Issue no: 931
• MARCH 24 - 27, 2017
• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue...
Georgia Condemns Terror Attack in London NEWS PAGE 2
Azerbaijan’s Relations with Russia: Beware the Bear POLITICS PAGE 4
Stuck with an Impotent Presidency
ON MEDIA DEVELOPMENT
POLITICS PAGE 6
As GT celebrates its 17th anniversary, the Georgia Today Group launches The Economist's The World In 2017
Schirnhofer Now Has its First Store in Tbilisi
Szijjártó on Hungary-Russia-EU Relations INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE
ast week, the Foreign Minister of Hungary, Péter Szijjártó, visited Georgia to bolster the bilateral relations between the two countries and prepare the stage for PM Orban’s visit in April. In an exclusive interview with GEORGIA TODAY, the FM started off by highlighting the importance of mutual economic cooperation and trade, stating that they want to raise the level of economic ties to the level of political relations. “We started by opening a EUR 85,000 million credit line from the Hungarian Exim Bank to facilitate business to business, company to company partnership. We identified several flagship areas of cooperation, including water management- a leading Hungarian water management company is cooperating with the United Water Supply Company of Georgia. Hopefully, this cooperation will see the Hungarian side assuming operational control in several municipalities, for example, now we’re running in a tender for Kutaisi, where we already have a Hungarian presence. Wizzair has become a focal point in fostering bilateral travel- the amount of visa applications has risen nine times since the flight was introduced. Agriculture, food industry technologies, sports infrastructure – we’ll be building a stadium in Batumi - the pharmaceutical industry, where we already have 25 million worth of annual export and, finally, forestry, where Hungarian companies take part in modernizing the sector according to European Union standards. Continued on page 6
BUSINESS PAGE 7
New Hepatitis C Center Opens in West Georgia SOCIETY PAGE 12
Maltakva, Poti to Have a New Beach SOCIETY PAGE 12
First Georgian Film Bought by Netflix Receives another Prize at Sofia Int’l Film Fest CULTURE PAGE 15
MARCH 24 - 27, 2017
Georgia’s Parliament Overrides President’s Veto on Surveillance Bill BY THEA MORRISON
Georgia Condemns Terror Attack in London BY THEA MORRISON
orld leaders have condemned late Wednesday’s terrorist attack in London, which left five people dead and at least 40 injured. Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said that Georgia and Georgians will always stand by the civilized world in the fight against terrorism. “I am deeply concerned by information on what seems to be terrorist attack near the UK parliament in London. Our thoughts are with the victims and families,” the PM tweeted. President Margvelashvili also released a statement regarding the attack. “I am deeply outraged by the terrorist incident at Westminster Palace. We strongly condemn all forms of terrorism and stand in solidarity with the UK,” the president of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, stated. Georgia’s Foreign Ministry said that no Georgians are reported among the deceased or injured in the incident.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia condemns terrorism in all its forms and conveys its condolences to the families of terrorism victims, as well as to the government of the United Kingdom, wishing speedy recovery to those who were injured as a result of the incident,” the statement of the MFA reads. According to BBC, the incident happened late on Wednesday in London. Five people have died, and at least 40 were injured after an attacker drove a car along the pavement in Westminster, stabbed a policeman, and was shot dead by police on the grounds of Parliament. “Acting Deputy Commissioner and Head of Counter Terrorism at the Metropolitan Police, Mark Rowley, said they think they know who he is and that he was inspired by international and Islamist-related terrorism but gave no further details,” BBC reports. Rowley said hundreds of detectives worked through the night, carrying out searches at six addresses. Seven arrests have been made in raids following the Westminster according to police.
he MPs of Georgian Parliament have overridden President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s veto on the surveillance draft bill adopted by parliament on March 1st. The legislative package included provisions for the creation of a legal entity of public law (LEPL) the OperativeTechnical Agency of Georgia, which will be responsible for covert surveillance. The agency will be under the supervision of the State Security Service (SSS). However, the agency will be accountable to the prime minister and will submit a generalized report of its activities to the PM annually. The responsibilities of the agency will include hidden surveillance of phone communication; retrieving information from computer systems; control of post office transfers; secret audio and video surveillance; and photographic surveillance. The new bill on covert investigative actions became necessary after the Constitutional Court of Georgia ruled on April 14, 2016 that the existing model of surveillance, with the Interior Ministry and Personal Data Protection Inspector as key players, needed to be changed. The court stated that the existing legislation, which allowed the police to have direct and unrestricted access to telecom operators’ networks to monitor com-
munications, was unconstitutional and set a deadline of March 31, 2017 to implement the court’s decision and replace the existing surveillance law with new one. The president added his remarks to the bill, and he sent it back to parliament on March 21st. He had two main remarks: The bill does not guarantee the independence of the new surveillance agency, and there are "unjustified and unpredictable costs” that the bill imposes on communications companies. The majority party, Georgian Dream (GD), which has 116 seats in the parliament, needed at 76 votes out of total 150 MPs to override the bill. The president’s bill was voted on first. 22 MPs were in favor, and 86 were against. Afterwards, parliament voted for a bill that had not been approved by the pres-
ident. 93 MPs voted in favor of the bill 21 were against. Head of the President’s Administration, Giorgi Abashishvili, called this “disappointing.” “If the parliament had supported the president’s remarks, the surveillance agency would have been more independent,” he stressed. Parliamentary opposition parties believe the majority’s draft bill does not respond to the Constitutional Commission verdict, that the agency must be independent. They also think that the bill gives too much power to the SSS. Non-Governmental Organizations also share this position on the issue. The bill was once again sent to the president after the veto was overridden. If the President does not sign it again, the Speaker of the Parliament will have the right to sign it.
GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 24 - 27, 2017
Incident Prevention and Investment Plan for Europe: Response Mechanism Commissioner Bulc Meeting Held in Gali Outlines Vision for
BY THEA MORRISON
n Tuesday, an Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meeting was held in Gali, located in Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia, near the administrative boundary line (ABL). This was the 44th meeting of the IPRM, which brought together Georgian, Abkhaz, Russian and European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) representatives and was chaired by the United Nations (UN). Representatives of the Georgian central government brought up the murder case of Georgian citizen Giga Otkhozoria, who was killed by an Abkhazian border guard on the territory controlled by Georgia, on May 19, 2016. Georgian representatives demanded the arrest the Abkhaz citizen, Rashid Kanji-Oghli, who killed Otkhozoria and is now wanted by Interpol. Georgian representatives also raised the issue of a Georgian citizen, Giorgi Lukava, who is being illegally imprisoned within the occupied Abkhazia region for alleged terrorist activities. During the meeting issues related to the illegal detentions for crossing the occupation line were discussed. The representatives of the Georgian central
government underlined that the illegal detentions not only violate the fundamental right of the local residents, but also undermine the security environment on the ground. At the meeting, Georgian representatives raised problems caused by the closure of the two crossing points. They also discussed all the major incidents that took place within the region recently. The Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism was created in February 2009 as a result of the Geneva discussions that followed the 2008 conflict in
Georgia. The meetings are an opportunity to discuss the identification of potential risks and problems facing the local community, follow up on incidents, and exchange information. The meetings are co-facilitated by the OSCE and the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM). The Georgian representatives at the IPRM meetings are from the State Security Service and the Reconciliation and Civil Equality Ministry of Georgia. The next IPRM meeting in Gali will be held on 25th April 2017.
n 23 and 24 March, Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc is meeting with private and public institutions at a conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, to discuss how to boost investment in the transport sector. The conference is to focus on investment opportunities in the Cohesion Member States and will also address cooperation with the Western Balkans and Eastern Partners, gathering together high-level representatives involved in the planning and financing of European transport infrastructure projects, financial institutions and public and private project promoters. Together, they will discuss how to make the best use of the opportunities under the European Commission’s Investment Plan for Europe, including the Cleaner Transport Facility, and exchange experience and lessons learned in successful transport projects. “Public grants are not enough to deliver on our vision for seamless, intelligent and sustainable mobility,” Commissioner Bulc said prior to the start of the conference. “With the Commission’s Investment Plan for Europe, we want to offer innovative solutions such as blending funds to mobilize additional private financing. This is particularly important in the cohesion countries where we still
need to work to bridge the infrastructure investment gap with other parts of Europe. Boosting investment is also vital to strengthen the region’s competitiveness and stimulate the recent economic recovery”. The conference in Sofia follows the recent launch by the Commission of a call for proposals combining EUR 1 billion of grants with financing from the European Fund for Strategic Investments, public financial institutions and from the private sector wherever possible. The call will complement the EUR 19.4 billion in EU grants already announced under the Connecting Europe Facility and the 36 transport-related projects under the European Fund for Strategic Investments that will trigger a total EUR 15.2 billion of investments. Conference participants include the Maltese Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Joe Mizzi, Bulgarian Prime Minister Ognyan Gerdzhikov and Transport Minister Hristo Alexiev, Pim Van Ballekom, the Vice President of the European Investment Bank, members of the European Parliament, as well as ministers from other Cohesion Member States and ministers of the Eastern Partners and Western Balkans countries. More on this story in Tuesday’s GEORGIA TODAY Business issue.
