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Issue no: 965

• JULY 21 - 24, 2017

• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY

PRICE: GEL 2.50

In this week’s issue... Noble Partner 2017 to Be Launched Late July NEWS PAGE 2

United Efforts & Division at Home

FOCUS

POLITICS PAGE 6

Georgia's NATO Membership: A Definitive Decision Has (Yet) to Come

ON THE NEED FOR TREES

POLITICS PAGE 8

A look at Tbilisi's (lack of) green spaces and the ongoing construction works PAGE 12-13

Enguri Arch Dam Territory to Be Transformed for Tourists BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

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he new concept of transforming the territory near Enguri Arch Dam into a major tourist attraction was introduced on Wednesday, presented by Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia. The Enguri tourist zone is expected to serve 400,000 tourists annually and negotiations with potential investors have already begun. The investment volume of construction works is expected to be around GEL 50 million. The planning of the tourist zone, to which GEL 2 million has been allocated, will continue for a further year, after which construction works will be launched. “We’re starting a very important project, which only has one analogue in the world: the tourist complex of California’s Hoover Dam in the USA,” the PM said. “Georgia is to welcome a massive, new, multi-functional touristic zone, and I believe, due to its uniqueness, it will become a top attraction”. He added that protecting and preserving monuments of industrial heritage is of great importance today and this project gives the chance to

PM Kvirikashvili Presenting the new Enguri tourist complex project

preserve the country’s industrial heritage by transforming it into a landmark site. “The new tourist zone at Enguri Arch Dam, which is the second highest in the world, will have an open air conference venue, museum, panorama spots, a cable railway, a scientific and discovery center, an open air venue for concerts, maritime infrastructure, the highest existing lift to a dam (280 meters) and a number of attractions for extreme-lovers”.

The project strategy has been made with leading European companies and experts, and a tender for the touristic zone planning has been announced. “In about five years’ time, we will have the highest-level infrastructure and an outstanding example of public-private partnership,” the PM noted, emphasizing the importance of the new tourist zone for the region and for Georgia’s economic development. “Today, standing here so close to Abkhazia, I would like to express the greatest respect and love I have for our Abkhaz brothers, I want everyone to know that we care about those living in Sukhumi, Gagra, Tkvarcheli and Ochamchire. We’re reaching out a hand of friendship. For twenty-five years we’ve been moving in a closed circle. It’s time to end this painful heritage, not to leave it for our future generations,” Kvirikashvili said. “Georgia’s position on the Enguri Hydro Electric Plant serving Abkhazia with the electricity it produces has always been firm. A lot is said with this gesture, and it’s a message to our Abkhaz brothers. The Enguri plant may serve as an example of how relations torn by war can be changed by cooperation united around a mutual interest… we have to open the way to constructive dialogue and cooperation,” the PM concluded.

Insurance in Georgia SOCIETY PAGE 9

Squeezing Out Our Air: A Suburban Drama SOCIETY PAGE 13

German Ambassador on GeorgiaGerman Relations CULTURE PAGE 15


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NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY

JULY 21 - 24, 2017

Noble Partner 2017 to Be Launched Late July

New Municipal Auto Park Opens in Tbilisi BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

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omprising an area of six hectares, the city of Tbilisi has a new Auto Park, which opened on July 17 in Didi Digomi. An administrative building, panoramic bridge, service center, car wash and refilling stations all form part of the new facility. The new Auto Park project, with a budget of 19 million GEL, has the capacity of 377 buses in total. Construction of the new municipal auto park began in 2016, with EBRD providing a loan of EUR 27 million and an EU funded E5P grant of EUR 7 million. Tbilisi Municipality has also announced

that MAN buses are to operate on the following routes from July 20: N24 (Gldani district - Digomi Massive - Marshal Gelovani Ave. - Jvania Sq. Vaja Pshavela Ave. - Kavtaradze Str, TSU 10th building); N88 (Nutsubidze 2/4 micro districts, Kavtaradze Str, Tamarashvili Str, Vake, Rustaveli Ave - Baratashvili Str),Route number 33 (Gldani-Sanzona, Tsereteli avenue, David Agmashenebli avenue, Rose Square, Rustaveli avenue- Baratashvili Street); N140 (Baratashvili Str - Rustaveli Ave, Tamarashvili Str, Vake, Vaja Pshavela Ave., Kavtaradze Str - Politkovskaya Str); N150 (Baratashvili Str. - Rustaveli Ave, Kostava Str.- Saburtalo - Vaja Pshavela Ave, TSU 10th building (Maglivi).

Photo source: AP

BY THEA MORRISON

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ATO-backed Noble Partner-2017 multinational drills are to launch on July 30 in Georgia with European and regional partners and troops from 11 countries. “Strength through Partnership” is the main message of the multinational exercise Noble Partner, to be held in Georgia for the third time. Georgia, USA, UK, Germany, Turkey,

Spain, Romania, Slovenia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine will join forces for the training. The exercise is aimed at strengthening Georgia’s defense capability, improving interoperability between NATO allies and partner nations at all levels, building multinational, regional, combined and joint partnership capacity, as well as improving logistical and operative planning and execution aspects. During the training, the Georgian military will conduct various live-fire exercises together with foreign partners. Exercise Noble Partner was estab-

lished in 2015 as a bilateral effort focused on enhancing US and Georgian NATO Response Force interoperability in the context of military-to-military relations. Exercise Noble Partner will include approximately 600 Georgian and US service members, and will incorporate a full range of equipment, including the US Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle and several wheeled-support vehicles. Last year's drills involved around 1,300 service members, including 650 US, 500 Georgian and 150 UK personnel at the Vaziani training ground.


NEWS

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 21 - 24, 2017

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Russia’s Kalashnikov Says State Duma Members to Visit Georgia

BY THEA MORRISON

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ne of the leaders of the Russian Communist Party and the head of the Russian State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs and Eurasian Integration, Leonid Kalashnikov, says that members of Russia’s State Duma plan to visit Tbilisi at the invitation of the opposition Alliance of Patriots of Georgia (APG). The information was released by the Russian news Agency, Izvestia, which says that during the recent visit to Moscow, the APG members invited their Russian colleagues to Georgia. "We will definitely go to Tbilisi. Russian parliamentarians have not been in Georgia for at least ten years. Such contacts are needed to solve a number of issues. At the meetings, we will discuss diplomatic relations and economics and will also try to solve the visa issue. It is

good that this initiative is bilateral," Kalashvnikov told the newspaper. The article says that through the efforts of the MPs of both countries, the parliamentary channel of cooperation has been restored. The exact date and other details of the Russian parliamentarians’ visit to Tbilisi are as yet unknown. Irakli Sesiashvili, Chairman of the Parliamentary Defense and Security Committee of Georgia commented on Kalashnikov’s statement. “Georgia does not support the establishment of any official ties with Moscow, except internationally recognized formats of negotiation,” Sesiashvili said, stressing that the government and the majority hold a negative view towards the steps taken by the APG. “Our government is not going to establish any official relationship with Russia while its embassies remain in occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia and until we see that Russia is ready to de-occupy Georgian territories,” he added.

The pro-Russian APG party, which gained six mandates in Georgia’s 150-seat parliament during the October 2016 elections, claimed from the very beginning that dialogue with Russia was necessary to solve Georgia’s territorial problems. On July 12, APG MPs, Giorgi Lomia, Ada Marshania and Nato Chkheidze arrived in Moscow and met Leonid Kalashnikov, Kazbek Taisayev from the Communist Party and Artyom Kavinov from Putin’s Yedinaya Rossiya, which is the ruling party in Russia. Despite their previous claims, the Georgian opposition MPs did not raise the occupation issue at the meeting with the Russian parliamentarians, and the main topics were restoration of diplomatic ties and the initiative of abolition of Georgia’s Law on Occupation, according to which entry to the occupied territories by foreign citizens and stateless persons from any other direction shall be prohibited and be punishable under the Criminal Code of Georgia. Georgian media reports that the sides agreed to establish an informal working group which will gather every month to discuss the normalization process between Russia and Georgia. Georgian and Russian lawmakers request this group be officially recognized by Russia’s Duma and the Parliament of Georgia. This attempt from the APG to restore diplomatic ties with Russia, which were cut after the 2008 Georgia-Russia August war, was harshly criticized by Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream (GD) and parliamentary opposition parties, The United National Movement and European Georgia.

