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Issue no: 1143

• APRIL 19 - 22, 2019 • PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue... Tsotne Ebralidze Takes Over as MD of Co-Investment Fund NEWS PAGE 2

The Battle of the 'King & 'Queen'

FOCUS

POLITICS PAGE 4

ON THE PRESIDENT OF CYPRUS

A historic visit and agreements signed!

Georgia Improves Position in World Press Freedom Index

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POLITICS PAGE 6

Georgia Improves Position in World Press Freedom Index BY THEA MORRISON

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eorgia has improved its position by one position in the World Press Freedom Index 2019 published by Reporters Without Borders on April 18. In the index, Georgia has 28.98 points and takes 60th place. Last year, Georgia was ranked 61st. The index rankings are based on a scale of 1 to 100, with 0 representing the highest and 100 the lowest level of press freedom. The report reads that Georgia’s media landscape is pluralist but still very polarized. “The reforms of recent years have brought improvements in media ownership transparency and satellite TV pluralism, but owners often still call the shots on editorial content,” it says. The organization also mentioned ownership dispute over opposition-minded Rustavi 2 TV, adding the outcome of the continuing dispute over ownership of the main national opposition TV channel, Rustavi 2, will, therefore, have a big impact. The report includes the case of Azerbaijani Journalist Afghan Mukhtarli, who was allegedly abducted in Tbilisi in 2017 and taken to Azerbaijan, where he was imprisoned on various charges.

Everything You Didn’t Know about McDonald’s Georgia SOCIETY PAGE 8

Georgia Needs to Increase Human Rights Protection Efforts in the Business Environment SOCIETY PAGE 9

Dumbo Gets It Right: Behind the Curtain at the Animal Circus SOCIETY PAGE 10

Young Georgian Soprano Made Soloist of Vienna State Opera “Mukhtarli’s mysterious abduction and subsequent reappearance in police custody in Azerbaijan was shocking for Georgians, who have traditionally offered refuge to dissidents from neighboring countries,” the index reads. Norway, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands and

Denmark are the five countries with the most press freedom, according to the report. RSF is an independent NGO with consultative status with the United Nations, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF).

CULTURE PAGE 15

The 4GB Electronic Music Festival CULTURE PAGE 15


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 19 - 22, 2019

President of Cyrpus Makes Historic Visit to Georgia BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

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he President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, paid his country’s first official presidential visit to Georgia in the 27-year history of diplomatic relations between the countries, on April 16 - 18. While in Tbilisi, Anastasiades was hosted by his counterpart, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, in the Avlabari Presidential Palace. Although Zurabishvili has chosen to live at the historic, more modest Orbeliani Residence, the Presidential Palace is still host to official ceremonies and receptions. “Cyprus and Georgia crossed a historic day in their bilateral relations today. President Anastasiades, welcome to Georgia and I look forward to the productive conversations we are set to have in the next two days,” tweeted Zurabishvili prior to their meeting. Zurabishvili and Anastasiades signed agreements related to healthcare, agriculture, and the exchange of classified information. At a joint press conference on Wednesday, the pair announced that a Georgian Orthodox Cathedral will be built in Cyprus. Anastasiades underlined the many years of strong relations between Cyprus and Georgia, saying the construction of the church confirms their special relationship. “The existence of Georgians in Cyprus dates back centuries. Georgians appeared in Cyprus in the 10th century,” he explained, adding “I feel at home in Georgia.” In Paphos, a small city on the southwest coast of Cyprus, archeological excavations recently revealed the ruins of a monastery built by Georgian monks, which was abandoned in 1571 after being raided. “In order to celebrate our centuries-old relationship, Cyprus has handed over a plot of land to Georgia in order to build a new monastery in the

Image source: Press Office of the President of Georgia

region where the ruins of the Georgian church are,” Anastasiades declared. Zurabishvili also spoke of the lessons Georgia can take from Cyrpus’ experience of EU integration, including the “painful issue of occupation” that both nations face. She emphasized that both Cyprus and Georgia have decided that their conflicts will only be settled by peaceful means. Anastasiades reciprocated the desire to strengthen economic and cultural ties between the two countries.

Tsotne Ebralidze Takes Over as MD of Co-Investment Fund

The importance of boosting economic relations between Georgia and Cyprus was underlined with a business forum on April 18, co-organized by the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, and Industry of Cyprus, in co-operation with the Cyprus-Georgia Business Association and Cyprus Employers & Industrialists Federation (OEB). On Wednesday, Anastasiades met with Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze and

Parliamentary Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze. Bakhtadze and Anastasiades spoke on several issues – notably, migration. They agreed that both countries will take steps to facilitate the circular migration of migrant workers and work towards a mutually beneficial migration plan. The Prime Minister’s press office shared that the meeting’s main topics were the “further strengthening of people-to-people relations, tourism and economic relations.” After the meeting, Bakhtadze

thanked the President of Cyprus for visiting Georgia and, on behalf of the population, expressed gratitude for Cyprus’ support of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. In addition to the Business Forum, on Thursday, Anastasiades met with the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II. The majority of the population of Cyprus are members of the autocephalous Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus.

Fire Ravages Notre Dame Cathedral BY AMY JONES

A Image source: bm.ge

BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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sotne Ebralidze, new Managing Director of the Georgian Co-Investment Fund, has begun work on the Fund's upcoming pro-

jects. George Bachiashvili, who occupied the position before Ebralidze, will now serve as Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Fund and, according to the mandate, will be responsible for the further operation and supervisory

issues of the Co-Investment Fund. “I want to express my gratitude to George Bachiashvili for the work he has done for the Fund in the past six years. I am glad that he remains a member of our team and will continue supporting us. I am sure that along with the managing team of the Fund, we will successfully complete the ongoing projects and carry out a number of major initiatives,” stated Ebralidze. Founded in 2013, the Georgian CoInvestment Fund implements various projects in the power engineering, hospitality, manufacturing and agricultural directions.

massive fire has ravaged the medieval cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, one of the most well-known landmarks in France. Two-thirds of the roof and the 850-yearold Gothic spire of the UNESCO world heritage cathedral have collapsed, but the main structure and two famous bell towers have been saved. The fire broke out on Monday evening around 6.30 pm. Some 400 firefighters attempted to contain the blaze and salvage precious artworks inside the cathedral. The fire was largely extinguished by 3 am Tuesday morning. French President Emmanuel Macron called the incident a “terrible tragedy,” and many Parisians are horrified by the event. The cause of the fire has not been confirmed, but it could be linked to restoration work underway at the cathedral. Georgian officials expressed their sadness towards the tragic incident. “Shocked and saddened by the scope

Photo source - The Telegraph

of devastation from Notre Dame’s catastrophic fire. Our thoughts remain with Paris and France during this difficult time,” tweeted the Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtdaze. President of Georgia and former French

Ambassador Salome Zurabishvili tweeted “I am paying close attention to the horrible fire happening at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Georgia stands with the people of France during this time.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 19 - 22, 2019

Girchi Offers Supporters CryptoCurrency in Exchange for Votes BY THEA MORRISON

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on-parliamentary Georgian opposition party Girchi (Cone) is offering crypto-currency to its supporters if they vote for the party candidate in the next elections. The statement was made by the party leader, Zurab Japaridze, who said Girchi wants to introduce one candidate to parliament before the parliamentary elections of 2020 and is ready to offer the Mtatsminda District electorate electronic currency - the Georgian Dollar (GeD), created by them. Japaridze explains that the cryptocurrency can be used for two purposes: 1. Any citizen with accumulated Jet becomes an organic part of Girchi and will be able to take part in making significant political decisions, including the formation of the 2020 Parliamentary List. 2. Citizens who have Jet can use it for privatization of their property. “All kinds of state property in the country, be it fields, meadows, forests or mountains, are the property of the Georgian citizens, which we will return to

Image source: RFE/RL

them,” Japaridze added. For their vote, each citizen will get $50 equivalent GeD, which, according to the party, will be equivalent to $5,000 dollars in future.