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MARCH 24 - 27, 2017
Stuck with an Impotent Presidency OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE
hy is Georgia always stuck with some awkward governing absurdities? Why can’t this nation create, once and for all, a system of governance, including the electoral code, which will not need to be forcefully altered every once in a while due to circumstantial exigencies, and that will not have to be tailored on some whimsical aims and aspirations of another dictatorial leader of a developing country? Take Trump, for example. He craves to see his dictate honored in his own country as well as elsewhere around the globe, but he will never become a dictator in the true meaning of the word – the American system of governance will never allow this nonsense to happen because such is the nature of the American system of ruling the country. Five years ago, Georgia was a “presidential republic,” like the United States,
where the executive branch was made up of president and his cabinet. The only difference was that the Georgian government was technically headed by a prime-minister, who could formally be equaled to the White House Chief of Staff. Here, we have ministries, headed by ministers, and there, they have departments headed by secretaries. Those were the only formal differentiating features; otherwise, the systems were similar and all was OK – it worked, and successfully enough. There was one grave drawback in governance in Georgia. All of a sudden, the entire decisionmaking power became concentrated in one person’s hands, and that one person was the president of the country. What happened later is that the president, following the expiration of his term of office, wanted to stay in power which contradicted the constitution, so he decided to change the system of governance in Georgia, to reflect this change in the constitution. Georgia was turned from a presidential into a parliamentary republic, rather, into a semiparliamentary republic with so many
branches of government. The system of governance in Georgia allowed the concentration of political power in the hands of one branch of government, in the president. In America, this cannot happen because the American political system is adamantly safeguarded by the principle of checks and balances which realistically works there in a foolproof system. Now the question pops up – why does it work in America and not here in Georgia? To answer this question professionally, with a reasonable margin of precision, one needs to do long-term deep research into Georgia’s political history of at least the last thirty years, and include into that scientific endeavor the analysis of the psycho-type of an average Georgian political animal. The theme is extremely serious for the further development of democratic governance in Georgia. Again, why does the exact same system of government iwork in the States and not working in Georgia? Why is the fairness of the judiciary always questionable in our political culture? Why is it so painfully
difficult to write a constitution which could successfully do its job for the next five hundred years with only occasional minor amendments? Why do we allow more than three branches of government in this tiny nation of only three and a half million, whereas the three hundred and fifty thousand proof American nation uses only three? Why do we have to be enslaved by the system which feeds us so many flagrant inconveniences? Why are we stuck with an impotent presidency and a systemic headache? Who needs a commander-in-chief who will never have anything to do with the army except when making rare patriotically embellished speeches before the defenders of the motherland,
who don’t even know what the president is doing in the country they have to fight for when the time comes and the need materializes. Why is a parliamentary republic better and more optimal than a presidential republic? Why are there two high-level courts in Georgia – Supreme and Constitutional? America uses only one, with two functions, and they say it is more than enough to be judicially good and fair. I don’t think there is anything more exigent to be discussing on everyday basis in the Georgian legislative body. And I guess we the people have nothing hotter to talk about than the issue that bothers us so much – the issue of governing the country in the most effective way.
Arming Up OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA
he deployment of an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system on the territory of occupied Abkhazia didn’t merit any special reaction from Official Tbilisi. The case of Rustavi 2 and the to-be curtailed authority of President Margvelashvili still remain the main news in the country. It is hard to explain why Tbilisi rests easy. Perhaps it is failing to assess the situation adequately. Or maybe it is a sign of panic. The fact is that Georgia is already in the C-300 siege and whenever the Kremlin decides to use its lead, it will do so. New anti-missile systems were brought into breakaway Abkhazia on March 10 and will be installed on the territories of the Russian military bases in Ochamchire and Gali. Information has spread that the same type of systems are also to be installed in the occupied Akhalgori region. The Russian anti-missile systems in Abkhazia and those installed in the Russian military base in Gyumri, Armenia, completely cover Georgia. Strengthening the armament of the Russian military bases in Abkhazia is assessed as a “demonstration of power” by experts, who also stress that Russia is using de-facto Abkhazia for its own geopolitical interests. The former Minister of Security of Abkhazia, Levan Kiknadze, believes that Russia will import as many weapons as it wants without asking anyone for permission. “They act like this because they want to irritate us. Strengthening the armed forces on the Abkhazian territory will result in the growth of the military contingent, which also means increasing the number of Russians, something the Russian government has been looking forward to for a long
time,” Kiknadze said. The opposition believes that these actions are directly connected with the government’s imprudent policy. Giorgi Tugushi, member of the European Georgia party, disapproves of the policy the Georgian government has had with regards to Russia: “Russia violates all types of international legislative norm a well as strenghtening its military presence. This is yet another consequence of us relying on the Karasin-Abashidze format rather than that of the Geneva. In the first place our government should wake up and finally get to the conclusion that warmed relations with Russia prove fruitless. All international leverage at hand should be used as soon as possible.” Brigadier General and military expert, Amiran Salukvadze, believes that installment of the anti-missile systems is an open reaction from the Kremlin in response to the NATO’s activities in the Black Sea region. “The fact that the Caucasus is vitally important as a region for Russia is well known and the admittance of any Caucasian country in the membership of NATO is totally unacceptable,” said Salukvadze. Although the role of Georgia within the strategy of NATO in Black Sea Security has yet to be specified, the leaders of NATO and the government of Georgia have repeatedly stressed that Georgia will certainly engage in the process. Moreover, as the Minister of Defense of Georgia, Levan Izoria stated, Georgia has already presented specific proposals about the forms of Georgia’s engagement in Black Sea Security. The appearance of Russian C-300 in the occupied Abkhazia is a puzzle not only for Georgia. Moscow is trying to revive the unified system of air control it had during the USSR, a serious challenge for the NATO member countries; in the first place for Turkey, but also for other states from the Black Sea region, namely Bulgaria and Romania. Bringing the C-300 anti-missile systems onto occupied Georgian lands is far from then end of this process. Russia is creating a command for its southern direction and also plans to modernize its military units in the North Caucasus, occupied Abkhazian and Tskhinvali regions and Armenia, as well as its Navy fleets in the Black and Caspian Seas.
Azerbaijan’s Relations with Russia: Beware the Bear OP-ED BY EUGENE KOGAN
he geographic location of the three South Caucasian countries Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia is a curse. For centuries these countries have been divided and ruled by dominating Persian, Russian and Ottoman empires. The empires collapsed and faded away, but their successor states Iran, Turkey and the Soviet Union (present-day Russia) continue to dominate the region. The collapse of the Soviet Union gave Azerbaijan breathing space to build a new independent state. Yet the curse of geography still lingers. An independent and sovereign state for 25 years, Azerbaijan is still bordered by Russia and Iran. And this time round, President Vladimir Putin will not give President IlhamAliyev’s regime a second chance to align with the West and Turkey. First, it is important to elaborate on Azerbaijan’s current domestic situation and its implications for relations with
Turkey, its strategic partner, as well as Azerbaijan’s relations with the EU and the US, because it explains why Azerbaijan eventually chose to co-operate with Russia. Over the past two to three years, Azerbaijan’s maneuvering space has shrunk due to the domestic economic downturn, falling oil and gas prices and subsequent depreciation of the local currency, and cooling relations with the EU and the US (hereafter called the West) and Turkey. In the end, Azerbaijan is left with the only viable option of cooperating with Iran and Russia, two countries that Azerbaijan has to be very careful with. On the one hand, for the last 20 years, Azerbaijan has pursued a multilateral policy and kept Russia at a safe distance. Azerbaijan did not let Russia drag it into Russian-led organizations like the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Furthermore, Azerbaijan has strenuously objected to the deployment of Russian peacekeeping forces along the Line of Contact (LoC) in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan learned from the experience of the international
community that it has no leverage to make Moscow withdraw its troops, and international appeals to Russia to withdraw its troops from the occupied territories have fallen on deaf ears in Moscow. Yet the government of Azerbaijan realized that in comparison with Russia, the West is weak and indecisive when it comes to the South Caucasus, and Turkey is preoccupied with domestic and foreign crises and distracted from Azerbaijan. As a result, Azerbaijan has to cope alone with its neighborhood, including Iran’s ambiguous policy. Although Azerbaijan and Turkey have been on the same page for many years towards Russia as Finlandization, akin to the Finnish pursuit of neutrality after the end of the Second World War in the face of a hostile Soviet Union. Closer relations with Russia mean a radical shift in Azerbaijani strategic vision and foreign policy pursuit based on the past co-operation with the West and Turkey. There is no doubt that the shift has been accompanied by a strengthening of IlhamAliyev’s regime at home.
GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 24 - 27, 2017
Failure Project Europe: Ogden on Frexit & the Cost of Visa Liberalization OP-ED BY TIM OGDEN
russels will be shaking at the knees as the French presidential election approaches. While Emmanuel Macron's central 'En Marche!' campaign has gained slightly in the polls, an attempted terrorist attack this week at Orly airport in Paris could well see Marine le Pen snatch victory. With both Britain voting to leave the European Union and Donald Trump seeing off Hillary Clinton in defiance of predictions, 2016 certainly showed that the political underdog can win against the odds. Perhaps in years prior, voters might have thought that casting their ballot for fringe contenders was a waste of their only chance to democratically make themselves heard, but two consecutive shocking wins for platforms perceived to be anti-immigration and nationalistic will likely have dispelled this notion. Should Marine le Pen, an anti-immigration, tough-on-terrorism Eurosceptic, prove victorious, she will likely initiate a Frexit, and the European Union's future will appear more uncertain than ever. (This would, incidentally, be rather helpful for Britain, which is floundering in a sea of Euro-anger and threats of being taken to court if London fails to pay a £50 billion divorce bill.) Beyond the infighting and inability to come to any agreement on the plethora of issues facing the continent, the European Union also does itself no favors with the countries that aspire to be a part of it. Its 'mañana, mañana' approach to Georgia gradually caused simmering resentment amongst parts of the local population, and while this has receded slightly in the face of the EU's agreement to grant Georgians visa-free access to the Schengen zone, remarks made by Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz could well cause a rise in Euroscepticism. Kurz suggested that to alleviate the burden being placed on EU nations struggling to accommodate Angela Merkel's open-door refugee policy, EU partner states could take asylum seekers of their own. Vienna's subsequent attempts to deal with the Georgian uproar by claim-
ing that his comments had been taken out of context failed entirely; his comments, after all, were not of the kind that could be wholly misinterpreted. Many Georgians understood this as being the price the country must pay for its visa waiver to the EU. While this was hotly denied by Brussels (and the Georgian people being prone to believing conspiracy theories, especially ones of their own making), the timing could not have been poorer, and although it is likely that no formal demand was made that Tbilisi should accommodate migrants in return for a visa waiver, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Brussels had hoped that Georgia would acquiesce in grovelling gratitude. Most of the recent terrorist attacks in Europe have been carried out by migrants, and the alarming number of sexual assault cases across the continent is also due to Europe's new arrivals having rather different ideas about consent, equality, and the rights of women. Doubt has also been raised over the age of many migrants without identification, as many claiming to be teenagers appear far older. These
would all be reason enough for Georgia to be alarmed at the thought of introducing thousands of refugees into the country, if not also due to the dire situation that Georgia faces itself. Georgia lives in perpetual fear of Russian aggression, and South Ossetia's upcoming formal referendum on joining the Russian Federation will hardly improve matters. In addition, the economic conditions of the vast majority of the population remains dire, and so how Georgia was expected to help the refugee horde when it can hardly serve its own people was left unexplained. Whether the Austrian FM's remarks were a result of inexcusable ignorance or simply an example of the callousness that eastern EU members feel their western counterparts treat them with, Kurz has helped put a sizeable dent in the surge of optimism felt after Georgia's visa liberalization. If Miss le Pen clinches victory and France follows Britain into European exile, then prospective as well as current EU members might decide that the 'European project' has proved a failure.
Parliamentary Delegation of Nordic, Baltic Countries Meet Georgian Officials BY THEA MORRISON
he Speakers and ViceSpeakers of the Parliaments of the Baltic and Nordic states, who arrived in Tbilisi on March 20th, held meetings with Georgian officials. The Nordic and Baltic countries make up the Nordic-Baltic Eight (NB8), which facilitates open discussions on international topics and topics vital to the Nordic-Baltic region. The parliamentary delegations of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were hosted by the parliament Speaker of Georgia, Irakli Kobakhidze, on Tuesday. “It is a historical event, the unification of officials of our partner countries to discuss our common interests and make the useful decisions,” Kobakhidze said, addressing the delegates. Georgian Parliament Speaker thanked the guests for supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and EU and NATO aspirations. “Let me express my gratitude to each member of NB8 for your significant contribution to democracy, good governance, and rule of law. We highly appreciate the attention NB8 attaches to issues that are important for Georgia,” he added. Inara Murniece, the Speaker of the Latvian Saeima, thanked the Chairman for his hospitality. According to her, the joint visit of NB8 Delegation is a demonstration of their support for Georgia. “NB8 is a unique format of regional cooperation based on a common agenda. We are open for dialogue with our partners and with Georgia of course. NB8 enjoys excellent partnership and friendship with Georgia[…]Georgia is one of the closest partners of NATO and EU. We hail choice of Georgia and further support the country’s EU and NATO aspirations,” she stated. The NB8 delegation also met with the Foreign Relations and the EU Integra-
tion Committees of Georgian parliament, as well as with different factions. “Georgia is devoted to its aim of building a European country with European democracy and institutions,” Georgia’s Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, said in address to the NB8 Delegation at the governmental administration. The PM thanked the guests for their visit to Georgia and for their assistance to the country. “I am proud of Georgia’s achievements, but this progress would be impossible without your assistance,” Kvirikashvili said. The representatives discussed Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration process, Georgia’s success in the process of visaliberalization, as well as recent developments in Georgia’s occupied regions. The NB8 delegation once again confirmed their support to Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. The delegates also met with the President of Georgia, Giorgi Margvelashvili, at the Presidential Administration. The key issues of the meeting were Russia’s actions on the occupied territories and further cooperation between the NB8 countries and the Black Sea Region. On Wednesday, the NB 8 Delegation visited the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia, Ilia II at the Patriarchate. “20 percent of Georgian territories are occupied by Russia[…]I have been the Metropolitan of Abkhazia for 11 years, but I cannot go there and meet local believers,” Ilia II told the delegation. Prior holding the meetings with the Georgian officials, the delegation went to the administrative boundary line (ABL) between the occupied South Ossetia region and Georgia. The delegates met with a family living behind the barbed wire fences in the Central Georgia region in the village of Khurvaleti. The delegation listened to the recent problems of the local population. Moreover, the NB8 delegation went to the Gori Office of the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) and met with the mission representatives.
No Place Like Home
OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA
he time has come for the rotation to happen in the occupied territories. Elections for the so-called parliament in Abkhazia and the so-called president in South Ossetia are about to be held. At a first glance, it seems the two elections have nothing in common, but if we examine the course of events more closely, we will see that
both “elections” have a big common trait – their former leaders are planning a comeback: Alexander Ankvab to Sokhumi and Eduard Kokoity to Ttskhinvali. The first round of “parliamentary elections” was already held in Sokhumi and ex-president Ankvab has already been elected among the 35 lucky ones who will take over the legislative management of the occupied territory. But for Eduard Kokoity things are more complicated, as the Kremlin forbids him from returning to the post of head of government and he has been denied the regis-
teration. Although Validslav Surkov, the head of the Georgian occupied territories from the Kremlin, says Kokoity should satisfy the requirements of the local election commission regarding housing documents, the latter and the “Heroes” of the August War remain stubborn. For a long time, Kokoity has been living in Moscow instead of Tskhinvali, therefore his housing documents are also from the Russian capital. It seems the Kremlin has no need of rebellious leaders in the breakway region and puts its stakes on the current “president,” the former KGB officer Leonid Tibilov. So, why the Kremlin did not prevent Ankvab from becoming an MP and why their candidate Sergey Shamba was unsuccessful remains a mystery. Ankvab has the reputation of having a “strong-hand” and supposedly he fights corruption- doing so quite “sovietly”, meaning he confronts only those from the opposite clan. Maybe that is the reason he was attacked as many as five times, and once even at his home. But fate was on his side and he survived every time.
Taking into consideration these attacks, we could conclude that electing Ankvab could intensify the confrontation between Abkhazian clans and the “gangster wars.” As they predict in Sokhumi, Ankvab will soon even become the “Speaker of the Parliament” and get his revenge by ejecting former opponent, de-facto President Raul Khajimba from the post. Why Surkov and the Kremlin allowed Abkvab’s political resuscitation is truly hard to explain. It is obvious that the Kremlin is unsatisfied with Ankvab’s political resurrection. Recall Konstantin Zatulin’s visit to Abkhazia, where he travelled with an observer mission from the Russian Federation and said: “Despite all due respect for the Abkhazian electoral system, I should say that during the Armenian Parliamentary elections on April 2, for the first time quotas for national minority candidates will be provided. 99 percent of the population in Armenia is Armenian. Nevertheless, there will be four places for the national minorities in parliament. Tell me the need for more than 100 candidates and only one with
a Russian family name?” A total of 137 candidates competed for 35 mandates in the Abkhazian “Parliament,” and while being almost the same number in population as Abkhazians, Armenians have only four seats. Zatulin’s announcement was was far from coincidental. By bringing the Armenian theme to the forefront, it becomes clear that the Kremlin is trying to balance the legislative fantasies of the Abkhazians. As time passes, the Kremlin will continue trying to play the Armenian cards more effectively. Abkhazians are facing a problem: how to withstand pressure from the Kremlin and their desire to swallow Abkhazia completely. Moscow further exerts pressure by closing the border and trying to choke Abkhazia economically. And whoever becomes head of the occupied territory will have just two options to choose from: watch how Russia eats up Abkhazia or think about a real comporomise with Tbilisi with the help of the European Union. But keep in mind the latter is out of the question if the IDPs aren’t returned to their homes.
MARCH 24 - 27, 2017
Szijjártó on HungaryRussia-EU Relations Continued from page 1
WINE IS ONE OF HUNGARY’S SPECIALTY EXPORT ITEMS. IN THAT RESPECT, WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON GEORGIAN WINE’S PROSPECTS ON THE EUROPEAN MARKET? I’ve already seen Georgian wine on the Hungarian market. I’ve not tasted it – I’ve never drunk alcohol in my life, so I can be an impartial judge in this. I think the best solution for Georgian wine would be to focus on quality, not quantity, just like we Hungarians do. The unique qualities of Georgian wine will be best suited to a niche market.