UAE Foreign Minister Visits Georgia BY THEA MORRISON

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he Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, paid an official visit to Georgia on July 17-18. At the meeting with his Georgian counterpart, Mikheil Janelidze, he discussed important issues on the agenda of bilateral and multilateral co-operation with a focus on the possibilities of developing relations in the areas of trade, economy, education and culture. It was underlined that the United Arab Emirates is one of Georgia’s key partners in terms of investments.

At the end of the meeting, the sides signed two documents: an Agreement for the Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investments and a Visa Waiver Agreement for Holders of Diplomatic/ Service Passports. Within the framework of his visit, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the UAE also met with Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili with whom he talked over prospects of mutual cooperation in agriculture, economics and trade. At the meeting with Georgian President, Giorgi Margvelashvili, the conversation touched on the situation in the occupied regions of Georgia, recurring cases of human rights violations and the non-recognition policy of the occupied territories.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

JULY 21 - 24, 2017

Has the Russian Occupation of Georgia Been Chalked off the Western Agenda? INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE

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t finally happened this month: the presidents of the United States and Russian Federation meet face to face for the first time. Just a day before that, however, Trump traveled to Warsaw where he quite nonchalantly berated Russia in his strongest terms yet, calling on the Kremlin to “stop destructive activities in Ukraine and elsewhere�. Elsewhere being a rather broad term, surely encompassing Georgia as well, right? Yet, the South Caucasus definitely wasn’t mentioned and it’s not for a lack of destructive actions on Russia’s part: the aptly named “creeping occupation� continues here, as does the “borderization� process, and despite Georgia’s successes on its European path, Abkhazia and South Ossetia seem to be in no rush to ever consider foregoing their “independent status�. That is, if you don’t count Tskhinvali’s recent modus operandi to hold a referendum on joining Russia – a move that the Kremlin is apparently hesitant to sanction. So, from being a trade chip in negotiations between the mighty of this world (in itself not exactly a thrilling prospect), has Georgia been demoted to being just “elsewhere�? This was our prime talking point with Edward Lucas, Senior Editor of The Economist Magazine, who sat down for an interview with GEORGIA TODAY and Panorama TV at the Warsaw EuroAtlantic Summer Academy program, where he was one of the lead speakers.

THERE ARE CONCERNS THAT GEORGIA HAS BEEN CHALKED OFF THE AGENDA OF IMPORTANT ISSUES THAT THE WEST HAS TO NEGOTIATE WITH RUSSIA. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE? I’d say that there is a danger of Georgia falling off

Source: ERR News

the agenda. But then again, quite soon it will be visited by Vice-President Pence, and that’s quite a strong message. But still, I think there is a danger, as Georgia’s recent problems seem to be more internal than external. The outside world isn’t that much interested in conflicts revolving around local presidency, government, constitution and so on. They have bigger things to worry about.

IS THERE A RED LINE TO DETERMINE WHETHER IT’S ON OR OFF THE AGENDA? I’d not call it a red line- it’s more of a slope and Georgia is moving down that slope. It has been ever since the elections in 2012. In my view, Russia’s actions continue to be totally unacceptable and we, the West, should be taking a very strong stance on these issues in favor of Georgia’s sovereignty, particularly on this issue of borderization and the behavior of Russia’s so-called “peacekeepers�. We’re already late on this. But the problem is that we also have a lot going on here as it is, and it’s hard enough to keep Ukraine on the agenda, a

country that is nearly ten times bigger than Georgia. So, I’m not optimistic at the moment.

DOES THAT IMPLY THAT GEORGIA HAS CEASED TO BE A LEVERAGE IN RELATIONS BETWEEN THE STATES AND RUSSIA? WITH TRUMP DECLARING THAT SANCTIONS WILL STAY UNLESS THE SITUATION IN UKRAINE IS SOLVED, WHERE DOES GEORGIA COME INTO PLAY? I think Georgia, because of its geographic position, always will have some leverage. As long as it has pipelines going across it, there will be big, serious Western energy companies interested in its security. But that geographical position is both an advantage and a disadvantage: it’s in a difficult neighborhood going through difficult times. I think Georgia should be very clear and realistic about this, about what it can achieve. I’m hopeful in the long run as some good things are happening: take the visa-free, for example. It’s very, very important – it came late, but it got done. These are things that make the difference in the long-run. I’d be very interested to see whether the new Franco-German leadership in the European Union will have a more active Eastern policy than it had in the past. I’m reasonably optimistic about that: I think neither Merkel or Macron like the way Russia is behaving and I hope the South Caucasus will be one of the places where they can show that the EU can have a reactive policy towards Russia.

REGARDING SHOWING RUSSIA AND PUTIN WHAT’S WHAT, YOU RECENTLY PUBLISHED AN ARTICLE IN WHICH YOU ARGUE THAT THE WEST HAS TO FIND POLITICAL, NOT MILITARY, MEANS TO COUNTER RUSSIA I think the real problem here is that the West isn’t properly scared of Russia yet; too many people still think that Russia is a manageable problem. I talk to senior British military officers and they love to talk about what a mess the Russian military is in, how money is running out and that we shouldn’t overestimate Russia’s military might. Partially, I think, they are right; Russia really has a lot of problems. I don’t want to demonize Russia and make it bigger than it is, but then again, we should also be aware that Russia is inflicting most of its damage to us not through military means, but through hybrid warfare. As for what means we should employ against Russia, I’m very much against the

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Neither Merkel or Macron like the way Russia is behaving and I hope the South Caucasus will be one of the places where they can show that the EU can have a reactive policy towards Russia

The concentrated use of soft power and a swing of the pendulum in Russia might just bring about the moment that Georgia will be able to get back together idea that we should talk with Russia on the terms it dictates. We should be deterring Russia with other means: we have tremendous assets on our side, particularly our financial system, which the Russians seem to be very fond of. Sanctions are definitely a step in this direction. We should be looking at the assets of the top thousand people in Russia, maybe at visas of the top ten thousand people, because these people, almost without exception, invest their money in the West; they go on holiday to the West, they educate their children in the West, they get medical treatment in the West and so on. We should be saying to them: look, if you preach this anti-Western doctrine in Russia, don’t expect a warm welcome here. And your children can’t finish their education at Cambridge, Sorbonne and so on either. And you can’t expect to come here for medical treatment and you certainly can’t expect to use our financial system to invest the money that you stole from the people of Russia. I like Russian people, I speak Russian, I like Russian literature and think that Russia is basically a European country – I’m all for as much contact with Russian people as possible, I don’t have a problem with 99 % of them, I have a problem with the decision makers. And then there should be a second layer of that: we should have a second layer of sanctions and we should say to Russians, well, if you attack the Baltic States, attack Georgia, or go on attacking Ukraine, in 24 hours we will seize your assets here, which will really hurt you. I’m talking about the big State-end companies: Rosneft, Gazprom, VTB bank and so on, which are basically part of the Russian state. And they will really suffer for it. The western shareholders might suffer, too, but that’s maybe why they should start thinking about selling their shares. In short, we should make Russians think that there is a very powerful deterrent which we will not hesitate to use against them if they do any of the abovementioned.

CAN THAT KIND OF RESPONSE EXPECTED IF TSKHINVALI GOES ON TO HOLD A QUASI-REFERENDUM FOR JOINING RUSSIA AND THE KREMLIN SANCTIONS IT? Referendums are serious business, so let’s not dignify this piece of political theater with the word ‘referendum’. It’s naught but a political stunt and as you quite rightly said, the Kremlin will decide what the result and outcome would be. If it happens, it will be a kind of mini-Crimea. And I would like to think that there would be a strong response from the West. My suspicion is that Russia will choose to use this as a threat, rather than actually go and implement it. It’s a way of turning up the heat a bit and maybe extracting some concessions from the government in Tbilisi. The hard truth is that Tskhinvali is already a de-facto part of Russia and has been since the early 90s. They can change the label on the jar, but that’s just about it. I’m afraid that with both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgia will have to wait a long time, some 15-20 years, and it will certainly need a change of regime in Moscow. And when that happens, Georgia should already be a prosperous, strong, attractive country, so that the sensible people in these self-declared republics say that the folly is over and this is our chance to get back. The concentrated use of soft power and a swing of the pendulum in Russia might just bring about the moment that Georgia will be able to get back together again, and I think on a 20 something year timescale, the odds are actually quite good for it.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

