selection of intricately made and unique technology glassware. Mariam plans to open a Pavone studio-salon which will host masterclasses. On the market for over a year, Wely is a high-technology innovative company that creates systems to support business operations. The team’s mission is to enhance business building and homes with modern digital capabilities via smart equipment, sensors, etc. Wely can access the operating system from anywhere in the world, check the current status, optimize costs and more. Co-founder Aleksandre Kviciani says that the company aims big: their plans include joining foreign markets. Profy is a digital platform uniting everyday life services in one space and facilitating the connection between craftspeople and customers. The website/application enables users to choose a service and browse a list of all the craftspeople in that direction, their ratings, reviews, and prices. Profy saves people energy and time, all while receiving a high-quality service. Creator Irakli Zantaraia says that he aims to change the specifics of the industry, make it easier, more reachable and comfortable for every party. Follow the Entrepreneur Georgia Instagram page to get the latest updates from Georgian Entrepreneurs. For doing business with Georgian Entrepreneurs, write us on business@entrepreneur.ge

BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI

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esieged de-facto president of breakaway Abkhazia Raul Khajimba had to file his resignation amidst increasing protests of opposition on Sunday evening. Immediately before the resignation, a group of about a hundred opposition supporters came to his state villa near Sokhumi to stage a rally demanding him to step down. A few hours beforehand, Khajimba met with Aslan Bzhania, the leader of the opposition, and other politicians. Russian herald Rashid Nurgaliev was also

present at the meeting. Apparently, a top Kremlin courier Vladislav Surkov also landed in Sokhumi on Sunday. Surkov is an advisor to President Vladimir Putin and a key strategic counselor in shaping the Kremlin’s politics toward its Abkhazia, South Ossetia and pro-Russian regimes in Eastern Ukraine. Surkov met with Bzhania, while Khajimba surprisingly refused to meet him, Ekho Kavkaza reports. "We categorically demand Khajimba’s resignation," Aslan Bzhania said after the meeting. The same demand was aired on Saturday evening by key figure behind the storming of “presidential” office, Akhra Avidzba.

On Friday, the de facto parliament voted in favor of Khajimba's resignation. “I want to announce that I will be leaving my granted position to maintain stability in the ‘country’,” Khajimba said. The pseudo-vice-president of occupied Abkhazia, Aslan Barcic, also commented on the near revolt state of the region, saying that “Khajimba resigned to prevent bloodshed and to sustain stability.” Repeated presidential elections in Russian-occupied Abkhazia will be held on March 22, leader of the Abkhaz opposition, Aslan Bjania, announced Monday. On January 10, the court in occupied Abkhazia declared the results of the second round of the presidential election and the decision of the court of the first instance illegal.

GCAA Calls on Georgian Airlines Not to Use Iranian & Iraqi Airspace BY ANA DUMBADZE

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he Georgian Civil Aviation Agency has called on Georgian airlines to refrain from using Iranian and Iraqi airspace. “Based on recommendations issued by the Integrated EU Aviation Security Risk Assessment Group, due to Iranian and Iraqi air space safety risks and the likely causes of the Ukrainian aircraft disaster, the Georgian Civil Aviation Agency calls

on airlines registered in Georgia to avoid flying into Iranian and Iraqi airspace,” the agency's statement reads. Based on information released by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, Iranian and Iraqi airspace has been evaluated as "high-risk" by the Integrated EU Aviation Security Risk Assessment Group, which recommends that flights over Iranian and Iraqi airspace should be avoided as a precautionary measure. The Georgian Civil Aviation Agency also expressed its sincere condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the Ukraine International Air-

lines crash. The Ukrainian International airliner bound for the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, crashed minutes after takeoff from the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran on January 8 amid escalating tensions between the United States and Iran. The plane was carrying mostlyIranians and Iranian Canadians. On the evening of January 10, Iran’s military announced that they had accidentally shot down the Ukrainian passenger jet, blaming human error because the plane took ‘an unexpected turn’ toward a military base.

thing was to conduct a full and objective investigation into the causes of the tragedy, and Ukrainian experts were already involved in this process. "We feel your support," he told PM Gakharia. "Ukraine and Georgia have

always been side-by-side in the troubled periods of history. We have experts working, we have already sent a plane with our best specialists to Iran and we are working to ensure the transparency of the investigation,” the Head of State said.

Iran Admits to Downing Ukrainian Flight BY GT TEAM

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ran has reversed its statement that ‘a mechanical failure’ was to blame for a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 crashing shortly after taking-off early morning on January 8. The Ukrainian International airliner bound for the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, crashed minutes after takeoff from the Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran on January 8 amid escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, killing all 176 on board. The plane was carrying mostly Iranians and Iranian Canadians. On the evening of January 10, Iran’s military announced that they had accidentally shot down the passenger jet, blaming human error because the plane

took ‘an unexpected turn’ toward a military base. “Armed Forces’ internal investigation has concluded that, regrettably, missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane and death of 176 innocent people. Investigations continue to identify and prosecute for this great tragedy and unforgivable mistake,” tweeted Hassan Rouhani, the President of the Iranian Republic. “The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake. My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences,” President Rouhani added to his tweet minutes later. The Ukrainian plane carrying 176 people crashed on January 8, the same day Iranian missiles attacked American bases in Iraq. At first, Iran insisted that ‘mechanical issues’ were to blame. International society found the claim reasonable at

first, with even the Ukrainian side ruling out an attack. By Friday, January 10, American and allied intelligence assessments had concluded that Iranian missiles brought down the plane by accident. American media were quick to publicize the fact, as the world waited for Iranian officials to take responsibility. Soon after the Iranian announcement, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia spoke to President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky over the phone. During the conversation, the Georgian Prime Minister said he shared the pain over the loss of Ukrainian citizens in the UIA plane crash in the Iranian city of Tehran, and expressed condolences to the relatives of the victims. Gakharia assured the Ukrainian President that Georgia was ready to provide all necessary assistance to Ukraine. Zelensky in turn stressed that the key


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 14 - 16, 2020

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DIRSI Residential Complex The Art of Living zones; a kindergarten; a school; a learning resource center; a business center; supermarkets and parking areas to name a few. The complex is also adapted for the needs of people with disabilities. What’s more, we have already begun the construction of the project DIRSI 2, which will be available for sale in the near future.