Those who go dor-to-door to spread Girchi’s views will be given an equivalent of $900 -90 GeD by the party. Those who represent the party in the election commission will get $500 equivalent

GeD, which, according to Japaridze, will be $50,000 in the future. The party leader also claims that those who transfer to Mtatsminda district and vote there for Girchi will get $200 equiv-

alent GeD, which will be $20,000 in the future. “We today announce our willingness to distribute 100 million GeDs, our digital currency, to people who vote or engage in this process on our behalf,” Japaridze noted. Parliamentary by-elections through a majoritarian election system will be held in N1 Mtatsminda election district on May 19. The elections became necessary after the district majoritarian MP, Salome Zurabishvili, became the first female president of Georgia in November 2018. The same day, there will be City Council (Sakrebulo) by-elections in Sagarejo, Akhmeta, Adigeni, Zestafoni, Chiatura, Tkibuli, Tskaltubo and Ozurgeti municipality majoritarian election districts. The elections will be held in 26 election precincts in all eight municipalities. The Central Election Commission (CEC) appointed Extraordinary Mayoral Elections in Marneuli, Zestafoni, Chiatura, Zugdidi and Khulo municipalities. They will be held in 362 election precincts. Parliamentary by-elections, Sakrebulo by-elections, and Extraordinary Mayoral Elections will be held in 410 election precincts with the total number of voters at 401,750.

The Battle of the 'King & 'Queen' OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

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he lavish royal wedding that initiated a chain of events nine years ago is approaching its catastrophic finale. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) has initiated a domestic violence case against Davit BagrationMukhraneli, according to the Article 126 prima of the Criminal Code of Georgia. The investigation is looking to find out if the ‘King’ beat up the ‘Queen’ in front of the ‘Prince,’ and the details of the events that happened at 10 pm on May 9, 2014, in the Royal Residency in Saguramo. Anna Bagrationi’s lawyer revealed that Anna was victim to multiple domestic abuse instances even just a month following the wedding, at the time when they lived in Spain as well as after their return. They claim that the abovementioned incident was the culmination of a chain of abuse that preceded it. If the accusations are proven true, Davit Bagrationi could face imprisonment of up to three years, and his case could be aggravated as rumors in the MIA suggest that Davit has been involved in a number of other similar instances of beating up women. TV host Shorena Begashvili has been called in for questioning, as back in 2012 she claimed on the TV Show ‘Time for Truth’ that she was beaten by him. Another woman, whose identity has not been revealed, is also called to testify. In

light of the events, it can’t be ruled out that multiple women could accuse him of physical abuse, which will certainly result in the requalification of the case and a court rule potentially involving imprisonment for a much longer period. The case is further intensified as Davit did not appear for questioning and left Georgia. However, his lawyers argue that the reason was the illness of his mother, Donna Maria de Zornoza. It is unknown when, if at all, Davit Bagration-Mukhraneli will return to Georgia, but meanwhile the royal intrigues are heading for a peak, as politics and past accusations are introduced to the case. Davit’s lawyer, Levan Chkhaidze, openly accused Shorena Begashvili of being an agent appointed by the Security Services with the specific goal of discrediting his client. Shorena categorically denies the accusations, claiming that she had personal relations with Davit before the royal wedding and that she is not to be blamed for the royal family breakdown. Notably, nine years ago, during the royal wedding at the Trinity Cathedral, the center of Tbilisi was “occupied” by the opposition, which was planning to overthrow the government under President Saakashvili. The religious royal wedding initiated by the Patriarch of All Georgia, and talks about transitioning to a Constitutional Monarchy, added to the tension at the time. In the same period, Georgian monarchists, led by businessman Levan Vasadze, hailed the wedding as a historic

Image source: adogcalledbrae.files.wordpress.com

event and declared it as the beginning of the end of President Saakashvili’s government. Two years later, Anna gave birth to their son Giorgi, and Patriarch Ilia II claimed he would be personally involved in raising the future King of Georgia, who would replace the presidential republic. “Had I not been Mr. Davit Bagrationi’s friend and the head of the country, I would also have appointed an agent. Discrediting Davit was in the interests of the government at the time, which perceived the idea of a constitutional monarchy as a personal threat,” Chkhaidze said. Many things happened in Georgian politics afterwards, and instead of having a King Bagrationi, President Saakashvili was replaced by billionaire Ivanishvili. But after Ilia II mentioned the

constitutional monarchy in his sermon again, politicians as well as members of the general public, began actively discussing the issue, and the government quickly turned on the defensive, feeling threatened. Head of Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze plans to meet Ilia II together with representatives of the government, to discuss the matter, but the Head of Georgian Dream, Mamuka Mdinaradze, claims that the issue is not on the agenda and the Patriarch’s words were simply misinterpreted. Against the backdrop of a search for truth through DNA examinations, the investigation of domestic violence and the ongoing political games, we might regard the part of the case that involves the division of property worth 90 thousand GEL a lyrical deviation, but let’s look

more closely. Anna Bagrationi is claiming rights to the two cars that Davit BagrationMukhraneli purchased in 2014-15. She claims rights for ownership as the cars were purchased when they lived together. They separated officially only in 2016. Another hit came in the local ‘Game of Thrones’ when Davit Bagrationi declared that in reality Anna’s father Nugzar Bagration-Gruzynsky’s surname is Sikharulidze. His lawyer added that he had to undergo a DNA test to prove his royal roots. Whether a genetic analysis can overweigh the domestic violence case is of course unclear, but nothing can be ruled out in Georgia's judiciary. It wouldn’t be surprising if the parties came to an agreement and this comiclike criminal-genetic royal dispute becomes a mere matter of history.


POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 19 - 22, 2019

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Venice Commission Report over Selection of Judges Sparks Mixed Reactions BY THEA MORRISON

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he Venice Commission has released their recommendations about the controversial issue of the selection and appointment of Supreme Court judges in Georgia, which was followed by various reactions in the country: ruling Georgian Dream (GD) claimed they are positive, while the opposition and the third sector state the opinion of the commission is critical. The 14-page document reads that the High Council of Justice (HCoJ), which nominates the judges, enjoys very low trust from a large segment of society. “Nevertheless, the fact that the HCoJ – in its current situation – will be selecting nearly all the candidates for judges of the Supreme Court, producing a list which will then be submitted to a political majority in Parliament (in between elections), which in turn will appoint nearly all the Supreme Court judges, should be a matter of concern,” it says, adding this may be detrimental to the high level of public trust that an institution such as the Supreme Court must enjoy in a country. The document reads that in order to reduce such problems, the Venice Commission suggests transforming the fixed term of office of the current Supreme Court judges to lifetime appointments. The commission says that the Parliament should only appoint the number of Supreme Court judges which is absolutely necessary to render the work of the Supreme Court manageable, adding how many new judges will be needed to achieve this should be decided after consultations with the Supreme Court. “The number should not exceed half of the 18 to 20 positions that will be vacant. Further appointments may then be made by Parliament elected at the next general elections. Such a staggered approach

Image source: lawyersweekly.com

in the appointment of all the Supreme Court judges may both alleviate the present burden on the Supreme Court and ensure that it enjoys the public trust and respect it deserves in the long-run,“ reads the report. The request for an urgent opinion was made by the Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia, Irakli Kobakhidze, after the introduction of a 10-member list of Supreme Court judges caused uproar and criticism. The Commission was asked to evaluate the amendments containing the provisions on the selection and appointment of Supreme Court judges,

Knowing Russia Better Wouldn’t Have Hurt OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

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laying the game of politics with Russia is not easy for Georgia due to the Russian political irrationality, and because Russia is still in the client-patron mood when it comes to Georgia: it looks like Russia is not about to swallow the unexpected impulsive truncation of its three-century-old sick but still imperial body. Compared to all other ex-soviet states, Russia’s annoyance with Georgia is razor-sharp and badly jagged. Georgia is a special case for the Russian imperial irritation: Georgia’s national freedom and independent statehood being far beyond the Russian political assumption and patience. History knows that well, and historians are the best judges of the RussianGeorgian geopolitical love and hatred. It is like a marriage in which the affectionate husband is so jealous of his innocent wife that in fits of green-eyed resentment, the infuriated but adoring hubby is ready to tear apart his fragile, charming spouse. Russia will not let Georgia get involved in another love affair, whoever its new significant other might be. The tension in the present interaction between the two sides is extreme, hanging right on the verge of the perilously deepened political abyss, which is no heaven for any of the parties. To put it bluntly, we are in dire straits, but at present, thanks to a reasonably regulated relationship, the state of affairs is frozen at some tolerable degree of geopolitical temperature so as to allow additional time and resources for mutual tolerance and cooperation between Russia and Georgia, if ‘tolerance’ and ‘cooperation’ could make an applicable vocabulary to describe the awkward bilateral instance. Not talent or labor, but power and violence are the recognized determinants in the negatively metamorphosed Russian-Georgian dealings. Meanwhile, the conventional fundamentals of power prompt the leaders of both nations to refrain from unreasonable moves that might develop into