JULY 21 - 24, 2017

United Efforts & Division at Home

BY EMIL AVDALIANI

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n July 17, Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, began his visit to Georgia, the first such occasion since his election as the head of Ukraine. Poroshenko held meetings with his Georgian counterpart, the PM and other high officials. Although throughout recent years the countries have had minor disagreements regarding the participation of former Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili and his team in Ukraine’s political life, Kiev and Tbilisi now face similar geopolitical challenges and share common foreign policy goals. As an expression of this, the presidents agreed to coordinate their efforts toward integration into the European Union, although no elaboration was given on how this would happen in practice. A declaration of strategic partnership was also announced and the Georgian president, Giorgi Margvelashvili, told reporters after the talks that the declaration "reflects the real mood of the two nations." He also added that the two countries “agreed to intensify efforts in terms of integration into the European space". From his side, Poroshenko said that Georgia and Ukraine "have to defend [our] sovereignty, territorial integrity, and democracy together." Indeed, the two states face similar challenges as within the Russia-West standoff over the former Soviet space, Moscow projects its military power into east Ukraine and Georgia’s breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Samachablo) to limit the countries’ bid for NATO membership. Both Georgia and Ukraine see the need to cooperate in various spheres, from military and econom-

Poroshenko’s visit stressed the idea that while Georgia and Ukraine face similar challenges and share common political goals, Ukraine also has an ideological front through which its breakaway territories want to highjack the idea of Ukraine as a state

ics to intelligence and diplomacy. Moreover, from a strategic point of view, since the two countries have access to the Black Sea, one could envisage intensified naval cooperation to counter, for instance, Russia’s ambitions since the takeover of Crimea in 2014. US or NATO military capabilities, along with constant naval exercises, could help the countries develop this direction. However, there are numerous constraints put on both countries and it comes down to the availability of military and economic resources. While both countries’ geographic location is certainly an advantage, Ukraine and Georgia have limited military capabilities in comparison with Russia. For instance, there is almost no military side to Georgia’s Black Sea navy. And while Ukraine makes certain progress in developing naval capabilities, it is still not enough to challenge Russia-controlled Crimean bases. This makes any meaningful cooperation between the countries very unlikely in terms of the overall regional military strategy.

FOUNDING A BRAND NEW “STATE” While Poroshenko was in Georgia an interesting announcement was made by the head of the Donetsk’s self-proclaimed republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, on the establishment of a new “state”: Malorossiya – Little Russia. Zakharchenko said that the new entity would also include the breakaway region of Luhansk and would, at the same time, serve as a historic successor to the failed Ukrainian state with the ultimate goal of incorporating other parts of modern Ukraine. No clear reason was given for Zakharchenko’s decision. Perhaps it was done to complicate the upcoming Minsk Group negotiations focusing on the east Ukraine conflict. Perhaps it is part of the struggle for resources between the two east Ukraine breakaway territories. Zakharchenko, by proclaiming Donetsk the capital of ‘Malorossiya,’ essentially wants to get hold of Luhansk’s resources and become a primary political actor in the rebellious region. Indeed, as a sign of resistance, the head of Luhansk breakaway territory, Igor Plotnitsky, was quick to announce that his entity “was established as an expression of the people’s will” and that he has no right to take such steps without the people’s opinion. Yet another reason behind the proclamation could be ideological reasoning, as Zakharchenko essentially wants to highjack the idea of one Ukraine and build a new state. Of course, rhetoric is one thing but the reality on the ground is different. The announcement drew immediate international criticism, with both the US and the EU expressing concerns. Moreover, somewhat surprisingly, even the Russians were quick to distance themselves from the initiative. Commenting on it, Russia’s chief negotiator in the Contact Group for Settlement of the Crisis in Eastern Ukraine, Boris Gryzlov, said it should not be taken as manifestation of Russia’s stance on the issue. The lack of support from Moscow makes it highly unrealistic that the idea of ‘Malorossiya’ will be implemented in any meaningful way. However, the announcement showed that although Poroshenko’s visit stressed the idea that Georgia and Ukraine face similar challenges and share common political goals, Ukraine also has an ideological front through which its breakaway territories want to highjack the idea of Ukraine as a state.


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POLITICS

GEORGIA TODAY

JULY 21 - 24, 2017

Georgia's NATO Membership: A Definitive Decision Has (Yet) to Come OP-ED BY VICTOR KIPIANI

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he break-up of the Soviet Union marked the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, whose members embarked upon integration with NATO. An intrinsic consequence of the Pact’s disappearance, however, was that NATO, and the United States in particular, found itself in disarray, incapable of organizing the Alliance’s expansion in a cohesive way, and having lost the means to leverage its foreign policy. During this new search in the aftermath of the "biggest geopolitical catastrophe," the United States was forced to revert to the pragmatic, case-by-case approach the country had been pursuing prior to the Second World War. NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe was marked by various important milestones, such as the reunification of Germany, the addition of the Visegrad Group (Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic) at the 1999 Washington Summit, the admission of seven other countries of Central and Eastern Europe (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) just prior to the 2005 Istanbul Summit, new members Albania and Croatia in April 2009 before the Strasbourg-Kehl summit, and the arrival of the Alliance’s most recent member, Montenegro, which formally joined NATO on 5 June 2017. In addition to these membership milestones, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Macedonia have also been recognized as aspiring members— with each country facing its own hurdles and challenges to further progress on their path to NATO membership.

DEDICATED POLICY OR (IR) RATIONAL CALCULUS? THE CASE OF MONTENEGRO Whilst NATO’s expansion in the imme-

diate aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Empire, which vanished into oblivion, can seem logical, some of the Alliance’s decisions pose serious questions in terms of consistency of action when it comes to pursuing a set of values entrenched in the North Atlantic Treaty. Moreover, in my view, some of these decisions have caused noticeable confusion—particularly regarding NATO’s ability to formulate and follow a "grand strategy" along its Eastern European and SouthernEastern European flanks. This confusion is further aggravated by ever-increasing Russian resistance as a result of Moscow’s attempt to maintain a degree of "strategic geographical depth" in the name of pre-empting aggression. Regarding the lack of consistency of the NATO policy following the Istanbul Summit, Montenegro's case presents a noticeable example of the volatility of the Alliance’s decision-making. To begin with, no referendum was held on the question (although, we must note that no referendums were held for the Slovenia and Spain NATO memberships either), despite the country having a population of barely 700,000 (and a military budget of only around EUR 60 million). Some (admittedly controversial) sources also estimate that fewer than 35 percent of Montenegrins are in favour of NATO membership. Opposing such membership, the prevailing political inclination has been one of military neutrality complemented by a policy of “keeping the door open” to economic co-operation with both the West and with Russia and the rest of "Eurasia". All this leads us to believe that the case for Montenegro’s NATO membership is not to realize the long-held aspiration of the country’s citizens to embrace the values shared by their Western neighbors, but is instead a strategic move by the Alliance to ensure greater access to the Adriatic and to undermine Russia's position in the region. All in all, the sole

consideration that was taken into account was neither the sustainability of the Montenegrin democracy nor its wellbeing, nor indeed its potential military contribution to the Alliance; rather, it was a cold geographical calculation of Montenegro’s proximity to the Adriatic and a thrust to eliminate the remnants of Russian influence in what was once "Russia's backyard" in the Balkans (with the exception of Serbia, of course).

GEORGIA: A LITMUS TEST FOR NATO STANDARDS There are of course quite a few challenges and concerns which continue to impede Georgia’s uphill struggle to join NATO— from the country’s immediate vicinity to the world’s greatest revisionist power to the illegitimate presence of foreign military forces on its territory, with a plethora of other headaches in between. Regardless of that, the country still performs fairly well in terms of the resilience of its fledgling democracy, the palatable foundations of its economic system, and its generally well-praised efforts to guarantee fundamental human rights. Moreover, as a "beacon of democracy", the hope continues to be that the Georgian example will show neighboring countries that true progress should ultimately prevail and that reforms are indeed rewarding, that the once hideously corrupt and paternalistic "former" republic may become proof of the viability of democracy. It is also noteworthy that, unlike Montenegro, a plebiscite (an advisory referendum) was indeed held in Georgia on 5 January 2017, during which 75 percent of people questioned voted in favour of the country's integration with NATO. This result, unparalleled by any other polling of public mood or inclination, was evidently an explicit demonstration of the will of the people. Georgia’s plebiscite bears an even higher mark of credibility than the very recent vote in Ukraine, where only the national legislature was consulted

Source: Tiki-Toki

and no nationwide enquiries were made. (The sole attempt in 2006 to hold a referendum on the question of NATO was unsuccessful, although admittedly the situation may now be quite different due to the ongoing conflict in the Donbas region and the occupation of Crimea). And even if Montenegro’s membership is mainly about geography, Georgia also presents an interesting sui generis geographical case in terms of NATO’s southern flank, Russia’s aggressive moves in the region and the situation in the nearby Middle East. Added to this factor is the country's exemplary contribution to global security, a contribution which sometimes goes beyond Tbilisi’s means, but the most important elements are no doubt Georgia’s potential as a vivid advocate in the region for the desirability of pursuing truly Western and liberal values, its commitment and dedication to reforms, and its determination to maintain the pace of its efforts to strengthen political institutions, civil society and the economy regardless of internal shocks and external pressures.

