Issue no: 939
• APRIL 21 - 24, 2017
• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue...
Georgian-German Year: A Rich Program of Celebratory Events
ON THE ROAD TO EUROPE
NEWS PAGE 3
France’s Policies toward the Eastern Partnership Countries in Context
The French election, the Georgian tobacco conflict and a look at the Norway model. How can Georgia best go forward? PAGES 4,6,8
POLITICS PAGE 4
The Norway Model for Georgia’ss EU Future? Georgia
POLITICS PAGE 6
New Structure Planned for Produce in Georgia Agency BUSINESS PAGE 7
TripAdvisor to Launch Marketing Campaign about Georgia
The Invisible Parents SOCIETY PAGE 12
Contemporary Ballet: Why are You Missing Out?
BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
eorgia is to be promoted during a massive six month marketing campaign on TripAdvisor, one of the largest and most popular sites, George Chogovadze, Head of Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA) and Chad Shiver, Marketing Manager for Destinations at TripAdvisor, announced this week.
Cooperation between TripAdvisor and the GNTA is ongoing, with TripAdvisor promoting Georgia’s touristic destinations in ten countries: Germany, Poland, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Ukraine, Russia, Israel and Turkey. Having 390 million visitors a month with over 7 million hotels, restaurants, vacation rentals and booking possibilities listed on the site, TripAdvisor is considered one of the largest travel web portals. The GNTA plans to allocate $65,000 for the marketing campaign.
CULTURE PAGE 15
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 21 - 24, 2017
President Margvelashvili: We Should Listen to Public Defender’s Recommendations ical system will be more focused on human rights and freedoms," he added. The International Conference, held on April 19, gathered ombudsmen of various countries, human rights defenders, representatives of international and civil societies, as well as representatives of government. The participants discussed the current situation, challenges and advancements relating to the multimandated human rights institutions, while representatives of foreign human rights institutions shared the experience and best practices of their countries. The event also provided a brief overview of the evolution of the Public Defender’s Institution in Georgia during the last 20 years and was followed
BY THEA MORRISON
he President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, expressed his support of the Public Defender’s institute by stating that the Ombudsman’s recommendations should be taken into account, in order to make daily practice more civilized. Margvelashvili made the statement while delivering a speech at the Evolution and Challenges of Multi-mandated National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Public Defender's Office. The President welcomed the Georgian Public Defender’s integration with European institutions and noted that this process will further develop polit-
by examining the premises of development of the international and regional NHRI networks. “During 20 years, the Office of Public Defender has undergone serious evolution,” Nanuashvili said. “It has developed as an independent institution which has gained significant international recognition”. He added that his office does its best to cover all fields where human rights need to be protected. During the conference, special emphasis was placed on the role of NHRI networks in the promotion and protection of human rights. International perspectives were also provided on the challenges that multiple mandated institutions are facing, together with the benefits.
ical culture in Georgia. “The Public Defender has a difficult mission to detect the mistakes made by us in daily political life. Our reaction to it shows how we tolerate and develop a European political life,” Margvelashvili said, going on to underline that the main thing is not to turn a blind eye to the Public Defender’s recommendations. “It is important that Parliament carefully listen to those remarks and recommendations cited by the Ombudsman in his annual reports…Listening to the Public Defender and having a dialogue with him is of utmost importance,” Margvelashvili said. The President expressed hope that the intensive dialogue in the format offered by Ombudsman Ucha Nanuashvili, will also be further developed. “I hope each year the Georgian polit-
14 Georgian Wine Companies Presented at Tokyo Exhibition BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
bilvino, Corporation Georgian Wine, Kakhuri, Wineman, Kakhetian Tradit i o n a l Wi n e m a k i n g , Maranuli, Shilda, Giuaani, Shumi, Dugladze Wines and Spirits, Satsnakheli, Royal Khvanchkara, Imeri and Telavi Wine Cellar were among the fourteen Georgian wine companies presented at the international exhibition: Wine and Gourmet Japan 2017, in Tokyo, with a special wine tasting event and a seminar: ‘Georgia – 8,000 Vintages,’ attended by famous Japanese sommeliers and wine professionals. Wine and Gourmet Japan 2017, which,
according to the Georgian National Wine Agency had more than 75,000 guests this year, is considered one of the most important expos in Asian countries and is seen as yet another possibility to increase the popularity of Georgian wine. “The import of Georgian Wine increases by 15-20% each year and at least three Georgian importer companies join the Japanese market annually,” said Levan Tsintsadze, the Ambassador of Georgia to Japan, adding that he hopes that Georgian wine export to Japan will continue to grow. “Georgian wine, especially Qvevri wine, suits the Japanese cuisine very well, which is a very important factor,” the Ambassador noted.
“Large marketing campaigns are being planned in Japan for the future,” says Irakli Cholobargia, Head of Marketing and PR Department at the National Wine Agency. “Since 2015, the Georgian Wine Agency has participated in two major exhibitions: FoodEX Japan and Wine and Gourmet Japan, with seminars on Georgian wines and tastings organized. It’s an excellent opportunity to promote Georgian wine, develop on the Japanese market and find potential distributors”. “The uniquness of Georgian wine and its diversity gives it a potential to be well established on the Japanese market,” Cholobargia concluded.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 21 - 24, 2017
Georgia’s State Security Service Head Presents 2016 Repo Report to Parliament
BY THEA MORRISON
errorism, corrupt civil servants and the difficult humanitarian situation in Georgia’s Russian-occupied regions were the main aspects of the annual report presented to the parliament by State Security Service (SSS) Head Vakhtang Gomelauri on Wednesday. Gomelauri said that the existence of the occupied territories, with the Russian military contingent located there, is a top threat to the State. He added that the serious criminogenic situation in these regions, discrimination of the ethnic Georgian population, illegal arrest of citizens, the so-called borderization process, restriction of free movement and access to education and intensive military exercises are serious challenges for Georgia. The SSS Head also touched upon terrorism, saying the country is not at high risk for terrorist attacks, but still there are some challenges. He said that throughout 2016, the State Security Service uncovered several individuals in Georgia connected with ISIS. “An investigation was launched into nine different criminal cases in Georgia in 2016 for
funding, supporting or being a member of a terrorist group,” he said. Moreover, Gomelauri claimed the corrupted public servants are potential targets of criminal groups and foreign intelligence services. He said that the Anti-Corruption Agency launched investigations into 47 alleged cases of corruption from 1 January to 31 December 2016. Among the cases were: 22 cases of bribe-taking, 2 cases of offering a bribe, 8 cases of fraud, 5 cases of commercial bribery, 4 cases of abuse of authority, 2 cases of misappropriation or embezzlement, 2 cases of negligence, and more. Criminal charges were filed against 59 people. “Corruption in public services results in the loss of trust of the citizens in the State, prevents democratic development of the State and the proper functioning of its institutions. At the same time, corrupt public officials are potential targets of criminal groups and foreign intelligence services,” he stressed. Gomelauri added that the State Security Service had revealed foreign citizens who had alleged ties with foreign security services. The agency also learned of their connections with Georgian citizens and permanently monitored them in order to prevent any illegal activities. According to him, currently such actions are being carried out regarding 99 people, both Georgian and foreign citizens. After the presentation of the report, the MPs asked the SSS Head questions. The presentation of the report was open to media but the parliament session closed to journalists once the question-answer format began. The opposition parties say that Gomelauri did not fully answer their questions. Giga Bokeria, member of the parliamentary minority European Georgia party, said that SSS merely eavesdrops on its citizens and so fails in fulfilment of its duties. “We do not have a security service that protects the interests of citizens,” Bokeria stressed. The ruling party Georgian Dream (GD) believes the report covered all the important issues.
