Issue no: 984/97
• SEPTEMBER 26 - 28, 2017
• PUBLISHED TWICE WEEKLY
PRICE: GEL 2.50
In this week’s issue...
Hollywood Location Managers & Producers Visit Georgia NEWS PAGE 2
Business Optimism Turns to Realism
ON POSITIVE APPRAISAL IFC Director for Europe and Central Asia on Georgia's progress and future outlook
ISET PAGE 4
Georgia’s Economy Freer than that of Many Others BUSINESS PAGE 9
Future in Focus: Georgia Celebrates the Global Goals Festival
undreds of Georgians gathered in the city of Rustavi on September 24, to celebrate the first national Festival of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Future in Focus. The event was organized by the United Nations in Georgia in partnership with Rustavi City Hall and in cooperation with the UN’s national and international partners in Georgia. “The Sustainable Development Goals are our last chance to save this planet and create a lasting future for ourselves and our children,” said Niels Scott, Head of the United Nations in Georgia. Continued on page 2
US Special Envoy to Ukraine: A Reason to Hope POLITICS PAGE 10
Peter Nasmyth Launches ‘Georgia in the Mountains of Poetry’ SOCIETY PAGE 11 Prepared for Georgia Today Business by
STOCKS BGEOGroup(BGEOLN) GHG(GHGLN) TBCBankGroup(TBCGLN)
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SEPTEMBER 26 - 28, 2017
Georgian PM Speaks at 72nd Session of UN General Assembly
BY THEA MORRISON
eorgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili delivered a speech at the United Nations (UN) 72nd General Assembly in New York, United States (US), on September 22. The PM said that 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Georgia's membership in the United Nations. “Over this period, we managed to transform our country from a UN humanitarian aid recipient to a top reformer that was recently elected as the Chair of the Open Government Partnership,” he stated. He underlined that Georgia has advanced in all international rankings in the past five years. Frazer institute ranks Georgia as the fifth freest economy in the world.
He also added that Georgia has succeeded in fighting corruption and improved protection of property rights and is committed to an independent judiciary. “We promised our people that we would introduce a parliamentary system and improve our constitution to conform to the best European standards. Our commitments reflect Georgians' aspirations to attain full membership in the European Union and NATO. Georgians understand this to be their destiny, as Georgia has long been an integral part of Europe's broad cultural and historical tapestry,” the Prime Minister said. Kvirikashvili also spoke about the Georgian government’s Four Point Plan, which envisages modifying Georgia's income tax rules, improving governance, accelerating infrastructure projects and developing higher education. Continued on page 5
Air Cairo to Launch Cairo-TbilisiCairo Flights from November BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
gyptian air company Air Cairo is to launch regular Cairo -Tbilisi- Cairo flights from November 3, with twice weekly flights every Monday and Thursday by Airbus A320. The company will also continue flights from Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada to Tbilisi from October to March. As a low fare subsidiary of Egypt Air, Air Cairo offers low cost flights to customers.
Future in Focus: Georgia Celebrates the Global Goals Festival Continued from page 1 “To send this message far and wide, we join hands with the people of Georgia and our partners in the government, civil society, private sector and international organizations. The Global Goals Festival is a call for immediate action to make the Sustainable Development Goals a priority for all”. The Global Goals Festival saw a series of activities in Rustavi City Park, initiated by UN agencies to highlight some key areas of sustainable development: reduction of poverty, human rights, education, health, peace and protection of the environment. The Festival opened with a Street Art live event, with well-known Georgian street artists creating SDG-related murals on the walls of the park’s Summer Theater. The day continued with campaigns for the rights of children with disabilities, gender equality, tobacco control and the rights of migrants and IDPs. Youth groups arranged dance battles and contests in skateboarding and roller-skating. At the end of the day, Niels Scott appointed UN Goodwill Ambassadors
Georgian Wines Grab Prizes at Decanter Wine Awards 2017
for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Gela Charkviani, Georgian writer and educator; Nino Sukhishvili, art manager and executive producer for the Georgian National Ballet; and Irma Khetsuriani, Georgian wheelchair fencer, champion of the Wheelchair Fencing World Cup. The Festival brought together a wide range of supporters, including the UN agencies in Georgia, Rustavi City Hall, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), Government of Sweden, and international organizations Edgeriders and Futuremakers. The event kicked off a national campaign for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Georgia, aiming to enhance the country’s image as one of the SDG pioneers and encourage the engagement of Georgian society in the achievement of the national SDGs. The Global Goals Festival in Georgia is part of the international Global Goals Week which brings together individuals, governments, businesses, civil societies, international organizations and other partners during the UN General Assembly in New York.
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Photo source: decanter.com
BY THEA MORRISON
t Decanter Asia Wine Awards (DAWA) 2017 in Hong Kong, which is fairly considered as the one of the world’s most influential competitions, 39 varieties of Georgian wine received prizes, among them two platinum and one gold medal. Makashvili Wine Cellar Khikhvi (2016 Vintage) by Vaziani, and Saperavi of Georgian Wines (2015) were awarded platinum medals, while Manavi by Kakhetian Wine Cellar received a gold medal. Many Georgian companies won silver and bronze medals. Koncho & Company
received four silver awards, and silver medals were awarded to Askaneli Brothers, Badagoni, Kakhetian Wine Cellar, Besini, Lucas, and Shumi. Bronze medals were awarded to Askaneli Brothers, Badagoni, Georgian Wines, Winemaking Vaziani, Khareba, Tsinandali Old Cellar, Shumi, Kakhetian Wine Cellar, Corporation Kindzmarauli, Georgian Wines, and David Machavariani. More than 50 expert judges, including Master Sommeliers from the Asia region, judged 3,235 wines during the DAWA judging week in Hong Kong earlier this month. All the wines are blind-tasted against their peers and are given individual scores. Wines that meet the required quality are given a seal of approval (commended),
or a bronze, silver, or gold medal. All gold medal-winning wines within each category are re-tasted and a platinum medal is awarded to the best wine in each category. Each platinum medal winner from around the world is then pitted against each other to win the Platinum Best in Show accolade. This year’s judging panel included experts from 11 countries, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Singapore, India, Indonesia, Korea, and Taiwan. Most judges work in top establishments in the Asia region The DAWA official web page reads that the winners of the latest competition will be promoted at both trade and consumer events this year.