destructive consequences for both. We are wellaware of those fundamentals now, but we had no idea what they meant 30 years ago when the RussianGeorgian belligerency started. In this vicious international conundrum, most of the everlasting political and military values were badly confused, and no component of the 200-year relations was considered when mutually disparaging steps were being taken without an iota of thoughtful professional analysis. Seemingly, the historical necessity never demanded the bringing of Russian-Georgian relations to the point where nothing is visible except an impenetrable geopolitical cul-de-sac, out of which no living political scientist can see a peaceful withdrawal. Any Georgian government of the last quarter of a century trying to hold on to power, has seen the dilemma of survival in balancing out its geopolitical performance between Russia and the West. The West is moderately reserved in terms of flexing its muscles, but Russia, being an empire, needs to demonstrate power and splendor to inform the world of its invincibility by means of exuding imperial authority. When Georgia dared to break away from the tentacles of Russian dominance, the insulted Empire dealt a lethal blow on the recalcitrant colony, the shock of which Georgia still feels today as it stumbles towards its genuine freedom and independence. Had Georgia known better 30 years ago the details of the Russian imperial psyche, and the paranoia that accompanies that psyche, would Georgia have behaved the same way? This is the question which is almost impossible to furnish with a reasonable answer forthwith, but I am still posing it, hoping that politics remains the art of possible. One of my conjectures might be that the sense of survival betrayed the Georgian national acumen at that crucial moment of its history. The underlying sense of this presumption is not the old adage that says to join them if you can’t beat them, because I fundamentally believe in the idea of national freedom. What I am saying is much simpler: had we known better, we would have done better. Probably!

including the main draft initiated by Kobakhidze and the ruling GD which was adopted by Parliament with the first reading on March 20. The Commission says that the draft law is too lenient with respect to the age and experience requirements, and suggests higher formal thresholds for both. It also says that persons with such qualifications should not be forced to sit an examination to prove that they are capable of dealing with points of law. The Commission also recommends that conducting secret ballots in the HCoJ should be abolished,

and the procedure of selection should be based on objective criteria on which each candidate is evaluated. Also, the candidates should receive scores, which will allow a list of the best candidates to be presented to Parliament. Kobakhidze held a press conference regarding the issue, saying the recommendations of the Venice Commission would be taken into account. He said that the published opinion was mostly positive, adding a “great part of the recommendations can be accepted, including the removal of judicial examination from the selection criteria.” “As for political recommendations (referring to the recommendation that further appointments may be made after the next Parliamentary polls), we will definitely discuss them, but such recommendations will not be reflected in the draft law,” he stated. Former member of the GD, Eka Beselia, who quit the party after a conflict of interests over the issue of judges, says the conclusion is a “real slap in the face” of the ruling party. “It is impossible to criticize the draft more sharply than it is in the Venice Commission opinion. When the Venice Commission tells you that the High Council of Justice enjoys low public trust and the Parliament should not elect all judges now and some of them should be elected by the next Parliament, this means that neither the HCoJ nor the Parliament enjoy any trust,” she stated. Opposition party European Georgia believes the report answered all the questions regarding setting the criteria of the selection of judges. “Trust towards the High Council of Justice is low based on the information that was provided to the Venice Commission. Therefore, they called on the authorities that this Parliament should not compose the Supreme Court and at least one half of judges should be elected by the next Parliament,” he stressed. NGOs also say the recommendations are very critical and need to be taken into account.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 19 - 22, 2019

PM Bakhtadze Meets his Bulgarian Counterpart BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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he Prime Minister of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze held a meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov on April 16, in Sofia, Bulgaria, after which the two officials made a joint statement for the press. The Georgian PM expressed his gratitude to Borisov for “distinguished hospitality” and focused on the friendly relations between Georgia and Bulgaria. “We are happy to see that over the years, our bilateral relations have been steadily growing and leading to what is today a strong bond of friendship and vibrant cooperation in many areas of common interest,” stated Bakhtadze, going on to accentuate the high potential for the enhancement of economic cooperation between the two countries, and Georgia’s goals to progress in terms of integration with the EU. In addition, he spoke about the most painful challenge for Georgia: the occupied regions, and mentioned the country’s peaceful conflict resolution policy. The Prime Min-

Image source: Government of Georgia

ister thanked his colleague for supporting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia.

“Georgia continues its policy of peaceful conflict resolution and we are thankful to international society, which has

demonstrated immense support to Georgia's efforts in this direction. Only with a firm stance and consistent approach

from international society can we achieve progress and establish lasting peace on the ground,” noted the Georgian PM. Boyko Borisov stated that Georgia represents one of his country's important partners, focusing on the strategic location of the country. “Georgia is an important partner for us on the other side of the Black Sea. Georgia is a gateway for eight other countries in the region and a gateway for the Black Sea towards Europe,” said Borisov. The Bulgarian PM also announced a major upcoming project. “We shall support all infrastructural projects related to TEN-T, in terms of digital connectivity, by establishing a digital connection - a cable between Bulgaria and Georgia. We aim within the next few months to start the implementation of this project and a cable will be laid in the waters of the Black Sea which will enable the entire region to enjoy high-speed internet and digital infrastructure.” Bakhtadze and Borisvo agreed to consolidate efforts and in this way maintain and strengthen successful economic relations.

Romania Supports Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic Integration BY THEA MORRISON

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rime Minister of Romania, Vasilica Viorica Dancila, stated that Romania supports Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration and the reforms implemented by the government. She made the statement at a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Georgia, Mamuka Bakhtadze, on April 15. “From the Romanian perspective, the prosperity and security of Georgia are very important for the stability and welfare of the entire region. Hence, we wish to further deepen our cooperation and support the integration of Georgia with NATO. Once again, we reassured the visiting Prime Minister in our support towards the territorial integrity of

the country within its internationally recognized borders, which we fully respect,” she said. The Romanian PM noted that she discussed with Bakhtadze cooperation in different sectors: transport, energy, trade, culture and education. “Our efforts will further deepen and strengthen to make our economic relations even more dynamic, increase trade volumes and export from Romania to Georgia, as has been the case in recent years. We wish to make the Inter-Governmental Commission interaction more frequent to boost the current potential even further. As for our relations in tourism and people-to-people interaction, these are indeed very important. We will support Romanian companies to embrace all the opportunities offered by Georgia,” she added. Dancila underlined that the two countries will continue being friends and

partners. “I am confident that this partnership will grow into stronger bondage and reap very beneficial results both for Georgian and Romanian people,” she noted. PM Bakhtadze also made comments, noting Georgia-Romania relations are special. “The friendship between the Georgian and Romanian people has been developing over centuries. This visit is particularly symbolic to me as our countries are celebrating 300th Anniversary of friendship this year,” he stated. Bakhtadze underlined that political dialogue between Georgia and Romania can be labeled as at the highest level today. During his visit, Bakhtadze also met the President of the country, Klaus Iohannis, and Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, the President of the Romanian Senate.

Right-Hand Drive Taxis to Be Prohibited in Tbilisi from 2021 BY THEA MORRISON

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bilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze said that right-hand drive taxis will be prohibited from January 1, 2021, noting that they reached an agreement at a meeting with the initiative group of taxi drivers, who were protesting the taxi reform launched last summer. “Right-hand drive taxis will not be licensed as Category B from January 1 of 2021. They have one and a half years ahead to change their vehicles. We have made this decision as we know their condition well and are giving them the possibility to replace their vehicles with left-hand drive cars,” the Mayor said. The Mayor wants taxis to offer better quality services to customers and his main reform is to separate taxis into two categories: A and B. The first category will be for regular

taxis. These will have to carry a taxi sign, be painted in white and will enjoy special free parking spots in the city. Vehicles will have to pass technical inspections twice a year and will not be able to drive right-hand or two-door taxis. Category B taxis will only be able to take on passengers via a mobile application such as UBER and Taxify and will not be able to take people from the street. However, these drivers will not need to modify their vehicles. Many taxi drivers, mainly owners of right-hand drive cars, were against these reforms, which is why City Hall has permitted them to work until 2021. On August 1, Tbilisi City Hall launched a taxi reform initiated by the Mayor, according to which from October 1, it became illegal to work as a taxi driver without a special permit. Also, all taxis in the capital of Georgia must be white and City Hall is ready to do it for free. All taxi drivers have to place the permit

certificate inside the car. The certificate displays the driver's photo, name and

surname, the permit number, date of issue and validity, state number of the

vehicle, the model of transport, and a fast feedback (QR) code.