H.E. Ambassador of Germany to Georgia, Mrs. Heike Peitsch. “
Georgian-German Year: A Rich Program of Celebratory Events BY MAKA LOMADZE
his year, Germany and Georgia are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. 2017 is also significant because it is 200 years since the first German colonists came to Georgia. The third important date is connected with the acknowledgment of the centennial of Georgian independence by Germany. On April 19, the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted the official opening of the Georgian-German year. Khatuna Totladze, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, was the hostess: “It is of utmost impor-
tance to mark the German year in Georgia in the context of Georgia’s being an honorary guest at the Frankfurt Book Fair that is to take place in 2018. Various towns throughout Germany have already hosted a number of Georgian literary events in which Georgian writers took part. Georgia’s participation at Leipzig Book Fair is also worth mentioning. What’s more, this year, Berlinale screened three Georgian films.” The Georgian-German year in Georgia is to feature a number of cultural events, including concerts, exhibitions, theatrical soirees, sports events, as well as other types of meetings, throughout Georgia. “The tight collaboration that has formed between parties has very
much impressed me: between the German Embassy and Goethe Institute, between the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Georgian Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection, and with other German organizations in the cultural sphere,” said H.E. Ambassador of Germany to Georgia, Mrs. Heike Peitsch. “Our aim is to show our bilateral relations, that count 200 years, from a fresh angle. By marking the Georgian-German year, we wish to research the diversity and intensity of the cultural, political and economic relations that already exist. We wish to highlight them in order to make the knowledge of that history even deeper in the German and Georgian social consciousness.” Continued on page 11
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 21 - 24, 2017
France’s Policies toward the Eastern Partnership Countries in Context BY DAVID CADIER FOR THE GEORGIAN INSTITUTE OF POLITICS
rance’s strategic attention interest and diplomatic engagement in the Eastern neighborhood have increased significantly during the last decade. Of the two geographical areas covered by the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), the ‘South’ remains a greater priority for Paris than the ‘East’: France has deeper economic, cultural and historical ties with, and is more exposed to security challenges emanating from, North Africa and the Near East than Eastern Europe or the Caucasus. Nevertheless, France has played a central role in two critical moments for EU policies towards the Eastern Neighborhood: it acted as a peacebroker in the 2008 Russo-Georgian war; and with Germany it is currently coleading the mediation efforts in Eastern Ukraine. While France’s involvement in the Russo-Georgian war mainly amounted to a punctual exercise in crisis management, the latter is a much more protracted and entangling process. In that sense, Paris’s implication was not a given, especially as Ukraine was never prominent on the French foreign policy radar while the regions that are prominent are themselves mired in crisis. Paris nonetheless accepted co-leadership over the Minsk process because it considers a crisis that implicates the EU to be a crisis that implicates France, both in the sense that it feels concerned by the crisis; and that it seeks to shape the EU’s response in part to ensure that the decisions taken do not limit its own room for maneuver. France’s policy priorities regarding the Eastern Neighborhood coalesce around two main vectors: supporting conflict resolution mechanisms; and supporting political, economic and administrative reforms in the region. The first is mainly pursued at the UN and through France’s individual participation in dedicated contact groups. The second, and more important, pillar is pursued through the EU and, in particular, the Eastern Partnership (EaP) initiative. France strongly backs the implementation of respective Association Agreements concluded between the EU and Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. It also adheres to the so-called ‘differentiation principle’, namely the possibility for countries who are more advanced in the reform process and who express a stronger desire to deepen ties with the EU to deepen their political association and economic integration with the bloc within the ENP framework. Paris has also a clear position on what it does not want the EaP to become: in this vision, which is rather consensual among French political forces, the EaP should neither be instituted as a pre-accession mechanism nor designed in opposition to Russia in a geopolitical struggle for regional influence. Contrary to what is often assumed, however, this position does not derive from considerations linked to the EaP countries themselves, or to Russia. Rather, it proceeds above all from France’s vision and priorities in the EU. Hence, to unpack this position and analyze France’s policies toward the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood, it is necessary to first reflect on several major trends and key priorities in France’s foreign and European policies. Current trends in France’s EU and NATO policies The war in Syria and the recent terrorist attacks on French soil have increased France’s security concerns and reinforced its strategic prioritization of the Southern neighborhood. In addressing crises and countering threats from the region, France counts a great deal on NATO and the EU. It has resorted to military interventions alone or in conjunction with its allies several times over the recent years (in
Libya, Ivory Coast, Mali, Sahel, Iraq, and Syria). Yet, especially as its military forces are currently mobilized at home to patrol the streets against terrorist threats, the country needs to avoid overstretch. Thus, France wishes to rely on NATO and EU resources and solidarity. As far as NATO is concerned, this means that Paris wishes for the alliance to focus on power projection capabilities and remain flexible in allocating them – if NATO was to become locked in a permanent territorial defense posture on its Eastern flank, the opposite would probably be achieved. Similarly, France wishes for the EU to continue to channel resources to consolidating state structures and security apparatuses in the Southern neighbourhood, both though the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and through the ENP, where the ‘South’ finds itself in competition with the ‘East’ over budgetary allocations. Overall, a static, protracted conflict between Russia and the EU and NATO over the Eastern Neighborhood would limit France's room for maneuver in these organizations and thus potentially reduce its strategic autonomy. This does not mean that France is ready to tolerate Russia’s use of military force to redraw state borders in Europe, however. Paris firmly supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Eastern neighborhood countries and condemns the actions by Russia that violate them. France’s reaction to the annexation of Crimea in particular has been clear: it has cancelled the delivery of Mistral warships to Russia, suspended its annual bilateral strategic meetings with Moscow and supported the EU sanctions regime. This reaction has been above all prompted by the nature of Russia’s actions in Ukraine and by considerations linked to the EU context. The latter has become especially important in shaping France’s Russia policy, not least because the political basis for its bilateral relationship with Russia has eroded in recent years. Inside the EU, France stands among the member states that believe that, for damage limitation, crisis avoidance and cooperative security purposes, it is important for Brussels to keep lines of dialogue with Moscow open
and for both sides to avoid unnecessary inflammatory postures. While the European integration project is currently at a crossroads and French presidential candidates promote divergent views in that context, there are nevertheless certain permanent features of France’s vision for the EU, even if Paris has pursued them unevenly and, at times, ambiguously. They are manifested in two slogans. Internally, more than simply a common market, the EU is regarded as a political project toward closer integration (‘Europe politique’). Externally, rather than a mere trade alliance, the EU is conceived as an actor and even as a power in international politics (‘Europe puissance’). In both dimensions, materialization of this vision requires a strong degree of cohesion and harmonization of member states’ positions and policies. This vision and the drive for closer integration have been re-activated following Donald Trump’s presidential election victory in the US; Trump signaled not only his intent to withdraw some US support for Europe but also his readiness to attempt to play Europeans off another. Implications for France’s policies toward Eastern Partnership countries The EU cannot pretend to be a global power if it is not able to significantly contribute to security and stability on its own continent. France’s involvement in conflict resolution endeavors in the Eastern neighborhood proceed from this rationale: its mediation of the RussoGeorgian war of August 2008 while it held the EU Council Presidency is especially illustrative in this regard. The mediation also showcased, however, a tendency to perceive the EU as an extension of France, which is actually detrimental to Paris’s strategy inside the bloc. Beyond the EU framework, France is also participating in conflict resolution contact groups as a permanent member of the UN Security Council (such as the OSCE Minsk format for Nagorno-Karabakh). The EU’s engagement with EaP partner countries cannot be simply reactive and limited to conflict management, however. The EU must act as a ‘structural power’ both in the sense of setting up structures
for increased cooperation and meaningful interaction with actors in the region and of supporting political and economic reforms in partner countries. This logic is at the heart of the ENP, and France adheres to it. The Hollande government repeatedly voiced its support for implementation of the Association Agreements concluded with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Paris sees these agreements both as a means to consolidate state structures in the region and as beneficial to its own economic interests, notably by facilitating French companies’ access to regional markets and by ensuring the protection of intellectual property rights, geographical indications and rules of origin. This being said, in light of its concern about structural instabilities in the Southern neighborhood, Paris remains wary of seeing the ENP tilt eastward in its budgetary allocations. France insists that the EaP should not be designed in opposition to Russia. Being strategic in nature implies that means alignwithends,andtheEaPisnotequipped to be used as a geopolitical instrument. This also leads, however, to Paris rejecting the Kremlin narrative that the prospect of Kyiv signing a DCFTA with Brussels caused the conflict in Ukraine. Finally, along with several other member states, France is opposed to turning the EaP into a vehicle for EU accession. Paris considers that, beyond those countries to which membership has already been promised (i.e., the Western Balkans), the enlargement dynamic should be paused temporarily as the EU’s ‘absorption capacity’ is reaching its limits. This position mainly proceeds from the vision for the European project set out above: the logic of pursuing enlargement as the preferred foreign policy instrument of EU is criticized on the basis that it ‘weakens the project of political union and the
internal cohesion that underpins it’. In Paris, the perception is that the 2004 and 2007 enlargements not only contributed to paralyzing EU decision-making structures by increasing the number and heterogeneity of member states but also diminished France’s own relative power inside the bloc, since the Central European countries have tended to reinforce the influence of Germany. What’s next after the Presidential elections? The upcoming presidential elections seem bound to oppose, in the final round, two candidates with radically divergent programs: Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. As it stands, Macron, a pro-European liberal, has the greatest chance of becoming the next French president. His victory would most likely mean continuity in terms of foreign policy and, potentially, greater engagement in European affairs. Notably, he would continue France’s current policy toward Russia and support for the EaP, as well as opposition to additional EU enlargement in the near future. Marine Le Pen, a far-right populist, would radically overturn France’s foreign and European policies. She stands out as the most pro-Kremlin of the 11 candidates and has announced the intention to organize a Brexit-like referendum to take France out of the EU. As such, her election would likely lead to France greatly disengaging from Eastern Partnership matters. The Georgian Institute of Politics was founded in 2011 to strengthen institutions and promote good governance and development through policy research and advocacy in Georgia. It publishes its blog with Georgia Today twice per month. Check out our website in English and Georgian at gip.ge for more blogs, data, and analyses.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 21 - 24, 2017
Planes, Trains and Political Wheels OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA
he Kremlin opened a Russian Embassy in Sokhumi, the occupied territory of Abkhazia. The airplane carrying the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, landed in Babushera’s closed airport (for a long time it has had an internal Russian aviation code, just like Rostov, Krasnodar and Taganrog airports in Russia). In a speech made beside the airplane, Lavrov stressed the statehood of the so-called Abkhazian Republic, saying that it was further highlighted by the fact that a Russian Embassy had opened on the territory. Apart from this political/aviational casus, which clearly illustrates the reality of the so-called independence of the Abkhazian Republic, Lavrov’s visit was accompanied by others, too. When he and other members of the delegation visited the famous Brekhalovka on the Sokhumi coast and sat down to drink coffee, Lavrov invited a female journalist to take the free chair and join him. She refused, to which the Minister jokingly remarked, “Do you refuse to drink coffee? Is it forbidden for women?” By doing so, he once again reminded the hosts of their “wild” Caucasian origins. At a first glance, Lavrov’s two day visit to occupied Sokhumi was nothing special, but if we examine it more closely, we will see that it was more than accidental that Lavrov’s governmental plane landed directly at the non-functioning airport of the occupied territory rather than at Sochi International, which is just half an hour’s drive
from Sokhumi. Lavrov is the first perFrom the 1987 son to have landed in a movie 'Planes, pa ss e n ge r p l a n e a t Trains and Babushera Airport in 15 Automobiles' years. In September last year, he came in via Sokhumi. “This is the first time I’ve landed in Sokhumi since my adolescence, I just don’t remember former landings because I was so young,” he said at the time, emphasizing the quality of the airport and smiling for the journalists. “After today’s landing, as a passenger, I can state that in my opinion this airport is ready to receive any type of aircraft. I hope that the number of those will only increase.” This statement was instantly mocked in aviation circles, and though no official statements were made, Russian aviators ridiculed his incompetency widely on airport in occupied Sokhumi, though internet forums: “Lavrov in vain: the International Civil Aviais happy that his plane did not crash”, tion Organization (ICAO) still believes “Lavrov had to survive an air crash in that Abkhazia's airspace is part of order to smile”, “Gloomy Sokhumi and Georgia. smiling Lavrov,” - these were some of Parallel to the opening of the Embassy, the headlines of articles appearing on issues about transport were the main various blogs and forums. priority of Lavrov’s visit. Apart from The minister took a risk when he Babusheri Airport, the matter of openmade the decision to land at Babushing the railway connecting Abkhazia era Airport because the runway is with Tbilisi was one of the themes nowhere near any standards. However, discussed with the de-facto President. Lavrov claims it can take any passenNotably, the official initiator of the ger or military-transportation liner. project is Yerevan and de-facto SokhuThe Kremlin has been working hard mi’s management is against it. “We are to grant international status to this
interested in supporting our cause, which is directed towards providing equal rights to Abkhazia’s citizens, so that everyone feels themselves peaceful and in national agreement,” the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister stated. With this, he once again implied to the de-facto leaders that unlike their official position, Yerevan’s initiative has many local Armenian supporters. All this should also be notable for the Georgian Dream in Tbilisi. Russia does not think there is anything wrong in resuming transit shipments to Armenia across Abkhazia.