Hollywood Location Managers & Producers Visit Georgia BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
he Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development reports that producers and location managers from Hollywood are visiting Georgia from September 22 to September 30 to explore Georgia’s potential as a film-making location. They are exploring Batumi, Tskhaltubo, Chiatura, Kazbegi, Rustavi and the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi. During their one week stay, meetings are to be held with Georgian film sector members and producers who will introduce the existing film infrastructure in Georgia. ‘Film in Georgia’ is one of the Produce in Georgia program components, and the American film industry representatives are being hosted by the Produce in Georgia Agency. The ‘Film in Georgia’ program is gaining interest, the Ministry of Economy of Georgia claims, with nine applications to film in Georgia received since the program kicked off last year, with the overall investment said to be GEL 15,182 million. The American film industry representatives currently visiting Georgia,
have worked on such films as Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries, Shutter Island, The Aviator, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Miss Congeniality, and 27 Dresses. Their visit is expected to provide a boost to the Georgian film industry, and potential for Georgia to become an important filming spot in Eastern Europe. The ‘Film in Georgia’ component was added to the Produce in Georgia initiative in 2016, enabling local and foreign producers to film in Georgia, with the chance to gain back 20-25% of expenses. In order to promote the program inter-
nationally, the Produce in Georgia Agency is organizing “Road Shows” through which information is spread to foreign producers regarding potential filming locations in Georgia.
SEPTEMBER 26 - 28, 2017
Business Optimism Turns to Realism O
verall, the BCI lost 2.0 points compared to Q2 2017. Expectations in the private sector in Georgia declined by 18.8 percentage points, and reached 44.3 index points (down from 63.1 points in Q2). Business performance over the past three months increased significantly, reaching nearly 33.5 points (increasing from 22.3), indicating an improvement in production/ turnover/sales. However, the improved performance of the past three months could not outweigh decreased expectations, which led to insignificant drop in overall BCI. The BCI index worsened in all sectors except retail trade (+6.1), agriculture (+ 9.3) and other (+3.7) sectors. The highest drop was recorded in the construction (-9.1) sector.
PAST PERFORMANCE The actual performance of businesses significantly increased compared to the second quarter of 2017. In the Q3 2017** reporting period, sales (production or
turnover) of the 227 firms surveyed increased from 22.3 (Q2 2017) to 33.5 (Q3 2017). The current situation for firms operating in the construction and retail trade sectors has improved significantly, meaning that in these sectors, the weighted balance between positive and negative responses increased compared to previous quarter (for more information, see Appendix 1). Service and other sectors have also experienced positive developments. In all other sectors, production/ turnover/sales for the past three months worsened, albeit only slightly, with the highest drop recorded for the financial sector (-4.7). Compared to the previous quarter, a higher share of surveyed firms (61%) stated that employment remained the same over the past three months. Fewer businesses reported either decreases or increases in employment. Moreover, 38% of firms claimed that their business activities remained unchanged over the past three months, while 43% of participants stated that they had improved their performance (which was an increase of 9 percentage points over the previous quarter).
EXPECTATIONS The Expectations Index decreased by 18.8 index points in the third quarter of 2017. Expectations about the next three months worsened in all sectors. The highest decrease was reported in the agriculture and other sectors (for more information, see Appendix 1). The pessimism of all sectors might have been driven by the end of the summer season, because economic agents gener-
7.2 points (Q3 2017). The Sales Price Expectations Index for Q1 2017 had predicted realized hikes in price level recorded by Geostat. No significant further increase in prices is expected in the coming months. The decrease in the index is driven by the Retail Trade and Service sectors. The Agriculture sector's sales price expectations have increased the most. The manufacturing, construction, and other sectors each expect a noticeable increase in prices in the next three months (for more information, see Appendix 1). The overall Sales Price Expectations Index decreased for both large companies and SMEs. The majority (78%) of all surveyed firms are not going to change the prices they charge over the next three months. Only 6% of firms expect to decrease prices, and 16% expect to increase prices in the future.
LIMITING FACTORS Lower consumption activities and lack of access to financing are two of the most significant problems for businesses. One of the most limiting factors in doing business for both large firms and SMEs in Q3 2017 was lack of demand. Moreover, a total of 17% of large companies and 32% of SMEs noted that lack of access to finance was their main obstacle. ally revert to their normal spending behavior once their vacations are over. As one can see from the table, business expectations for the three-month period July through September 2017 decreased for both SMEs and large size firms. The majority (63%) of surveyed businesses do not expect any changes in employment over the next three months. Furthermore, 31% of firms stated that they would employ more employees in the future (which is lower compared to the previous quarter, by 2%). Meanwhile, 51% of the surveyed firms expected that the economic condition of their businesses would improve over the next three months, and 37% did not expect any changes in the future, while a slightly higher share of businesses expect their business conditions to worsen.
(BCI) on a quarterly basis. The confidence is measured through a simple survey instrument targeted at top business executives. The survey is online. Answers obtained from the surveys are aggregated in the form of â€œbalancesâ€?. Balances are constructed as the difference between the percentage of respondents giving positive and negative replies. The methodology for compiling the indices is based on the Joint Harmonised EU Programme of Business and Consumer Surveys.