BUSINESS

GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 19 - 22, 2019

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Ivane Matchavariani Meets EBRD First Vice President TRANSLATED BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

Image source: metronome.ge

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ithin the scope of the annual spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group taking place in the USA, Ivane Matchavariani, Minister of Finance of Georgia has held a meeting with Jürgen Rigterink, First Vice President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

At the meeting the parties discussed the ongoing projects carried out with the financial assistance of the EBRD, including the development of municipal infrastructure, solid waste management, power engineering and energy efficiency, the sphere of education, and the support of competitiveness in the private sector. Special emphasis was put on the important role of the Bank in terms of the development of the capital market in Georgia and implementation of the deposit assurance system and the framework for public and private sector collaboration.

The ongoing and upcoming projects, taking place within the scope of the Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership, were also discussed at the meeting. “We have had a very positive and constructional meeting with the Minister of Finance. Georgia is a very important country for the EBRD. We have allocated investments amounting to EUR 3.3 billion so far, and hope to increase this figure in future,” stated the First Vice President of the EBRD. The meeting was attended by David Bakradze, Ambassador of Georgia to the United States.

ADB Provides Finances for Georgia's Credo Bank BY THEA MORRISON

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he Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing a 60 million Georgian GEL ($22.3 million) loan and a $500,000 technical assistance grant to Credo Bank (Credo) to launch new products including home improvement and mortgage loans to lower-income households in rural areas and on the outskirts of Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. The information was released on ADB’s official website and reads that the loan is provided in Georgian GEL, supporting Georgia’s strategy to increase use of the local currency and reduce foreign currency-induced credit risks for the ben-

eficiaries and banks. ADB reports that the project allows the bank to expand its services to small business and rural household customers, most of whom are women. “We are proud to work with Credo Bank to reach underserved regions, boosting economic activity and affordable housing to enhance Georgia’s sustainable and inclusive growth,” the statement reads. Credo is a leading financial service provider for households as well as micro and small enterprises (MSEs) in Georgia, serving about 230,000 MSE borrowers, 50% of whom are female, with an average loan size of 2,300 Georgian Lari. Since 2007, ADB has provided nonsovereign loans totaling $255 million to banks in Georgia.


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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 19 - 22, 2019

Everything You Didn’t Know about McDonald’s Georgia BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES

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ver wondered what goes on behind the counter at a McDonald’s? Are you curious about the cleanliness, interested in the ingredients or envious of the happy smiles of the employees? GEORGIA TODAY was invited into a McDonald’s kitchen to find out what makes McDonald’s Georgia tick. “I joined McDonald’s 17 years ago,” Natia Devrisashvili the Director of the Dighomi branch, tells us. “First in Kutaisi, then I moved to Tbilisi. I was inspired by the brand. The training is excellent, the standards are international, and the job is both stable and enjoyable.” Employees worldwide have a lot to appreciate from a job at McDonald’s, and Georgia is no different. There are great career prospects for a start. University students are given the chance

Each branch of McDonald’s is like a family, and each member of the team is treated as an equal- with respect and dignity DID YOU KNOW…? 1) McDonalds burgers are made of 100% high quality beef without additives, formed into hamburger patties, and then quickly frozen to seal in that great fresh flavor. The company adds salt and pepper to the burgers when they are cooked on the grill in the restaurants to bring out all that great beef taste. 2) In Georgia’s 15 restaurants, tons of oil is used and changed every month. McDonalds is always looking for a way to make the world cleaner and happier, and for years environmental care was the company’s number one priority. Restaurants check and change the oil in fryers on a regular basis. There are several tests to determine when the oil needs to be changed, including a visual check, or by using a custom-made McDonalds oil testing kit). If the acceptable level reaches the limit of saturated fatty acids, the equipment automatically changes the oil, then waste oil is collected from a separate tank and taken back to a factory to be recycled. 3) All food for McDonald’s Georgia is brought from Germany and Poland. Georgian food manufacturers have as yet been unable to meet the stringent standards required of McDonald’s, so everything is imported. The McDonald's Supplier Quality Management System (SQMS) standard applies to companies who supply food products for the McDonald's restaurants chain. The standard is intended to help McDonald's supply consistently safe products of the highest quality that meet their requirements, as well as all applicable laws and regulations. 4) McDonald’s staff wash their hands every 30 minutes following a 9-step washing guideline. It was found that wearing gloves doesn’t guarantee food hygiene standards as well as clean hands carefully washed twice an hour! 5) The coffee beans that didn’t get into that brilliant-tasting cup of coffee you just ordered are thrown out after four hours. This guarantees that the beans ground for your next coffee have retained the aromas you love. 6) You can ask for orange or apple juice in your child’s Happy Meal instead of a soft drink and choose apple puree instead of fries. 7) McDonald’s is aware of its responsibility to the younger generation. Its latest initiative is to offer books with its Happy Meals instead of toys, the initiative is going ahead and this author for one will be grabbing the opportunity to stock up her kids’ bookshelf- hopefully other parents will too! 8) McDonald’s Georgia has a work experience scheme for school pupils. Where just a few years ago Georgian parents wouldn’t have dreamed of sending their 14-pluses out to work, it is increasingly being recognized as a way to encourage responsibility, motivation and confidence-building. 9) Almost All McDonald’s managers started out as regular crew members. McDonald’s is a bottom-up organization which encourages its staff to stay happy, stay motivated and to stay with them for the long-term. Trainings, high international standards, fair pay and ready internal promotion opportunities mean that everyone has a chance to climb the ladder.

to choose a flexible shift schedule that meets their study needs. Youth as young as 14 can work weekends for limited hours (according to Georgian legislation) to get work experience. And all the managers started out as kitchen workers, moving up over time with training and hard work. Each branch of McDonald’s is like a family, and each member of the team is treated as an equal- with respect and dignity. Holidays are paid and excellence in work and standards are rewarded monetarily and in recognition, with Employees of the Month being voted for in-house. McDonald’s opened in Georgia 20 years ago, February 5. And, according to Natia, like the global chain as a whole, the Georgian McDonald’s is “improving by the day.”

BEHIND THE SCENES – KITCHEN I was Surprised to see that kitchen runs like clockwork for the most part. The team members work in rotation at the various stations- Drive Thru (two windows- one for paying, one for delivering), deep-fryers/toasting, dressing and serving. The desserts are prepared in a separate area. Fresh food is cooked at the far end of the kitchen and is moved down to be dressed with buns, salads, sauces and sides nearer the tills. Customers can order the old-fashioned way by approaching and paying at the counter, or via self-ordering disability/childadapted screens, which allow for menu selection and payment by card. And there is plenty on the menu for all tastes: burgers and fries of various size (meat, fish, veggie or chicken), wraps, a choice of salads and then for those sweet-tooths among us, shakes, ice-creams, donuts and fruit. McDon-

ald’s Georgia, works with the “Made for You” principle, meaning that while the ingredients are ready (cheese neatly sliced, lettuce and tomatoes clean and chopped), nothing is cooked or put together until you order it. The coffee is also fresh, with beans ground to order and unused beans thrown away every four hours to ensure freshness in your cup every time.

HYGIENE Employees enter the ‘Wash Area’ and after clocking-in via an electronic fingerprint identifier, change immediately into their uniforms in a cloakroom (one each for men and women). These cloakrooms come with a toilet and shower to ensure the employees are fresh and comfortable at all times. In case there are doubts when dressing, there are clear pictures by the door and Georgian descriptions of how a McDonald’s team member should dress. Such clear and instructive signs can be seen throughout the property. A touchscreen in the Wash Area shows each employee’s name, schedule and anything they need to know to catch up with the daily happenings in the kitchen. Once they are up-to-date, they wash their hands at the sensor-operated sink “as well as a surgeon would” (again, with clear instructions displayed for them) and sign their names on the “handwash sheet” at the entrance to the kitchen. They will repeat this hand-washing process every 30 minutes for the remainder of their shift, with the manager watching over them with hawk-eyes. The Wash Area also contains a small but comfortable “Employee Lounge” with the same tables and chairs/stools as seen in the restaurant, a fridge and

The training is excellent, the standards are international, and the job is stable and enjoyable a TV. Team members get a 30-minute break every four hours, more if required, with shifts lasting between four and eight hours.