At the press conference in Sokhumi, Lavrov said that there is legal basis for the activation of this transit route, based on the 2011 agreement signed between Russia and the World Trade Organization. “We know that our Armenian colleagues are interested in renewing the transit route. The President of Abkhazia also said that he is not against it,” said Lavrov. “If the Georgian side is ready to solve this issue, I’m convinced that the process will begin and bring benefits to Abkhazia,” said Raul Khajimba, the so-called President of Abkhazia.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 21 - 24, 2017
The Norway Model for Georgia’s EU future? INTERVIEW BY TEONA LAVRELASHVILI & VAZHA TAVBERIDZE
orn, married, MEP - is how then German Bundeskanzler Helmut Kohl summarized (sarcastically) the longstanding European Parliament servant Elmar Brok’s resume. Ahead of Easter, Panorama Talk Show and GEORGIA TODAY sat down with the veteran German delegate to discuss Georgia’s European aspirations.
WITH VISA LIBERALIZATION SECURED, WHAT SHOULD GEORGIA DO NEXT? Well, we have visa liberalization, we have the Association Agreement and we should build on that. I think this relationship can become closer and as for the next step, with the implementation of the Association Agreement, we could perhaps move to something like the Norwegian solution. Which, in turn, will bring Georgia closer to the internal market and Schengen and such issues. NORWAY ISN’T A MEMBER OF THE EU. WHAT ABOUT GEORGIA’S MEMBERSHIP? Every European country can apply for EU membership provided they fulfill the conditions outlined by the Kopenhagen criteria. But then again, there is a question of the European Union’s current integration capacity. At the moment, we find ourselves in a reality where we face several kinds of crises which we want to find a way out
of. This is also a moment of concentration for the EU, when we have to sit and think what to do next after so many enlargements. But once again, the right to apply is there and that’s why I mentioned the Norwegian model - it would secure already about 30-40% of the Acqui Commutaire of the EU. So, I think it’s a step by step solution for Georgia: it looks more innocent, more effective and more realistic. APRIL 9TH, A SYMBOLIC DAY FOR GEORGIAN INDEPENDENCE, WAS MARRED BY SOUTH OSSETIA’S “REFERENDUM” AND "PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS". BRUSSELS FOLLOWED ITS COURSE OF NONRECOGNITION, BUT IS THERE MORE TO BE DONE? This is an issue which has to do with Russia. Add that to the issues of Transnistria and Donbas in Eastern Ukraine: at the end of the day, what Russia is doing is creating frozen conflicts everywhere, to manipulate them and destabilize these countries. And this is a very principal question in our relationship with Russia. Ironic as that may sound, the question we need to ask is whether Russia is really in good face to solve any conflicts in the world? And we have to demand more reliable and credible cooperation from Moscow. WITH A SECOND REFERENDUM ON JOINING RUSSIA EXPECTED IN TSKHINVALI, AND FM LAVROV OPENING A RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN ABKHAZIA, WHAT CAN GEORGIA DO? The best way is to make Georgia, Ukraine and such countries successful
economically, politically and in the sense of the rule of law. This would be the most dangerous thing to Mr. Putin, because then he would have to explain to his own people how that came about. And on the other hand, this will strengthen the will and belief of people in these countries in the European solution. MOST GEORGIANS ARE IN FAVOR OF THE EUROPEAN WAY. WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE TO THE GEORGIAN GOV’T AND SOCIETY TO SUCCESSFULLY GET CLOSER TO
THE EU? We have to see to it that the Georgian economy is well adjusted and adapted to the EU’s internal market economy. And the internal reforms program, the so-called transformation program that we have, is really a great asset here. The utmost importance is in increasing the competitiveness. Education for innovation, that’s key too. There is a lot to do, but then you have to assess the other possibilities – You cannot look to Russia for sustainability. Russia cannot support the Georgian economy because it has no money either
and it has a very limited market. For a lot of reasons, for countries like Georgia and Ukraine, the only chance to have positive political, economic and social development is in cooperation with the European Union. WOULD IS YOUR GOODWILL EASTER MESSAGE TO GEORGIA AND GEORGIANS? Look into the future with hope. See what was already achieved and not just what couldn’t be achieved yet. See the positive things. Be optimistic! It gives you more courage to move forward.
Anti-Torture Committee Asks for Changes to Remand Processes
he European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) is urging the 47 Council of Europe member states to use remand detention only as a measure of last resort and to provide remand prisoners with adequate detention conditions. During visits to prisons throughout Europe, the CPT has often found that remand prisoners are held under very poor conditions and an impoverished regime. In many European countries, the
persistent problem of overcrowding in prisons is due to a large extent to the high proportion of remand prisons among the total prison population. In its annual report, published Thursday, the CPT stresses the need for member states to ensure the use, to the extent possible, of alternative measures to pre-trial detention such as provisional suspension of detention, bail, house arrest, electronic monitoring, removal of passports and judicial supervision. In the CPT’s view, these measures should also be considered
for foreign nationals, who are frequently held on remand because they are considered to constitute a higher risk of flight. “The CPT has regularly identified serious shortcomings in the conditions in which pre-trial prisoners are held in Europe,” said Council of Europe’s Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland. “I call on states to ensure that their conditions of detention are in line with human rights standards and that pre-trial detention is only applied if absolutely necessary, which
can help to reduce prison overcrowding.” “Detention on remand can have severe psychological effects – suicide rates among remand prisoners can be several times higher than among sentenced prisoners – and other serious consequences, such as the breaking up of family ties or the loss of employment or accommodation”, said the CPT President Mykola Gnatovskyy. “Remand detention should be imposed for the shortest time possible. It should be based on a case-by-case evaluation of the risks of committing a new crime, of absconding, of tampering with evidence or witnesses or of interfering with the course of justice”, he added. Within Europe, the frequency and duration of remand detention appears to differ enormously from one country to another, with the proportion of remand prisoners of the total prison population ranging from 8% to 70%. On average, some 25% of all prisoners in Council of Europe (CoE) member states have not yet received a final sentence, according to the CoE Penal Statistics (SPACE). For foreign nationals, this proportion is significantly higher (around 40%). During its country visits over the years, the CPT has found that remand prisoners are often held in dilapidated and overcrowded cells. In some cases, the CPT has concluded that conditions could be considered to be inhuman and degrading. In the annual report, the Committee expresses concern about the restrictions which are imposed on remand prisoners in several countries, in particular as regards their contact with the outside world. Such restrictions may include a total ban on telephone calls or visits or even solitary confinement. The CPT under-
lines that any restriction should be specifically substantiated by the needs of the investigation, require the approval of a judicial authority and be applied only for a specific period of time. Further, the CPT recommends eradicating the practice observed in some countries of holding remand prisoners in law enforcement establishments for weeks or even longer. Such facilities are not designed for lengthy periods of stay, and prolonged detention on the premises of law enforcement agencies increases the risk of intimidation and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials. In its annual report, the CPT also welcomes that, in 2016, Austria, Finland, Monaco and Sweden authorized the automatic publication of CPT reports, thus joining Bulgaria, Luxembourg, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, which had agreed to this practice previously. As a rule, CPT reports are published at the request of the member states concerned. In 2018, the CPT will carry out periodic visits to Albania, Andorra, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Norway, Romania and the Slovak Republic. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) organizes visits to places of detention in the 47 Council of Europe member states in order to assess how persons deprived of their liberty are treated. These places include prisons, juvenile detention centers, police stations, holding centers for immigration detainees, psychiatric hospitals and social care homes. After each visit, the CPT prepares a report containing its findings and recommendations.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 21 - 24, 2017
New Structure Planned for Produce in Georgia Agency BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
he Produce in Georgia Agency will now operate with a new structure, enabling it to become more flexible and making its state support programs more effective. The presentation of the Produce in Georgia agency’s new structure was given by Giorgi Gakharia, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, on April 19, with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and members of the Georgian government and business sphere representatives also in attendance. “The agency will now be transformed and will work under the Produce in Georgia title,” Gakharia said. “In order to ensure dynamic economic development, the agency is to unite three interconnected layers of the economic development: Business (local production), export, and investments, thus developing the Produce in Georgia concept in three different directions under one umbrellaProduce in Georgia Business, Produce in Georgia Export and Produce in Georgia Investment”. “Our Geographic location, business environment, legislative base and tax sphere give us a serious opportunity to transform the trade turnovers of the big-
ger economies in our direction,” he told attendees. “We had a 30% increase in foreign direct investments in the last four years and have a 30% export growth in export today, which means that the markets and demands with our major trade partners are stabilizing. Accordingly, every reform oriented towards quick economic growth will have a strong effect on growth in production, export and investment directions. This is the value of uniting all those components under one umbrella.” As Gakharia noted, the transformed agency will work under new management headed by Mariam Morgoshia, while the agency activities will be curated by Giorgi Cherkezishvili, the Deputy Minister of Economy. The Produce in Georgia Business component will support micro, small and medium enterprises, with increased access to financial resources. Produce in Georgia will have a “front desk service,” creating comfortable conditions for entrepreneurs to receive information on existing support programs. “It will be a business hub working on a one window principle, offering business entrepreneurs full range services to start their business,” Gakharia clarified. The Produce in Georgia Export component will focus on supporting Georgian exporters to explore potential new markets. Produce in Georgia export will be
a mediator between the Georgian entrepreneurs and international buyers. Technical assistance to Georgian entrepreneurs will also be an important part of the component, helping them to establish themselves on international markets. The Produce in Georgia Investment (Invest in Georgia) component means
close cooperation with existing investors and introducing and offering projects to potential future ones. Its function will be promoting Georgia as a country and developing consultancy services for investors interested in starting their businesses in Georgia. Additionally, the Government of Geor-
gia will now have economic attaches working in Georgian embassies abroad, with the aim of introducing the country’s possibilities and attracting potential new foreign investors. Commercial attaches will present Georgian export products and attract more international businesses to the country.