THE CONCEPT OF DIRSI IS LARGELY BASED ON ECO-FRIENDLINESS. HOW DO YOU DEVELOP YOUR PROJECT, PLEASE TELL US MORE ABOUT THIS. To create something distinctive, good infrastructure is not enough; one must be part of the ecosystem. The accumulated problems in the environment should concern one personally; the perpetual eagerness to try and solve these issues is essential. Conceptually, DIRSI’s approach to design puts emphasis on the natural

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here and how we live impacts all other functions of daily life. DIRSI residential complex has been designed not only to provide high-quality accommodation, but also to create a shared living space where everyone will have a stake in environment protection and where everyone will be treated equally. As ambitious as this might sound, DIRSI is setting the bar very high with its human-centered design in Tbilisi’s historical Dirsichala district. To learn more about this standout project, GEORGIATODAY spoke with Emin Abasov, General Director of AS Georgia (DIRSI).

TELL US WHAT YOUR SLOGAN

surroundings. For instance, the Mtkvari River, will in the future be used to create new spaces for leisure, entertainment and increased mobility- residents will be able get around the river by boat. While the river provides natural protection from the city’s incessant turmoil and pollution to one half of the DIRSI complex, the other half is embraced by a huge park serving the same purpose. Our whole conception is to provide the inhabitants with opportunities to live in a quiet, peaceful, green and secure space. DIRSI has initiated a project of replanting trees removed in any part of the country. It also encourages broad participation in developing parks.

WHAT URGED YOU TO START A CONSTRUCTION SITE IN THIS OLD DISTRICT OF THE CAPITAL CITY? DIRSI is an original and independent district between the River Mtkvari and Monk Gabriel Salosi Avenue in the

‘CITY WITHIN A CITY’ MEANS. DIRSI already owns the largest residential complex in the city, which comprises only a quarter of its River City mega project, spanning 47 hectares and including high-rise buildings as well as townhouses and villas. DIRSI is designed to offer a whole new style of living, where the meticulously designed atmosphere is there to serve every imaginable need. The complex pampers its residents with the finest infrastructure and services to create a safe and enjoyable atmosphere for living and leisure. These include a boulevard; a park with attractions; a multipurpose playground; bike lanes; a shopping center; restaurants and cafes; basketball/football/tennis playgrounds with instructors for children; wide pedestrian and car-free historical part of Tbilisi. The word DIRSI has its origins in Tbilisi’s historical part called “Dirsichala” (Dirsi Grove) in the last century. Following the collapse of the USSR, the area soon started to break down: its trees were cut, its gardens were uprooted and its infrastructure was damaged. The company decided to reverse the course by reinstating the historical elements of the areas based on the existing records. This area will soon become one of the greenest parts of the city, with clean air and lots of space for walking and relaxing in the open. The beautiful views of the Mtkvari River and surrounding mountains add to the charm of the complex.

COMPARED TO SIMILAR PROJECTS, WHAT OTHER VALUES DOES DIRSI UPHOLD? The safety of children is DIRSI’s top priority. The company ensures safety for kids in its parks, playgrounds and other facilities for children, completely separated from traffic zones. DIRSI does not differentiate its buildings or customers by social or economic status. All facilities are accessible to all, equally, without any special privileges or special treatment for anyone. Prices at DIRSI are both affordable and competitive. When buying an apartment from DIRSI, customers get additional perks in terms of access to local facilities. Thus, they make an investment that pays dividends to them as well as to the whole community. If you’re looking for something extraordinary, spacious and modern, yet environmentally safe and aesthetically beautiful, DIRSI is the perfect fit.


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

JANUARY 14 - 16, 2020

World Economic Outlook in Emerging Markets & Developing Economies Q4 2019 Like the advanced economies, experts expect continuing headwinds from the China-US trade tensions. Trade expectations are at their lowest level in more than ten years. An increasing share of respondents expect both short- and long-term interest rates to decrease. Whereas, the economic climate for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) slightly recovered and the indicator improved by 4.9 points and now points at -10.9 on the balance scale. Assessments of both the current situation as well as the economic outlook improved, but remain negative. Economic activity in Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Kazakhstan is assessed as very favorable. In Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia on the other hand, economic activity seems to be slowing down, as economic expectations remain pessimistic. The respondents almost unanimously report that corruption is the most pressing problem hindering the economy now. However, lack of innovation comes as a close second. This research was prepared by ifo institute and was originally published in ifo World Economic Survey, IV 2019 November, Vol. 18. PMC Research Center is a regional partner of ifo Institute in South Caucasus.

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he World Economic Survey (WES) assesses global economic trends by polling transnational and national organizations worldwide on current economic developments in their respective countries. Its results offer a rapid, up-to-date assessment of the current economic situation internationally. In October 2019, 1,230 economic experts in 117 countries were polled. The survey questionnaire focuses on qualitative information: assessments of a country’s general economic situation and expectations regarding key economic indicators. It has proven to be a useful tool, since it reveals economic changes earlier than conventional business statistics. The ifo World Economic Climate has worsened again, with the indicator falling in the fourth quarter from -10.1 to -18.8 points. Both the assessment of the current situation and expectations dropped significantly as the global economy continues to cool. There was a deterioration of the economic climate

in nearly all regions. Assessments of the current situation were unfavorable particularly in emerging markets, while in advanced economies it was primarily the estimates for the coming months that declined. In emerging markets, the downward trend was based mostly in Asia; in advanced economies, it was concentrated in the US. Compared to May of 2019, there was a marked increase in the proportion of experts who rate macroeconomic demand and innovation as insufficient.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC OUTLOOK IN EMERGING MARKETS AND DEVELOPING ECONOMIES The economic climate of emerging markets and developing economies worsened again this quarter. This is the fifth consecutive quarter where the climate indicator is in negative territory. The economic outlook did not change much, but experts remain sceptical. The assessment of the current situation dropped again to reach -37.9 points, the most negative level since second quarter of 2019.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 14 - 16, 2020