A PRICE TAG FOR DELAY Undoubtedly, any delay or uncertainty on the path to joining the Alliance’s security arrangements risks resulting in unrecoverable losses. We fully realize that making decisions within such a large political and military institution is all about respecting due process and procedures (we must point out that membership through MAP was introduced in 1999 only and even since then this transitional step has been skipped over on a number of occasions), about keeping the right balance and not undermining stability in a given country and beyond. But we should all bear in mind

that the spiralling pace of destructive actions such as the ongoing creeping annexation and militarization of various parts of Georgia risks soon forcing us to face a dilemma about the viability of its statehood. NATO membership would of course not cure all the ills which have sprung from the country’s post-Soviet legacy and which it is struggling to defeat, but membership would certainly serve as a reason not to give in to existential threats and to continue to develop Georgia’s state identity and employ all the potential of its national spirit. And besides, Georgia's appeal to stakeholders in its quest for security and sovereignty is not that it should simply be absorbed into the Alliance “by default”, through some sort of automatic, geographically-based vacuum-cleaning process, but that its membership should instead be based upon the strong set of values which it shares with its Western partners. If this were not the case, the lingering question of “How much pain is Georgia supposed to go on bearing to prove it deserves membership?” would turn into an obsession with dramatic and very real consequences.

A DECISION MUST BE MADE It is true that Georgians are a nation of believers. It is also true that they firmly believe in the veracity of their choices. But it is equally undeniable that in order to keep hope alive, the other partner in this process must make a clear and definitive choice. Only by making these two ends meet can we all remain on the progressive side of modern history and witness the real results of the enormous sacrifices we have made. This choice is not essentially about warplanes or boots on the ground but is a civilizational one.

Who Started the Fire(s)? OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA

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nother fire was recently added to the increasing number of fires in Georgian markets- that of Poti, the main port city of the country, where 2000 sq.m. with 50 shops and 144 stands was destroyed, leaving 450 people unemployed and, most importantly, impoverished. The cause of the first market fire has yet to be investigated and already another one has burned. This obviously increases the suspicion that the fires are being set on purpose. Fires have often been used as a weapon in political and business disputes and Georgian history can serve up plenty of evidence of such. For example, we can recall the fire of 1973, when the Tbilisi Opera House was caught up in flames and destroyed, as well as the “MaudKamvoli” factory and a number of other textile enterprises that followed. The political motives behind these fires are still discussed and often linked with the idea that the fires were aimed at discrediting the newly appointed First Secretary of the CEC, Eduard Shvardnadze. But against who or what are the current fires set today when neither the Central Committee nor the First Secretary or the Soviet government exists anymore? The question might sound banal, as almost half a century has passed since those events and while the methods of battle and revenge should have become more refined, apparently nothing has changed. The new season of fires officially opened on November 15, 2012, when Georgian

Dream took over the government. From that day on as many as eleven markets have been damaged by fire and not once has investigation revealed the reasons. The vendors claim that the markets were set on fire deliberately by those who want to take ownership. Political expert and former ideologist of the Georgian Dream, Gia Khukhashvili, does not agree directly with the idea, but thinks that each such event, be the reason for it neglect or something else, is still quite politically important for the government. “Aside from everything else, these fires are a heavy burden on the country’s budget because the loss needs to be compensated. The issue is not regulated as the objects are not insured. Since the Children’s World fire, this issue has been on the radar. Each fire triggers doubts in society. A market was destroyed and something else is constructed on its place, which further enhances suspicion that the fire was deliberate. There is another case when the distribution of shares can be seen as a motive,” he said. Fire is often a natural disaster and somebody might not think to look for anything political in the recent events, but, as they say, the devil is in the details. And details often speak of the opposite. “Business disputes and the new distribution of property ownership is normal,” says Khukhashvili. “Especially with the changing of political power”. This was the case under President Shevardnadze when property ‘gained’ via gangster means by the ‘Mkhedrioni’ gang was seized by his government and the Mkhedrioni “businessmen” evicted from the country. A completely different

Fires have often been used as a weapon in political and business disputes and Georgian history can serve up plenty of evidence of such. Photo source: nathanmagnuson.com

method was used by President Saakashvili, who quickly connected the rich people close to the Union of Citizens of Georgia party with the Prosecutor’s Office and handed the “orphaned” businesses to new owners, of course to those who were close to the National Movement. Bidzina Ivanishvili also has his signature method. Reality suggests that today we are witnessing the re-distribution of ownership on these oft-suffering market properties. By this, I do not want to say that the Poti, Senaki, Zestaponi or the Tbilisi markets fell under the target of billionaire Ivanishvili. But it seems that there are some among the supporters of Geor-

gian Dream who are interested in seizing these markets. The business of markets is not considered big business in Georgia today, however, the territories where these markets operate are valuable and land has become quite pricey… Chairman of the Center of Public Control over the Activity of the Special Services, Besik Aladashvili, excludes the business interests of Bidzina Ivanishvili in the markets: “I doubt Ivanishvili has business interests that require him to set things on fire. The theme of Ivanishvili’s interests seems often artificially brought up by the opposition. Who would benefit from it? The local elections are approaching and an upset population

obviously won’t vote for this government. Somebody from the government would have to have quite an original mindset to cut the branch he is sitting on. Therefore, this version is logically unacceptable,” Aladashvili declares. Who is setting the markets on fire? Perhaps nobody, and it is something the investigation has no answer to yet. However, as they say, there is no smoke without fire and we can suppose that the process that began in November 2012 is approaching its finale. Before the investigation finds the modern Herostratus, we recall the Russian writer Bulgakov and his The Master and Margarita, where the characters walk around setting objects on fire.


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 21 - 24, 2017

9

Insurance in Georgia OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

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hat is insurance? Where does it come from and why has it taken such deep and firm roots in our lives? Umpteen years ago, in America, I took a long and complicated course in the insurance business. I even ventured to take an examination but failed it, having gotten only seven points short of the passable bound, but I definitely learned something from that American academic experience. Insurance, as officially defined, is a means of protection from financial loss and constitutes a form of risk management, primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent, uncertain loss. I have my own interpretation for the phenomenon called insurance: a huge money-generating business, based on our animal fear for possible disastrous happenings and accidental unfortunate occurrences in our lives- better to pay some money and sleep peacefully than get completely bankrupt if something unlikely happens!

In the western world, people grow with the notion of insurance ingrained in them. You cannot drive a car if you are not insured, or purchase a house without it being insured against the elements or other unexpected misfortunes. People pay serious amounts of money to insure their health, and life in general, which gives a chance for our closest and most beloved relatives to enjoy comfortable annuities in case of our accidental death. And this is all a norm of life there. Nobody is against this common law. Everyone in the West is insured for this or that. The culture of insurance is deeply instilled in a westerner’s life: that is just the way they live. So, what is happening in Georgia in this regard? Something! Just something!