SUPPLY-STORAGE McDonalds has high standards with supply storage as well, A storeroom keeps the dry goods and plastic and paper cutlery and containers at room temperature, while the walk-in refrigerator stores the meat and vegetables which come from Germany and Poland. Absolutely every consumable is controlled and has a “use-by” date which is strictly adhered to. Left-overs and any food past its validity is thrown into the trash. So, our conclusion after a visit to McDonald’s Georgia? Smiling and satisfied staff, a spotless kitchen, healthy options on the menu and strict quality and hygiene control. Here at GT, we’re lovin’ it!


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 19 - 22, 2019

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Georgia Needs to Increase Human Rights Protection Efforts in the Business Environment BY GABRIELLE COLCHEN

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he United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights officially visited Georgia for the first time April 3-12 with the aim of assessing the impacts of business operations on Human Rights. Last Friday, to conclude the visit, the experts held a press conference at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel during which they described their preliminary observations before the official final report to be submitted in 2020. Different issues were raised during the conference, the main ones being gender equality, environmental pollution and labor rights. In the construction sector specifically, labor rights are often violated. This has become a systemic issue since workers often put their lives in danger by working in this sector. The goal is to prevent Human Rights violations from happening in order to prevent the need for legal remedies. The experts also visited the Chiatura mine and recognized it creates significant environmental pollution. The measures taken by the Georgian government are not adequate, they said, and do not prevent irremediable damage to the

environment. As for the development of natural resources, hydropower projects were

seen as being able to help ensure electricity and power independence in Georgia; however, the UN team advised the

Georgian government to look at the process globally and make sure that the use of hydropower does not create draughts nor has impacts on climate change. “The government needs to take a holistic view when assessing the impact of the hydropower projects,” they noted. The working group spoke of its appreciation for a number of legislative changes in Georgia, including a new labor code, new safety laws, and the environmental impact assessment code. They also appreciated the gender equality provisions for the protection of women against sexual harassment. However, they made it clear that gender equality remains one of the biggest challenges in Georgia. Women are underrepresented in business and represent an alarming minority in management positions. Violence against women is also still a major issue, they said. “The Parliamentary Gender Equality Council should work to create a more inclusive environment for women in every field,” the UN team advised. Concerning people with disabilities, they noted the disabled often face exclusion and discrimination and lack economic opportunities. The government has taken measures since it provides subsidies for four months to companies who hire a person with disabilities, after

which the company has to hire the person for another six months. “However, this initiative is insufficient, and more measures are needed so that the disabled can access work opportunities,” the UN representatives said. Last, the issue of remedies was raised. When there is a violation of Human Rights, individuals would like to be able to hold a company accountable for it. The judicial system is well established in Georgia, but, concretely, affected individuals have trouble accessing remedies from the court, perhaps due to the cost of litigation or because of the length of the judicial process. In this direction, the government is trying to give more responsibility to the Public Defender since it can be a good institution to complement the Court in providing effective remedies. “Most companies do not have grievances mechanisms in place to deal with human and labor rights violations and the government should oblige them to have it,” the Working Group noted. Overall, the group of experts appreciated the smooth running or their study and the open dialogue they had had with the stakeholders. They recognized that the Georgian government is moving in the right direction but said it should take more proactive measures in favor of these Human Rights issues.

Georgian Roads Kill BY AMY JONES

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peeding down twisting mount a i n o u s ro a d s towa rd s Stepantsminda, dangerously overtaking on corners, drifting in lanes on Rustaveli Avenue: Georgian drivers have a reputation for reckless driving and for “overtaking as a pastime.” The government is slowly taking steps to tackle the issue in Georiga. On April 16, the Minister of Internal Affairs Giorgi Gakhraia presented a new road safety plan which will be implemented by the end of the year, along with the new social campaign ‘For More Life’, in hopes of tackling dangerous driving in Georgia. The launch event was attended by various government representatives, including the Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure Maia Tskitishvili and Tbilisi Mayor Kakhi Kaladze. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported that 6,608 individuals lost their lives on Georgian roads over the past 10 years, whilst 85,946 were injured. In 2018, 459 people were killed in road

accidents, stated Gakhraia at the launch event. The majority of accidents were caused by drink driving, speeding, not adhering to traffic signs, and lane violations, reported the Interior Ministry. In 2018, the government already began introducing a range of measures in an attempt to improve road safety and minimize bad driving habits in Georgia. Firstly, the Ministry of Internal Affairs implemented more cameras to capture traffic violations. In 2017, there were just 170 cameras monitoring roads, whereas now this figure stands at 2,600. In addition, many patrol police inspectors now carry cameras, and driving under the influence of drugs was made illegal. These measures have had “some positive outcomes,” reads a statement by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. “In 2018, the number of deaths in road traffic incidents decreased by 11%. The percentage rate of speeding has also decreased.” Nonetheless, the number of traffic accidents increased from 2017 to 2018 from 6,079 to 6,452. Despite small improvements, Georgian roads remain the most unsafe in the region. In 2017, the Organization for

Economic Cooperation and Development released data showing that Georgia had the highest rate of road accident deaths in Europe. The new plan includes various proposals to continue the positive trend in decreasing road accidents. By the end of 2019, the Ministry of Internal Affairs will install 5,000 cameras across Georgia, including 2,100 Smart cameras which measure speed averages. In addition, there will be more unmarked police patrols that will work to sanction drivers who violate traffic rules, especially in major cities. Aside from practical measures, “legislative amendments to ensure road safety will be implemented” to tighten sanctions for certain violations, reports the Ministry of Internal Affairs. However, for road conditions to truly improve, it is essential for drivers to change their mindsets and habits. “The involvement of public participation and awareness is especially important in the process of road safety,” stated Gakharia. On the morning of April 10, Tbilisi residents awoke to find upturned damaged vehicles displayed on stilts on Tamarshvili Street, Chavchavadze Avenue, and Vazha Pshavela Street. The

Image source - World of Roads

installation is the first project of a new social campaign ‘For More Life’. The campaign aims to encourage drivers to change their driving habits through videos, banners, installations and Facebook campaigns. “The goal of the social campaign is

that each citizen will once again think about the consequences of violating traffic rules,” reads the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ statement. Time will tell if the new measures and social campaign will continue to improve road safety in Georgia.

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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 19 - 22, 2019

Georgia Recognized for Success Combating Hepatitis C BY SAMANTHA GUTHRIE

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he Georgian Ministry of Health was recognized on Friday, April 12, at a ceremony in Vienna, Austria, for its successes in combating Hepatitis C in the country. David Sergeenko, the Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, received the award on behalf of the ministry. The award, recognizing Georgia as an “Exemplary Country,” was presented by the European Association for the Study of the Liver and the International Liver Foundation in Austria at the 2019 International Liver Conference. Sergeenko presented to the assembled audience, hundreds of scientists and medical professionals from around the world, Georgia’s efforts to fight Hepatitis C and highlighted the importance of making diagnostic and treatment services easily accessible nationwide in lowering the instance of the disease. Accepting the award from Chairman of the European Association for the Study

Image source: Ministry of Health

of the Liver, Massimo Colombo, Sergeenko said, “It is a great honor for us to be given the status as the world’s first ‘Exemplary Country.’ The Hepatitis C elimination program in Georgia represents the best example of cooperation between the private and public sector, the US Center for Disease Control and the Gilead [Sciences] Company. In addition to the fact that this program has had

a positive impact on national public health, Georgia has also become a role model around the globe, and many countries will benefit from the experiences we have had since 2015.” During the International Liver Conference, the Ministry of Health signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the International Liver Foundation. In Georgia, the Hepatitis C cure rate

is more than 98%. The Ministry of Health reports that each month, approximately 1,000 new patients enroll in the ‘Georgia Without Hepatitis C’ initiative, which was launched in April 2015 in partnership with American biotechnology company Gilead. The project aims to reduce and prevent the spread of Hepatitis C in the country. Through the program, treatment is free of charge for all citizens of Georgia. Research conducted at the start of the program, in 2015, showed that 8% of the Georgian population was infected with Hepatitis C. The Ministry of Health’s anti-Hepatitis C campaign has three primary targets: 1) 90% of adults should undergo screening: a simple blood test 2) Of those who underwent screening and need treatment, at least 90% should be involved in the program 3) From the 90% involved in treatment, at least 95% should be cured Since the launch of the program, more than 2 million Hepatitis C screenings have been conducted. In a speech at the regional consultation meeting ‘Achievements Towards the Elimination of Hepatitis C’ in February, Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze

noted that “tens of thousands of our citizens formerly infected with Hepatitis C have been fully cured with government support,” and explained how, not long ago, a diagnosis of Hepatitis C meant a condition to live with, since treatment was out of the financial reach of most Georgians. “We have had tremendous success. The negative test indicator is 98% on average. We will not spare time and efforts in the future for the ultimate eradication of the disease. I am confident that Georgia will become one of the first countries to fully combat Hepatitis C,” affirmed Bakhtadze. The full course of treatment costs roughly $80,000 - $90,000 per patient. In July 2018, Akaki Zoidze, Chairman of the Healthcare Committee of the Parliament, warned Georgians that after 2020, Hepatitis C treatment will no longer be free. He called on citizens who know or suspect that they have the disease to apply for treatment now, while the program is free. “At least 25,000 people know they have Hepatitis C and are not treating it. We should do our best to encourage these people to undergo treatment because in doing so, we will save 25,000 lives,” said Zoidze.