5

The Fate of Anaklia after Anaklia Development Consortium OP-ED BY EMIL AVDALIANI

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his year the fate of the Anaklia Port will remain of great interest to Georgian society, as well as foreign observers. The port project is inextricably linked to Georgia's internal politics which are likely to be volatile throughout 2020 as the country prepares for important parliamentary elections. A further dimension of importance is attached to the port due to geopolitics. Indeed, over the past year or so, the issue of Anaklia has become part of a geopolitical competition spanning Eurasia, where the US and China are waging a battle which does not necessarily involve direct or even proxy warfare but instead a clearly visible contest, with China vying for control of vital roads, ports, railways and natural resource bases. The US, considering the country's maritime nature and its distance from the Eurasian continent, has difficulty successfully competing with the Chinese. The competition between the two states, unlike the one which took place between the Soviet Union and the US, involves the economic and technological spheres (the past Soviet technological success having been shortlived). Various statements from Georgian officials and most notably from the US

side over the past year have shown that Washington is deeply interested in Anaklia, as American influence seeks to block Chinese moves in the Black Sea. Yet many in Georgia wonder why, if there is increased American interest, no tangible progress has been made so far on the construction of the port. Let us distance itself from the Georgian perspective and look at the Anaklia problem from a global point of view. There have been numerous calls from the analytical community urging the US to have larger presence in the Black Sea region, but so far we have seen limited military and economic support for the pro-Western Georgia and Ukraine. For the US, the Black Sea is not of as much geopolitical importance as the South China Sea or Persian Gulf. This is not to say the Anaklia port project is not important to them. On the contrary, there have been consistent moves by the US to counter Chinese interests around the future port. The very fact the Chinese did not get the right to build the port, but their only competitors, Americans, did, shows Washington's long term perspective. Moreover, in mid-2019, the US’ Mike Pompeo strongly supported the project while criticizing the Chinese and Russians. This brings us to Russia. Though it has become something of a fashion in Georgia to link all foreign policy failures to

Moscow, the Kremlin has rarely featured in the Anaklia port issue. In fact, there have been no official statement or even suggestions that Russia is particularly interested in the Anaklia project. However, the economic development in the Black Sea region shows an increasing need to have new ports, preferably deep sea ones, which explains Russia's recently announced intent to build a new deep sea port at Taman, on the Kerch Strait.

On January 9, the Georgian government announced it would begin procedures to cancel the agreement signed with the Anaklia Development Consortium (ADC) since the latter had not abided by requirements laid out in the initial 2016 agreement. Though this is a negative sign which postpones the construction of the Anaklia port, it could also be argued that the idea of Anaklia port is likely to survive.

After ADC, new projects could emerge. As argued above, the US’ interest in the port could serve as a major driver behind future initiatives. Naturally, this will be no guarantee that the port will be constructed in the near future, but geopolitical developments such as the US-China competition and internal Georgian politics will keep the idea of constructing the Anaklia port potentially feasible.

State Audit Office of Georgia: GEL 561 mln Worth of Hep C Meds Expired

Image source: npr.org

BY TEA MARIAMIDZE

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he State Audit Office (SAO) of Georgia released a report last week which reads that GEL 560,645,083 ($194,331,050) of Hepatitis C treatment medications have expired in Georgia. The report reads that the expired

medications were reflected on various material accounts of the Social Service Agency of the Ministry of Health of Georgia, while the central office of the ministry registered another medicine of the same purpose, worth GEL 121,285 ($42,039), which expired. The health initiative ‘Georgia without Hepatitis C’ was launched nationwide in April 2015, when the Government of Georgia and American biotechnology company Gilead signed a memorandum

of understanding. The project helps to reduce and prevent cases of Hepatitis C in Georgia with the main goal of stopping the disease from spreading. The treatment is free of charge for all citizens of Georgia. SAO noted the abovementioned expired medicines included modern Hepatitis C treatment medicines received free of charge from a US manufacturer: Harvoni, Sovaldi, Zepatier and Interferon. The audit office stated that according

to the Social Service Agency, the main reason for the expiration of the medication was that since July 2017, the number of beneficiaries has declined sharply. Also, at the initial stage of program launch in 2015, the main treatment drug was Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi), which was prescribed in combination with other medications (Interferon and Ribavirin), but in February 2016, the drug was replaced with a new generation of medicines Harvon, which changed treatment regimes and dramatically reduced the use of Sofosbuvir, Interferon and Ribavirin. Further, the agency explains that there are cases of sudden termination of treatment, including the death of patients, which resulted in the accumulation of unused medicines. Opposition parties criticized the ministry, saying an investigation should be launched into the fact. Roman Gotsiridze, member of the United National Movement (UNM), says that it is a “crime” to let such expensive medicines go to watse. “This happened because of negligence, lack of management and corruption at the expense of human health. The Hepatitis C program was a unique gift from our friend state the US, which provided a grant and is currently spending billions of dollars [on it]. No developed country could afford this program because it is an extremely expensive treatment method,” Gotsiridze claims. The MP called for the proper investigation of the fact. Amiran Gamkrelidze, Director of the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and Public Health, commented on the issue, saying there must always be a certain amount of medicines in the strategic stock so that they can be used when needed. "We are treating every month from 1000 to 1200 patients and for this reason

we should always have a certain amount in stock because we are trying to involve more people in this program," Gamkrelidze explained, noting that the expired medicines worth GEL 560,645,083 were not bought from the state budget. "This GEL 560 million was not the budget money, it was a donation, and the cost for the medicines was higher in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Today, the prices are lower,” he said. Gamkrelidze noted that the project has been highly effective, seeing 65,000 people benefiting from the program, of which 58,000 will no longer develop liver cancer, meaning those people will live 15 to 20 years longer than if they had developed the disease. Former Health Committee Chairman of Parliament, Akaki Zoidze, who quit his mandate in early December, said that no-one questions the Hepatitis C program except Georgians. Zoidze took to Facebook to address the issue, saying it is unacceptable to politicize everything. “No-one on Earth doubts the success of the Hepatitis C program, except Georgians! And it happens when the whole world is watching very closely this truly unique process of elimination of this terrible disease, and our country is a pioneer in it!” he said. The post reads that only Gilead has the right to be concerned about the expiration of the medicines, and adds that the organization knows the importance of this project and a 1-2% loss of medicines through expiration is expected. “What is the biggest danger for the future of the program? Further politicizing the issue, and most importantly, the passivity of thousands of citizens who know they have the virus but do not seek in-depth diagnostics and treatment, even though today it is completely free for them," Zoidze wrote on his Facebook page.