Russia May Lose 3rd of Turkey's Gas Market, but Will Get Revenge through Egypt BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE
hile Turkey is almost completely "sitting" on the Russian gas needle, Ankara is trying its best to diversify its energy consumption. The reduction of dependence on foreign resources and the country's transformation into the main gas hub of Europe have become the main goals of the new National Energy Program of Turkey. According to present forecasts, during its implementation, Russia will lose almost a third of its share in the local market of blue fuel due to exports from Azerbaijan. However, this scenario is gloomy for Moscow only at first glance. The great energy "sultanate" The Ministry of Energy of Turkey, in early April, headed by the department of Berat Albayrak, presented the National Energy Program: "not a revolution, but evolution," the first significant results of which will be achieved within the next 15 years. Saying this, the son-inlaw of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasized that the main goal of the doctrine is to win the title of leading energy hub of the region and "to reduce Turkey's dependence on foreign resources." Russia was not mentioned, but it is obvious that one of the main "victims" of the program implementation will be Moscow. According to the Turkish state monopoly Botas, the Russian Federation is leading in the gas import scheme of the country with a colossal share of 56%. Next comes Iran (19%), Azerbaijan (9%), Algeria (9%) and Nigeria (7%).
However, Russia's dominance may come to an end in the foreseeable future. According to analysts of the authoritative Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne, during the 15 years specified in the Albaiar doctrine, the share of Gazprom in the Turkish market will drop to 38.9% (35.3 billion cubic meters per year). At the same time, due to the introduction of the TANAP pipeline, Azerbaijan will increase its weight by 34.8% (31.5 billion cubic meters). "Turkey's total gas imports will grow from 54.1 billion cubic meters in 2017 to 90.5 in 2030," European analysts wrote. This volume takes into account not only the needs of Turkey itself, which will grow to 67.2 billion cubic meters, but also in the EU countries primarily Greece and Bulgaria. By 2030, according to experts, Turkey's share in the EU energy supply will be 6.8%, even though it is now zero. In comparison with such energy "monsters" as Russia or Norway, this is not enough. But for the gas market of South-Eastern Europe, Turkey's contribution will be significant. In addition, Ankara intends to seriously engage in its own production. In particular, the Ministry of Energy of Turkey announced the first-in-its-history purchase of a drilling vessel. Yes, from Russia. Why should that be cause for surprise, you might ask. Because Moscow with its own hands is helping Ankara to reduce its energy dependence on Moscow and become the largest "transit sultanate" on the gas map of Europe. But, as I said, this is only how it appears at first glance… "Revenge" through Egypt As analysts of the authoritative research center Turkish Energy Fund (TENVA)
wrote in their recent report, Egypt can prevent Turkey from becoming the main hub in the region. This is primarily about one of the world's largest deposits of blue fuel, called Zohr. The real situation is attached to the strained relations between the leaders of the two countries- it's no secret that the Turkish president still refuses to recognize his colleague Abdul-Fattah As Sissi, who headed Egypt after the military coup in 2013. According to Italian geological department Eni, which is developing Zohr, an open field of 100 square km can store up to 30 trillion cubic feet of dry gas within. For comparison, the stocks of the Israeli Leviathan oil advertised by the European press are "only" 14-20 trillion cubic feet. Russia made sure to get its hands on a part of that grandiose project and at the end of last year, Rosneft bought about 35% of the concession agreement for the development of Zohr from Eni. Another 15% was purchased
by British Petroleum (BP). The cost of the Rosneft stake, according to analysts, is about $1.12 billion, while Igor Sechin's (Head of Rosneft) total investment in the project over four years could reach $4.5 billion. This is why the Russian energy expansion in the Mediterranean through Egypt is ongoing. Rosneft Trading SA (RTSA) and the Egyptian State Gas Company Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) signed a contract for the supply of ten LNG tankers, with a total volume of 600,000 tons, at the beginning of 2017. Thanks to these investments, Russia is becoming an even more significant player in the energy market of the region. And this quite significantly limits the prospects for the growth of Turkish influence as the main gas hub in Europe. An increase in demand for blue fuel in the EU is the only thing that could make the situation more profitable for Ankara. But such a scenario is hard to believe. And the point here is
not only in the dynamics of demand, but also in the policy of Brussels. "Turkey has plans to create a gas hub, so the Turks want to concentrate as many gas pipelines as possible," said Igor Yushkov, a leading expert of the National Energy Security Fund and lecturer at the Finance University under the Government of the Russian Federation. "It is unprofitable for them if Russia resumes the South Stream project in Bulgaria. Although, for Russia itself, this would be the most attractive route. Further, he EU does not want to fall into additional dependence on transit through Turkeyand Azerbaijani gas is already to go through it. And then Ankara wants to "drag" in the Iranian transit. However, Tehran, as I understand, is not rushing to Europe with its gas pipelines. Thus, Turkey is unlikely to become such a significant transit player "diversifier" from Russia. Preserving and, if possible, multiplying its leverage on Ankara is extremely important for Moscow. The Turkish wolf will never attack the Russian bear alone. And after the referendum held in Turkey a few days ago, the results of which for Europe were not positive, Turkey can expect to receive a much smaller supporting pack from West Europe when it howls. However, despite the warming of recent months, relations between Moscow and Ankara are far from trusting. The positions of the countries differ both in Syria, in Crimea, and in the issues of the food embargo. Yes, for some important energy projects for Moscow, such as the "Turkish stream" and the “Akkuyu” nuclear power plant, from time to time there are certain concerns. But the main problem in the Russia and Turkey scenario is that a wolf is no comrade to a bear.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 21 - 24, 2017
Special Announcement from the Tobacco Control Alliance
o the Speaker of Parliament of Georgia, Mr. Irakli Kobakhidze; Prime-Minister of Georgia, Mr. Giorgi Kvirikashvili; Chief Prosecutor of Georgia, Mr. Irakli Shotadze. We would like to kindly remind you that on April 5, Georgian Parliament adopted amendments to the tobacco control legislation on the first hearing. The package of amendments was elaborated in 2013 in the Ministry of Health with participation of all key stakeholders. The proposed changes to the tobacco control legislation aim to: meet the requirements of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), part of which Georgia joined in 2006; harmonize with the EU accession requirements; ensure universal human rights and the rights of children; guarantee rights under the Constitution of Georgia in order to create a healthy environment for all; ensure the security of the country- because no other products bring economic and humanitarian catastrophes in such large scale as tobacco products, which directly affects the demographic and economic interests of the country. We would like to remind you that in 2013, your government stated the political will to improve the tobacco control situation in the country and, because of this, the appropriate governmental commission was created and a state strategy and action plan adopted. It is especially noteworthy that in the 2016 governmental plan, 2 articles are dedicated to increasing tobacco taxes and banning smoking in public places. Even more, for years the population (app. 90%) has been supporting
stricter regulations regarding tobacco control. On the level of principles, the Parliament of Georgia has affirmed the political will, that: 1. Smoking will be prohibited in all public places except private homes and prisons from 2018; 2. Electronic cigarettes will be regulated as tobacco products, from 2018; 3. All kinds of tobacco advertisement, sponsorship and promotion will be prohibited, including display of tobacco products in points of sale both outside (from 2018), as well as inside (from 2019); 4. The size of health warnings on cigarette packs will be increased from 30% to 65% and pictorial warnings will be introduced, from 2018; 5. The administration process will be simplified and size of fines increased. Despite the fact that in June 2016, the Government officially presented its conclusion on the proposed legislative package and the majority of items were considered in the draft adopted by the first hearing; on April 5 this year, in Parliament, a new consolidated conclusion of the Government, signed by the Parliamentary Secretary of Government, Mr. Tadumadze, was hastily distributed. It aimed to influence the decision of Parliament and derail adoption of a draft legislation at the first hearing. The â€œconclusionâ€? of the Parliamentary Secretary is extremely weak. The majority of new comments directly repeat the official positions of the tobacco industry and pose a threat to public health and life. Namely, the Government requests the