NOWADAYS, THE FIRST NOTION THAT COMES TO MIND WHEN SPEAKING ABOUT HUNGARY IS HOW HARDLINE YOU ARE ON MIGRATION ISSUES. WITH VISA LIBERALIZATION FAST APPROACHING GEORGIA, A HUNGARIAN PERSPECTIVE ON MIGRATION WOULD BE INTERESTING FOR OUR READERS We made it very clear that entering the territory of our country is only acceptable if it’s legal. We can never accept anyone entering our territories illegally. We don’t like the European approach of encouraging people to travel vast distances illegally and violate a series of borders. We don’t think it should be a European policy. Our approach would be to help these people stay in the nearby safe, peaceful territories so that they can return when the conflict is over. That’s why our proposal has always been to give every kind of support to Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and so on, so that they can take care of the refugees. Still, it’s not like the border entries are closed – they are open, and if somebody wants to come to Hungary, they can do it according to the regulations. So, instead of a hypocritical and politically correct approach to this issue, we merely urge them to be realistic, more honest and more straightforward.
OTHER CRITICISM THAT HUNGARY HAS TO BEAR FROM THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY LATELY REVOLVES AROUND ITS SOMEWHAT LIBERAL AND SYMPATHETIC STANCE TOWARDS RUSSIA. HOW DOES COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA WORK – ANY HUNGARIAN KNOWHOW FOR GEORGIANS? We are central Europeans – we can’t afford not to talk with Russia. So, we are opting for a transparent and pragmatic relationship. And here again we have call out some of our criticizers for double standards and hypocrisy. We never criticized the fact that Germany bought a record high amount of Gas from Russia last year. We were very shocked by the fact that the Western European companies are dealing with Gazprom to build Nordstream 2 together. The European Commission has apparently no say on that; while at the same time they killed the South Stream project in which several Central and South East European countries would have been involved. Last summer, when I was in Saint Petersburg attending an economic forum, I saw many people speaking German than Russian there, and lo and behold, Italian Prime Minister Renzi took to the stage with presidents Putin and Nazarbayev.
And I could go on listing many more such occurrences, yet we get criticized and called Pro-Russian!? That’s just double standards and is unacceptable.
THERE IS ALSO THE MATTER OF SANCTIONS. BUDAPEST DOESN’T SEEM VERY FOND OF THEM We think sanctions are an unsuccessful policy, both economically and politically. Economically, it brought more troubles to Europe than to Russia. Politically, it fell short of its target to make Russia comply with the Minsk Agreement. It didn’t work out, so what should be done? First, we should discuss, at the level of heads of states, the impact, expectations and future strategy. The first stage is evaluation and the second is what to do. The latter cannot come before the former.
BUT EVEN IF THERE IS AN ECONOMIC TRADE-OFF, DON’T YOU THINK IT’S WORTH IT? WHAT OTHER LEVERAGE DOES THE EU HAVE OVER RUSSIA? That’s a good question. Whatever happened in Ukraine is very bad, and it should be handled competently, but we don’t think sanctions are the right solution to this. What is the right solution? Well, we cannot say that before we discuss the current situation over sanctions. Unfortunately, the politically correct consensus at Brussels seems that if you mention the impact of sanctions, if you say they were unsuccessful, you’re labeled pro-Russian.
WHAT ABOUT COMPLEX RELATIONS BETWEEN RUSSIA AND GEORGIA? WHAT’S HUNGARY’S STANCE ON THIS? We have been always very vocal and involved in that regard. The territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia must be respected. International law is for everyone, regardless of size, GDP or strength… How can we help Georgia towards stability and progress? I think through EU and NATO integration. If there was a very vocal, very loud country in favor of granting Georgia the visa waiver, then that was Hungary. We pushed for it like no-one else and we were very frustrated when, after fulfilling all the requirements at least a year ago, new preconditions were set. On the other hand, regarding NATO: you have 870 troops in Afghanistan, you’re the largest non-member contributor, you’ve participated in every mission – what else should be done by Georgia to get NATO membership? What else?
WOULD IT BE FAIR TO ASSUME THAT BUDAPEST BELIEVES THAT AFTER THE INTEGRATION OF THE BALKANS, ON WHICH THERE SEEMS TO BE A LOOSE CONSENSUS IN BRUSSELS, IT SHOULD BE GEORGIA AND UKRAINE’S TURN? I think it’s equally important to accelerate both processes. Realistically, though you should be next, sadly, in Europe now there is no will for enlargement. It’s a case of enlargement fatigue because of all these crises we’ve been facing: instead of looking beyond the horizon, everybody is dealing with daily issues. And I think that we might have forgotten the fact that the more we are, the stronger we are and I think that with Western Balkans and Eastern Partner-
ship integrated, Europe would be a much safer place than it is now. We are in the minority in this position but still, this is what we believe and we’re not going to give it up. That’s why we’re pushing very hard for Montenegro’s and Macedonia’s membership and for Georgia’s MAP too, because we don’t see what else it should do to deserve it and receive it. When we speak about enlargement, be it NATO or the EU, we say that the membership of Western Balkans and Eastern Partnership countries (those who aspire to join, of course) must be put into consideration. I think we understand the importance of it a little bit better than Western European countries, which is largely a matter of history and geography. So, instead of slowing down and over-bureaucratizing this integration process, we should be accelerating it. It’s even a credibility issue for us. I remember last time, when I had an opportunity to chat with FM of Turkey, Mevlut Cavusoglu, he told me that, even if all those complicated issues between Brussels and Ankara where dealt with, which would require quite huge efforts, there were no assurances of them getting visa free access. He brought Ukraine and Georgia as an example as to how the visa liberalization process was dragged out– the way Brussels handled this process is the way that ends up in its losing credibility.
SINCE YOU MENTIONED CAVUSOGLU, WHAT DID YOU MAKE OF HIS PROPHECY AFTER THE RECENT SPAT WITH THE NETHERLANDS THAT THERE WILL SOON BE RELIGIOUS WARS IN EUROPE? It’s a sensitive issue. It’s very strange to see such a conflict appearing between two NATO allies. When it comes to religions though, we are a Christian country. And we think that Christianity now is the most persecuted religion in the world. Statistics show that. Thousands of people are deprived of their lives because they are Christians. We should not be shy to speak out about it. Who would support and protect Christians if not the Christians? And frankly, I’m really fed up with the approach that whenever I speak about this in the European Union, we always end up talking about protecting the rights of [other] religious minorities. Sure, they are important and should be protected, but if I were to say protect Christian minorities, I shouldn’t be shamed and criticized for saying it. Speak about religious minorities? Very important, but as a Christian – speaking about the protection of Christians is more important, for me, as a Christian. But anyway, I very much hope there won’t be any religious wars in Europe. I think everyone has to respect that Europe is a Christian continent, but Christianity doesn’t tolerate any anti-something policies, so Christianity must not be anti-muslim or anti-anything else, for that matter. And I think that history has proven that a goodwill approach enables for major religions to live together in peace, but I think everyone has to admit that Europe is a Christian continent by history, and we have to be strong in our values because if we don’t respect our own values, own roots and own history, how can we learn to respect somebody else’s? So when I say that I’m proud to be Christian and I’d like to protect Christianity in Europe, I’m not saying that I’m against something else.
GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 24 - 27, 2017
Schirnhofer Now Has its First Store in Tbilisi BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
ith almost a century old tradition of producing over 600 varieties of meat products, Austrian Schirnhofer is one of the leading and largest Austrian meat product manufacturers, producing 12, 000 tons of meat and sausage products per year, using only Austrian meat for production. The company’s head office is located in Kaindorf, Austria which is considered as one of the safest ecologically. Schirnhofer has 630 partner farmers. Its strict quality control begins at each of these farms. Quality control is paramount at every stage of production, so Schirnhofer uses ultra-modern technologies and laboratories. Schirnhofer holds an IFC (International Food Standard) certificate, which ensures constant product quality control. Schirnhofer was founded in 1926 by Joseph Schirnhofer. The family business kept alive by his son Karl, who started producing sausages in 1950 with his mother. Soon the company one of the largest Austrian meat product manufacturers. Karl Shirnhofer himself was a founder of the Schirnhofer Company in Georgia, which entered the Georgian market in 2007 and quickly gained popularity among customers for its affordability, variety, and top quality products. Schirnhofer’s newest store opened at At 7 Vazha-Pshavela Avenue, Tbilisi.
It offers a large assortment of the delicious sausages that Schirnhofer is loved for as well as an Austrian delicatessen featuring an assortment of fresh Austrian breads, cheeses, and meats. With half a million USD local investment and almost 20 new jobs according to the company, the opening of the first Schirnhofer store is an important event both for Georgia and Austria. “Georgian customers know the Schirnhofer brand well. This is our first store in Tbilisi, and in Georgia, and we’ll be focusing on the cheese and meat delicatessen,”
said Lasha Babuadze, Schirnhofer Georgia representative, noting that the company plans to expand and open more stores in Tbilisi and other cities in Georgia. “Schirnhofer products in Austria are always associated with the best quality.” Arad Benko, Ambassador of Austria to Georgia, said in his speech while attending the first Schirnhofer store opening. “Schirnhofer is very proud to offer its products in Georgia; I wish our business partners great success”. Alois Kaiser, the company representative who arrived to Tbilisi for the store opening said.
MARCH 24 - 27, 2017
The Readers Speak: Georgia Today’s 17thBirthday
o celebrate the 17th birthday of GEORGIA TODAY, below are some of the many birthday wishes we have received so far.
ANANO KORKIA, HEAD OF PR AND MARKETING DEPARTMENT AT PASHA BANK
U.S. AMBASSADOR TO GEORGIA, IAN KELLY
for that matter) but I learned a great deal about Georgian politics and made some good friends. Over the years, the newspaper has always provided a steady stream of talented contributors for Investor.ge, AmCham Georgia's business magazine. I really appreciate the efforts that have been made over the past few years to expand the newspaper's scope. Georgia Today has the potential to be a strong English-language newspaper and I hope you achieve great things in the next 17 years and beyond”.