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

JANUARY 14 - 16, 2020

Georgian Library Opens in Qatar University BY ELENE DZEBISASHVILI

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n Monday, a Georgian Library opened within the University of Qatar, with English-language books and publications on Georgian culture and heritage (up to a hundred units), as well as dictionaries and Georgian narratives in Arabic. “Today, a memorandum was signed between myself, representing the National Libraries of Georgia, and Qatar, represented by my colleague Sohair Wastawy," said Giorgi Kekelidze, General Director

of the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia and the founder of the first Georgian digital library. "Being our first such cooperation with countries in the region, it involves many future perspectives, including an exhibition of Georgian antique books in the fantastic hall of the Library of Qatar in the near future. I want to stress the outstanding input of the Embassy of Georgia to Qatar and Ambassador Nikoloz Revazishvili,” Kekelidze added. The Embassy of Georgia to Qatar has already donated over 70 books to Qatar University’s (QU) Library, including books on Georgian cultural heritage, diplomacy, Georgian cuisine, dictionaries, and more.

Georgian Company to Sew Marks & Spencer Clothing BY ELENE DZEBISASHVILI

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meri Sewing Company, a beneficiary of the 'Produce in Georgia' agency, is to sew clothes for the Marks & Spencer Group, a major British multinational retailer that specializes in selling high-quality clothing and home products. Clothes of Imeri Sewing Company will be sold in shops of Marks & Spencer in

various countries with the label 'Made in Georgia.' The company, based in Kutaisi in the Imereti region, has increased the assortment of its products within the framework of the Produce in Georgia program and currently employs 400 people. The state program Produce in Georgia is being implemented on the initiative of the Government of Georgia. The program aims to support entrepreneurship and boost export potential in the country.

USAID/Georgia Launches the USAID Economic Governance Program

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SAID/Georgia last week launched the USAID Economic Governance Program, a five-year program to help Georgia design and implement transparent, evidence-based economic policies to improve its business and investment environment. Through the program, USAID will partner with the Government of Georgia, business associations, and civil society organizations to facilitate strong public-private dialogue and ensure that Georgia's private sector is represented in the policymaking process. The program involves providing technical assistance to the Government of Georgia to ensure evidence-based policymaking that accounts for the needs of all stakeholders. Notably, USAID will continue to facil-

itate public-private dialogue to ensure that regulations are well-suited to the conditions of Georgia’s private sector. The Economic Governance Program also supports business associations and civil society to drive Georgia’s reform processes through research and advocacy. As the leading development agency of the US government, USAID supports Georgia to build the capacity to finance, plan, and implement its own solutions to development challenges. USAID has worked in Georgia since 1992, supporting the country’s transformation into a developing democracy that is increasingly integrated into Western political, security, and economic institutions. More than 30 USAID programs stimulate inclusive economic growth, develop democratic governance, enhance energy security, and foster social inclusion.

Image source: luxherald.com

Georgian Tourism Administration Head Sums up 2019 Continued from page 1 Further, a significant increase in international visitors was seen from those countries where the GNTA conducted active marketing campaigns. “We saw a significant increase in visitors from Germany +38.1%, Poland +32%, France +28.4%, the United Kingdom +27.5%, Netherlands +25.8% and others. Particular growth was observed from Uzbekistan +101.9%, Kyrgyzstan +99.6%, Kazakhstan +75.7%, China +50.9%, Saudi Arabia +44.9%, and Kuwait +34.7%,” she added. The GNTA Head noted that 667,612 international travelers visited Georgia in December 2019, an increase of 16.4% year-on-year. The number of international visitors in that month totaled 534,732, an increase of 16.3%, while the number of tourist visits was 312,046, up by 41,821 compared to December 2018. “In December 2019, most international visitors visited from Armenia (+25.8%), Azerbaijan (+8.8%), Turkey (+19.7%) and Russia (2.6%). According to preliminary data, Georgia received $3.3 billion rev-

enue last year, which is 47 million more compared to 2018,” she noted. To note, Georgian tourism was hit by a travel ban imposed by Russia in July 2019, following large-scale anti-Russian protests in the country. The ban affected airlines, travel agencies, hotels and hostels in various and in total the country saw a $300 million loss. Kvrivishvili underlined that through the tireless work of the government and the private sector, it was still possible to jointly overcome the challenges facing the tourism sector. “We have worked hard and in coordination with the private sector we developed an anti-crisis plan, and carried out many important activities, such as raising awareness of the country's tourism potential in the target markets, creating high quality tourism products, improving service quality and attracting new investment. As a result, by the end of 2019, the Georgian tourism industry was at a historic high,” she said, adding that in 2020, the agency is to continue active marketing campaigns and activities to raise aware-

ness of the country, increase tourism and income, and promote employment. “Our goal is to diversify tourism, enter new markets, attract high-cost tourists, and to create new tourism products to support businesses involved in the tourism industry and job seekers,” she said. As for the challenges of the current year, Kvrivishvili said infrastructure improvements and lack of qualified staff remain the main issues. "The tourism administration has to create a lot of opportunities for people to get jobs because it is a big industry and we need more professionals and more education programs. In 2019, we launched a large-scale project in the mountains, in which more than 2,000 people were trained in professional tourism throughout Georgia for free. In 2020, this project will be given more scope," she noted. Kvrivishvili confirmed negotiations with Ryanair and other airlines will be ongoing in 2020, as will bringing influencers, well-known journalists and world leaders to experience Georgia.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 14 - 16, 2020

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EU4Youth: Cooperation between Georgian Youth & Local Authorities BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE

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nvesting in young people is investing in the future, claims EU4Youth, a European Union financed program in Eastern Partner countries that fosters the active participation of young people in society and their employability. EU4Youth was launched in 2017 in Eastern Partnership countries of the EU (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine), with a budget of €22.75 million, EU Investment being €20 million. ‘SAY YES Skills for Jobs’ is a project within the EU4Youth program that was implemented in Georgia and Armenia. The project facilitates and contributes to the self and general employability of young women and men aged between the ages of 15 and 35 in Armenia and Georgia, particularly those with fewer opportunities and from vulnerable groups. The project has a three-year duration between 2018-2021, and a program budget of €1.53 million. The project in particular aims to enhance formal and non-formal education to increase opportunities for youth to develop adequate professional compe-

tences demanded in the labor market. Via cross-sectoral cooperation and through strengthening support structures for youth employability at local and national levels, the program will additionally aid the development of formal and non-formal education for fostering youth (self)-employability. The SAY YES Skills for Jobs project has six specific actions through which it hopes to reach the goal of employing more Georgian and Armenian youth. 1. Research, good practice reviews and target group mapping to identify required skills that match labor market demands, and for the design of formal and nonformal educational programs. 2. Multi-stakeholder development of and advocacy for gender- and abilitysensitive formal and non-formal educational programs, including VET curricula development in compliance with the Work-Based Learning (WBL) approach; 3. Capacity development programs for public institutions, public VET colleges and private companies involved in WBL programs; 4. Implementation of formal and nonformal educational programs for competence development of youth within and outside VET institutions, including complementary e-learning programs;

Georgia Allocates GEL 4 Mln to Finance Students Living near Occupation Line BY ANA DUMBADZE

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he Government of Georgia has allocated 4 million GEL to fund higher education for 1,600 Georgian students who live near the occupation lines of Georgia’s Russian-occupied Tskhinvali and Abkhazia regions, 584 more compared to the previous year.