participation of tobacco industry representatives in decision-making processes regarding health issues, which directly contradicts the requirements of FCTC article 5.3 and guidelines to said article. The Government requires consultations with the tobacco industry, which contradicts the same internationally taken obligations, violates international regulations and affirms official relations and collaboration of government officials, in the elaboration of health decisions, with tobacco industry, which is responsible for every fifth premature death in Georgia. This creates concern that the Parliamentary Secretary is in illegal relations with the tobacco industry or is forcing other governmental bodies to legalize such relations, which is clear violation. Following the interests of specific businesses, the Government requires loopholes be made in tobacco control legislation, namely requires allowing smoking in some enclosed places, the circle of which could be quite wide and not banning the display of tobacco products in trading points. In such changes, the lobbying of the tobacco industry is visible, which will put hospitality sector providers in unequal conditions and create risks for implementation of the law. The Parliamentary Secretary also leaves the issue of enforcement unclear and had no transparent consultations in this regard in order to clearly mark in the conclusion which governmental structures will be responsible for the main pillars of the law. Therefore, this issue may cause postponement or even failure of the final adoption of the legislation. This is the interest of
tobacco industry and hopefully not the interest of the Government. Said industry wishes us to leave this law a powerless piece of paper and continue involving our youth in this abusive business, causing the deaths of our people and in this way gaining enormous profits, transferring millions of Lari from our country and pushing the economic crisis in the country. Several days ago, the Secretariat of the FCTC, with the support of the British Government, decided to support the Georgian government in its initiative to halve tobacco consumption by 2030. The situations developed recently in the country and, namely, the irresponsible activities of several governmental officials, make this support questionable. Following the above mentioned, the Tobacco Control Alliance categorically requests that: 1. The Prime Minister make an official statement and declare his position regard-
ing the ongoing processes; 2. The Chief Prosecutor of Georgia to begin investigation of relations and financial interests of high governmental officials and public servants involved in elaboration and decision making of tobacco control legislation with the tobacco industry and during this investigation suspend their authority; 3. The Parliament of Georgia realize the political will declared during the first hearing and ensure real protection of public interests and not the interests of specific businesses. Once and irreversibly, Georgia should join the list of countries that care for their citizens; 4. If, during the second hearing, the Parliament changes its position and votes in favor of the requests of the tobacco industry, we, as the co-authors of the draft legislation, will be forced to distance ourselves from these dirty games and declare publicly that the Government is serving not the people, but the tobacco industry.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 21 - 24, 2017
Shabatoba: Becho, Svaneti BY TONY HANMER
aving alluded to the proud Russian tradition of the subbotnik (not really voluntary work Saturday) in my last article, I now refer to it by its Georgian name with the same roots, the Shabatoba, from the words in these languages for Saturday. Actually, it is somewhat flexible in detail, and can even occur on any other day, replacing that day’s normal routines, if called for. The entire population of Becho public school no. 1 found itself outside when I turned up last week from my first-hour lesson in filial Kartvani school. The former’s already magnificent yard was getting a serious makeover, as we will shortly be having a weekend festival there. Animals were strictly forbidden; every scrap of garbage must be picked up. The winter’s leaves and pine needles, too, were destined to be raked up and burned. It must be spotless! Rakes, twig brooms, anti-fire cones for carrying water, plastic gloves and woven sacks were our weapons in the fight against a general relaxed air. Nature would be tamed. All hands were on deck, cheerfully pitching in, anything to avoid regular lessons. The schoolyard is, from what I have seen, the best in all Svaneti: huge, flat, grassed, both deciduously and coniferously treed, fenced, with a volleyball net and soccer goals and all the space you could ask for to run and play in. It had only recently shed its several feet thick winter whites, but the debris of that long season and the preceding fall must go before we begin our numerous sports and intellectual competitions in three teams, from grade one through the oldest teacher, while parents and other guests look on or cheer. Well, such a fine yard does not spring up without plenty of hard work to level, plant, weed and maintain it. How many decades had these huge trees witnessed? While other schools, including my former haunt of Etseri, looked on, green
only with envy, otherwise muddy brown or stony gray. There really is nothing to compare to it. Now, a number of world flags, as well as long strings of colored triangular paper pennants, stretched above us from second story windows to high up in the trees. I hope they will last whatever weather brings us between now and then: snow is unlikely, but rain is practically a certainty. We still have team flags to design,
mottoes, activities to sort out, a jury, point system, prizes, food and drink. But it’ll really be worth it, adding much to the great atmosphere I feel in this place, also unmatched elsewhere. Which causes the other, between the yard and the prevailing mood? Chicken or egg? If I was a pupil in such a school, I would feel natural pride in what we have, and would also want to keep it as
pristine as possible while using it to the fullest. The other failings, chiefly the long winter cold in huge, poorly heated classrooms, would seem much less when I looked or went outside. So, we sweep and rake up and burn, here, too, in friendly competition with each other as well as in cooperation; teachers and children together. There are far worse ways to spend either a school day or a Saturday!
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 over 1350 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
Do We Live Like Good Christians? OP-ED BY NUGZAR RUHADZE
nce in America, I read the question of a fretful reader in a local newspaper, addressed to the author of the Question & Answer Column – popular shrink of the neighborhood, herself a believer and a great friend of her faithful readers. The concerned gentleman had formulated his issue as succinctly as he could, and I am quoting him: “Dear Sally, I have a problem with the community of the new residential area my family has just moved to; we do not go to church, although we consider ourselves real Christians. Our new neighbors keep asking us questions concerning our church-going manners, and they are doing this with inflated curiosity and a certain amount of acrimony in their tone, telling us that the pastor himself was interested to know the reason. Soon, everyone in the community will likely deduce that we are some sort of aliens who look and sound strange because we do not have a habit of going to church without failure every Sunday morning as every one of them does. I am a good family man, loving, and I take good care of my wife and kids. We adore each other and make a wonderful team together. Meanwhile, I have a neighbor across the street that goes to church on a regular basis, but gets drunk every so often so bad that he feels no pain, and when tipsy, he beats his wife and children black and blue, hurling at them all kind of obscenities; he does not want to work, idling away all his time in the streets and bars, his cantankerous character hurting all of us around. Now I would like to ask you a question: who is a better Christian – he or I?” The moral I am drawing out of this sad and funny story is that being a good Christian does
not necessarily mean sitting in God’s house day and night and praying in ardent lacrimal hope that God will help you, or crossing yourself in the street every time you accidentally find yourself in front of a church, or genuflecting before your favorite icons and lighting a couple of candles to your beloved saints, or carrying a huge
golden cross around your neck, burdened with sins that have been confessed several times but never redressed by the Lord. For me, personally, a good Christian is a man or woman who behaves accordingly. Almost everybody in Georgia goes to church and behaves in a ritualistically justified manner, but how many
of them title (Matthew 23:23 • Proverbs 3:9-10 • Matthew 5:17) on a regular basis? How many of those believers refuse to come to church emptyhanded? Yes, there are some rich people, some of them rich as Croesus, who build churches, and that happens for a reason, too, and dedicate part of their riches to a good cause, but how many of our well-to-do would bring to church one tenth of their profits annually? Some of us think that we are free to sin, and after having indulged in some kind of transgression, feel like rushing to church and asking the Creator to forgive. Then rinse and repeat- again doing the same sort of peccadillo and return to the minster for the same purpose of feigned confession. I said some of us, not all of us, but it is still commonplace! Being a Good Christian, to my not very religious mind, means being a Good Samaritan, too. I cannot but recognize that Georgians are good helpers. We are always ready to give a hand to those who need our aid. We truly have this in our blood. But, again, anybody can be a Good Samaritan – believer or nonbeliever. I have nothing against the Church as such, I am not saying I never go to church, but I think it has nothing to do with being a Good Samaritan. Can the church-going drunkard from my anecdote ever be a Good Samaritan? No, he can’t! How about our good family man from the same episode? Yes, he can! That is the entire quintessence of this piece, trying to prove that it is not the church that will help one to be a good Christian, but our own good self, although the Church can be part of our fine upbringing, too. The Church has a role, of course, but our nature and rearing is no less a factor. In a word, living the life of a good Christian is not only a God-given delight, but also a responsibility before God, the nation, society, church, family and our own selves. Are we ready for a responsibility of that magnitude?