Georgian Wrestling Federation. Some years later, my friend became an editor and asked me to write a column, which was a lot of fun. I appreciate Georgia Today for being one of the few places where young local journalists have launched their careers in English language media. Georgia Today’s alumni have gone on to work for the BBC, Bloomberg and RFEL."
ZAZA PURTSELADZE, DIRECTOR BRITISH COUNCIL GEORGIA
MAKO ABASHIDZE, DIRECTOR, THE BRITISH GEORGIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
JUSTIN MCKENZIE SMITH, UK AMBASSADOR TO GEORGIA
ANDREAS HEIDINGSFELDER, GENERAL MANAGER, SHERATON METECHI PALACE HOTEL, TBILISI “On behalf of Sheraton Metechi Palace Hotel, I extend our heartiest congratulations to Georgia Today for completing 17 years of success in business. It’s been our pleasure to cooperate with the newspaper since it was founded. During my five years in Tbilisi, the newspaper has published numerous interesting and uncountable important articles that contribute to the national and international discussion. Georgia Today was always
“I just want to send my congratulations to Georgia Today, its staff and all the readers. In my time in Georgia, I have found it a very valuable source of information. Best wishes for the next 17 years!”
AMBASSADOR EXTRAORDINARY AND PLENIPOTENTIARY OF JAPAN TO GEORGIA MR. TOSHIO KAITANI
On behalf of the Embassy of Japan in Tbilisi I would like to offer my sincere congratulations on the occasion on your 17th anniversary. Georgia Today plays a very significant role for the international community in Georgia as well as for the Georgian people. I would like to wish your whole team further success in the future, continuing your significantly important work, with ongoing good health and happiness.
our exclusive partner in all Sheraton initiatives concerning Corporate Social Responsibility, such as Green Initiatives, charity or cultural events, Earth Hour, and business initiatives. The newspaper, with its brilliant team of dedicated workers, has achieved tremendous growth and has built distinguished goodwill and recognition in the community. They always tried to provide the best product and keep an eminent position in the market. Congratulations to all those involved in producing Georgia Today. Working with you has been a real honor. We look forward to our future partnership and wish you continued success as an integral part of media.”
MOLLY CORSO, EDITOR OF INVESTOR.GE AND FORMER EMPLOYEE OF GT “My first job in Georgia was at Georgia Today, back in 2002 when foreigners had to have proof of employment to apply for a long-term visa. It was a great opportunity: I met fabulous journalists and learned the nuts and bolts of copy editing. I didn't get paid much (or on time,
“From the very beginning I was a dedicated Georgia Today reader and since founding the British Georgian Chamber of Commerce 10 years ago, Georgia Today
“Georgia Today is our long-time partner and we have had many successful years of cooperation with the newspaper and I hope that will continue in the future.”
ERIC LIVNY, ACTING PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS, TBILISI (ISET) “Georgia Today has become an indispensable part of Georgia's media landhas been our loyal partner. Georgia Today gives our members in the UK direct access to all the most important news in Georgia thanks to the Georgia Today team. We look forward to continuing our friendship and partnership."
TONY HANMER, JOURNALIST, SVANETI REGION, GEORGIA “I became aware of Georgia Today soon after I moved to Georgia to live in December 1999. There was, and remains, nothing to touch it for quality of news on the country and region in English. My relationship with the paper as an outlet for my own writings, mostly about Svaneti, began with a simple email offering my services from Mestia in February 2011. My offer was accepted, and from March 2011 until now I have written once a week, just now celebrating six years and over 250 articles on Svaneti and a few others from elsewhere in Georgia,
GEORGIA TODAY EDUCATION
“I want to offer my sincere congratulations to the staff and publishers of Georgia Today who are celebrating the 17th anniversary of this essential publication. Over the course of my many years in the region, as well as my tenure as the United States’ Ambassador to Georgia, I have come to appreciate and rely on Georgia Today’s comprehensive coverage of politics, society and culture – as well as its expanded focus on business, economics and law. Many thanks for your reliability, professionalism and constant striving to be the best source of information on the region.”
“Happy birthday to my dearest Georgia Today! This is a team of professionals who never stop developing Georgian media. I am sure everyone agrees that their contribution to this field is tremendous. They simply put a high standard and we can all read it through the lines of their publications. I cannot fail to use this opportunity and thank them wholeheartedly - as a reader and a loyal customer as well. We have been business partners for several years already and this relationship has become much more than just that - it has developed into friendship based on mutual trust and respect. I wish Georgia Today many readers, many partners and further success!”
scape, shaping the country’s public opinion and political discourse in many important ways. Georgia Today is independent and critical, not shying away from sensitive topics, and its journalists and partners live up to high professional standards, basing their articles on sound investigation and research. Throughout the years, original articles published in Georgia Today gave impetus to important political developments, like the reversal of the restrictive immigration law that was introduced in September 2014, or the lifting of the landownership ban for foreigners. Both topics were extensively discussed and criticized in Georgia Today, among others in articles provided by ISET. We are proud to have Georgia Today as a media partner for our weekly column, and we wish this outstanding Georgian newspaper all the best for the future.”
Canada, Zimbabwe, the UK, and wherever I happened to be. The requirement of a weekly deadline has been sufficient for me to find something every week on which to write, never having to cast about for subjects. I am grateful to Georgia Today for this opportunity, congratulate them on their anniversary, and look forward to a long future together as long as they will have me! Gagimarjot (cheers to you)!”
PAUL RIMPLE, BUREAU CHIEF CULINARY BACKSTREETS TBILISI "I was one of those ex-pats who found temporary employment copy editing at Georgia Today when I moved to Tbilisi in 2002. Those were days of splintered keyboards, greasy monitors and overflowing ashtrays in an office next to the
Georgia’s leading English language newspaper
1 Melikishvili Str., Tbilisi, 0179 Georgia t: +995 32 229 5919 e: firstname.lastname@example.org w: www.georgiatoday.ge f: GeorgiaToday
MARCH 24 - 27, 2017
Business & Government Representatives Discuss Education, Environment Reforms BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
he presentation of the Georgian version of The Economist’s annual publication, The World In 2017, was combined with a business conference “Georgia and the World” organized on March 21 in Tbilisi. At the business lunch-conference held in Tabla restaurant, Aleksandre Jejelava, Vice Prime Minister of Georgia and Minister of Education and Science, introduced the planned education reforms to business and media representatives. Additionally, Gigla Agulashvili, Minister of Environment Protection and Natural Resources of Georgia, spoke about the importance of educating children on environmental issues introducing the steps already taken, as well as future initiatives. He then answered a number of questions related to current environmental issues. Business representatives attending the event were able to ask the ministers questions about such topics as publicprivate sector future cooperation possibilities. “Thanks to GEORGIA TODAY, I had the chance to meet with business rep-
Gigla Agulashvili, Minister of Environment Protection and Natural Resources of Georgia, Aleksandre Jejelava, Vice Prime Minister of Georgia and Minister of Education and Science and George Sharashidze, publisher at Georgia Today Group
resentatives in a trendy environment and present them the educational reforms the Georgian government will imple-
ment in the near future," said Minister Jejelava. "As a result of this meeting and the following interesting discussion, I
Looking Back on 17 Successful Years of Georgia Today BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES
eorgia Today this week turns 17. On March 24, 2000, George Sharashidze and his partners decided to fill a gap in the Georgian media market by offering a bright, fresh and modern newspaper covering local and regional news in English. The mission statement was as follows: “GEORGIA TODAY aims to offer the most comprehensive, objective, and unbiased information about contemporary Georgia and spread it throughout the world. With the largest distribution area and the highest quality printing and layout, we pride ourselves on GEORGIA TODAY’s reliability, professionalism and constant striving for improvement”. GEORGIA TODAY is Georgia’s leading independent English-language newspaper, published weekly since 2000 and from November 2015 rebranded and divided into two weekly editions: what you are reading now- a Friday Georgia Today (GT) newspaper covering Politics, Society and Culture- and a Tuesday GT Business edition focused on Business, Economics and Law. Distributed throughout the Republic of Georgia, it boasts international reach through its website (www.georgiatoday. ge) and social media pages (www.fb. com/georgiatoday). The GEORGIA TODAY team recognizes that foreign workers, as well as visitors to Georgia, rely almost solely on the English-language press for information on news and current events. Our local and international editorial staff ensure that GEORGIA TODAY provides a sensible balance for its diverse readership, completely free from any kind of
George Sharashidze, publisher of Georgia Today
influence, be it political, business or organizational. The information offered in the newspaper also attempts to give a voice to the voiceless. The fair, accurate and balanced coverage of events is our main value. “The most important thing for me, as a founder, is that throughout its 17 years, GEORGIA TODAY has strongly followed the strategy articulated 17 years ago on March 24, 2000, during the launch party of the first newspaper at the Sheraton Metechi Palace Hotel,” says George Sharashidze, Founder and General Manager. “We have made it through difficult times and still face difficulties as a result of economic factors. However, Georgia Today’s team, both editorial and marketing, is much more professional now than it was. The experience we have gained through 17 years of ups and downs has turned into a competitive competence in modern standard media management. Our aim is to become a profitable publishing company providing diversified quality media content in the English
language through printed and online products, achieving the largest circulation and visitor rate. We will focus on the professionalism of our employees and strive for improvement, providing even greater value for our readers and advertisers.” I, as Editor-in-Chief of the GEORGIA TODAY newspapers since November 2014, have seen them transform in both look and quality. When I first came to Georgia ten years ago, I was interviewed by a GT journalist curious as to why another foreigner had come to Georgia. I told her I came for love- not only for my husband, but because I’d also fallen in love with the country and its people. Over time I was again and again asked to join the GT team, yet was always unable due to other commitments. Now I’m glad I finally did. There’s nothing better than being a part of a project and seeing it bloom; and hearing people say “Good job, well done!” All thanks to the brilliant team that provides the stories, attends the events and arranges those exclusive interviews. It’s not easy being a journalist in Georgia. The training is limited and a journalist often has to learn on the job using their wits, fearlessness and nose for a story. We at GT like to give new and young journalists the chance to learn, even as our “old staffers” continue to develop and thrive. This is not the end of the GT journey, as we expand our reach into the digital and the educational. It is with pride that I congratulate all those who work and have worked for GEORGIA TODAY on this 17th anniversary. We promise never to stop seeking to improve, never to stop listening to our readers, and to keep our strength as the leading English language newspaper found on the desks of those who can make the world a better place.
would expect to see a more proactive business sector, eager to participate in the process of reforms."