Insurance has not yet become a matter of wide public consideration- when something bad happens, like floods, snow, drought, fires or landslides, the victims make long lines in front of governmental offices and petition for help and compensation. Can this happen in the West? Yes, western governments are always ready to help if the law allows, but in most cases the losses are covered by insurance companies. Some of them even go bankrupt if the suffered losses go beyond their financial means. This kind of a thing happens, but the insurance companies are also protected by the government when necessary. In the insurance business, everything is interconnected and based on firm financial logic. Lying here is almost impossible and col-

Insurance has not yet become a matter of wide public considerationwhen something bad happens, like floods, snow, drought, fires or landslides, the victims make long lines in front of governmental offices and petition for help and compensation

10 Galaktion Street

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

lusions are practically excluded, although not totally unheard of. I have to admit that in Georgia, we are learning the insurance business little by little, but the public reluctance for insurance is still persistent. People do not want to recognize that bad things are almost guaranteed to take place in our lives and we need to be protected against them. For instance, fires have lately become very commonplace incidents in Georgia, especially in marketplaces. As a consequence, rumors fly that those fires are deliberate attacks of arson, yet, regardless of cause, the victims of property loss or damage are unable to compensate their loss, hence the marches to government with hands out. Life in this country needs to be better

arranged– the desire to look and act western is not enough; the western style and way of life need to be inculcated, not just by words but by deeds. If you want to keep your business safe, go and insure it. Understandably, the owners of most of those businesses are short of money, and they come to their senses only after the oil is on fire. Well, the well-regulated insurance business is part of well-regulated life in general, but it is also the case that the runners of small businesses are unprepared to spend money on insurance even if they have enough of it. My personal feeling is that they are either too tight-fisted or their sense of future is not animal enough to recognize the potential danger ahead. It is also true that the insurance culture needs time to be nursed in our people. We are all the remains of soviet ruins, where everything was paid for us by the State. Somebody has invented a business, known as insurance, to make money out of nothing –from our fear that something bad might happen to us - but the world has gone for it. This nation will have to do the same someday; we will all be insured, be it liability or comprehensive insurance. Georgia can no longer be different from the rest of the world except in details like Satsivi, Tamada and Khachapuri.


10

SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

JULY 21 - 24, 2017

Believe’s Annual Charity Gala Raises the Bar

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he Charity Gala Dinner has been a crowning achievement of the Believe Foundation for the past four years, this year raising the record amount of GEL 123,159.74. Believe Foundation is a non-profit, non-political independent organization founded on the principle of providing western Georgia with charitable, cultural and educational activities. Believe is committed to bring positive changes, improvements and progress to the lives of socially vulnerable children, the elderly, youth and individuals with disabilities. With the support of donors and volunteers, they strive to protect the rights of beneficiaries; facilitate their integration into society; meet their specific health needs; fight to overcome hunger and poverty; help them to fulfill their potential, and to enhance their professional skills and educational foundation. On July 15, over 200 guests from Georgian and international companies came together to support Believe Foundation’s fourth annual Charity Gala event, raising a record amount. The gala is the primary fundraiser for Believe Foundation, and this year Hilton Batumi Hotel generously accommodated guests and the special one-night gala event. The evening featured a spectacular musical performance by Tbilisi Big Band Soloist, Maia Baratashvili and her jazz band. Auctioneer-extraordinaire Mr. Cliff Isaak, Honorary Consul of Canada in Georgia, orchestrated another successful auction with pieces from artists with collections all over the world. A

special thank you to INDICO Company who singlehandedly made the auction a huge success. In addition to the auction, the gala event included a raffle drawing with prizes sponsored by: Georgia Palace Hotel and Spa, Sheraton Batumi, Hilton Batumi, ICC Georgia, Marriot Tbilisi, Courtyard Marriott, Radisson Blu Batumi, Social Enterprise IKORTA, Janini, L4L Concept Store, Castello Mare Hotel and Wellness Resort, Nail Stuido Poti, Georgian Heritage Crafts Association, Hotel Prime, Gallery Qissa, Retail Group Georgia and Tako Dvalishvili. Charity Auction artworks, jewelry and sports memorabilia were donated by Irakli Chikovani, Tutu Kiladze, Social Enterprise EthnoDesign, Irina Saridi, Michael Kviraia, Tornike Matitaishvili, Natia Arabuli-Bekauri, Levan Budjiashvili, Andria Natsvlishvili, Maka Ldokoneni, Dimitri Basilaia, Anastasia Logvinenko, Grigol Ghvania, Taras Bibilashvili, Erekle Tsuladze, Natia Akhalaia, Buba Arabuli, Bacho Tsamelashvili, and Nino Chakvetadze. Believe Foundation thanks and proudly acknowledges its major sponsors and supporters: Gold Sponsors: Bank of Georgia, PACE Georgia, Crystal Microfinance Organization, SOCAR Kulevi Oil Terminal, Channel Energy and PRIME Concrete Poti Apartments. Silver Sponsors: Wilhelmsen Ships Service and Mediterranean Shipping Company Bronze Sponsors: ICEBERG POTI Partners of the event: ICC Georgia,

BDO, Women Business Council in Georgia, IKAMEDI POTI, Christina Lindell, Ramaz Shulaia, Mamuka Ochigava Photography Media Support: Radio Fortuna, Business Media Georgia, 9th Wave, Adjara TV, Georgia Today Wine Sponsor: Vaziani Company


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 21 - 24, 2017

Scenar Clinic, New Medical-Rehabilitation Center Opens in Tbilisi

BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI

A

new medical-rehabilitation center opened in Tbilisi this month. Scenar Clinic offers patients Scenar therapy treatment, an innovative method which, according to the Head of Operation MD there, Dr. Badri Jalagonia, the new clinic is the first to use in Georgia. Scenar Therapy as a bio-energy treatment was invented in the 1980s. The device, a self-controlled energo-neuro adaptive regulator, is said to establish a “two-way communication with the human nervous system, encouraging it to redirect its activity towards areas of weakness in the body”. Scenar Therapy as a method has been known in Georgia since 2015, while it is regularly utilized in the UK, US, Russia, Spain, China, Bulgaria, Ukraine and other countries around the world. The Scenar Clinic in Tbilisi provides Scenar Therapy treatment for children with Down’s Syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorders. The full course of treatment entails a program of exercise and special massage, paired with syncretic oxygen treatment. The

rehabilitation program also involves regular sessions with speech therapists and psychologists. For adults, Scenar Clinic offers treatment of various neurological and other diseases, as well as post-trauma and post-stroke rehabilitation. “Scenar Therapy is used for cosmonauts who have been in space for long periods of time where they experience muscle atrophy. The Scenar device helps to reduce pain, having a strongest algorithm for pain relief. It is also used by the military to treat shocking pain,” Dr. Jalagonia tells GEORGIA TODAY. He goes on to tell us about his first meeting with leading specialists in Scenar Therapy, Josef Semikatov and Vladimir Lopatka, back in the days when Jalagonia studied and then worked in Ekaterinburg, Russia, as an onco-surgeon. The idea of introducing and implementing the Scenar Therapy concept in Georgia came up two years ago, resulting in opening the clinic in Tbilisi alongside founder and owner, Marika Ugrekhelidze. “We’re aiming to help socially deprived families to get a diagnosis free of charge in our clinic; as we develop, we hope to be able to help many socially vulnerable families,” Tengiz Kuchukhidze, the Director of Scenar Clinic, told us. “The Scenar device is a self-controlling

energo-neuro information regulator which generates neuron-type impulses; these short impulses are bi-polar and changeable, meaning the human organism does not get used to them. Notably, the Scenar device doesn’t damage the tissue when applied. The impulses are sent from the device to skin and from skin to human brain, as the Scenar device discovers the exact zones that need to be cured in the organism and treats them locally, stimulating the organism to treat and cure itself,” Jalagonia explained. “[Aside from use in the abovementioned directions], Scenar therapy has very good results in treating bone fractures, myalgia and hematomas; it can be applied for the widest spectrum of medication, treatment and rehabilitation purposes,” he added. “The treatment program we offer is complex, consisting of Meridian diagnostics, therapy, exercise, massage and syncretic oxygen put together, and we’re already seeing amazing results, especially in patients with cerebral paralysis,” Jalagonia says. “We plan to maximally support families in need, refugees and socially deprived groups. That is why we wanted the prices in our medical-rehabilitation center to be affordable. Helping those in need will always be our priority,” Kuchukhidze told us.