METHODOLOGY The ISET Policy Institute, working in partnership with the International Chamber of Commerce in Georgia (ICC), has implemented the Business Confidence Survey since December 2013 and publishes the Business Confidence Index
SALES PRICES EXPECTATIONS The Sale Price Expectation Index slightly decreased from 7.6 points (Q2 2017), to
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GEORGIA TODAY SEPTEMBER 26 - 28, 2017
Ground-breaking International Award for Microfinance Group Crystal BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES
eading Georgian microfinance company JSC MFO CRYSTAL has been awarded a ground-breaking rating by international credit assessment agency Fitch Ratings. Praising Crystal’s performance, the agency comments on the strength of its business and its solid asset quality, which have won it the first international rating in Georgia’s microfinance industry. This will bring Crystal to the attention of international investors and helps raise the investment profile of the country and the development of the corporate bond market. Fitch comments that its “B” Stable Outlook rating factors in “Crystal's sound
performance to date, reflected in the company's solid asset quality, profitability and capitalization metrics.” Crystal, which was started 19 years ago, now has over 12% of the microfinance market and services over 70,000 customers from 50 branches spread across the country. In the press-release published by Reuters news agency, Fitch Ratings said: “The ratings reflect the business focus of Crystal on microfinance (MFO) lending in a high-risk operating environment in Georgia, its rapid recent growth, and market and refinancing risks resulting from the predominance of foreign-currency wholesale funding”. “This is quite a high assessment for a non-banking financial institution and will position Crystal under the radars of international investors, and will strengthen the country’s investment
Author of Economic Freedom of the World Report Says Georgia’s Economy Freer than that of Many Others
BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI
obert A. Lawson of the Fraser Institute, one of the authors of the Economic Freedom Report, met with a number of Georgian institutions at the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia while on a visit last week. At the meeting attended by representatives of the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice, National Bank of Georgia, National Statistics Office of Georgia, government administration and the New Economy School of Georgia, Georgia’s economic reforms were discussed, with particular attention paid to issues of carrying out public-private partnership legislation framework, pension and capital market development reforms. Lawson noted that the Georgian economy today is much freer than the economies of numerous other countries. As the Ministry of Economy reports, he also highlighted that the “majority of countries would wish to have the same economic system Georgia has”. “We discussed the economic processes ongoing in Georgia since 2005, and the Economic Freedom Index,” Lawson said. “As Georgia has carried out more economic reforms than any other country, today the Georgian economy is much freer than that of many other countries, even my own country, the USA,” Lawson
is said to have stated at the meeting. “The meeting with Mr. Lawson and officials from Georgian ministries was extremely important, and saw discussion of ways to upgrade Georgia’s position in the World Economic Freedom index,” said Paata Shesheladze, cofounder of the New Economic School of Georgia. The Index published in the Economic Freedom of the World Report (2016) measures the level to which country institutions and policies are supportive of economic freedom. “The cornerstones of economic freedom are personal choice, voluntary exchange, freedom to enter markets and compete, and security of the person and privately-owned property,” the information about the report states. The Economic Freedom of the World report was first published in 1996. 42 data points are used to create a summary index while the level of economic freedom is measured across the size of governments, expenditures, enterprises, taxes, legal structure and security of property rights, freedom to international trade, regulation of credit, labor and business, and access to sound money. Hong Kong and Singapore are leading in the position of top-rated countries in the Economic Freedom of the World Index, with New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Georgia, Ireland, Mauritius, the United Arab Emirates, Australia and the United Kingdom among the top ten countries with free economies.
appeal, allowing the company to make its contribution towards the development of Georgia’s corporate bond market,” said Archil Bakuradze, the company’s Executive Chairman. “Further increases in the credit rating will depend on the enhancement of the legal environment, successful completion of the reforms in microfinance regulation, availability of Georgian Lari refinancing instruments and the continued strengthening in the company”. One of the limiting factors in ratings for Crystal has been the competition in the Georgian microfinance market, where Crystal is competing with other microfinance groups and the banking sector. However, Fitch observes the “significant” growth performance that Crystal has been generating, on average 53% annually in 2013-16, shows the potential for future rises in the rating.
Georgian PM Speaks at 72nd Session of UN General Assembly Continued from page 2 He said the government is working very actively in all four directions in order to develop the country and bring it closer to European standards. He said Georgia, together with Ukraine and Moldova, signed an Association Agreement with Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area and achieved visafree travel to the EU, adding Georgia has become the first country in the region to sign a Free Trade Agreement with China. Furthermore, the PM spoke about the main regional projects which are underway with Georgia’s participation. These projects are the One Belt One Road project, which will facilitate trade in highvalue goods and services between Europe and Asia, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project, and Georgia's Deep-Sea port on the Black Sea in Anaklia. The PM’s speech also focused on the issue of Russian occupation. He stressed that this year, Russia has “intensified its policy of occupation and factual annexation of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia”. Kvirikashvili added that Russia has implemented "integration treaties" and signed "agreements" with de-facto authorities to absorb Georgia's occupied regions into Russia's military, political, economic and social systems and accelerated its military build-up in both occupied regions of Georgia. Russia has also “intensified the fortification of the occupation lines by installing razor wire
fences, trenches, ‘border signs,’ and other artificial barriers,” he said. “Families have even suffered razor wires cutting through their dwellings or farmyards. Vulnerable groups, such as people in need of medical care and schoolchildren crossing to get an education in their native language, prohibited in the occupied regions, have been blocked by closed crossing points. Meanwhile, Russia continues to install motion detectors and other technologies to assert full control of all crossings along the occupation line,” the PM stressed. However, he clearly noted that Georgia is firmly committed to peaceful resolution of the Russia-Georgia conflict. “The Government of Georgia is providing new instruments to rebuild trust with our compatriots living across the occupation line. We are determined to make the benefits of Georgia's European agenda available to the people on the other side of that line,” he said. Kvirikashvili also underlined that Georgia is a significant contributor to EuroAtlantic security and actively participates in peacekeeping missions to defeat terrorism. “Our strategic partnership with the United States has proved to be key for our development and stability and we are committed to deepening our ties further. The EU, in its Global Strategy, has recognized Georgia's success as a prosperous, peaceful and stable democracy, and a significant contributor in its neighborhood,” the PM stated.