In addition to original English language content provided by The Economist’s editorial team, the 2017 issue of The World In, a magazine for those who want to be on top of world trends in international politics and business, also includes a Georgian section with articles written by Georgia’s President; Prime Minister; Ministers of Finance, Economy, Education, and Environment; and Georgian business leaders. The World In 2017 also features op-eds by the US, UK, EU and UN ambassadors to Georgia. “We decided to organize a conference centered on the education reforms within the presentation of The Economist's Georgian version of The World In 2017," said George Sharashidze, publisher. "We think that the format we chose - important reforms discussed in an informal atmosphere - was effective for the involved government and private sphere representatives. It is important to critically analyze the challenges Georgia faces in the global context of the country’s future development. It’s crucial to generate new ideas, and this conference will have important input in that”. Georgia Today Group is an exclusive licensee of The Economist's The World In 2017 in Georgia. It's on sale now!
Why I started writing for Georgia Today... BY TAMZIN WHITEWOOD
s a 25 year old, British born, bred and raised Londoner, I couldn't really envisage my life outside of London's magnetic pull. Not to say I didn't enjoy travelling, for I absolutely did with somewhat of a wild passion; but I suppose I had everything I felt I needed, all within a 5 mile radius. A well paid job, my friends and family, and as much Chinese take-out as one could possibly wish for delivered straight to your door at 2am. No, I had no need to venture out beyond the city limits, unless it was to lay on an exotic beach or soak up a bit of culture on a city break that required minimal travel and alcohol on tap. My reasons for visiting Georgia initially were a matter that I will not bore you with, but suffice to say the impression the country had on me was one I will never forget and as I'm sure that you, perhaps a foreigner yourself reliving the same moment, will never forget. Sting's 'An English Man in New York' springs to mind, yet a type of New York where the streets resemble something you've only ever heard about and the alphabet mocks you as you see the language written everywhere you go. Yet I was captivated. I would not be so foolish as to categorize a 'Georgian mentality' (see any blog on Georgia or foreigners living there and you'd know that was a huge mistake) - But what I can say with certainty is that once you enter the heart(s) of a Georgian person, they will keep you there forever and go out of their way to do anything they can, with little to no means, to help you. There's something truly enchanting about the place, whether you're a 'Tbiliseli'; rocking around the capital like a wannabe native, or experiencing a Supra in Samegrelo, where you truly feel as if you're having an other-worldly experience. It'll catch ya, hold ya, and in my case, always draw you back. My initial love affair with Georgia, a country of which I'm proud to say I am now a citizen of, continued over the months and years. I couldn't bare to be away from
the country for very long. At that stage, I was a Senior Manager of a medical clinic in London. My working month consisted of cramming my full time hours into 24 days, then I would fly to Tbilisi for the last week of every month and work 'remotely' via my laptop (yeah, right). I started to research the medical sector in Tbilisi and found it to be a thriving area, with much cheaper prices for fairly high quality medical care (I refer here to private medical centres) and subsequently was offered a position at a prestigious clinic chain as the Head of National Operations. So that was it, hook line and sinker. My life as I knew it had changed and I knew there was no going back. An old friend of mine, going by the name of Saakashvili (maybe you've heard of him?) was kind enough to offer me Georgian nationality and I couldn't have been prouder. I mastered the language (ah yes, it does sound like I'm blowing my own trumpet doesn't it? Perhaps I am. Catch my next article all about 'Qartuli' and the learning of.), lived and worked like a true Tbiliseli and didn't really look back. Fast forward a couple of years and my personal circumstances changed and I had to relocate back to London, although it's fair to say I still spend a large amount of the year in Tbilisi. As proud as I am to be British (it is my home, I'll never forget where I came from), I'm equally as proud to be a Georgian and I am passionate about helping, in any small feeble way possible, the country realize it's true potential. I think my loved ones are probably sick of hearing about the place, with a simple smile and nod being the average response to my mutterings about Georgia. Yet, this is the country that made me. I will confess that I thought I was a worldly woman until I came here. It taught me who I am, what friendship truly means, was where I discovered true heartbreak and, paradoxically, true joy, and is the place I leave my heart each and every time i leave. Why do I write for Georgia Today? Because I am a product of Georgia, today. Love conquers hate, and for every political issue, internal conflict, street fight, there is twice as much love, respect and a mutual admiration for the country we call SAQARTVELO.
MARCH 24 - 27, 2017
Black Sea Jazz Festival
The biggest jazz festival on the Black Sea bay will be held form the 27th till the 30th of July. The 11th Black Sea Jazz Festival will traditionally host worldwide musicians at the Batumi Tennis Club. The Festival Program: • 27.07 Club Take 5 – Cory Henry and The Funk Apostles; • 28.07 Batumi Tennis Club – Jamiroquai; Club Take 5 – Matthew Hartnett & The Gumbo All Stars • 29.07 Batumi Tennis Club – De La Soul; Club Take 5 – Lou Berry • 30.07 Batumi Tennis Club – Joss Stone: Club Take 5 – MF Robots For more information visit the link http://tbilisijazz.com/black-sea-jazz-festival-calendar/
Tickets will be sold from the 27th of March 09:00
MARCH 24 - 27, 2017
Maltakva, T Poti to Have a New Beach
BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
Hungary Gives Psycho-Social Aid to Tbilisi Flood Victims through Georgian Red Cross BY MAKA LOMADZE
n 17 March at the Radisson BLU Tbilisi Hotel, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, Peter Szijjarto, on behalf of the Government of Hungary, signed an Agreement on Humanitarian Aid for the victims of the Tbilisi flood of June, 2015. Natia Loladze, President of the Georgian Red Cross, signed for the Georgian side. The Hungarian government has offered EUR 32,000 to support the families which fell victim to a flood which tore through houses, a dog shelter and the city zoo. It is a long term project, providing support to children through the Children's Resilience Program (CRP), developed by the IFRC Reference Center for PsychoSocial Support of Children. “Since the very first hours of emergency following the flood on June 13, 2015, the Georgian Red Cross has been giving responsive help, including humanitarian and first aid to the victims,” Loladze told GEORGIA TODAY. “One of the main components is psycho-social support. From the very start, we rendered psycho-social aid to children, opening a center where everyone was welcome, as well as a hotline. Our dedicated staff have been working with volunteers throughout. Several donors expressed their wish to see this project continue, including the Danish Red Cross. Later, the Hungarian Embassy also expressed readiness to help. We offered them the chance to participate via the psycho-social center. We are
extremely grateful for the support.” Minister Szijjarto took a moment to remember his first visit to Tbilisi almost a year ago, when they allocated the money to help The School of Tomorrow, totally destroyed by the flood. “Hungary knows very well what it is like to fight against natural catastrophes and what it takes to deal with the consequences. Hungary is rich in water, like Georgia, which is an advantage on the one hand, but also challenging. Our country was flooded in 2013 by a section of the Danube, which, while a major European river and very beautiful and significant, can cause very serious difficulties. That’s why we usually aim to help those countries suffering similar challenges. We’ve done the same in Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia and Albania and, most recently, Georgia. Last time, we helped The School of Tomorrow to buy equipment to replace that lost in the flood. This time, we are signing an agreement to be able to operate the psychosocial center. Physical consequences can be handled within the construction works of a couple of months, but tackling the psychological consequences of a disaster takes a lot of time. We wish success to the volunteers of the Georgian Red Cross.” The Minister once again confirmed that Georgia is a very strong partner for Hungary, having worked a lot on the path of the European and Euro-Atlantic integration. He ended his speech by confirming that Georgia can always count on Hungarians not only on the political but also on the social level. “Our National Red Cross associations should enhance cooperation in future,” Szijjarto concluded.
he first stage of coastal line construction work is completed in the Maltakva neighborhood of Poti, a city Western Georgia. With 3 kilometers of beach ready, Maltakva will have a 7 kilometers beach when the project is finished. Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia, who visited the area on Monday, said that the renovation of the Maltakva recreational zone will not only improve ecological conditions, but also develop the tourism opportunities of the place as well. Prime Minister of Georgia noted that the government has serious plans regarding Poti, a historic city, the potential of which has yet to be used. The cost for the Maltakva coastal line construction is 18 500 000 GEL, the project will be finished in 2018.