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12

SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY

JULY 21 - 24, 2017

To Nino's House: Cappadocia BY TONY HANMER

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he locals over there know: but do we know, in Georgia? Do we know exactly where St. Nino, who brought Christianity to Georgia in the 4th century from Cappadocia in Anatolia, was born or came from? Online sources name the place as the Greek town of Kolastra, or maybe Colostra or a similar variation. Our Turkish tour guide told us that she was born in what is now Ortahisar (Turkish for "Middle Castle"), in the Nevsehir region of Cappadocia, and kindly detailed the rough location of a small church connected with her there. We went by taxi, in great excitement, trying not to hope too much: would we find it, find anything? Our Azeri friend interpreted for us as we asked around, near the great castle for which the town is famous. Eventually, passing two large chained up dogs, one friendly, the other fierce, we found a small domed rock structure inside a stone wall, gated and locked but not impenetrable. The area around was poorly kept, nothing special. A sign read in Turkish, "Nino was born here". Entering the open door, we were greeted by frescoes including a relatively undamaged main one of Christ. So, we found... something. What? I’m no expert on dates of architecture or frescoes. I’ve been unable to find online the modern name or ancient location of Kolastra, or Colastri, or any similar variant; not even in the best source, Bar-

rington's Atlas of the Greek and Roman World. Nor have I been able to discover

On Tbilisi’s Green Spaces INTERVIEW BY DAVID MONGAZON

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bilisi was once green, when it was founded as the capital of Georgia more than 15 centuries ago. However, through the vicissitudes of history, most of the forests covering the emplacement of the city have been burned or cut down. Many gardens and parks developed by Georgian kings and noblemen in the 18th century were destroyed by invasions and though, in the soviet era, many parks were laid, most of them nowadays face threats from the city’s urban development and the mushrooming of multi-story blocks. More generally, the parks that exist nowadays are old ones, and there seems to be no will from the City Council to develop new parks simultaneously with urbanization. Added to this that Tbilisi’s population is on the up, with the result that green space in Tbilisi equals about 12 square meters per citizen, half the European standard, the issues of pollution and lack of recreational space becomes apparent. We met with Tamaz Patarkalashvili, a Doctor at the Center for the Study of Productive Forces and Natural Resources of Georgia at the Technical University. He recently published a work on green spaces and the ecological problems of Tbilisi, and gladly answered our questions on the matter.

HOW DO TREES IMPACT ON THE URBAN SPACE? The goals and services that urban forests and green spaces provide are impressive. Trees and green spaces help to keep cities cool, they act like natural filters and moderate city air temperature and moisture; they muffle the noise caused by city traffic, especially at rush hour; they purify city air by intercepting pollutants; they improve the quality of city natural resources, such as soil, water, vegetation

and city wildlife. Trees house micro fauna and are a refuge for small animals like squirrels and birds. Trees are symbols of nature and life in harsh city environments with their bare concrete buildings. Trees also have an informative, educational and symbolic function, especially for children.

what Ortahisar was called, or even if it existed as long ago as the 4th century.

The only things remaining to say are... go and see for yourself; and, if you have any

more concrete information or sources, please let me know: a.hanmer@gmail.com

In the Soviet period, Tbilisi took 15th place among 16 capitals with 12 m2 green space per citizen. The European standard is 25m2. The population of the city then was about 800,000. Today, the population is about 1,300,000. Source: Wikiwand

HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THE LACK OF INTEREST IN GREEN SPACES IN CITIES SUCH AS TBILISI? It isn’t a lack of interest from City Hall, but more an issue of corruptive interests. In the last 2-3 years, about 70 live Black Pine trees have been cut down in the center of the city (Saburtalo). Half of them near the old hippodrome and another half on Kazbegi Str.24. The chopping down of a beautiful Deodar Ceder tree, aged about 50-60 years old, was filmed and shared online. All these trees were cut for the construction of new multi-story buildings. The former hippodrome was moved to a new place and a number of development companies, supported by influential people, were eager to build multi-story buildings in its place. But after strong protest from Tbilisians and some NGOs, these projects were stopped. Since then, nothing has happened and the future of the territory is suspended but I’m sure that those developers are just waiting for the moment to strike again. It’s the perfect location for a beautiful nature park, if only City Council wills it.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE TRANSFORMATION OF TBILISI? Tbilisi has changed more in its architectural view. As to green spaces, I can’t say anything positive. In the Soviet period, Tbilisi took 15th place among 16 capitals of former Soviet Republics with 12 m2 green space per citizen. The European standard of green space per citizen is 25m2, i.e. two times more than in our city. The population of the city then was

about 800,000. Today, the population is about 1,300,000 and the green spaces remain the same. If we take this fact into consideration, we can see that green spaces today are too few. If they were enough in the 18th and 19th centuries, after urbanization they clearly can’t satisfy the demands of today. A solution could be to plan the development of green spaces alongside Tbilisi’s architectural transformation. The majority of buildings in the city center are one-two story and need emergency repair works or demolishing. In the process of rebuilding, green spaces must also be envisaged and planned for as only this will help to improve the ecological condition of the city center.

ence climate characteristics, and to achieve such condition they need at least 30-40 years. In the last 20 years, many multi-story buildings have been built on park territories- in Vake Park, in the lower section of April 9 Park, and elsewhere. The construction of a new hotel three years ago on the Vake Park territory was stopped due to a strong protest from “Guerilla Gardening” activists and other NGOs.

HOW LONG WOULD IT TAKE TO GET RESULTS REGARDING GREEN SPACES IF CITY HALL CHANGED ITS POLICY TODAY?

The alternative policy to prevent air pollution and improve the atmosphere of the city, along with the creation of new green spaces, is banning old cars in the city which are considered today the main air pollutants. The majority of these cars were manufactured before 1999. The European standards for city vehicles must be introduced by city authorities.

I don’t believe that City Hall will change its attitude towards its city green space policy, but if we imagine it happening, then it would take two or three decades to improve the situation a little, because only big trees with large foliage can influ-

DOES THIS PREFERENCE TOWARDS THE DEVELOPMENT OF GREEN SPACES OVER MORE BUILDING NEED TO BE ACCOMPANIED WITH ALTERNATIVE POLICIES TO PREVENT POLLUTION?

ARE THE RECENT PARK DEVELOPMENTS IN TBILISI, SUCH AS THE RIKE AND DEDAENA PARKS, STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION? Dedaena Park is an old park. Rike Park can be developed, but it takes time for the trees to grow. Besides, this park is located outside the city center, the most polluted part, and so has little influence on it. The influence of trees and green spaces is effective within 100m. All possible construction activities in the existing parks and green spaces of the city must be banned and the removal of live trees within city borders must be considered a crime and punished accordingly.

DO YOU SEE GROWING AWARENESS ABOUT THESE ISSUES AMONG CIVIL SOCIETY? Unfortunately, the green awareness of our civil society today is low. It must be taught from early school age. The best example is China, where elementary knowledge about forestry and ecology is taught at school. Moreover, China plans to plant 26 billion trees in the next decade- that’s two trees for every Chinese citizen per year.


SOCIETY

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 21 - 24, 2017

13

Squeezing Out Our Air: A Suburban Drama OP-ED BY MAKA LOMADZE

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nce upon a time, there was an ecologically clean suburb called Didi Dighomi… Didi Dighomi is a suburb of Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi. It is said to be an air corridor for the city and while it is ferociously windy in winter, it is pleasantly cool in summer, with temperatures 2-3 degrees lower than in the center. Today, with an increasing number of ecological problems related to the cutting of trees in the city, which many consider as already “out of control,” as well as a lot of construction work and the resulting dust, suburbs are often the desirable places to live. The only consolation of the local population who choose to live there, after the 30-minuteto-hour-long commute through everincreasing traffic jams, is that, at the end of the day, they can fill their lungs with fresh air. Such was the disposition of N. when she, enjoying both good salary and living conditions, decided to follow the western tendency, sold her flat in the prestigious central Vake district and moved to Didi Dighomi to live in the fresh air. Having done so, she enthusiastically set to creatively styling her new private house, which included installing a swimming pool in the garden. When her second summer there arrived, she eagerly slipped into her swimming costume and stretched out beside said pool to enjoy the sun on her chaise-longue, feeling blessed. Then she caught sight of two young men looking down from the neighboring block of apartments. Bang went the joy of her

no longer private garden. There was a period when private settlements, so lovely and beautiful, diverse in color and style, reminded us of the European and American suburbs. But once the constructors move in, these are often marred by the multi-story concrete mushrooms springing up around and within. Even those enjoying air and view in said blocks find their joys squeezed out: where M., living on the 10th floor, has been extremely lucky to keep a nice unobstructed view of Sameba (Trinity) Cathedral (which was meant to be seen from all corners of Tbilisi), S., who lives on the 5th floor, will have no such pleasure from now on. Urbanization- both a necessity and a curse. Villagers flood from the regions to Tbilisi in search of education and work, the flow having been especially strong in the early years of this century following closure of the soviet factories. However, unfortunately, some of these villagers simply abandoned their land, being reluctant to work in the fields and preferring to try their luck in trade- not realizing well that the economy and strength of the country is based on strong villages. Thanks to mortgages, buying an apartment has become much more affordable than before; the city population grows, the demand increases and ever more blocks are built to accommodate…at the sacrifice of the good fresh air. Let’s get back to still-airy Didi Dighomi. Z., in his 50s, desperately fell in love with the idea of having a private garden. Several years ago, he purchased a house and settled down in Didi Dighomi together with his wife. He was happy to have the chance to grow his own organic fruit and vegetables. He now says that with the passing of years and constant con-