SEPTEMBER 26 - 28, 2017
In Mtsvadi Veritas pitality provider in the resort. They boast an open restaurant where you can enjoy some of the tastiest meals you’re going to come across in Georgia. So, if for any reason you’d eschew the opportunity to gorge yourself on Mtsvadi, there are plenty of alternatives. The festival was in fact a contest over the best BBQ , with some of the most popular restaurants in Tbilisi as participants, among them Sakhli Madatovze, Tsiskvili Group, Begheli, Mtsvadiauri, Sami Saukune, Mais Bar and Restaurant, Kolkhuri sakhli, Sharbati and the restaurant of hotel Cron Palace. They traveled together with us and went straight to preparations on arrival. I’ll not lie if I say that when the smell of Mtsvadi, or shall we call it an aroma, weaved itself into the fresh air of Sairme, that one hour we had to wait till the tasting was one of the most pleasant, yet tantalizing, experiences in my gourmet adventures. And the judges? They had to taste so much of it that we were legit scared they wouldn’t survive. Though if any of them shared our concerns, they sure didn’t let it show. They dutifully chewed, gobbled and rolled their eyes and at the end, voiced their verdict. The overall consensus was that all participants did rather well, so much so that they apparently had to add an additional category. Of those that were announced, Sharbati Restaurant won for Best Serving, Tsiskvili group and Mtsvadiauri won Best Taste, Begheli for Original Serving, Sami Saukune for Delicious Delivery, Sakhli Madatovze for Special Taste, and Mais Bar and Restaurant took home the Grand Prix. All of this was followed by a massive dinner, where lots of fun was had until midnight. In the morning, we had an info tour reserved for Armenian tour operators who were attending the festival and were very pleased with the result. Considering the regional rivalry in the Caucasus over the Mtsvadi (or Shashlik, as the Russians call it), to hear such praise from Armenians was indeed quite a revelation and testament to the festival’s success. Later; tired, dizzy but very satisfied, we embarked on journey home, with newly acquired knowledge over this deceivingly simple, yet unbelievably delicious meal.
BY INGA MUMLADZE
arbeque, or to be more specific, the Georgian version of it Mtsvadi, is one of the staples of famed Georgian cuisine, alongside Khachapuri and Khinkali. So it was only a matter of time until somebody put two and two together and set a Mtsvadi festival into motion. The wise folks at the Georgian Tourism Agency seem to have figured this simple math out, and as a result, I found myself embarking on a 4-hour journey from Tbilisi to Sairme, one of Georgia’s best-known resorts. It’s a particular kind of fame: as a resort, Sairme has been a popular destination for all of Georgia’s soviet past and counting. Its 6 different types of mineral water, of the same name, have been found to have a wide array of curing capabilities, mostly for stomach ailments. Sairme, together with Borjomi and Nabeghlavi, forms a holy trinity of Georgian mineral waters. However, fancy music festivals and entertainment gigs are a rarity here, so Sairme remains a resort chiefly for connoisseurs of beautiful, pastoral landscapes and a calming atmosphere. And those four hours that you’d need to get there from Tbilisi? Easily compensated by the beautiful places you’ll get to see on the way. The resort itself is in the middle of a forest, with a sprawling network of baths and wells at the entrance. Sairme is also a place you’d have to try very hard to get lost in, unlike Tbilisi and a plethora of other places in Georgia, here almost every wall and building is marked with one signpost or another. Particular care is spent upon explanation of the benefits of Sairme water and the rules for its consumption. And it’s all green! And there are hammocks everywhere! And it’s definitely one of the places in Georgia where riding a bicycle is very much encouraged and cherished. Oh, and if you happen to do sports, there are a couple of gyms around and a nice, multifunctional stadium. But back to the tasty part: the Mtsvadi Festival was co-organized by Hotel Sairme, biggest hos-
Why Kyiv Started Talking about Resuming Gas Supplies from Russia BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE
aftogaz is the national oil and gas company of Ukraine. It is a stateowned company subordinated to the government. The company is involved with extraction, transportation, and refinement of natural gas and crude oil. Ukrainian energy experts fear the concept that by 2030, Ukraine will be importing Russian gas once again. Commercial director of Naftogaz, Yuri Vitrenko, says there is a risk that "everything will return to normal" and Ukraine will again turn to Moscow for natural gas and oil supplies. And it may well happen, since Ukraine lacks a "sustainable development system," Vitrenko said. In his opinion, the country is developing "very negative trends," indicating a return to the "oligarchic system". Earlier, the commercial director of Naftogaz
was unable to rule out the possibility of buying Russian gas in "critical circumstances". "This is a separate issue, whether we will or not do so, but in a critical case, we can take gas from Russia," Vitrenko said. Also, in his opinion, Kyiv can provide guarantees on the transit of Russian gas through Ukrainian territory. Recall that a few days earlier, the head of Gazprom Alexei Miller said that by 2019 the company will reduce the volume of gas transit through Ukraine to 19 billion cubic meters per year. For comparison: in 2016, 80 billion cubic meters of gas were supplied to Europe via Ukrainian gas transmission systems. To diversify the transit channels, Gazprom is implementing the projects of the ‘Turkish Stream’ and ‘Nord Stream-2’ pipelines. According to experts, the creation of alternative gas routes is connected not only with the tension in relations between Moscow and Kyiv, but also with the deterioration of the Ukrainian gas transportation system.