Dumbo Gets It Right: Behind the Curtain at the Animal Circus

BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES

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like to have fun, but circuses, zoos and marine parks are no fun for animals. Elephants used in circuses are forced to travel all over the country and are chained up for hours. In the wild, they would walk for miles every day. Have you ever seen elephants stand on their head in the wild? No? That’s because they don’t, - a PETA Kids young video presenter states. “Animals in zoos live in enclosures that are hundreds of times smaller than where they would live in the wild,” another youth says. “I wouldn’t want to live in a cage with a bunch of people staring at me all day. Animals don’t like it either. How can kids learn about wild animals by looking at them locked up in cages? That’s not natural at all. It makes the animals feel really stressed. They can even get so stressed out that they go crazy.”

A third child informs us that, “Marine parks keep dolphins and whales in small tanks. That’s like living in a bath- all they can do is swim in circles. In the wild, they can swim for kilometers with their families every day. They should live in big groups, and they get lonely by themselves.” “The people who run the zoos, circuses and marine parks don’t really care about the animals. They just use them to make money. That’s why, if you love animals, you should never go to a zoo, marine park or animal circus,” and with that statement, the video ends. It is a simple but potent message, one which is echoed in numerous graphic images spread via social media and in the recent and popular Disney offering: Dumbo, which has a very clear ‘anti-animal circus’ message throughout. On May 4, the Yuri Nikulin Circus will visit Georgia from Russia. They use monkeys, lions, tigers and dogs in their circus shows, but we have seen a lot of documentary evidence that demonstrates how circus animals are kept in unsuit-

able and often unbearable conditions. The trainers get them to do tricks by using pain- hitting them with sticks or giving them electric shocks to incite fear. Sometimes, they starve the animals prior to performances so they will ‘work’ for food. They live and travel in small, often unsanitary, cages. Sometimes, they lack medical attention for illnesses or injuries. The conditions in the circus and the way the animals are treated can make them stressed or depressed. Sometimes, they become aggressive or self-harm. Using animals in circuses has no educational or conservation function. It is only for entertainment and to make money for the circus company. When we buy a ticket to watch a circus show in which animals are being used, we are helping to support this cruelty! Animal circuses are thankfully losing popularity and there are many circus companies which give exhilarating shows without the use of animals, among them Cirque du Soleil, Circus Vargas, Circus Oz, and Cirque Productions.

Colombia, Croatia, Costa Rica, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia, Scotland, Singapore, Israel, Finland, France, Great Britain, Denmark, Germany, Croatia, Estonia, Germany, Mexico, Sweden, India, and Peru are countries which have banned animal circuses. Georgia needs to stop animal cruelty. No animals should be used in circus performances and such shows should be banned here as they have been elsewhere. Instead, we should invite foreign circus companies who do not use animals in their shows. And because Georgia has its own talented acrobats, illusionists, jugglers, clowns and dancers, we could launch a Georgian circus, making new jobs for people in a humane circus without animals. A group of concerned citizens is organizing a peaceful and informative protest event starting at 5pm outside the circus building in Heroes’ Square on May 4.

The circus administration has so far refused to respond to their invitation for open dialogue and has blocked or ignored any social media attempts to contact them regarding the issue of the animal circus. The activists have appeared on television against a background of graphic images showing what circus animals go through, a petition has begun, and a photo campaign launched to garner interest. The biggest goal is to open peoples’ eyes to the unnecessary cruelty suffered by circus animals, and to encourage citizens to choose a civilized and responsible path by boycotting the Russian animal circus and pushing instead for other forms of entertainment to be brought to Georgia, ones in which no animals are forced to take part. The Circus Without Animals event page: h t t p s : / / w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / events/2757922320890584/

Scene from the new Disney anti-animal circus ‘Dumbo’ movie. Source: arstechnica.com


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 19 - 22, 2019

Georgian Wine Advertising Campaign Kicks Off in Tokyo Metro

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campaign advertising Georgian wine has begun in Tokyo metro station ‘Tennozu Isle,’ the station located at the exhibition center Terrada Warehouse, where the ‘Georgia – Homeland of Wine’ exhibition was opened on March 10, to last until May 7. The station is located on an island and connects to other islands, guaranteeing a heavy flow of passengers, with, on average, 50,000 people passing through daily. In the station there are informationadvertising posters and information brochures titled ‘Georgia - Homeland of Wine,’ which provide brief details about Georgia and Georgian wine culture. The project ‘Georgia – Homeland of Wine,’ organized by the National Wine Agency and Association ‘Georgian Wine’ is implemented in partnership with Sony music communication and TOPPAN. The exhibition combines unique archaeological exhibits and modern technologies, the concept of which is based on the uniqueness of Georgian wine culture.

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SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 19 - 22, 2019

Driving Miss Dali*: Tbilisi-Mestia BLOG BY TONY HANMER

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ere follows a list of characteristics required or preferred for drivers of marshroutkas, or minivanbuses, on the longest daily route in Georgia: Tbilisi to Mestia. He will seemingly always be a he; in 20 years on the route, I’ve yet to encounter a woman driver on it. Tbilisi taxi drivers, sure, but not for this trip, it seems. He will defer to his female passengers, honor and protect them, and usually give a pair of them priority seating in the front with himself. He will maintain order and decorum in the entire vehicle, arranging passengers or helping them find seats, of which the best are near the front, where motion leading to sickness in those susceptible is minimized. He will prohibit drinking of alcoholic beverages, or smoking, in the vehicle at all times… theoretically. He usually has a No Smoking sticker installed for all to see, and hopefully will obey it himself. Working on this. As far as the drink goes, the worst infraction I ever saw on a longdistance minivan trip was going to Poti in about 2000. A passenger was allowed to bring and imbibe a bottle of vodka, trying his best to foist it on all of us as well. A young lady from Korea was my charge, on her first visit to the country; we sat in back and, seeing the ensuing chaos, refused this kind but forceful offer. Things got rather scary, surprise surprise, and at the east-west pass near Shrosha, a middle-aged lady seemed to be having

heart palpitations from fear. We stopped; the men got out and proceeded to beat up the offender, stranding him; we removed our luggage and announced the end of our journey, blaming the driver. He pulled around a bend, stopped where the van wasn’t visible, and sent back a runner to apologize and ask us back on, which we accepted. This seems to have been a unique occurrence, although it has taken years for drivers to stop their habit of drinking at the main Svaneti stop before Mestia, Barjashi. He should have a roof rack, because there’s always more luggage than on any other trip, given its distance. Best will be not only ropes to secure things, but also a plastic sheet handy in case of inclement weather. He will speak Russian as well as Georgian and Svan, and maybe a smattering of English, German or French too, to aid the frequent foreigners on this route, though these last are certainly not guaranteed. He will know, of course, how to maintain and repair his vehicle, in the unlikely but not impossible event of a breakdown of some kind. If this is serious enough, he will have to call for a backup vehicle from somewhere to take his entire contingent of passengers the rest of the way. It’s an 8-hour trip, even with the improved roads from Tbilisi and in Svaneti, so they expect to arrive on the evening or afternoon of the same morning they left! He will know a couple of good places to stop for a meal or two, and eats there for free in exchange for being a regular supplier of vanloads of customers. These will

be roughly half-hour stops or a bit more. He will NOT try to stuff in extra passengers on tiny, unattached stools between regular seats! Especially not for the regular price of 30 GEL for the trip! He will have a cassette, CD or USB stick of all the “best” music for the trip, varying between Georgian “Estrada,” folk and Russian or German techno-pop; the former featuring either Alla Pugachova or men who are imitating bears

growling, the latter focusing on Blue System. In ideal situations, this track-set will be allowed to rerun endlessly, unchanged, so that passengers can learn it by heart in one trip. In future, I might also describe the passenger’s ideal set of characteristics as well, although some of them might be gleaned in contrast with the above data. Until then, enjoy your ride. * Dali, the Svan goddess of hunting