The government has been financing BA and MA students living in Tbilisiadministered villages adjacent to the dividing line since 2013, covering the villages of Gori, Kaspi, Khashuri, Dusheti, Oni, Sachkhere, Tsalenjikha and Zugdidi municipalities. The Ministry reports that over the past seven years the government has funded the studies of 7,000 students living at the occupation lines and allocated more than 15 million GEL.

Image source: European Union

5. Event-based exchanges of practice and awareness-raising campaigns connecting VET institutions, youth-led structures, private companies and VET

graduates/ students; 6. Coordination meetings and advocacy measures for improvement of youth support structures for employability.

The project is implemented by World Vision Deutschland VE (DE) in partnership with the Global Development Fund (AM), Association Anika (GE) and the Georgian Farmers' Association. The Georgian team involved in this program holds meetings as required to make sure they are on the right track. The last such meeting was held in late December in Mtskheta. The coordination meeting held between youth organizations at Mtskheta City Hall discussed the past activities and analyzed the need for new ones. Youth clubs created under the EU4Youth ‘SAY YES – Skills for Jobs’ project outlined their activities, while youth organizations and the Mtskheta City Hall discussed ongoing and planned activities. The meeting highlighted specific areas of future cooperation between young people and the local authority. Additionally, successful leaders and members of the SKYE Club set up under EU4Youth were awarded with certificates. SKYE (Skills and Knowledge for Youth Economic Empowerment) clubs give an opportunity to young people aged 16-25 to learn and take care of their community together. They are designed to run on an 18-month cycle, and provide practical and customized support for groups of 10-25 young people. SKYE clubs have been set up within the framework of the EU4Youth SAY YES Skills for Jobs project, further ensuring and facilitating the goal of the program: to open opportunity doors to youth who eventually determine the country’s future.


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BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY

JANUARY 14 - 16, 2020

EU Supporting Agricultural Initiatives in Georgia BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE

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he European Neighborhood Program for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD) has been implemented in Georgia since 2013. It aims to reinvigorate the agriculture and the rural sector in the country by facilitating the cooperation between the government, civil society, and rural community. The total budget for ENPARD in Georgia, covering the period of 20132022, is €179.5 million and it was broken down in three phases: I Phase – € 52 million, 2014-2017; II Phase – € 50 million, 2016-2019; III Phase – € 77.5 million, 2018-2022. Since New Year means new opportunities, the second cycle of grants in the program has just been announced. On January 1, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), under the EU-funded European Neighborhood Program for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD III), announced the second cycle of a grant competition to support agricultural initiatives in Georgia. The competition includes two categories of grants. Within Grant Category 1, agricultural initiatives will be funded for farmers, rural households, cooperatives and SMEs whose farms and busi-

nesses operate in one of the following municipalities: Lagodekhi, Dedoplistskaro, Tetriskaro, Akhalkalaki, Borjomi, Kazbegi, Keda or Khulo. These are the eight municipalities where the rural development LEADER projects are implemented under EU-funded ENPARD program. Grant Category 1 will support capital investments like machinery and equipment in any sector of agriculture. Grant Category 2 will support farmers, rural households, cooperatives and SMEs who operate in the municipalities of Akhaltsikhe, Dusheti, Khelvachauri, Shuakhevi, Marneuli, Bolnisi, Dmanisi, Gardabani, Tsalka, Ninotsminda, Aspindza, Kvareli, Gurjaani and Signaghi. This grant category follows a value chain approach and aims to support the following five sectors: beef (in all municipalities), dairy (in all municipalities), vegetable (in Kvareli, Gurjaani and Sighnaghi), wheat (in Sighnaghi) and potato production (in Tsalka, Ninotsminda and Aspindza). What’s more, the grant competition gives an opportunity to cooperatives registered in all the regions of Georgia to obtain co-financing. The objectives of this grant initiative are to improve access to finance, services, equipment and inputs for farmers, rural households, cooperatives and other small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in rural areas. These improvements are expected to contribute to increased competitive-

Image source: European Union

ness in the agricultural sector and better livelihoods for people living in rural areas. There are some restrictions to the grant: the competition does not cover operating expenditures such as input, working capital and seeds, and the required contribution that can be provided by the project should not be below $1,000 or

above $150,000 for the application to be considered eligible. The initiative will provide 40% grants and requires beneficiaries to co-invest a minimum of 60% of the total investment requirement. The initiative also aims to support specific investments with high economic, social, and environmental impact and

will increase the level of support in such cases to 60%. The Georgian farmers willing to participate have some time to prepare: applications will be accepted until March 31, 2020. Website faogrants.ge provides full information about the dates, application submission, required supporting documents, and promoted investments.

Distribution of Dividends

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G Law Office, through the contribution of partners Archil Giorgadze and Nicola Mariani, joined by senior associates Ana Kochiashvili, Tamar Jikia and associate Mariam Kalandadze is partnering with Georgia Today on a regular section of the paper which will provide updated information regarding significant legal changes and developments in Georgia. In particular, we will highlight significant issues which may impact businesses operating in Georgia. *** Investors purchase shares to obtain return on their investment. They expect to obtain profit on their investment in the form of regular dividends. In many cases for minority shareholders the dividends are the only form of return on specific business investments. Minority shareholders have limited control over the decisions of the corporate directors and the majority shareholders. The corporate directors and the majority shareholders play significant role in the dividend distribution process. They oversee the preparation of the annual accounts and are responsible for calling and hold-

ing a shareholder’s meeting that decides the declaration of the dividends out of the company’s profits. In closely held corporations the majority shareholders are often directors themselves or at least they are in a position where they can appoint loyal directors. Such allocation of power and control leaves out the minority shareholders who depend on dividends as a return on their investment. The disputes between shareholders of Georgian business enterprises relating to non-payment or incorrect declaration and payment of dividends have increased in number over the past few years. Due to these developments the Georgian courts have had to make important clarifications and to establish a case law which explains and applies the Georgian company law provisions governing the declaration and payment of dividends. The case law of the Georgian courts has been homogenous in various aspects, as will be summarized and discussed in the following paragraphs.