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 21 - 24, 2017
Georgian-German Year: A Rich Program of Celebratory Events
Continued from page 3
The Ambassador also stressed the importance of emphasizing the common achievements in any field in terms of a “common democratic future”, even more so that the motto of Georgian-German year is ‘Future Heritage’. “We have tried our best to involve as many participants as possible. The feedback surpassed all our expectations,” she said. “The cultural ties between Georgia and Germany are longer and richer than those between many other countries,” said Stephan Wackwitz, Director of Tbilisi Goethe Institute. “This tradition comes from the 19th century, when the Georgian National Movement received important influence from German romanticism and classical literature. Germany travelers, writers and architects described Georgia as the place where East and West meet.” He went on to highlight the German hue that is characteristic to Bolnisi and Asureti architecture, as well as the great part of Tbilisi architecture of the 19th century. He also remembered Goethe’s ‘Sorrows of Young Werther,’ found on the table of great Georgian writer and poet, Vazha-Pshavela. “In my opinion, the past is not just the past, but it also continues in the present. We want to show our history to all interested parties; to inspire them via our past to future collaboration.” The program of the German-Georgian year is rich. Within its framework, Sasha Waltz, the most famous German choreographer, and her dance company, will return after two years since her last visit. The Tbilisi Theater Festival is to feature one of the most interesting German troupes, ‘Rimini Protocol’ to present the experimental theater performance ‘Home Visit Europe’ with the collaboration of the Marjanishvili Drama Theater, Tbilisi. The Georgian National Museum will open an affiliated office in Bolnisi, Kvemo Kartli region, which was built by German captives. Young business-
men will have an opportunity to attend a start-up forum. Discussions will be followed by reports and publications about Tbilisi architectural heritage as well as depicting the private memories of Georgian citizens about the shared history. In the program of the cinema festivals, the main emphasis will be made on German films and directors. The Tbilisi Literary Festival of 2017 will also put Germany in the spotlight. It is also planned to hold meetings between Georgian and German writers, curated by Nino Kharatishvili, herself a German-Georgian author. German authors will be taken on a tour around the regions of Georgia, after which a publication will be prepared for Frankfurt Book Fair 2018. Moreover, a lot of small events are planned featuring the winners of a
tender of the German Embassy: a children’s playground will be installed by Georgians and Germans, a street festival will take place on Aghmashenebeli Avenue, and the German Embassy plans a great “surprise” musical event at some point within the GeorgianGerman year. On April 21 at Tbilisi City Assembly, an exhibition-presentation of the unique webarchive 'Future Heritage 200 years: Georgian-German Stories' will take place. http:// german-georgian.archive.ge/ka. The webarchive aims at protecting and popularizing documentary and historic sources depicting Georgian-German relations. It was created by the Georgian organization Sovlab and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany and the Georgian Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection.
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 21 - 24, 2017
Lithuania Disappearing BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE
f nothing changes in Lithuania, the prospect that awaits it in the coming decades is far from encouraging. With the number of workers and children decreasing, and the number of pensioners growing, the potential result is disastrous: no money to increase pensions and increased costs for the maintenance of infrastructure. The majority of pensioners are found in the districts of the following regions: Ignalina (313.9), Anykš iai (301.9), Zarasai (284.3), Varenskiy (282.1), Birzai (281.1), Ukmergsky (279), Moleti (277.8) and Lazdijsky (276.2). The youngest districts are Neringa (162.7), Vilnius district (177.1), Klaipeda district (179.9), Kaunas district (185.2) and Vilnius (190.7), where pensioners make up every fifth person. In addition to pensioners, the population is also made up of children, disabled people and the unemployed. According to Sotsmin, at the beginning of 2016 there were 594,400 recipients of old-age pensions, 201,600 disabled people and 152,000 unemployed in Lithuania, totaling almost a million inhabitants. What awaits Lithuania in the coming decades if nothing changes and the number of workers does not increase? "If you look at what awaits Lithuania in 20 years, then we are definitely facing problems,” says financial analyst Rimantas Rudzkis. “Firstly, the infrastructure in the regions will ‘hang’ due to a shortage of residents”. He explained that, for example, the Šiauliai central water supply is designed to serve 150,000 residents; “if there are just
50,000 remaining, the water will rise in price, and so will heating bills”. "Everything was being done with due regard for the development of cities, but now everything has changed,” Rudzkis points out. “So, either they need to re-equip the systems, for example, for each block of flats drill wells and build boiler houses, or somehow support the central systems if the number of residents stabilizes. But this has yet to happen- the number of residents is declining”. Another problem is where to get money for future retirees, especially if there are more of them and the working population is down. "State pensions depend on the economy- first on the number of workers, since their contributions are the main source of pensions. But there may be other taxes, for example, from businesses," said economist, Professor Romas Lazutka, adding that “the more taxpayers, the better for pensioners”. Rudzkis proposes a solution for the high number of pensioners: "I see an opportunity that could be grabbedoffering Lithuania, Ignalina for example, as a permanent residence for the elderly of Western Europe; offering them care and the provision of medical services. We have a small population density, the country is beautiful, there is nature, and now it is quite cheap… so you can readily consider the export of medical services." He adds that Lithuania boasts a fairly good healthcare system, and remote medical services are used in the Westwhen, for example, a blood analysis needs to be done, the sample can be taken in the care home and sent to a large research center abroad. "It would be very beneficial for a pensioner from
Germany to live in Lithuania: he would receive money from his homeland but would spend it here, so in Lithuania the amount of funds would grow, consumption would increase, and it would be easier to maintain infrastructure," Rudzkis said. According to him, pensioners in Lithuania could settle not only from the EU. "We would inevitably have to let people in from other countries, too, to fill the areas that are now empty and in order to prevent loss or damage of infrastructure," the economist said.
He adds that it is necessary to consider the possibility of a more flexible procedure for issuing permits for the residence of foreigners in Lithuania. "All proposals need to be discussed; it is important not to step over the line, so that the foreigners do not pour in massively and make life unpleasant for local residents. A certain number of people can be admitted, provided that they can be expelled from the country if they do not comply with the laws and so on. It is also important that visitors come from countries that are
close to the cultural traditions of, say, Ukrainians, Belarusians; that they have a similar mentality and will not create problems”. As it appears, it needs to be done sooner rather than later. “Entire areas are actually empty, and something must be done now. Ignalina is such a beautiful town- nature, everything is there, and yet the inhabitants are half that of 20-30 years ago. Better let Ukrainians live there than have everything fall apart,” Ruzdkis concluded.
The Invisible Parents B
eing a parent is already a huge responsibility but it is doubly complicated when you have to cope with difficulties alone, without help. Often, such parents become targets of negativity from society. Nor is the State very generous towards single parents. The only positive step the State took with regards to single parents was applying the definition of the status of single parent in the law in 2014. However, on the one hand, the State acknowledges that these people have to bring up their children alone, but on the other hand did nothing to set any benefits for them. Nowadays, single parents get assistance only based on the kind will of local selfgovernments, though not in every municipality. Moreover, benefits are granted only to single mothers while single fathers tend to become victims of discrimination. Further, women are unable to get benefits without pre-conditions – they should have the status of socially indigent person. Non-governmental organization Human Rights Development Fund, which implements a project to advocate for the rights of single mothers, surveyed the budgets of 25 municipalities in the regions of Shida Kartli, Kakheti, Imereti, and in Tbilisi. They found that only 13 municipalities envisage funds for the assistance of single parents in their budgets, but that 10 of them assist only single mothers. HRDF representatives said they had already recommended all municipal councils to amend the discriminative norm; and to date, Khoni and Signagi municipal councils have fulfilled the recommendations. Yet, it is not just the problem of local self-governments. The only benefits sin-
gle parents get under the law is also discriminative: single mothers whose annual income is less than 3,000 GEL, do not pay income tax. Fathers cannot enjoy the same. HRDF representatives said they have already recommended the Ministry of Finances amend the law. If a single parent wants to get social benefits from the State, he/she must first take the status of socially indigent person. However, here we face another obstacle: in accordance with the Law of Georgia on the State Pension, a person cannot take two or more benefits simultaneously. Consequently, if the government fixes social benefits for a single parent, she/he will lose their socially indigent person benefits, and vice versa. “When we meet single mothers in the regions and Tbilisi, they first inquire what benefits they can get from the status. The
majority wants to tackle their primary problems and request legislative guarantees, social benefits and material assistance. Some also have health problems and need medical assistance,” HRDF representative Salome Mezurnishvili said. However, the problems experienced by single parents do not end there. It is a miscarriage of the law that only certain categories of people can take the status. However, people who got divorced or became widowed are deprived of the right to have the status of single parents, though they also bring up children alone. They can get neither alimony nor benefits for the lost breadwinners in an amount sufficient to support the family. “Both categories of people should get the status: divorced people and those who have children outside of marriage,” said Eka Skhiladz,e Deputy Public Defender