struction works around him, he struggles to breathe, let alone produce fruit and veg worth eating. N. and Z. are neighbors. Together with the others of their community, including the dwellers of the neighboring blocks of apartments, they share one valley unofficially used as a stadium from time to time by football players, a real paradise on summer evenings, seeing numerous locals enjoying an evening stroll there. Rumors are now circulating that this space is being sold to developers. Neighbors collected signatures to protest the move and sent them to Tbilisi City Hall. However, the only consolation they received in reply was that the undisclosed new owners of the land will not build anything until 2018. The local dwellers rightly point out that, unlike other sub-

urbs, there is not a single park in the whole of Didi Dighomi to replace this loss. I tried to speak to the new owners of said green land, which was apparently sold to him unlawfully years past. He refused to go into detail, merely mentioning that “his” territory covers 13,000 square kilometers. If this is then sold on to construction companies, we can bid farewell to the fresh air here, too. Didi Dighomi represents not only an ecological suburb, but is unofficially known as the air corridor of the capital city. Where will Tbilisi be fed with air from in the near future? Does anyone in charge ask this question in the long-run when planning the construction of more and more blocks of apartments which are based on short-term goals? What is

the point of so many apartments if we have no air to breathe? All those mentioned in this piece chose to stay incognito as some of them are employed in public organizations. However, they have one great concern in common. According to the Interim Head of Service of Architecture under Tbilisi City Hall, Zura Tsiklauri, the permission to build on that 13,000 sq.m. was given during the rule of Saakashvili’s government and is just now being finalized. It is hard (and sad) to believe when, like mushrooms after the rain, more and more new blocks of apartments emerge throughout the city at the expense of trees and air... Once upon a time, there was an ecologically clean suburb called Didi Dighomi…


14

CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY

JULY 21 - 24, 2017

WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER

SHALIKASHVILI THEATER Address: 37 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 595 50 02 03 July 23 THE KNIGHT IN THE PANTHER'S SKIN Shota Rustaveli Directed by Amiran Shalikashvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 12 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 July 22 MARSHAL DE FANTIE’S DIAMOND Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL July 27 STALINGRAD Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL CINEMA

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 GEL July 21-27 DUNKIRK Directed by Christopher Nolan Cast: Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh Genre: Action, Drama, History Language: English Start time: 19:15 Language: Russian Start time: 16:45, 19:30, 22:00 Ticket: 10-14 GEL WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES Directed by Matt Reeves Cast: Judy Greer, Woody Harrelson, Andy Serkis

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama Language: Russian Start time: 16:15, 19:00, 22:10 Ticket: 10-14 GEL SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING Directed by Jon Watts Cast: Tom Holland, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 13:15, 22:15 Ticket: 9-14 GEL RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL July 21-27 BERLIN SYNDROME Directed by Cate Shortland Cast: Teresa Palmer, Max Riemelt, Matthias Habich Genre: Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 19:20 Ticket: 13-14 GEL DUNKIRK (Info Above) Start time: 14:00, 17:30, 20:00, 22:35 Ticket: 10-14 GEL

THE BUILDER AND NEW EXHIBITS OF THE MEDIEVAL TREASURY September 27 (2016) – September 22 (2017) EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA May 18- November 18 EXHIBITION GEORGIAN COSTUME AND WEAPONRY OF 18TH-20TH CENTURIES MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS Address: 1 Gudiashvili Str. Telephone: 299 99 09 March 6 – August 30 EXHIBITION MASTERPIECES FROM THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS COLLECTION June 29- July 29 EXHIBITION DEDICATED TO THE 115TH ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST GEORGIAN FEMALE SCULPTOR NINO TSERETELI IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81

VERNISSAGE GALLERY Address: 49 Leselidze Str. July 15-25 Tamuna Melikishvili’s Exhibition DAGNY’S CAUCASIAN HOLIDAYS MUSIC

MTATSMINDA PARK Venue: Mtatsminda park Jully 22 EZO FESTIVAL eZo Live offers live concerts of the Georgian alternative music scene. Line up: GAMOUVALI MDGOMAREOBA A-RA Start time: 16:00 Ticket: 15 GEL Kids under 12 - Free BLACK SEA JAZZ BATUMI 2017 www.tbilisijazz.com July 27 CORY HENRY AND THE APOSTLES Venue: Club Take 5, Batumi Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 100-1000 GEL Venue: Club Take 5, Batumi GEM FEST 2017

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (Info Above) Start time: 19:10, 22:10 Ticket: 8-14 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 THE 4TH CENTURY A.D EXHIBITION OF GEORGIAN WEAPONRY

July 5 - September 11 EXHIBITION OF DAVID SULAKAURI'S ARTWORKS

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge Telephone: 215 73 00

July 14 – August 14 https://gemfestival.com Start time: 9:00 – 12:00 Tickets: Opening Pass: 60 GEL, 3-Day Pass: 120 GEL, Week Multi Pass: 170 GEL, Multi Pass: 500 GEL, VIP Pass 2000 GEL. GEM Fest is a month-long electronic music festival. Blazing a new trail within sight of the Black Sea, some of the world's biggest house, techno and trance DJs make this a stand-out summer party. Now into its third year, GEM Fest will be kick-starting Georgia's 2017 summer dance culture. More than 500 artists will perform on 9 stages and there will be more than 100 fun, sports and entertainment activities. Venue: Anaklia

June 8 – September 11 EXHIBITION CONSTELLATION

July 21 MARTIN GARRIX

July 11 – August 20 EXHIBITION "FIELD OF FLOWERS” MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 www.museum.ge PERMANENT EXHIBITION GALLERY

NUMISMATIC TREASURY THE TESTAMENT OF DAVID

Line Up: EVOL WAVEZ, JUSTIN MYLO, MARTIN GARRIX, SPACE Resident DJs, COBERT, ANDREY PUSHKAREV, TINI, BILL PATRICK Start time: 09:00 Ticket: 100 GEL July 23 DENNIS FERRER, AERA, AUTUMN TREE, COBERT, DASHA REDKINA, GACHA BAKRADZE, GEORGE ADI, GIO SHENGELIA, GRAMOPHONEDZIE, MIKE STEVA, PEZN, TVERA Start time: 09:00 July 24 ARTSAVES, AUTUMN TREE, BLACKSOUL, DARIUM, DASHA REDKINA, GACHA BAKRADZE, GEORGE ADI, GRAMOPHONEDZIE, MIKE STEVA, NUJI, PONURA, SPACE Resident DJs, TEGHVED Start time: 09:00 July 25 AIDA, ALEXKID, DARIUM, KATE ZUBOK, KLAUS, NIKA J, SPACE Resident DJs, URU Start time: 09:00 BLACK SEA ARENA Address: Tsikhidziri, Adjara July 23 KATIE MELUA Classic songs from Katie’s catalogue performed by Katie and her studio band from the UK: Tim Harries- bass, Mark Edwards - Keyboards, Simon Lea- drums, Paul Sayer- Guitar Special guests- Gori Women’s Choir Start time: 19:00 Ticket: From 20 GEL ART GENE www.artgeni.ge July 17-23 Craft Exhibitions 13:00 – 22:00 Start time for Folklore Concert: 20:00 For Final concert: 20:00 Season Ticket: 97 GEL July 21 Folklore Concert: Samegrelo Final concert: FRANI Ticket: 22 GEL July 22 Folklore Concert: Guria, Adjara Final Concert: NINO KATAMADZE & INSIGHT Ticket: 29 GEL July 23 Folklore Concert: Racha, Samtskhe Javakheti Final Concert: NIAZ DIASAMIDZE & 33A Ticket: 29 GEL July 24 Folklore Concert Final Concert: SUKHISHVILEBI Ticket: 29 GEL BLUES FESTIVAL IN LAGODEKHI Address: Lagodekhi, Kakheti July 22 SOBO Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 20-80 GEL SPACEHALL Address: 2 A.Tsereteli Ave. July 26 Muzame #12: Motorama BEQA KUNDALINI Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 20-30 GEL


CULTURE

GEORGIA TODAY JULY 21 - 24, 2017

German Ambassador on Georgia-German Relations BY MAKA LOMADZE

H

.E. Heike Peitsch is the latest Ambassador of Germany to Georgia, though it is not her first post in the region as, in the early 2000s, she served as number one diplomat in Armenia, and then in Russia, in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. She arrived in Georgia last September. Ambassador Peitsch admits that the Georgian hospitality has made it easy to get used to the country, to make friends and to organize meetings with government officials. And the fact that 2017 marks German-Georgian Year, the 25th anniversary of bilateral relations and 200 years since the first German colonists arrived, means there is both joy and much to be done in her first year here. GEORGIA TODAY went to meet her.