SHAREHOLDER’S RIGHT TO DIVIDENDS UNDER GEORGIAN COMPANY LAW The Law of Georgia on Entrepreneurs

(the “Law on Entrepreneurs”) recognizes the right of shareholders to receive dividends and grants the right to the general meeting of shareholders to decide the distribution of interim or annul profits to the company’s shareholders. The Law on Entrepreneurs further states that the procedure for the payment of dividends shall be established in the company’s articles of association. The Supreme Court of Georgia has explicitly stated in the recent decisions that the distribution of company’s interim or annual profits as dividends is a matter that is subject to the discretion of the general meeting of shareholders. The court explained that the general meeting is entitled to discuss the matter and to decide to declare and pay dividends to shareholders. However, the general meeting of shareholders is not legally obligated to determine the matter in favor of dividend distribution. This discretion of the general meeting includes the discretion to decide the amount of dividends to be paid.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court of Georgia has established that the discretion of the general meeting of shareholders to decide the declaration and payment of dividends is not unlimited. The court may intervene if it finds, based on the allegations of the claimant shareholder, that the general meeting has exercised its power dishonestly and the court has grounds to presume that the actions of the general meeting of shareholders were “in bad faith, deceitful or observing personal interests”. The Supreme Court of Georgia has recognized that the shareholders have legitimate expectations to receive dividends from the company’s profits. According to the court’s reasoning, the nondeclaration of dividends out of company’s profits imposes on the right of shareholders. Therefore, the non-declaration of dividends by the general meeting shall serve a legitimate corporate purpose.

DISCRETION OF THE GENERAL MEETING OF SHAREHOLDERS

According to the case law of the Supreme Court of Georgia, the shareholder may have a recourse against the company if the general meeting decided against distribution of dividends or incorrectly established the amount of dividends to be paid. Firstly, the shareholder, who disagrees with the decision of the general meeting, must express his position by voting at the general meeting. Secondly, the claimant shareholder must allege before courts that the actions of the other shareholders were “in bad faith, deceitful or observing personal interests”. The court has to be convinced that the decision adopted on the general meeting did not serve the legitimate corporate purpose.

The Supreme Court of Georgia has additionally examined the discretion of the general meeting to determine its scope and application. The court analyzed the relevant provisions of the Law on Entrepreneurs. In this examination the Supreme Court of Georgia has referred to similar rules and provisions operating in other jurisdictions, including the United States and the United Kingdom. The Supreme Court of Georgia has indicated that generally the discretion of the general meeting of shareholders is free from court intervention. The Law on Entrepreneurs does not envisage any limitations on distribution of dividends. It does not establish any mandatory minimum dividend payments either. Any limitations on this power may be imposed by the company’s articles of association.

RECOURSE OF THE SHAREHOLDER SEEKING PAYMENT OF DIVIDENDS

OBLIGATION OF THE DIRECTOR The general meeting decides the declaration of dividends based on the annual

profits of the company. According to the Law on Entrepreneurs as well as we the case law of the Supreme Court of Georgia, it is the duty of the director to prepare the annual accounts. If the director fails to observe this duty, it may be the ground for director’s personal liability. *** The case law of the Georgian courts develops along the corporate relations between business entities and their shareholders. The recent disputes have given the court an ample opportunity to advise the corporate players on their rights and obligations under Georgian company law. The subsequent shareholder activism is likely to play a significant role in establishing a clear and coherent practice relating to declaration and payment of dividends as well as other related corporate matters. *** Note: this article does not constitute legal advice. You are responsible for consulting with your own professional legal advisors concerning specific circumstances for your business. MG Law is the first full-service law firm in Georgia to be founded by international partners. The firm advises a diverse group of Georgian and foreign companies, financial institutions, investment funds, governments and public enterprises. Among many other areas, the firm primarily focus on the following sectors: Banking & Finance, Capital Markets, Arbitration & Litigation, Labor & Employment, Infrastructure and Project Finance, Energy Law, Real Estate, Tax and Customs, Investment Law, Corporate Law, and Cryptocurrency & Blockchain. For more information, please visit www.mglaw. ge or contact Archil Giorgadze at archil. giorgadze@mglaw.ge and Nicola Mariani at Nicola.mariani@mglaw.ge


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 14 - 16, 2020

Photo source: Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Jean-Luc Valentin

Messe Frankfurt Presents Ambiente 2020: The Trade Fair Where the Future Becomes the Present

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n 7-11 February 2020, Messe Frankfurt, the world’s largest trade fair, congress and event organizer, with its own exhibition grounds centrally located in the heart of Europe, is hosting a 5-day international exhibition of contemporary cuisine, home appliances and original gifts titled Ambiente 2020. Within the frames of the large-scale exhibition, visitors will have the opportunity to discover the 2020 - 2021 trends in Dining, Living and Giving. See what’s happening at the world’s leading trade fair for consumer goods. Exciting perspectives are opening up for exhibitors and trade visitors in the Dining, Living and Giving areas, with high-caliber contacts, the latest developments in the market and design, as well as trends and opportunities in all segments.

DINING: A WIDE ASSORTMENT OF MODERN KITCHEN AND HOME APPLIANCES AND THE LEADING TRENDS Dining is in the spotlight at the fair for everything that makes cooking and household living easier and the dining experience more special – from glass, porcelain and innovative kitchen accessories to small electrical appliances. HoReCa buyers find inspiration here from new gastronomy and customizing concepts.

LIVING: INTERIOR DESIGN, FURNISHINGS AND DECORATION Elegant interior and exterior decoration, tasteful and impressive products, and home accessories are put on display to show how we will design our homes in the future. Solutions for every interior concept and in every possible style are presented. The area offers the ideal platform for furniture

design, classic furnishing ideas, lights, decoration trends, home fragrance and much more.