SEPTEMBER 26 - 28, 2017
IFC Director for Europe & Central Asia: Georgia is on the Right Track UNPREDICTABLE, FOREIGN POLICY IN THIS REGION HAVE ON YOUR PLANS?
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY MATE FOLDI
That’s a fair question. As an international financial institution, which is owned by many countries, we have a different approach to the issue of geopolitics compared to a purely commercial investor. Our job is to focus on the development needs of a country and on achieving those development objectives. So, clearly for us, the period of the post 2008-2009, both the financial crisis, and specifically, in the case of Georgia, the geopolitical crisis, has been a period when obviously not all investors were comfortable in coming into Georgia. Part of our role is to help mitigate the risks that the investors see from the standpoint of business environment, political context, future stability, stability of policies. Frankly, in that dimension, Georgia has done relatively well in terms of attracting FDI. Relative to other countries, it is a leader in many respects. Of course, we do not make investments ourselves; we rely on our partners, the sponsors of projects that come in. So, if their perception of the market is such that the market is difficult, unstable, or the geopolitical risks are too high, they are not going to come. The best indication of the fact that the markets are actually reasonably comfortable with what’s going on is Georgia’s recent upgrade from Moody’s. I think the other rating agencies are reviewing Georgia’s status, but on Moody’s scale, Georgia is only one notch below investment grade, and given what’s going on in the world, and this region, and some of the challenges that the markets are going through, this is a very significant achievement. From our perspective, it’s a signal that this government and this country is doing something right, creating an environment that is attractive to investors, but also for us it is a sign that other investors whom we can support are likely to come and benefit from this environment.
omasz Telma is Director for Europe and Central Asia at the International Finance Corporation (IFC). He is responsible for managing IFC’s activities in this region, including a significant investment program (US$2.7 billion of long-term finance and an average outstanding balance of US$463 million of trade finance guarantees in FY16) and portfolio (US$11 billion committed including mobilization), and an advisory program consisting of over 70 projects in 20 countries. Tomasz has been with IFC since 1995 with most of his career focused on developing and executing IFC’s investment transactions. Prior to his current assignment, he was based in Almaty, Kazakhstan, as Associate Director for Central Asia and Azerbaijan, and earlier in Moscow as Chief Investment Officer responsible for IFC’s new financial sector investments in the region. Before joining IFC, Tomasz worked for PlanEcon, Inc., a private US-based consulting and investment advisory firm focusing on Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. He studied International Economics and Finance in the Warsaw School of Economics and holds a Master’s Degree in International Business from Georgetown University in Washington, DC. GEORGIA TODAY sat down with Mr. Telma at IFC’s Tbilisi office to discuss IFC’s history, projects, and visions for the country.
GIVE US A SUMMARY OF IFC’S TWO-DECADE PRESENCE IN GEORGIA AND WHAT YOU’VE ACHIEVED HERE Georgia is one of those countries where it is easy to talk about achievements due its very strong track record. Over the last decade the country has made very consistent moves in improving the business environment. As you know, IFC’s job is to support private-sector development and growth. Especially in the past ten years, progress in that regard in Georgia has been very concrete. Consequently, when we talk about our presence and our results, it’s actually a very positive story to tell because there are a lot of things that IFC, together with Georgia, has been able to accomplish. We are just completing a four-year strategy period together with the World Bank; the so-called “Country-Partnership Strategy,” during which we have achieved record results regarding the overall amount of investments that IFC, together with its partners, has been able to make: the amount we invested over the past four years is $1.3 billion, including mobilization. So, relative to the overall size of IFC’s engagement over the past 20 plus years, which is $1.8 billion, it’s really a very significant increase in what IFC has been able to do together with its partners. In the financial sector, we are working with a number of very successful banks, like Bank of Georgia and TBC Bank. We have a number of engagements in the finance sector that helped allocate financing to small and medium sized enterprises, which represent the bulk of the Georgian economy. The second big direction is what’s been happening on the infrastructure front; especially the power infrastructure: IFC has had a very significant engagement in the hydropower sector over the past half a decade, with an intensification in the last twothree years. Three: working with a number of companies in the agribusiness sector has been able to bring both capital, new technologies, and investments
WHAT ARE YOUR VISIONS FOR FUTURE OPERATIONS IN GEORGIA? in a number of areas. Four: the health sector. This venture is somewhat newer in our experience, but basically it has overseen the development of private health care provision in the country, taking advantage of what’s happened on universal healthcare access in Georgia, working with companies that actually provide services to the population. We have also supported bond issuances. Some of these we can call “big firsts”: for example, the first offshore local currency bond issuance by a Georgian corporate, Bank of Georgia; one of the first risk-management transactions some time ago with TBC Bank: these are a few among other things on the investment side that represent our claims to fame in Georgia. On the advisory side, there has been a very consistent level of support towards developing and strengthening the investment climate for companies; a number of improvements in the regulations for Georgian businesses have been accomplished with IFC’s assistance. One of the outcomes of the focus on business regulation is Georgia’s ‘Doing Business ranking' at number 16 in the world, among the highest ranked countries in the Europe and Central Asia Region, with Macedonia being the highest ranked (10th).
IS MAINTAINING GEORGIA’S UPWARDS TRAJECTORY GOING TO BE A RESULT OF LEADERSHIP FROM THE TOP OR INITIATIVES FROM THE POPULATION? In any environment, it’s both. The job of the top is to create the environment
for the so-called ‘bottom’ to flourish and take the initiative. This government has a very clear idea of the things that need to be done and that goes to the fiscal stability of the business environment, but they also have ideas how to make certain reforms in order to make Georgia more attractive, how to increase domestic saving rates, how to build a bit more of a domestic capital market, how to strengthen the level of exports out of the country. There is analysis saying that in order for Georgia to keep increasing its income and rates of growth, the level of exports, which is already quite high, needs to be even higher. So, what are the opportunities for exports of goods and services that are not completely tapped? What are the opportunities for Georgia to increase the productivity of its economy? Those are the types of things that need to be discovered, and identified by the top so that the entrepreneurial spirit can flourish amongst the population, and the most effective and favorable business conditions can be made use of. There is a lot of dialogue going on between the World Bank Group and especially our colleagues at the World Bank, with the Georgian authorities on the things that need to be addressed to enhance today’s growth model for the country. From our perspective, the focus is what kind of investors we can actually bring into Georgia and the kinds of projects and sectors that are most interesting.