TELL US WHAT IS PLANNED TO CELEBRATE THE ANNIVERSARIES THIS YEAR We’ve organized a variety of activities both in Germany and here in Georgia. The activities in Germany will last until 2018, when Georgia will be the Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which is the largest book fair in the world. German-Georgian relations are not only a governmental matter but it also rely much on people-to-people relations. We’re giving a lot of attention and resources to encourage civil society to participate in the celebratory activities.

HOW MANY GERMAN COLONISTS HAVE RETURNED TO THEIR HISTORIC COUNTRY FROM GEORGIA? WHAT IS THE GENERAL LEVEL OF AWARENESS ABOUT GEORGIA IN GERMANY? It’s difficult to say exactly how many descendants of German colonists returned to Germany from Georgia in the past decades. Since 1992, a total of around 1700 ethnic Germans from Georgia returned to Germany within a special program of the Federal Government, so-called ‘Late Re-settlers’ but prior to that, other descendants came back. When Georgia was a part of the former Soviet Union, no data was kept. Furthermore, as you know, many German colonists moved from Georgia to Central Asia and other regions during the rule of Stalin. Therefore, ethnic Germans who resettled in Kazakhstan, for instance, sometimes have a Georgian background. Keeping these things in mind, I think that it’s safe to assume that several thousand descendants of those 200 German colonists have come to Germany since 1950. Along with them, approximately 24,000 Georgians are currently living in Germany. I think that this provides a good basis for raising awareness about Georgia, and in fact this is what’s happening. Knowledge about Georgia among Germans is on the up, as is interest towards this beautiful country and culture. This is also reflected in the rising number of German tourists coming to Georgia.

GERMANY WAS THE FIRST COUNTRY THAT RECOGNIZED THE RESTORATION OF GEORGIAN INDEPENDENCE IN 1991. WHAT DOES IT MEAN IN DIPLOMATIC TERMS? We are always proud that we were the first country to recognize Georgian independence in 1991. This has a very concrete meaning since recognition of independence is the pre-condition of establishing diplomatic relations and opening embassies.

ONE OF YOUR TARGET GROUPS IN RELATION-BUILDING HAS BEEN YOUTH Currently, approximately 40,000 Georgian students study German as a foreign language throughout the country. German thus occupies a strong third place among the most popular foreign languages in Geor-

Georgian Wine Exhibition in Bordeaux to Open Late July H.E. Heike Peitsch, the Ambassador of Germany to Georgia: Knowledge about Georgia among Germans is on the up, as is interest towards this beautiful country and culture. This is also reflected in the rising number of German tourists coming to Georgia.

gia – only English and Russian are more popular. Before the educational reform, which made English the first foreign language for Georgian students, around 120,000 pupils throughout Georgia studied German. This figure fell sharply to approximately 57,000 in the academic year 2011/12 and has since been declining. However, the decline has slowed significantly in the past two academic years and we’re seeing an increased interest in the German language among advanced pupils and university students.

WHY IS THAT? I think it’s due to the many opportunities that learning German offers: worldwide, approximately 140 million people speak German as a first, second or foreign language. With approximately 100 million native speakers, German is the most widely used native language in Europe. The countries in which German is spoken as a native language represent very strong economies. Studying German thus offers a lot of employment opportunities around the world. Additionally, studying in most German universities remains free of charge as the German state pays for tuition. German language proficiency therefore also opens up tremendous education possibilities in Germany. I am quite confident that German will consolidate its third place among the most popular foreign languages in Georgia and will continue to attract many students.

GERMANY FULLY SUPPORTS GEORGIA’S RETURN TO ITS HISTORICAL EUROPEAN FAMILY. WHAT IS BEING DONE IN THIS REGARD? We’ve given much to support Georgia’s policy to return to the European family. On the bilateral level, we’ve spent EUR 800 million on programs in the framework of economic cooperation over the last 25 years. Our points of focus are strengthening the rule of law, building democracy and offering the abovementioned education opportunities as a contribution to democracy building. On the multilateral level, Germany, as a member of the EU, is very much promoting Georgia’s further approaching Euro-Atlantic structures. Georgia concluded the Association Agreement (AA) with the EU which means a very ambitious implementation agenda for Georgia. Together with partners in the EU, we’re going to support Georgia in the implementation of the AA, which is an absolute priority for Georgia on its way to Europe. Georgia has already achieved a lot. For example, the visa-liberalization did not come out of the blue- it was linked with a lot of conditions that needed to be met. Now, the AA needs to be implemented. Georgia is a part of Europe. However, there is much more to be done. The Georgian economy is still operating on a relatively low basis, but the government is wellaware of the fact and has recognized the importance of a growth-generating strategy.

The Cité des Civilisations Du Vin in Bordeaux, France, will open its doors for the Georgian wine exhibition on July 31

BY THEA MORRISON

G

eorgia’s Minister of Agriculture, Levan Davitashvili, has confirmed that from July 31 to November 5, the center of wine civilization- Cité des Civilisations Du Vin in Bordeaux, France, will open its doors for the Georgian wine exhibition. “It is a very important exhibition- Georgia is the first invited country and it is the proof that Georgia is the motherland of wine, the cradle of viniculture,” Davitashvili stated at the special press-conference on Wednesday. The Minister explained that participation in the exhibition is a unique platform for popularization of Georgian wine and culture. “I would like to thank the National Museum of Georgia which has prepared a very interesting exposition which will present Georgian wine and culture at the international center for four months,” Davitashvili added. The exhibition will showcase 125 archaeological and ethnographical exhibits and works of art, as well as heritage photographs from the Georgian National Museum collections, all of which illustrate the key role which wine and vine play in Georgian culture. Numerous events attached to the exhibition will punctuate life at La Cité du Vin throughout the exhibition period: a concert, a film, a festive event, conferences, as well as Georgian wine-tasting and grape variety discovery workshops. The exhibition is co-organized and financed by the Georgian Ministry of Agriculture through Min-

ister Levan Davitashvili, and Ekaterine SiradzeDelaunay, the Georgian Ambassador to France. Within the Georgian exhibition, a large Qvevri will be placed at the main entrance of the Wine Civilization Center. The Qvevri was specially designed for the exhibition at the modern Qvevri School of Alaverdi Eparchy. Especially for the exhibition, the National Bank of Georgia (NBG) issued 5-Lari denomination silver collector coins on the theme of the Georgian vine in order to promote the country’s rich culture and the history of ancient winemaking traditions. The new coin pictures the Georgian vine and the UNESCO heritage listed, large, ancient Georgian winemaking vessel—the Qvevri—with red wine within. In total, 1500 coins have been made in Japan Mint. The official website of La Cite du Vin (Wine City), world’s largest wine museum, says that the exhibition focuses on four key themes: the roots of Georgian wine culture, wine and royalties, the importance of wine in religious beliefs and wine in everyday life. “Set on the banks of the Black Sea and nestled at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains where Europe and Asia meet, Georgia has an age-old culture of winemaking dating back to the 6th millennium BC,” the webpage reads. In recognition of the importance of the event, the Georgian government has set up a special commission, composed of representatives of various government agencies and headed by the Minister of Agriculture. The project is supported by the Georgian National Wine Agency, the Georgian Wine Association and the National Intellectual Property Center of Georgia.

IN 2018, GEORGIA WILL PARTICIPATE IN THE FRANKFURT BOOK FAIR Yes. It’s an honor for me as the Ambassador of Germany to Georgia, that my host country will be the Guest of Honor in 2018 at the Frankfurt Book Fair. This status offers Georgia a huge variety of opportunities. It’s the chance to present Georgia’s rich history, culture and literature. Georgian writer Nino Kharatishvili’s book ‘The 8th Life for Brinka’ has become a best-seller. Nino, who lives and writes in Germany, in this book tells the story of a Georgian family. A lot of my German friends have read it. With the support of the Georgian Ministry of Culture, the book is now being translated into Georgian. I’m impressed to see how actively Georgia is already preparing the Frankfurt Book Fair and I’m really looking forward to it.

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Issue #965  

July 21 - 24, 2017

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