GIVING: GIFTS, DECORATIVE AND FASHIONABLE JEWELRY, BODY CARE AND RECREATIONAL PRODUCTS, PERSONAL ACCESSORIES AND COLLECTIBLES Giving celebrates the diversity of gift ideas. This area at the fair offers an exciting, cross-sector product mix for all events and lifestyles, from gift items, decorative and personal accessories to bags and jewelry. Ambiente 2020 will also allow visitors to attend various workshops and shows. It is a central platform for establishing new contacts, where business partnerships, ideas and success bring people together: the global meeting place for new successes and opportunities. The issues that are shaping the industry are put under the spotlight in Frankfurt. Ambiente is an important venue for HoReCa, Contract Business and Ethical Style. It is also the most important sourcing platform outside Asia. Here, you’ll find a wide array of products and the most comprehensive overview of the market. Don't miss the chance to attend the exhibition, discover the current trends and innovations in various directions and find new contacts for future success. For more information, please contact: Zaira Soloeva, Senior Project Manager at German Business Association (DWV) +99532 220 57 67 zaira.soloeva@dwv.ge Photo source: Messe Frankfurt (www.messefrankfurt.com)

Photo source: Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH / Petra Welzel

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10

CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

JANUARY 14 - 16, 2020

Chinese New Year & Spring Festival Celebrated in Berlin BY LILY FÜRSTENOW

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ood news for lovers of horoscopes and Chinese culture: 2020 is the Year of the Rat and will be officially inaugurated in China on January 25, accompanied by 15 days of celebrations and holidays. Chinese New Year is one of the country's main holidays, also referred to as the celebration of spring that is associated with the renewal of life and nature. Those born in the Year of the Rat are successful, witty, energetic and optimistic, yet stubborn and may at time appear impolite or rude due to lack of communication skills. Rats are associated with the yang symbol. Rat is the first of all zodiac animals. According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the zodiac animals order would be decided by the order in which animals arrived to his party. The Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a ride. Then, just as they arrived at the finish line, Rat jumped down and landed ahead of Ox, coming in first. In Chinese culture, rats were seen as signs of reproduction and wealth. On January 9 and 10, Chinese arts and crafts experts organized a fantastic presentation of centuries old Chinese cultural tradition in Berlin. These annual celebrations have already become a tradition in Berlin, loved and anticipated by both

Image source: socialnews.xyz

China lovers and city communities. The event was opened with the ceremonial dance of the magic Chinese dragons ushering in the new year with fiery grace

and immense elegance. Handmade authentic costumes worn by folk dancers made their performances look like a fairy-tale come true. Vigorous rhythmic

choreography, harmony of movements, grace and originality made an unforgettable impression on the public. The thousand-year-old tradition of martial

arts was revived by performers in special attire with fans and sables. The sable dance was particularly exciting to look at and to wonder at the graceful precision of movements. Singers and performers of traditional Chinese music instruments added a joyful festive character to the event, while acrobats balancing on shoulders with lightness and ease left the public speechless and delighted. The festivities program included a demonstration of Chinese calligraphy, where anyone could have their name written in Chinese on a piece of paper and get it framed, and a crash course in the Chinese language. The festive celebration of the Chinese New Year was organized by the Chinese Cultural Center in Berlin in cooperation with the City Municipality in Europa Center Mall, where guests were welcome to attend the celebrations and enjoy the live performances free of charge during the two days of the festival – an extraordinarily generous gift to all who joined in! One could see the admiration and excitement in the eyes of the public watching the talented performers who came from China to show the best of their talent, and what better reward could one ever think of than a happy smile and applause of sincerely enthusiastic crowds of spectators gathered in one of Berlin's most beautiful shopping malls inspired by the architecture and design styles of the good old sixties?

The Ambassador's Choice Of Winter Must-Sees

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rad Benkö, Ambassador of the Republic of Austria to Georgia, was kind enough to share with WHERE.ge his top choices for places to visit in 2020. Check them out below.

SOPHIA MELNIKOVA

Batumi combines a certain Middle Eastern/Las Vegas touch due to the postmodern building activities and the calmness of its people. And all that against the background of lots of green. Travel eastward to Khulo and you will enjoy the stunning landscape of a region where autumn is the ideal time to see

the mixed colors of blue sky and trees in change.

GUDAURI

slopes at 8.00 am! Most ski-lifts are from Austria and the logistics company that brought them to Georgia is Austrian too. My personal highlight is to go up Mt

The Austrian government is very active in helping Georgian regions to develop in agriculture and tourism. One of the regions is Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti. When I first visited Oni, I was surprised by the different unexpected attractions it offers visitors: You have an impressive synagogue which shows that Oni used to have a sizable Jewish community and Shovi is a Balneological-climatic resort with sanatoriums that look like they have been beamed from the Austrian Alps! Not far from there is the town of Tsageri, the center of historical Lechkhumi since ancient times and residence of the rulers of this region hosting a highly interesting museum about the traces ancient invaders left – from the Arabs to the Mongols and many other relics even of prehistoric times. And don’t miss the mysterious Khvamli Mountain where Georgian mythological hero Amirani was chained in one of the pits.

KUTAISI No Austrian can miss Gudauri. Not only is Marco Polo the first western-style hotel opened by Austrians in the 1980s but you even find an Austrian hut at 2700 m altitude where you can stay overnight, enjoy the stars and be the first on the This restaurant is well hidden behind the Literature Museum and offers not only a wide variety of Georgian but also international food. If the weather allows, take a seat under a roof of vine-leaves and enjoy the quiet atmosphere in the center of Tbilisi, just a few meters from the busy Rustaveli avenue. Beyond the yard is not only a shop with beautifully crafted Georgian art but also a small theater that you can even rent for staging plays or having a party.

BATUMI When I first visited Batumi, it was refreshing to feel the humid breeze of the sea. The sea always opens your mind and broadens your horizon. Ajara is a beautiful gem in the Georgian crown.

Sadzele (roughly 3300m), take a 360-degree look over the mountain ranges, including Kazbegi, and ski slowly down to have a snack at Vitamin restaurant at the Soliko lift. On the drive up to Gudauri, take a look at Austrian built hydropower station Aragvi. It is located after the second turn on the left when you start the serpentines towards Gudauri: An elegant symbiosis how to do business in an environmental-friendly way.