of Georgia, at a discussion organized by HRDF. “However, it should be taken into account that the second category is doubly vulnerable because they are often isolated from families and society”. “For some reason, we narrow the definition and view it only in relation to the socialbenefits,”Skhiladzeadded.“Nowhere else does the status mean only financial support. Often, it is enough for the women if the State acknowledges them as single mothers and creates legislative guarantees. So, the benefits for single parents should be determined based on the social welfare of each parent; maybe, in some instances, it will not mean financial support at all”. Single fathers also face problems in acquiring the status. While on the one hand, the State gave them the right to take the status, it is only in compliance with the same criteria as set for mothers. The Deputy Ombudsman says this particular provision in the law excludes the notion of single fathers at all, because it is impossible that a mother’s name not be written on the birth certificate of a child. So, the father is restricted in taking the status of single parent. Ms. Skhiladze said the statistics prove the same: 1417 persons received the status since the law went in force and none of them were fathers. Nino Andriashvili, lawyer at HRDF, spoke about the miscarriage in the law, explaining that the organization has a beneficiary who cannot take the status because of the aforementioned loopholes in the law. “We have a beneficiary who was abandoned by his wife and now brings up his two underage sons alone. He has done so for six years and says the mother does not call the sons, let alone help them. How-
ever, as the name of the mother is written on the birth certificates, the man cannot take the status of a single father,” says Andriashvili, adding that the recording of a second parent on the birth certificate should not prevent a single parent from taking single parent status. She went on to recall a case of another beneficiary which saw a mother appealing at court for single parent status. She had obtained the identity of her child’s father based on a DNA test in order to respond to the negative attitudes she was experiencing from society. After the expertise conclusion, the information about the father was recorded on the birth certificate. For that reason, she cannot take the status of single mother even though the child’s father does not take responsibility for the care of his child. The State has no effective mechanism to enforce court judgments about alimonies. In February 2017, a special group was established in Parliament to work on the issues of single parents. Deputy Ombudsman Skhiladze hopes the group will draft legislative amendments which will widen the circle of potential single parents and fix benefits for them. The State needs to be aware that if these people are strengthened today, tomorrow the State will no longer need to pay benefits to them. It is within the interests of the State to take care of single parents. It is also important to remember that with the strengthening of the parent, we assist the child, defending his/her best interests; surely the biggest priority for any state. Ketevan Ghvedashvili is the Advocacy Manager at the Human Rights Development Fund
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 14 - 17, 2017
Robert Sturua & Rustaveli Theater Mesmerize the Mexicans BY MAKA LOMADZE
obert Sturua is a name well-known in the world of theater. This living legend staged Shakespeare so well that even the Brits joked they should study the staging from his example. On April 19, at a press conference held at the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection, another success of his and, consequently, of the Georgian cultural scene, was announced. This time the news that Robert Sturua’s masterpiece, first staged several years ago and titled ‘Maria Callas. Lesson,’ had conquered the Mexican stages. The Shota Rustaveli State Drama Theater visited the South American country within the framework of the Festival del Centro Historico de la Ciudad de Mexico (the Spanish name that stands for: festival of the historical center of the City of Mexico). The tour lasted from March 29 to April 5. The performance ‘Maria Callas. Lesson’ was met with extremely positive appraisal. In the spotlight were: Lela Alibegashvili, the actress playing the role of Maria, Davit Darchia, Lela Akhalaia, Davit Uplisashvili, Keti Svanidze and tenor Archil Gogitidze. The performance of the theater from Georgia is said to have become the main event of the festival. Sergio Vela, director of the Mexican festival, was particularly interested to let Robert Sturua and his cast participate in the occasion, and the Rustaveli Theater was the only Georgian theater to do so. The Minister of Culture of Mexico, diplomats from various countries, and representatives from the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and other institutions of the cultural field, attended the performance. The international tour was supported by the Georgian Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection and the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mikheil Giorgadze, Minister of Culture, opened the press-conference: “I’m glad the performance was so well received in Mexico, and seen by so many officials. I’m glad that our ministry supported this tour. This success,
as well as the success of other Georgian theaters, is very important in terms of raising awareness about our country and popularizing and internationalizing its theatrical culture”. “This was a successful tour for our theater,” said Gia Tevzadze, Director of Rustaveli Theater. “It was our third visit to Mexico. Our first tour was ‘Caucasus Chalk Circle’ and the second ‘Richard the Third’ and ‘Samanishvili’s
The locals saw Sturua’s work from a different angle
10 Galaktion Street
Stepmother’. After 30 years, the Mexican spectators could not hide their surprise at how different this performance [‘Maria Callas. Lesson’] was from those they had seen before.” Davit Uplisashvili is an actor who has witnessed all three successes of the theater in Mexico. “This third tour of ours was a huge success. The locals saw Sturua’s work from a different angle and expressed great admiration and gratitude to our [maestro]. I want to highlight Lela Alibegashvili’s brilliant acting. I want to thank all the actors who participated in the performance, for their dedication. I want to congratulate our theater and Mr. Robert Sturua on this success. As we walked through the crowded streets of Mexico, there were times when we were congratulated by strangers who had seen the show”. “I would like to extend my gratitude to the Ministry of Culture,” said young
actress Keti Svanidze. “I was honored to participate in this performance. It was a great joy to play alongside Lela Alibegashvili, such a high-class actress. We are very glad to have visited Mexico with such a great success. Even though there were subtitles, the Mexicans were so deep into the performance that they didn’t even look at them, as if the Georgian language was intelligible”. Purportedly, and surprisingly, even Robert Sturua noted that the Mexican spectators were even more involved in the performance than Georgian ones had been. 2017 is an anniversary year, with Georgia and Mexico marking the 25th year since the establishment of diplomatic relations. The participation of Rustaveli Theater in such an important cultural event of the world will undoubtedly enhance the deepening and development of the diplomatic and cultural relations between the two countries.
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GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 21 - 24, 2017
WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER
TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 April 20 CARMEN Starring: Anita Rachvelishvili, George Oniani, Nikoloz Lagvilava, Irina Taboridze, George Chelidze, Nino Chachua, Nutsa Zakaidze, Tamaz Saginadze, Irakli Mujiri, Lasha Sesitashvili Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater chorus, Ballet dancers, orchestra. Conductor- Zaza Azmaiparashvili Stage Director- Levan Tsuladze Choreographer- Gia Margania Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 40-120 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER Address: 13 Shavtelis Str. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 April 20 MARSHAL DE FANTIE’S DIAMOND Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL GRIBOEDOVI THEATER Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36 April 16 SCARLET SAIL Directed by Vakhtang Nikolava Language: Russian Start time: 12:00 Ticket: 10 GEL TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATER Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 www.musictheatre.ge April 17 DIVORCE Giorgi Eristavi Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Comedy Start time: 19:00 Ticket: From 8 GEL
April 19 PILLOWMAN Giorgi Eristavi Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Comedy English Subtitles Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 15 GEL
GOING IN STYLE Directed by Zach Braff Cast: Morgan Freeman, Joey King, Ann-Margret Genre: Comedy, Crime Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL
ROYAL DISTRICT THEATER Address: 10 Abesadze St. Telephone: 2 99 61 71
RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge
April 18, 20 WOMEN OF TROY Directed by Data Tavadze Documentary Language: Georgian English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 GEL
Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL April 14-20 THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS 8 Premiere (Info Above) Start time: 12:30, 13:30, 16:30, 19:30, 22:30 Ticket: 8-14 GEL
AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari April 14-20 THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS 8 Premiere Directed by F. Gary Gray Cast: Charlize Theron, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 13:45, 16:15, 19:15, 22:15 Language: English Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 9-14 GEL From April 20 HOSTAGES Premiere Directed by Rezo Gigineishvili Cast: Irakli Kvirikadze, Tinatin Dalakishvili, Avtandil Makharadze Genre: Drama Language: Georgian English Subtitles Ticket: 13-14 GEL GHOST IN THE SHELL Directed by Rupert Sanders Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Juliette Binoche, Rila Fukushima Genre: Action, Crime, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL
From April 20 HOSTAGES Premiere (Info Above) Ticket: 13-14 GEL
September 27 (2016) – September 22 (2017) EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS Address: 1 Gudiashvili Str. EXHIBITION LADO GUDIASHVILI AND GEORGIAN MONUMENTAL PAINTING April 6-13 GEORGIAN PAINTING OF THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY The exhibition features the best works of artists who laid the foundations for 20th century art in Georgia: Mose Toidze, Dimitri Shevardnadze, Kirill Zdanevich, Shalva Kikodze, Ketevan Magalashvili, Elene Akhvediani, Apolon Kutateladze, Felix Varlamishvili, Petre Otskheli, Irakli Gamrekeli, Sergo Kobuladze, Ucha Japaridze and others.
April 1-30 SALOME RIGVAVA’S PERSONAL EXHIBITION Salome Rigvava is an active representative of young painters whose exhibitions are organized abroad and after a 4-year break, for the first time in Georgia. LITERATURE MUSEUM Address: 8 Chanturia Str. Telephone: 2 99 86 67 April 4-22 VAKHO BUGADZE’S PERSONAL EXHIBITION Dedicated to Oto Bagrationi. GALLERY
THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge GEORGIAN PAINTERS PERMANENT EXHIBITION MUSIC
LIFE Directed by Daniel Espinosa Cast: Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 17:10 Ticket: 10-14 GEL MUSEUM
GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION: GEORGIAN ARCHAEOLOGY FROM 8TH MILLENNIUM B.C. TO 4TH CENTURY A.D EXHIBITION OF GEORGIAN WEAPONRY NUMISMATIC TREASURY The exhibition showcases money circulation on the territory of Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834.