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/ He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri: www.facebook.com/hanmer.house.svaneti

The Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi to Host Book Fair on April 23 BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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he Biltmore Hotel Tbilisi is to host a real celebration for bookworms on April 23, as on this date it will transform it’s Hall a large-scale book fair. The day of the event has also been

chosen on purpose, taking into account the fact that April 23 is global World Book and Copyright Day. The event also supports the social campaign launched by Giorgi Kekelidze, General Director of the National Parliamentary Library of Georgia, called ‘Give a Book’ (#აჩუქეწიგნი). The event is carrying a number of important messages and is primarily aimed at the promotion of book reading

and increasing awareness of Georgian literature among foreigners. The iltmore Hotel Tbilisi represents a ‘strategic’ location for organizing this type of event as it is to grab the attention of city guests staying at the hotel, as well as local residents of Tbilisi and other regions of Georgia. Five publishing houses, Palitra L, Intelekti, Artanuji, Diogene and Bakur Sulakauri,

along with the Santa Esperanza Bookshop, will present a great variety of books and the most outstanding masterpieces of literature. Foreign visitors who want to discover the Georgian culture and delve into an authentic Georgian atmosphere will have an opportunity to purchase books by local authors translated into various languages. A sales-exhibition is also being organ-

ized for charity purposes. Proceeds will be donated to Gurjaani Library restoration. In addition, the participating publishing houses will either financially assist or send books to the library. The event will start at 10:00 and last until 19:00, giving a chance for book enthusiasts to take a trip through a new universe of books and pick up a copy of the most popular works.


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 19 - 22, 2019

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Moxy Tbilisi Presents its New Auditoria Meeting Room To-ceiling windows and mirrored columns add a sprinkle of freshness to the place. As for the hotel itself, its distinguished design and concept fuse perfectly with the vibrant, colorful lifestyle of Tbilisi. The Moxy Hotel is targeted towards business and leisure travelers who prefer style, functionality and affordability over luxury thus the interior reflects their needs.

BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

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oxy Hotels, Marriott International’s latest hotel brand, made its debut in the Georgian hospitality market just a year ago, but has already managed to establish itself as a go-to destination for travelers seeking the best accommodation and local residents looking to enjoy a range of events and the hotel’s business facilities. For those business clients- great news, as Moxy Hotels has just launched a new multifunctional meeting room. With a minimalist style and painted in calm

pastels, the brand-new spacious Auditoria makes the perfect place for official and business meetings, as well as informal events. The area is fully equipped with everything you need to comfortably deliver presentations and hold conferences. Along with a working zone, there is also a ‘chill out’ area allocated for guests, where they can enjoy refreshments. The Moxy Hotels’ new meeting room may also serve as a gallery. Its airy atmosphere makes a wonderful venue for launching exhibitions, giving visitors the chance to enjoy the works of different artists and share their impressions with each other. The modern design of the Auditoria is also able to host a great variety of informal celebrations. Floor

The vast lobby is divided into different segments, with a 24/7 bar serving also as the reception, with customers offered a drink while checking-in. The modernly furnished colorful area, with elements of contemporary art and diverse accents of lighting, also integrates a play zone with table football and billiards, a small meeting room, a modernly equipped working corner and even a library. Based on the trends of the 21st century

and needs of the modern era, Moxy Hotels strongly focuses on the concept of offering a modern design led hotel at an attractive price point. Dinning is also adapted to the contemporary world and follows the so-called “Grab and Go” concept, with fresh salads, wraps, hot items, sandwiches provided. Everything at Moxy ensures a relaxing, entertaining and fruitful stay for every guest.


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CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

APRIL 19 - 22, 2019

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER

TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER 25 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 04 56 April 23 RODIN, HER ETERNAL IDOL A ballet by Boris Eifman Music: Maurice Ravel, Camille Saint-Saëns, Jules Massenet Sets: Zinovy Margolin Costumes: Olga Shaishmelashvili Light: Gleb Filshtinsky, Boris Eifman Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 140-180 GEL April 25 ROMEO AND JULIET Sergei Prokofiev Ballet in Two Acts Based on the tragedy by William Shakespeare Libretto, choreographic version and staging by Mikhail Lavrovsky Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-100 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER 14 Shavteli Str. April 20 RAMONA Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL April 21 STALINGRAD Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL April 23 Animated documentary film REZO Directed by Leo Gabriadze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL April 24, 25 THE AUTUMN OF MY SPRINGTIME Revaz Gabriadze Directed by Revaz Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20, 30 GEL

MOVEMENT THEATER 182 Aghmashenebeli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 598 19 29 36

Exhibition RED TERROR AND GEORGIAN ARTISTS

NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF GEORGIA 40 Pekini Str.

April 20 SILENT, REHEARSAL! Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Performance consists of various short novels: "Good Morning", "Cinemat", "Welcome-Host", "Shirley Beis", "Painter", Bohemian Rhapsody" Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL

April 11-30 Georgian National Museum and Warsaw Rising Museum presents EXHIBITION: WARSAW RISING 1944

Until May 1 MERAB ABRAMISHVILI’S EXHIBITION

April 21 ASTIGMATISTS Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL April 25 DIVINE COMEDY Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-15 GEL SHALIKASHVILI THEATER 37 Rustaveli Ave. TEL 595 50 02 03 April 19, 20 LIKE THIS Comedy genre novels based on Georgian national motives Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM 3 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 299 80 22, 293 48 21 www.museum.ge Exhibitions: GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF THE 18TH-20TH CENTURIES NUMISMATIC TREASURY EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA ARCHEOLOGICAL TREASURE NEW LIFE TO THE ORIENTAL COLLECTIONS In the framework of the celebrations of the European Year of Cultural Heritage in Georgia the Georgian National Museum presents the exhibition WISDOM TRANSFORMED INTO GOLD MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION 4 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge

IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA 8 Sioni St. TEL (+995 32) 2 98 22 81 April 5-24 THE EXHIBITION OF BESO KOBAKHIDZE AND ALEKO ESVANJIA - BOUNDARY The exhibition showcases the works of two artists in different media - painting, sculpture, graphics, on the theme ‘an eternity of the boundaries of creative thought.’ MUSEUM OF ILLUSIONS 10 Betlemi Str. Discover the Museum of Illusions Be brave enough to jump into an illusion created by the Vortex, deform the image of yourself in the Mirror Room, let yourself free in the Infinity room, fight the laws of gravity and size ratio, and take pictures of yourself in every possible pose. Enjoy our collection of holograms, look closer at every optical illusion and observe thoroughly each installation. Tickets: 17.5 GEL, Children (ages 6-18): 11 GEL, children (under 5 years): free, students: 13 GEL, family (2 adults + 2 children): 39 GEL. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY 11 Rustaveli Ave. TEL (+995 32) 215 73 00 Until February 26 (2020) GRAND MASTERS FROM THE GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM COLLECTION XIX – XX CENTURY Until May 27 Georgian National Museum and Italian embassy in Georgia present the exhibition ESOTERIC DE CHIRICO. A TRAVELER BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

CINEMA

NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF GEORGIA 40 Pekini Str. April 8-23 National Archives Cinema in collaboration with the French Institute Tbilisi, French Institute Paris and Embassy of France in Georgia, present: FRENCH CINEMA: NEW WAVE, NEW GENERATION Free admission. Films are presented in original language with English and Georgian subtitles. Program: April 19 19:00- CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER. 90' April 20 18:00- THE 400 BLOWS. 93' 20:00- FAR FROM VIETNAM. 120' April 21 18:00- PIERROT LE FOU. 112' 20:00- PARIS BELONGS TO US. 141' April 22 19:00- CONTEMPT. 110' April 23 19:00- JULES AND JIM. 105' MUSIC

DJ. KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE 125/127 Agmashenebeli Ave. April 21 J. S. BACH’S “ST. JOHN PASSION” By Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra, Georgian State Choir, Soloists– Nino Chachua (soprano), Nutsa Zakaidze (mezzo soprano), Irakli Murjikneli (tenor), David pataridze (bass), Zurab Natrosvili (evangelist), Lasha Mirotadze (Jesus), Luca Tsiklauri (Peter, Pilate). Conductor- famous French musician Jean Yves Gaudin Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 10-30 GEL