IS THE CURRENT GOVERNMENT SHOWING THE NECESSARY LEADERSHIP TO ACHIEVE
NO ONE SEEMS TO LIKE THIS QUESTION, BUT WHAT, IF ANY, EFFECT DOES RUSSIA’S, OFTEN
One or two things that are clear indications of the government being on the right track is what is happening on the fiscal side. If you remember there were a lot of concerns in the past two years about the direction that Georgia is headed; in terms of the level of fiscal deficit, how that may impact the longer-term sustainability of the growth rate. I think the government spent quite a lot of time with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and our colleagues at the World Bank to see how some of these challenges can be addressed, and today the story is much stronger with a clear indication that Georgia actually is on the right path. Not without challenges, of course, but definitely on the right track. As I said already, rating agencies have picked it up, which is something that is really positive. I believe that the government has an idea how to tap into Georgia’s potential. However, these things take time; it’s more complicated than just issuing a simple directive. Improving the productivity of rural Georgia, with agribusiness contributing relatively little to the GDP; finding areas of the economy that can effectively increase exports to both help the current account and increase valueadded in manufacturing or processing sectors; increasing the level of formal employment and creating more jobsthese things don’t happen overnight.
We see Georgia as one of the countries where we would like to continue our very strong engagement. As Georgia focuses on slightly different areas of priorities in its growth model and tries to increase its level of integration with the regional and global economy, I think our role, beyond access to finance and infrastructure (that we would like to continue), is going to be supporting Georgia’s efforts to increase exports; basically the areas which can help the balance of payments and current accounts of the country. Specific areas of engagement in addition to access to finance and infrastructure would be: agribusiness, manufacturing, and tourism.
THANK YOU, ANY FINAL REMARKS? I believe that Georgia has reached the point where the current, very successful, growth model needs to be enhanced by looking for opportunities to improve the overall productivity of the economy. Nonetheless, it is important to understand that on the whole, the country is a success story, especially in the past decade. In the 1990s, when IFC first arrived, we were making investments of $5-10 million per year (in Georgia); today that number has increased ten-fold for IFC's own account, i.e. excluding what we have mobilized from other investors. So, from our own, very particular, perspective as an international institution that supports the private sector, the increased FDI, the increased support to domestic entrepreneurs, the increased access to finance, et cetera; these are all big indicators of the success that the country has enjoyed.
GEORGIA TODAY SEPTEMBER 26 - 28, 2017
Georgian Wine Museum Opens in China
Photo source: Ministry of Agriculture
BY THEA MORRISON
Georgian Wine Museum named ‘Window of Georgia’ has been opened in Shangri-La Hotel in the city of Yiwu in central Zhejiang province, China. Georgia’s Agriculture Ministry reports that the museum was opened by Minister Levan Davitashvili on September 21. The minister said at the opening ceremony that strengthening friendly and business relations between Georgia and China is essential. He also spoke about the importance of deepening trade-economic relations between the two countries. “We welcome the demand for Georgian wine in China and we hope that trade-economic relations will become even more active,” he stated. The Georgian Wine Museum is a joint project of the Suoluni Company’s Director General Y Shiao Juni and Singuan Group. Shiao Juni has been operating a chain of Georgian wine houses in China for two years.
The Director of Suoluni Company explained that he decided to open the Georgian Wine Museum due to the uniqueness of Georgian wine. He also plans to open other Georgian wine museums in other big cities of China - Shanghai and Beijing. “I am confident that Georgian wine has great potential for establishing itself on the Chinese market,” he said. The museum displays materials depicting Georgian winemaking culture and history and various types of Georgian wine. It also features a huge Qvevri, a UNESCO-listed vessel in which Georgians traditionally make wine. Georgia’s National Wine Agency says that China is the strategic export market for Georgian wines. In the first eight months of 2017, over five million bottles of wine were exported to China, 51% more than in the same period in 2016. Georgia and China finalized free trade negotiations by signing an agreement on May 13 in Beijing, China, which means that the world's largest market, which unites approximately 1.4 billion customers, will be opened to the goods and services of Georgia. As per the rules of the agreement, 94% of Georgian goods imported to China will be free from import taxes.
Professionals from UK Explore Georgian Wines
Photo source: Georgian Wines
BY THEA MORRISON
group of journalists interested in Georgian wines and led by British Wine Master Sarah Abbott, visited Georgia to explore Georgian wine and its traditional production process. During the wine tour, the UK professionals explored wine cellars and winemaking companies in the Kakheti region. The Georgian National Wine Agency (NWA) reports that prior to the tour, Abbott met the representatives of Georgian wine companies in Tbilisi. The wine master spoke to them about the pricing policy, the labeling of wines and quality issues in terms of promoting Georgian wine development on the market. Giorgi Samanishvili, Head of the NWA, believes
that with consistent and effective collaboration with Georgian wine producers, Georgian wine will gain progressive export tendency. “This visit is special, as the UK market is prominent for Georgian wine export. Entering this market is a priority for Georgian wine. After the visit, the guests will write about the Georgian wine culture, further promoting Georgian wine awareness growth in the UK,” he added. The wine tour was organized by the NWA which chose a local marketing company headed by master of wine Sarah Abbott of ‘Swirl Wine Group’. “We've had a really fantastic and exciting visit,” Abbott said. “We wanted to show our party every aspect of Georgian wine; the development, existing and potential”. “I also wanted to show the real diversity and breathe the energy of Georgian wine, which I think is one of the most exciting wine origins in the world,” she added.