New Hepatitis C Center Opens in West Georgia BY THEA MORRISON
new Hepatitis C Center opened in Zugdidi a city in the western Samegrelo region of Georgia. The new center is equipped with modern technologies, and it can serve locals as well as the population from Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia, which is not far from Zugdidi. Patients will be able to receive all services relating to Hepatitis C including screening, diagnosis, consultation, registration and medical treatment at the new center. The Center was opened by Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Health Minister David Sergeenko, and United States (US) Ambassador Ian Kelly. This is the second Hepatitis C management center in Georgia. The first such center was opened in Tbilisi around a year ago. “It is very important that the Hepatitis C Center will start functioning in Zugdidi. I would like to wish the locals health,” the PM said. Kvirikashvili considers the Hepatitis
C Elimination Program a success. According to him, around 35,000 people have undergone treatment within the Hepatitis C program. 25,000 patients have already completed treatment as part of the program and 98 percent of such people have been cured of the disease. The health initiative--Georgia without Hepatitis C--was launched in Georgia in April of 2015, when the government of Georgia and an American biotech-
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nology company, Gilead, signed a memorandum of understanding. The project helps to reduce and prevent cases of Hepatitis C in Georgia. The main goal of the project is to stop the disease from being highly contagious. The treatment is free of charge for citizens of Georgia. Georgia is one of the top 5 countries in the world with the highest rate of Hepatitis C. An average of 7.7 people out of every 100 is afflicted with the virus.
TK 387 TK 385 TK 383 TK 386 TK 384 TK 382
05.50 11.45 18.10 01.40 07.30 13.55
07.25 13.25 20.00 04.55 10.50 17.15
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MARCH 24 - 27, 2017
Naming the Cheese: Etseri, Svaneti BY TONY HANMER
here is a fridge in our homerun shop, which, if my wife opens it while a customer is in, will elicit by aroma the question, “Did something DIE in here?” But now on to another location for cheese, the best selection in all of Georgia. I first discovered it when Focus Cafe asked Georgia’s then Queen of Cheese to provide her wares for the opening of the cafe’s inaugural art exhibition, featuring my photographs connecting Svaneti and food. That evening was a revelation. I had never, in over twelve years in Georgia, known that so many different cheeses existed in this little country. But, like the enormously varied set of landscapes, practically every village here has its own version of the product. Some are made of cows’ milk, others from that of sheep or goats. They may be smoked, brined, infused with herbs, wrapped in certain leaves or in wax, or kept in wine. No, this isn’t France, it’s Georgia! But few of these cheeses appear in any bazaar; the shop which our heroine started, Cheese Corner, and now a second, are perhaps their only point of sale. The lady has left her shops to others, and they continue to flourish. I recently visited the outlet at 163 Nutsubidze Street. A pair of large cooled glass displays greeted me, filled with the magnificent wares, making me feel as if I were in any such shop in Europe. One cabinet seemed to be devoted to more common types, the other exclusively to those unknown elsewhere. Different colors, sizes, shapes and, yes, aromas, tantalized me- someone who has loved
good aged cheese from early childhood and missed those types of decades ago in Georgia. Until now. From softest to hardest, weeks young to years old, gentle to pungent: they beckoned me. Around were also offered things to accompany your choice, all local, too: wines, fruit, nuts, honey and more. This was clearly an experience for all the senses, one suggesting a complex mix of flavors and textures supporting and strengthening one another in a gourmet’s delight. The prices, too, are somewhat beyond the normal ones you’d find in your corner shop or any of the country’s
main markets. But then, these items simply cannot be found for sale elsewhere. As for me, I was here on a mission, to fulfil a dream I’ve had for some years now. I met the proprietor and we talked awhile about some of his products. One is made by people from Switzerland who are in Georgia for several months of the year, in other mountains than mine; most of the rest are traditional village cheeses from all over the country, as a map illustrates. There’s even a special matsoni, Georgian yogurt, made from the milk of water buffaloes. The shop has been open for about seven years.
He apologized for the relatively poor selection at the moment, although it was still a cornucopia to my unpracticed eyes. More types would soon be finding their way back in to make up for the lack, he assured me. And he let me sample a few, which really impressed me. Each has its own name. I walked out of there with an extra bounce in my step, mission accomplished. Because, unaccustomed Svans’ olfactory reaction notwithstanding, the very latest cheeses to join their fellows in this shop, by the wish of its owner, from this summer onwards, will be MINE.
Cheese Corner: Nutsubudze St. 163 and Berdzenishvili St. 6, Tel. +995 595 953131, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook. com/cheesecorner 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
MARCH 24 - 27, 2017
WHAT’S ON IN TBILISI THEATER
TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 March 25, 26, 28, 29 TSUNA AND TSRUTSUNA Ballet for kids Staged on Meri Davitashvili’s musical works Start time: March 26 - 14:00, March 25, 28, 29 - 19:00 Ticket: 20-50 GEL March 27 CONCERT DEDICATED TO THE 80TH ANNIVERSARY OF SHALVA MOSIDZE Participants: Georgian Philharmonic Orchestra, Nino Sulguladze, mezzo-soprano, Gori Women's Chamber Choir, Trinity Cathedral Choir, Gori Sulkhan Tsintsadze College Children's Choir, Ana-Bana Studio Choir Conductor: Svimon Jangulashvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15-45 GEL TBILISI NODAR DUMBADZE STATE CENTRAL CHILDREN'S THEATER Address: 99/1 Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 95 39 27 March 24, 28 THE EMERALD CITY OF OZ L. Frank Baum Directed by Den Khlibov Language: Russian English Subtitles Start time: 12:00 Ticket: 6 GEL GRIBOEDOVI THEATER Address: 2 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 93 43 36 March 26 I AM NIKOLAJ GUMILOV Directed by Levon Uzunian Language: Russian Start time: 18:00 Ticket: 10 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 March 24
PERFORMANCE LABYRINTH Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL March 24 RECITATIVE IN THE CITY Start time: 21:00 Free Admission March 25, 26 PERFORMANCE CONCRETE ZONE Directed by Ioseb Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL CINEMA
AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava St. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 www.kinoafisha.ge Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari March 24-30 KONG: SKULL ISLAND Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts Cast: Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy Language: Russian Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 13-14 GEL BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Directed by Bill Condon Cast: Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor Genre: Family, Fantasy, Musical Language: Russian Start time: 16:25, 16:30, 19:15, 22:00 Ticket: 10-14 GEL SPLIT Directed by M. Night Shyamalan Cast: James McAvoy, Anya TaylorJoy, Haley Lu Richardson Genre: Horror, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL LIFE Directed by Daniel Espinosa Cast: Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL SMURFS Directed by Kelly Asbury
Cast: Ariel Winter, Julia Roberts, Ellie Kemper Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 13-14 GEL
GEORGIAN MONUMENTAL PAINTING
RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 www.kinoafisha.ge
IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni St. Telephone: 2 98 22 81
Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL March 24-30 LIFE (Info Above) Start time: 16:45, 19:40, 22:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Info Above) Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 13 -14 GEL SPLIT (Info Above) Start time: 19:20 Ticket: 13-14 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 TESTAMENT OF DAVID THE BUILDER AND THE NEW EXHIBITS OF MEDIEVAL TREASURY September 27 (2016) – September 22 (2017) EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS Address: 1 Gudiashvili Str. EXHIBITION LADO GUDIASHVILI AND
March 6 – April 6 THE EXHIBITION MASTERPIECES FROM MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS COLLECTION
March 15 – April 15 THE EXHIBITION "DIFFERENTLY THAN USUAL MODERN DESIGN AND THE POWER OF CUSTOMS /ANDERS ALS IMMER. ZEITGENÖSSISCHES DESIGN UND DIE MACHT DES GEWOHNTEN" The exhibition showcases 148 works by designers and groups of designers from 47 European countries. Miscellaneous projects are free from influence: their structure, function and meaning is perfectly comprehensible. 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. GALLERY
THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. www.museum.ge March 10 - 28 RETROSPECTIVE EXHIBITION OF AMIR KAKABADZE Dedicated to the 75-year anniversary of the artist. The exhibition showcases artworks created in different media: painting, graphic, sculpture, pop art, film and theater painting. SFUMATO GALLERY Address: 19 Ingorokva Str. Telephone: 599 54 87 37 March 26 - April 1 RITA KHACHATURIANI’S SOLO EXHIBITION
SPACEHALL Address: 2 A. Tsereteli Ave. March 26 AlterVision presents: SÓLEY An Icelandic multi-instrumentalist and singer Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 45-55 GEL DJANSUG KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE March 25 CONCERT OF SYMPHONIC MUSIC Soloist: Anna Mamisashvili Beethoven’s concerto for violin and symphony orchestra Conductor: David Mukeria Start time: 19:30 Ticket: 5 GEL TBILISI SPORTS PALACE Address: 1 26 May Sq. Telephone: 233 33 11 March 26 ARASH AND SUPER-STAR SASY Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 50 GEL TBILISI CONCERT HALL Address: 1 Melikishvili St. Telephone: 2 99 00 99 March 28 LEILA FOROUHAR Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 75-175 GEL March 30 MAMUKA CHARKVIANI’S MUSIC EVENING Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15-40 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 07 50 61 March 28, 30 JAZZ AT MT RESO KIKNADZE QUINTET Free Admission Start time: 21:00 March 29 MILONGA, LA CUMPARSITA ARGENTINE TANGO DANCE NIGHT Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 5 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE Address: 8 Griboedov St. Telephone: 2 93 46 24 March 24 LE NOZZE DI FIGARO Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte Cast: G. Tsamalashvili, M. Shakhdinarova, I. Mujiri, S. Padiauri, B. Saganelidze, N. Kavtaradze, N. Natroshvili, A. Dekanoidze, I. Abashidze Chorus & Orchestra of the Opera Studio Stage Conductor: Gogi Chichinadze Conductor: Vakhtang Gabidzashvili Stage Director: Maia Gachechiladze Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 3, 5 GEL 30 March LIBRETTO BY FELICE ROMANI Opera in Two Acts Cast: M. Murjikneli, G. Davitadze, G. Mchedlishvili, G. Gigineishvili, A. Khomich, K. Papinashvili, M. Vasadze Chorus & Orchestra of the Opera Studio Stage Conductor: Tamaz Djaparidze Conductor: Gogi Chichinadze Director: Lela Gvarishvili Manager of the Opera Studio: Irina Ramishvili Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 3, 5 GEL