SOUNDS OF GEORGIA April 20, 24, 25 SING AND DRINK Mini concerts in the cozy atmosphere of Old Tbilisi, a mix of traditional Georgian music of different genres: folklore, a capella, guitar, and Georgian pop and city songs. Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 24 GEL Venue: April 20- New Tiflis, 9 Agmashenebeli Ave., Wine bar ‘Wine Station’, April 24- Corner of 2 Turgenev Str., and 37 Javakhishvili Str., deep yard, April 25- Europe Square, 2 D. Megreli Str., Hotel “Nata” KHIDI Vakhushti Bagrationi Bridge, Right Emb. April 25 SOUNDWAVE New wave of live music on the last Thursday of every month Participants: Georgian Hip-Hop artists MokuMoku (J&T), MC Cutkill & Deka and DRO. Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 15 GEL TBILISI CONCERT HALL 1 Melikishvili Ave. April 19 CHARITY CONCERT FOR MARTA Partisipants: Shvidkatsa, Theatrical Quartet, Alilo, Herio, Mukhambazi, Forte, Datuna Sirbiladze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-40 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE 8 Griboedov Str. April 19 GEORGIAN COMPETITION OF MUSICIAN-PERFORMERS Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 5-15 GEL April 20 COMPETITION OF MUSICIANPERFORMERS The Georgian Competition of Musician-Performers is quadrennial and consists of three rounds and the following four specialties: piano, solo-singing, strings and wind instruments. Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 5-15 GEL April 21 VIOLINS AND VOICES Bela Berkemer-Makharadze- violin Uwe Berkemer- piano Special Guest: Nina Berkemerviolin and vocal In program: Azarashvili, Bach, Berkemer, Brahms, MendelssohnBartholdy, Piazzola, Vivaldi and more Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 10-25 GEL April 25 PIANO RECITAL OF GIGLA KATSARAVA Program: Ludwig van Beethoven, Alexander Scriabin, Alexander Scriabin, Edward Grieg, Sergei Rachmaninoff Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 10 GEL BARI BARSHI 9 G. Kikodze Str. April 19 SVANSIKH Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 10 GEL April 20 LEIF S Start time: 21:00 Ticket: Free April 21 PANIKA (ACOUSTIC) Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 5 GEL


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 19 - 22, 2019

15

Young Georgian Soprano Made Soloist of Vienna State Opera HOW DID YOUR SUCCESSFUL INTERNATIONAL CAREER BEGIN?

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY LIKA CHIGLADZE

T

amuna Gochashvili, a 24-year-old Georgian opera singer, is a new discovery for the international opera industry. Recently, the young Soprano was made a soloist at the Vienna State Opera: an immense achievement for one so young! The charming and talented singer talked to GEORGIA TODAY about her accomplishments and future career.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO OPERA? I’ve been singing since early childhood. When I was four, my mom took me to the Pioneer Palace in Tbilisi. She always knew how to put me on the right path, so I’m very thankful to her for her commitment and right decisions. There, I was trained by celebrated Georgian singer Tsitsino Tsitskishvili. Later, when I was 10, I enrolled in the Evgeni Mikeladze Music School, in Svetlana Egorova’s class, there my concertmaster was Prof. Teona Buadze. Through these unique people my musical life career began and continues still. In 2012, I was accepted at the Tbilisi State Conservatoire in the Academic Singing Department, in Egorova’s class. During my second year, I earned the V. Sarajishvili stipendium as the most successful student in the Vocal Department. I continued my studies at the Master’s Degree level at the Conservatoire followed by three solo concerts, each with different repertoires (Barocco, French Chamber Music, Italian Opera arias).

I was doing the first year of my Master’s when I learned that an audition of the Theater Young Artists Opera Program was taking place in Tbilisi. The program of the Bolshoi Theater is similar to the European young artists program. I knew it offered participants international career prospects, and that’s what appealed to me the most. I passed the first round of the audition with success, but in order to make it to the final stage, I had to travel to Russia. I applied to the Ministry of Culture of Georgia for financial help and luckily got funding to cover the travel costs. I want to express my gratitude for such assistance and support from the Georgian government. I passed all the stages and was accepted into the program and so, since 2017, I’ve been a member of Theater Young Artists Opera Program of The Bolshoi Theater headed by Dmitry Vdovin. He is the very person who helps young talented singers to perfect themselves and create international careers.

HOW DID YOU GET INVITED TO WORK IN THE RENOWNED VIENNA STATE OPERA? I took several auditions, including on the main stage of the Vienna State Opera. I sang the part of Tatiana’s letter from Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, and Elvira’s aria from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. I had not sung this piece before. Symbolically, I performed the latter on the stage of Vienna State Opera, in the homeland of Mozart. The jury was well acquainted with this piece, so it was a huge responsibility for me. The conductor Philippe Jordan asked me to

repeat the last passage several times and I handled my duty with success. When the audition was over, I was standing outside getting ready to leave, when suddenly my agent called me and told me to look carefully at the Vienna State Opera, the soloist of which I had just become. Before me was a theater that is considered one of the top opera houses in the world, with a rich history and where internationally renowned and the most celebrated opera singers have performed. In short, I felt like I’d come straight from being a student of the Tbilisi State Conservatoire on a direct flight to Vienna to become a soloist of that Opera House! What could be more wonderful? I signed a two-year contract with Vienna and from 2020, I will be working together with lead conductors and directors of the theater. I will also take part in premieres as well as plays that represent classics of the theater’s program.

HOW DOES YOUR CURRENT SCHEDULE LOOK? Until July, I remain a member of Theater Young Artists Opera Program, within which I will be performing in many plays. My repertoire is very diverse, including Austrian Operetta, cantatas by Handel, and French Chamber Music of 20th century. After the completion of the program, I will fly to Austria to sing the part of Tatiana in Eugene Onegin composed by Tchakovsky. Then I will head to Finland where I will perform my favorite part of Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni at the Helsinki Opera House.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE AN OPERA SINGER AND PERFORM ON THE WORLD’S

Tamuna Gochashvili. Photo Courtesy: Davit Tchalidze

TOP OPERA STAGES AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE? I think I’m very lucky. Being an opera singer is not just a profession: this is a way of life that requires great commitment and hard work, physical preparation and singing for several hours daily. My everyday routine also includes working on phonetics, text, musical material,

style, acting and fitting to one’s role. As part of my work, I often have to change environments and adapt to new places, language and people. I think singing is like having an invisible instrument. It is such a profession that one will never lose, and if it happens so, then things can only get worse. I am just starting out, so I think the best is yet to come.

The 4GB Electronic Music Festival tronic music to guests, transforming the memories of their friend into an unforgettable event for the country, as well as the Caucasus, and raising the bar of local festival culture to a new level. The festival carries a number of important messages. First of all, it demonstrates how the unity of like-minds and striving for mutual aspirations can turn a small memorial party into a festival of impressive scale, while maintaining the initial values. In addition, 4GB is a non-profit-

BY KETEVAN KVARATSKHELIYA

T

bilisi has made major steps forwards in terms of developing its night life offerings in recent years and is successfully following the world trends in this respect today, with numerous events organized year-round

The organizers know everything is in the details and so always aim to host the audience in a venue suited to electronic music. The Electronauts Music Awards has twice recognized the 4GB festival as the Best Event of the Year. 2019 is to be no exception and the 4GB organizers are all set to offer unforgettable performances in an incredible environ to thousands of visitors once again.

for music lovers, 4GB being among the most outstanding. 4GB is an annual international electronic music festival launched in 2011. At the beginning, the festival was small, organized as a tribute to the Georgian pioneer DJ Gio Bakanidze by his friends. However, with the dedication and hard work of the organizers and their partner institutions, the festival has grown, becoming evermore colorful and offering the best elec-

PUBLISHER & GM

George Sharashidze COMMERCIAL DEPARTMENT

Commercial Director: Iva Merabishvili Marketing Manager: Sesili Tikaradze

GEORGIA TODAY

able event and all income is donated for the development of the idea. The first 4GB festival was headlined by Michael Mayer, the German electronic musician and an iconic performer for DJ Gio, who brought together 1,000 listeners. The legendary figure has since become the permanent host of the festival, taking to the stage for over 20,000 visitors in 2017. One of the unique features of the 4GB festival is the ever-changing location.

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1143  

April 19 - 22, 2019

Issue #1143  

April 19 - 22, 2019

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