SEPTEMBER 26 - 28, 2017
Caucasus: Unstable Region & Global Outlook OP-ED BY EMIL AVDALIANI
hat happens in Georgia’s neighborhood is very important for Tbilisi. Any changes in Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan and other neighbors could have potential repercussions on how Georgia perceives foreign affairs. Yet while ordinary people and pundits in Georgia seem to understand this, if you compare the level of interest with what other neighboring countries do to study their neighbors, Georgia lags far behind. It should therefore be an unchangeable imperative to monitor and analyze what is happening around Georgia to be better prepared for possible political, military and security developments in the region. And the region is quite unstable. In neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan, political changes may soon occur around “Nagorno-Karabakh,” as evidenced by the Armenian Foreign Minister’s statements that Yerevan is holding talks with Baku on returning some of the territories around “Nagorno-Karabakh”. It is far from clear whether the process will be peaceful, as Yerevan stated that if there is serious military escalation, the government will recognize “Nagorno-Karabakh’s” independence. In all cases, this is unlikely to usher in a more stable South Caucasus. Further south, Iraqi Kurdistan will proceed with its plans to hold a referendum (at least at the time of writing) on separation from Baghdad. The referendum will be non-binding but, as seen from negative statements from Turkey, Iran, Baghdad itself and the world community, the results will not bring peace to the Middle East. This deeply matters to the South Caucasus, and Tbilisi in particular,
as the states which have biggest stakes in the upcoming showdown are Turkey and Iran – Georgia’s neighbors (although Iran has no direct frontier with Georgia). To the north, in Russia, on top of the dispute over the power-sharing agreement between Moscow and Kazan (capital of Tatarstan), several other problems have ensued. In July, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Republic of Mari El where he suggested that ethnic Russians
were being forced to learn ethnic languages in regions with large minority groups. The sensitive language issue has sparked disputes not only in Tatarstan, but in several other so-called ethnic republics in the Volga-Ural area. Furthermore, in August, Putin ordered federal prosecutors to check whether ethnic Russian students in the autonomous republics were being forced to learn the local languages.
As a result, on September 14, the Council of Chuvash Elders in the Republic of Chuvashia called Putin's moves "another attack against the indigenous languages of the Russian Federation." On September 16, at least 1,000 activists rallied in Bashkortostan's capital, Ufa, calling for the reintroduction of mandatory Bashkir classes in the republic. I have already written how Moscow is hardening its control over the region and
how this fits into the overall strategy on behalf of the Russian government ahead of the presidential elections and wider conflict with the West. But it was also noted that a serious backlash might also be seen from ethnic minorities, and those tiny protests in Chuvashia and elsewhere could be yet another signal that all is not right within the Russian provinces. Moreover, developments in Russia are deeply intertwined with its foreign policy and should be of primary concern for the Georgian policymakers to follow. This also confirms the necessity of having a regional overview when we discuss Georgia’s foreign policy prospects. Indeed, on top of all the abovementioned (potential) conflicts, Georgia itself is riven with separatist territories. Any escalation could lead to unintended military consequences. Perhaps the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was right when he said several days ago at the UN General Assembly that small conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh might be a cause for a bigger confrontation. Thus, the unstable region Georgia is in requires a clear policy to navigate the various geopolitical currents. The region is evolving quickly and it requires certain ability to calculate the balance of power among the several major actors. Any failure to do so will be tantamount to the collapse of the foreign policy. This brings us back to the need to meticulously study our neighborhood in order to anticipate political, military and security trends in the region. Emil Avdaliani teaches history and international relations at Tbilisi State University and Ilia State University. He has worked for various international consulting companies and currently publishes articles focused on military and political developments across the former Soviet space.
US Special Envoy to Ukraine: A Reason to Hope EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE
ith all the politics drama that’s going on in Ukraine at the moment, mostly thanks to Georgia’s divisive ex-President, GEORGIA TODAY and Panorama TV Show approached the US special envoy in Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who found time from his busy conference schedule to chat with us for a while about things like Western influence, Georgia’s place in US politics and of course, the abovementioned politics in Ukraine.
YOU SPOKE AT THE CONFERENCE ABOUT THE WEST BEING A SET OF VALUES AND IDEAS RATHER THAN GEOGRAPHY. FROM THAT
There is reason to hope that Russia can change what it is doing
STANDPOINT, IS THE US STILL THE WEST IT USED TO BE? WITH WHAT’S BEEN GOING ON THERE DURING TRUMP’S PRESIDENCY, HOW VIABLE A PREACHER FOR WESTERN DEMOCRACY AND VALUES CAN AMERICA BE FOR COUNTRIES LIKE GEORGIA? I would say absolutely, because we are strong and resilient as a country. We are people who are passionately committed to freedom and democracy; we have strong democratic institutions; we have vibrant media; we have very strong rule of law; we have branches of the government; judiciary and legislative branches that are very healthy and independent that are playing an important role in our society. So, while we have political disagreements and differences between political parties, the overall institutions of our country, I would argue, are some of the strongest of any country in the western world.
AFTER BUSH’S TENURE, OBAMA SHIFTED THE POLICY FOCUS AWAY FROM GEORGIA. PEOPLE HOPED THAT WITH TRUMP COMING INTO POWER, THAT FOCUS WOULD COME BACK, YET IT DIDN’T First of all, we have to remember that the US Vice President visited Georgia just a month ago. So that is already a high level of attention. There have been US-Georgia military joint exercises and steady cooperation in other fields. There is a firmly robust agenda there. But, then
I don’t think that would serve anyone’s interests, especially not those of the Ukrainian people. They have all the institutions for a vital, healthy democracy. They need good leaders who get elected and who work hard within those institutions. Revolution, such as the Rose Revolution, can be understood as there being a complete blockage in the system. There is no such blockage in Ukraine.