ONI & TSAGERI

Kutaisi is not only perfectly located to make excursions to Chiatura, the oncein-a-lifetime experience of riding a 1950sera cable car built on the orders of Stalin himself or the spa resort at Tskaltubo. Bertha von Suttner, the Austrian Peace Noble Prize winner of 1905 used to leave in this city some 140 years ago. The capital of western Georgia is a pretty city wrapped in a constant autumnal glow boasting lots of charming cafes such as the Palaty next to White bridge. And don’t miss Gelati Monastery, a medieval cathedral with elaborate frescoes in the outskirts of Kutaisi.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY JANUARY 14 - 16, 2020

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The Year of the Rat: War, Elections, Merabishvili & the EU Summit OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

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ccording to the Chinese calendar, 2020 is the year of the Rat, the first of the 12-year cycle of the zodiac. Although the pink Pig’s year is still in action until January 25th, it is clear that the new one already started showing its powers and isn’t going to wait until the end of the month. Take, for instance, the series of explosions in Baghdad, seeing first Iran attacking a US military base and its embassy and then the latter responding by assassinating two secret service generals, leading to a new military crisis between the US and Iran. From a historical perspective, it is safe to say that the Rat is definitely establishing itself as the God of War: the Russian-Georgian war of 2008, the Balkans in 1996, the Soviet Union in Mozambique, 1984. In short, if the trend continues, it might successfully substitute the Roman Mars. What should Georgia expect, considering the abovementioned chronicles? War or peace? This is the main question for now, because the issue of parliamentary elections of 2020 is under “to be, or not to be” tension, the only truth well known to all. 2019 ended without any agreement between the government and opposition about the election legislation. Although

the European intermediaries are hopeful, it is still unclear whether the opposition will agree to the government’s offer to adopt the quasi-proportional system instead of the classic one. It suggests 100 proportional and 50 majoritarian mandates, but even if the government offered to hold the elections with a 140/10 proportion, the opposition would not agree as this debate is not about proportions, it is about keeping a promise; the promise the Georgian Dream leader, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, gave voters on June 24, 2019- that there would be a zero barrier and completely proportional system. The battle is at a stage where backing the opposition could equal death, and so an agreement being reached seems highly doubtful. Quite possibly, the 2020 elections will be held according to the old system, that is with 77 proportional and 73 majoritarian, and the opposition will try to make Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream pay the highest possible political price for the lie given so publicly in summer. In a month, the former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili will be leaving prison. Where earlier it was under question which United National Movement wing would he collaborate with, today the dilemma seems to be solved as both the European Georgia and the UNM are in the same coalition. Merabishvili will truly be an asset to the opposition, since

it is openly discussing the chances of a great political deal brewing with those loyal to him within the internal affairs system. Nor is the Georgian Dream inactive as it announces the governmental strategy. It seems a lot of majoritarian “Salomes” are being prepared, and the party “will purchase all 73 mandates whatever the cost.” The recent activities of the “rebellious” majoritarian MPs in the regions suggests this approach. It has also become known that the first 20 seats of the proportional list will be nominated by Ivanishvili, while the other 20 by the former head of parliament, Irakli Kobakhidze. Major of Tbilisi Kakha Kaladze will have his quota too, but the numbers for the latter are still unknown. The gloomy Year of the Rat predicts numerous impromptus even before the epic 2020 elections. Apart from the judges to be appointed in the Supreme Court, the General Prosecutor, Chairmen of the Justice Committee, Supreme and Constitutional Courts – all will become known this year. In spring, the Turkish Premier Erdogan will visit Tbilisi, followed by the EU Summit, where the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is also expected. The arrival of one of the main architects of the occupation to our country will be highly risky for the government: considering it precedes the elections, how the government handles the dilemma could become a prerequisite

Image source: nzmint.com

for the outcome. In any case, 2020 predicts interesting political events not only for the government and opposition, but for the elector-

ate too. How pragmatic will the latter be in using the current political developments for its own as well as the country’s future?

OSCE / ODIHR Report on Appointments to Georgia’s Highest Court appointments process in Georgia at a critical period in the country’s political development,” said ODIHR Director Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir. “We identified numerous shortcomings on which I hope to be following up with the Georgian authorities in the near future. With our recommendations, we aim to contribute to improvements to the legal framework for judicial appointments, and above all the need for any decisions on the system to be taken in an atmosphere of collegiality and dialogue.” Following the completion of the nomination process before the High Council of Justice (HCJ) and the finalization of the first report on the appointment process, ODIHR’s monitoring team went on to observe the hearings of the 20 HCJ nominees, the committee vote, and the final plenary vote. Despite some positive aspects, their overall assessment found that neither the HCJ nor the parliament took sufficient measures to ensure objectivity, fairness, or consistency during the selection process. “On the positive side, the hearings before the HCJ and parliament were generally open and transparent and enabled public scrutiny of the candidates and the overall process. The parliament

BY ANA DUMBADZE

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hile legal reforms regulating the appointment of Supreme Court judges in Georgia are an important step toward improving the independence of the judiciary, they fail to ensure an impartial process based on clearly defined and objective criteria without the influence of partisan politics,- the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said in its second monitoring report published last Thursday. According to the report, the final plenary vote on the judicial appointments took place amidst a political crisis, a boycott by the opposition, and widespread calls for an adjournment. The decision to proceed in the current political environment further calls into question the sincerity of the authorities’ stated aim to have an open, transparent process that garners wide political support and builds public confidence in the judiciary. “We were asked to undertake an independent assessment of the judicial

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GEORGIA TODAY

EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT:

Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

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

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also invited representatives of key organizations involved, including the ombudsperson’s office, civil society, the legal community, and academia, all of whom positively contributed to the quality and openness of the hearings. "However, the fact that parliament played a decisive role in the judicial appointments, and likewise that the process was not safeguarded from partisan politics, was at odds with international good practice. The monitors noted that members of parliament from all sides of the political spectrum used the hearings as a political platform, and the interviews did not calm widespread concerns about the suitability of many of the candidates”, reads the report. ODIHR began monitoring this process following a request from the Georgian Ombudsperson. All monitors adhered strictly to the principle of impartiality, ensuring at the same time that they in no way interfered in the process itself. The work of the monitoring team started in June 2019 and included observation of the interviews of 49 candidates before the HCJ and 20 nominees in Legal Issues Committee. They also closely monitored the final voting sessions in the parliament in December 2019.

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1218 Business  

January 14 - 16, 2020

Issue #1218 Business  

January 14 - 16, 2020

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