March 6 – August 30 EXHIBITION MASTERPIECES FROM THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS COLLECTION The exhibition includes works by Bernardo Daddi, Lucas Cranach (Elder), Guido Reni, Jan Steen, Jacob Van Ruisdael, Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso, Vassily Kandinski; Masterpieces by Niko Pirosmanashvili, Lado Gudiashvili and David Kakabadze. MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 3 Sh. Rustaveli Ave. PERMANENT EXHIBITION Visitors can discover the State's personal files of "subversive" Georgian public figures, orders to shoot or exile, and other artifacts representing Soviet-era cultural and political repression in Georgia. ART PALACE Address: 6 Kargareteli Str. Telephone: 2 95 35 63 PERMANENT EXHIBITION
THE TESTAMENT OF DAVID THE BUILDER AND THE NEW EXHIBITS OF MEDIEVAL TREASURY
MOMA TBILISI Address: 27 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 98 60 30
DJANSUG KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE Address: 125/127 Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 295 01 19 April 20 FROM EASTER TO ASCENSION The program includes vocal and orchestral excerpts from popular operas of Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Bizet, Cilea, Ponchielli, Wagner and Paliashvili and the well-known piece by Patriarch of Georgia Ilia the 2nd “Ave Maria” Start time: 19:30 Ticket: From 10 GEL TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 April 13 GIFTED CHILDREN'S CONCERT Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 5 GEL NIGHT OFFICE Address: Under Baratashvili Bridge Telephone: 599 32 33 13 April 19 Hardcore Punk, Grind core, Death Metal band From Great Britain NAPALM DEATH Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 50-60 GEL JAZZ CAFÉ SINGER Address: 8 Sioni Str. Telephone: 599 89 35 29 April 14 ZURA RAMISHVILI TRIO Zura Ramishvili / Piano Misha Japaridze / Bass Daniel Adikashvili / Drums Start time: 21:00 April 16 DINI VIRSALADZE TRIO Dini Virsaladze / Piano David Masteranov / Bass Daniel adikashvili / Drums Start time: 21:00 CAFE-GALLERY Adress: 34 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 299 57 47 April 14 GIO SHENGELIA Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 20 GEL April 15 WILL GATES BODY THRILLS BRELOKA Start time: 23:00 Ticket: 10 GEL
GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 21 - 24, 2017
Contemporary Ballet: Why are You Missing Out? focused on the light bar, which descended and rose again in test-style. At this point, the audience was awash with whispered exclamations: Why? How? Did something go wrong? Then a middle-aged lady came out with a large mop; then an elderly lady with another, cleaning the stage. Finally, a soloist appeared: David Ananeli, dressed in a suit. He walked on, looked around, and then started moving slowly from foot-tofoot (“Does he need the toilet?” my daughter asked me in a too-loud voice). The other dancers slowly appeared from each doorway to the main auditorium, walking haphazardly down the aisles and climbing onto the stage. They gradually arranged themselves into a line and, once there, began the same foot-to-foot dance (my daughter was now giggling much too loudly!). What came next was a mix of coordinated moves, shouting, running, jumping and solo improvisa-
REVIEW BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES
hough contemporary ballet is nothing new for many, and Georgia has been seeing it on-and-off (more off) since the mid-1970s, Georgian society is still struggling to get to grips with it. Artistic Director since 2004, Nina Ananiashvili has added many contemporary pieces to the repertoire of the State Ballet group, including Kylián, Ratmansky, Medhi Walerski, Yuri Possokhov, and choreographies by Teet Kask, Sasha Evtimova, Trey McIntyre and Jorma Elo. I, myself, have had little experience with the contemporary side of things; preferring to stick to the comfortable familiar. But then I went to last Thursday’s performance at the Tbilisi Opera House and my mind was literally transformed. Previously a fan of the classics, and oft feeling in awe at the grace and magic of them, I can now say my tastes have changed. Never have I laughed at a ballet; never have I felt so engaged with the dancers; never have I seen the dancers so free, and clearly enjoying it- until last Thursday. The ‘Evening of Modern Choreography’ on April 13 saw a three-act flow of inspiration, positive emotion, and raw human energy. First up was ‘The Secret Garden’ with music by Sebastian Plano and Olafur Arnalds and choreography, costumes and scenography by Aleksandra (Sasha) Evtimova. The setting was a park. A large group of couples had come to enjoy the autumn air; to sit on benches or walk and talk.
Some broke off to dance alone: the main couple being Diego Buttiglione and Ekaterine Lominadze, the latter at one point speaking aloud in English to her loved one (a shock to the ears of the classic-lovers!). The dances reflected human relationships: at times soft, gentle, loving; at other times wild, passionate and even hateful. I asked my seven-year-old daughter seated beside me how the first act had made her feel, and she said “sad.” I suppose the fantastic video animation (Predrag Milosevic) did tend towards the melancholy at the end: with the couples walking away from us into the sunset. But I, as a grownup with more experience of the ups-and-downs of the average lifetime, also felt a sense of peace; of the inevitability of life, which always has an end. Then onto the drums! The next wowzer, ‘Falling Angels’ by Kylian, had me and the audience glued to our seats, our jaws on the floor: a nonstop tribal beat with the female ballet dancers spotlighted and dressed in simple black leotards, all moving as one (with the occasional clever flick of a knee or hand to break the rhythm); their bodies pliable; twisting and turning into shapes that were almost familiar: “I see a bird! There’s a crocodile! They’re all crabs!” my daughter exclaimed in a too-loud voice at various points throughout the act. Next came Medhi Walerski’s Petite Ceremonie. Even as I write, it makes me smile to remember it. The curtain rose to reveal a stage empty of backdrops: we could see all the way to the brick wall at the back of the theater. Then a portly lighting man walked across the stage, his eyes
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tion; at times the dancers working in perfect unison; at times the stage in total fantastic chaos. I heard a monologue for the first time from a ballet stage when British dancer William Pratt came on, juggling balls, to talk about the Mind of a Man (with Georgian subtitles), occasionally asking his comedy side-kick, Frank van Tongeren, holding the mike, for his opinion and earning no more than a shrug: clearly an example of the “empty box within the male mind” that Pratt had highlighted. Petite Ceremonie was funny, exciting and thought-provoking, and was greeted with a well-deserved standing ovation. My thanks go, sincerely, to Prima Ballerina and Artistic Director Nina Ananiashvili and her incredibly hard-working team of dancers and soloistsnot only did you take me to a new and better place in my ballet adventure, but you made a great night out for a mum and daughter, too!
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GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 21 - 24, 2017
Carmen from Cuba by Levan Tsuladze BY MAKA LOMADZE
n April 20, 21, 27 and May 4, the State Opera House of Georgia is showing the world-renowned ‘Carmen’. Georges Bizet’s masterpiece is the first opera production that well-known dramatic director Levan (Chola) Tsuladze has staged. This is the second opera to be released during the 165th anniversary season, a totally new version of Carmen in terms of scenography and conception. The action takes place in Cuba; where a gypsy woman who loves freedom, dwells. The director is famous for his humor and has managed to present it even here, though reservedly. In the smoke of cigars, the naïve soldier is so comic that he becomes tragic. And music… Music everywhere, and so divine. “You cannot even imagine in what a sphere, full of unexpected events, I found myself,” Levan Tsuladze told GEORGIA
TODAY. “I realized that all the knowledge that I had would be useless. My main fault was that I thought that music was as much able to subordinate to interpretation as drama. Finally, music goes where it should go. Technically speaking, this stage is really very good. It has limitless possibilities. I changed the mood only: this is Cuba”. The orchestra is conducted by Zaza Azmaiparashvili; Set Designer: Irakli Avaliani; Choreographer: Gia Margania; Costume Designer: Polina Roudchik. Apart from the invited world class artists- Anita Rachvelishvili (MezzoSoprano) and George Oniani (Tenor) -the stage is to witness the leading actors of the State Opera House of Georgia, Nikoloz Lagvilava and Irina Taboridze, as well as the choir, the ballet troupe and orchestra. Anita Rachvelishvili is acknowledged as one of the best Carmens in the world. GEORGIA TODAY had the pleasure to talk to her: “For me, this is a very important character, as everything began with this role in my career- in
La Scala in 2009. Consequently, Carmen is of utmost importance to me. Plus, it’s a role I love. I’m happy to be collaborating with Mr. Oniani, whom I’ve met several times and who is one of the best tenors in the world. I’m also happy that we are all Georgians in this version. I am also very glad that Badri Maisuradze [artistic director of the Opera House] indulges us with such fantastic performances”. “Carmen was my first performance in Europe,” George Oniani told GEORGIA TODAY. “I won a contest and was offered a part in Carmen which I studied in one month. I don’t speak French and so I
found it difficult, but I managed. Our public [in Georgia] has been waiting for new performances for so many years that the mood here is truly festive. I don’t feel like a foreigner- I think that even after so many years a career overseas, this is my native theater and I’m glad to see its revival”. Nikoloz Lagvilava, Baritone, plays the part of Escamillo. “This opera is very important for me, as it has boosted my European career a lot,” he told us. “The part of Escamillo was triumphant for me at the Moscow Bolshoi. Soon, I’ll be singing it in France. This is my favorite part. This version of staging is
Photos by Gia Gogatishvili very professional, modern and interesting and I’m happy it gives us room for interpretation, something I really cherish.” The premier of Georges Bizet’s immortal opera took place in 1875, in Paris, on the stage of Opera Comique. The stage of the State Opera House of Georgia hosted the same opera exactly ten years later, which acquired a brisk popularity. Since then, a lot of versions have been staged on the Georgian stage. According to the statistics of the world theaters within the past 5 years, ‘Carmen’ is the most popular and most frequently staged operas in the world.