GEORGIA TODAY MARCH 24 - 27, 2017
Best Interpreter of Verdi – alleged Rigoletto Himself- on the Spotlight BY MAKA LOMADZE
hortly after the unforgettably sparkling Aida performance, staged by the indelible Zeffirelli under the guidance of Stefano Trespidi on the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater stage, GEORGIA TODAY spoke to the renowned baritone George Gagnidze, who sang the part of Amonasro, King of Ethiopia, Aida’s father, and who was once acknowledged as the best interpreter of Verdi. He is regularly invited by the most prestigious international opera companies, and performances of the 2017/18 season include Tonio in Pagliacci and Scarpia in a new production of Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera, Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana and Tonio in Pagliacci at the Hamburg State Opera. In the 2015/16 season, Gagnidze appeared as Rigoletto and in Pagliacci at the Metropolitan Opera, as Rigoletto at Deutsche Oper Berlin, in Aida at the Opéra National of Paris, Falstaff (title role) at the New National Theater, Tokyo, and as Pagliacci at the Los Angeles Opera. Other past highlights include the title roles in Rigoletto and Macbeth; Cavalleria Rusticana (Alfio)
and Hovanšcina at the Metropolitan Opera, Nabucco (title role) and Tosca at the Vienna State Opera, Rigoletto, La traviata (Germont) and Aida at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Tosca at Opéra National of Paris, Simon Boccanegra (title role) at the Teatro Real Madrid, Rigoletto at the Festival of Aixen-Provence, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci at Gran Teatro del Liceu of Barcelona, La Traviata at the Arena di Verona, and Otello (Iago) at The Greek National Opera of Athens. Born in Tbilisi and trained at the State Conservatory of his home town, Gagnidze debuted as Renato in Un ballo in Maschera in 1996 at the Z.Paliashvili Tbilisi State Opera. He entered the “Concorso Voci Verdiane” in 2005 as an awardwinner of the “Leyla Gencer Voice Competition” and the “Elena Obraztsova Competition”. The jury, chaired by José Carreras and Katia Ricciarelli, awarded him first prize for his outstanding vocal interpretation. After launching his international career from Germany, he was soon engaged by many of the world's important opera houses. In the course of his career, George Gagnidze, who now masters the genre of dramatic heroic baritone, has worked with many renowned conductors and directors, including James Levine, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Fabio Luisi, James
Conlon, Plácido Domingo, Mikko Franck, Jesús López-Cobos, Nicola Luisotti, Daniel Oren, Gianandrea Noseda, Kirill Petrenko, Yuri Temirkanov; Luc Bondy, Liliana Cavani, Robert Carsen, Peter Stein, Giancarlo Del Monaco, Henning Brockhaus, and Robert Sturua. His DVD/Blu-Ray recordings include Tosca from the Metropolitan Opera and Aida from La Scala. “Franco Zeffirelli is famous for his beauty. That is why the shows were so successful in Tbilisi,” Gagnidze tells GEORGIA TODAY. “We were dressed in accordance with the old Egyptian and Ethiopian traditions and took spectators out of reality, as is the function of art, and together with them travelled through the old epoch, making them part of the story.” The talented baritone also mentioned that his favorite part is Rigoletto. To our pride, great Jose Carreras assessed his role in following words: “He is not just born for Rigoletto, he is Rigoletto”. Gagnidze shares the opinion that high art is rarely cared for. “Once, Placido Domingo said that we, singers, should get together and save our culture, which is often underappreciated,” he notes, though he is still optimistic. “I believe that this is a temporary process related to the modern high tempo. In many theaters, singers dress like ordi-
nary citizens. I detest it. Opera is the genre of art that requires pomposity and richness. We should take care of it just like the exhibits of a museum. Could you imagine someone being allowed to paint something on a priceless canvas of Van Gogh? This is the same. We should not cross the lines. Such attitude has nothing to do with freedom. Opera is untouchable.” It is difficult to grasp how this portly man manages to be so convincing in all aspects that an artist should and at the same time so lyrical creating a colorful palette of musical notes and heroes. Among George’s engagements of the 2016/17 season are his role debut as Carlo Gérard in Andrea Chénier and Amonasro in Aida at the San Francisco Opera, Aida at the Metropolitan Opera, Andrea Chénier and Tosca at the Deutsche Opera Berlin as well as Šakovlity in Hovanšcina at the BBC Proms. He will also perform at Aida at Metropolitan, Tosca at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Aida Frankfurt, Pagliacci and Tosca at Metropolitan Opera and Gioconda at Deutsche Oper Berlin. You can listen to George Gagnidze at Gagnidze.com https://georgegagnidze.com/en/page/Video.html
First Georgian Film Bought by Netflix Receives another Prize at Sofia Int’l Film Fest BY MAKA LOMADZE
he Georgian film ‘My Happy Family’, directed by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross, has already acquired world acclaim, and on March 18 was awarded Best Director at the Sofia International Film Festival, where it was nominated among 13 contenders from different countries. My Happy Family first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Drama Competition. Later, it was screened at the Berlin 67th International Film Festival where it fell in the spotlight of international media, with some even predicting candidacy for the Oscars 2018. My Happy Family is the first ever Georgian pro-
duction to which Netflix purchased the rights to global distribution, meaning that in future, the movie will be shown in 130 countries around the world. Until that time, viewers from France, Germany and Georgia will be lucky enough to watch it on the big screen. Following its victory in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, the film has been sent to New York, where it will be screened at the Museum of Modern Art within the framework of MOMA Film Week. The New York Times covered this cultural occasion, naming Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross among nine directors whose movies are a must-see. The German edition Der Freitag assessed the film with the following words: “My Happy Family shows an interesting portrait of a woman, while depicting an imposing picture of society. The film could have enriched the main contest program [of Berlinale] as well.” My Happy Family was released on January 22. It runs for 120 minutes and stars Ia Shughliashvili and Merab Ninidze. For Shughliashvili, this was the first leading role, which, to her private and our common pride and happiness, has proved to be triumphant. “I believe that this is the start of a new and grandiose stage in my life,” she noted following the Sundance Premiere. “The public reacted quite strongly. The film is saturated with humor, which was met with surprisingly corresponding welcome, and the end got a tanding ovation and left the audience looking very satisfied. I can say that the story of this one Georgian family really touched the hearts of Americans. I’m quite surprised by this. The story highlight national Georgian problems, but reached an American audience equally as well.” Shughliashvili says her heroine is a very traditional Georgian woman, always making concessions, until suddenly she decides to look to her own well-being. “I hope Georgian women can find
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their own way to live doing what they love,” the actress says. Manana Mkheidze, Ia’s characters, tears open the windows of her new flat and never closes them again. Distant street noises, cheerful birdsong and the gentle sound of the wind form the soundtrack to her new life. The 52-year-old has left her family, without justifying her actions, without any arguments. There doesn’t seem to be any fixed reason for her having moved out. When she’s asked why, she doesn’t say anything and thus turns the question around. It’s more family structures themselves from which Manana wishes to extricate herself. The roles you have to play, the functions you have to take on so that things keep running smoothly, but which also lead to your going under or becoming invisible. Now Manana sits at the open window, playing the guitar and singing Georgian songs the melancholy rhythm of which infuses the film. Whenever she happens to return to the family home, everything seems just as she left it: the grandmother is roasting a chicken, the grandfather is contemplating death, the adult children are waiting for their lives to finally begin, her husband Soso is chain-smoking and the wardrobe continues to squeak. This resembles the escape from the everyday routine, from the tiring obligations and duties… And then, back to life… Nana Ekvtimishvili is a successful female Georgian director, one of those who stands in the vanguard of the Georgian film renaissance. Without any exaggeration, the phenomenon of Georgian film has always been strong. It managed to be maximally independence even during the strict Soviet censorship. Another directing duo of hers with Simon Gross, in the movie In Bloom, was also very successful internationally. The film premiered at the 63rd Berlinale, winning the C.I.C.A.E. Prize, and was selected as the Georgian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards.
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Pheasant’s Tears takes over Poliphonia for one night, March 31st One of a cycle of events celebrating 10 years of Pheasant’s Tears! Dishes carefully prepared by Gia Rokashvili (Pheasant’s Tears Restaurant) and the Poliphonia chefs will be paired with back vintages and obscure Pheasant’s Tears wines by John Wurdeman. Menu will be an extensive gastronomical journey, a multi course creative tasting menu loaded with surprises. Vegetarian and Vegan (fasting options) with advanced notice.
Date: March 31st, 2017 Location: Poliphonia 23 Amaghleba St Time: 7 pm Cost per person: 85 GEL