WHAT ARE THE PERSPECTIVES FOR THE PEACE PROCESS IN EASTERN UKRAINE?
YOU WERE RECENTLY APPOINTED THE SPECIAL ENVOY TO UKRAINE. WHAT IS YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THE RECENT EVENTS (THE SAAKASHVILI SAGA) THERE?
is really a distraction in many ways. I don’t think this kind of dramatization is helpful to anybody in Ukraine or elsewhere as Ukraine has really important, serious work to do. In addition, I think it would be damaging and polarizing to Georgian politics if Saakashvili was extradited to Georgia. I know there is a request out there but I hope that it stays pretty much as it is. Ukraine needs to demonstrate that it is a rule of law state, be it from the perspective of the president and seeing that laws and rules are applied, or from former president Saakashvili’s perspective. If he is challenging something, then he has access to courts. So, it needs to be done legally.
The first thing I’d say is that I think Ukraine has a lot of important work to do in reforms, economic reforms, security, dealing with the conflict, reaching out to the people in Donbass, and this
THERE ARE CLAIMS REGARDING MISHA’S AGENDA, THAT THERE COULD BE ANOTHER REVOLUTION IN UKRAINE
again, you make a valid point: the Obama Administration for many years did seem to downgrade its relationship with Georgia. In the Trump Administration, we’ve seen stronger rhetorical support. We’re talking about the occupation again. I’m talking about support of Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and building that relationship. It’s on a good trajectory.
I think we are facing a window of opportunity right now. This is still a hot war in eastern Ukraine, not a frozen conflict. It is not working out very well for Russia both in terms of international reputation and increasing information about their role there. From the perspective of sanctions, from the perspective of being an impediment for improving US-Russia relations, from the perspective of Ukraine itself becoming stronger with a national identity looking westward: none of these things is what Russia wanted. And so, there is reason to hope that Russia can change what it is doing and, if so, then we can help to find a way to improve security, make sure that Russian speaking people do not feel threatened, create the time and space necessary for the implementation of the Minsk agreements which results in the territory being restored to Ukrainian sovereignty. That’s the ideal scenario. I think there’s an opportunity to work on this right now. We’ll see how it goes.
GEORGIA TODAY SEPTEMBER 26 - 28, 2017
Katara International Hunting & Falcons Exhibition: An Exchange of Experience & Traditions
BY KATIE RUTH DAVIES
he Cultural Village Foundation Katara continued its festive activities of Katara International Hunting and Falcons Exhibition (S’hail 2017) over the weekend. A diverse array of participants from Qatar and abroad, from suppliers of hunting vehicles to tools, equipment and falcon care-related entities, came together for the unique exhibition which started last Wednesday. There were as many as 54 participants from Qatar; 15 from Kuwait; 5 from Spain; 4 from Pakistan; 3 from Germany; and one each from the
US, England, France, South Africa, Azerbaijan and Lebanon. The exhibition introduced more than 400 falcons from three local farms and nine other breeding farms from Spain, Germany, France and Russia. The exhibition also welcomed many international hunting-related brands of camping gear, hunting arms and tools, and featured cultural stands from several countries including Morocco, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey, introducing visitors to their cultural heritage in hunting and falconry through their exhibits. To give a real hunting feel and marksmanship experience at S’hail 2017, the Qatar Shooting Federation brought a ‘shooting range’ along, with a repre-
sentative from the Qatar Shooting Federation giving instructions to those who wanted to try their hand at the sport. The first edition of S’hail 2017 exhibition attracted hundreds of people. But just as much as the falcons from various countries, the hunting equipment and camping gear enlightened the visitors, a traditional representative from Georgia also attracted the fancy and curious eyes of all. The only Georgian participating in the exhibition was a falcon trainer named Levani who came from Tbilisi to join the Katara International Hunting and Falcons Exhibition S'hail with the aim of exchanging experience with other falcon trainers from around the world. “The culture of falconry is very ancient in Georgia thanks to the large bird immigration coming from the Black Sea,” the Georgian falcon trainer said. At the exhibition, he presented Georgian falconry techniques and introduced a number of Georgian hunting traditions. In exchange, he was able to attend awareness-raising lectures and received training on how to deal with injured falcons and essential veterinary knowledge. Commenting on falconry in Qatar, Alejandro from Spanish falcon breeding company Centro Deroleucus, said it is more popular in Qatar and is considered more of a tradition and part of culture than in Spain. “It is my heartfelt honour to be exposed to Qatari falconry as it has a very high status and pride,” he said. Qatari falconers have developed new methods in training and caring for their falcons. Ian Garland from the UK, who runs a breeding farm, said he first visited Qatar ten years ago. "It was slightly different from now. The market is very specific and trainers are aware of the quality of the services and products," he said, adding that he sees the diversity the S’hail 2017 exhibition has brought to falconers and hunters as exceptional, something he has never witnessed at such an exhibition.
Peter Nasmyth Launches ‘Georgia in the Mountains of Poetry’ BY ROBERT EDGAR
tanfords in Covent Garden was a fitting place for Peter Nasmyth to launch Georgia in the Mountains of Poetry, the fourth edition of his “biography of a country”. It is an eccentric shop which stocks a host of travelling goods ranging from the essential (detailed maps and guides to almost every nook and cranny of the world) to the ridiculous (Mini Backscratcher Keyring “extendable up to six inches”). In the Mountains of Poetry is a difficult work to categorise and Nasmyth writes in his preface to the new edition that he has watched it migrate across shop floors from the travel to the history section. It is a first-hand account of a young country slowly emerging as a confident nation
which necessarily deals with the considerable turbulence it has experienced. The mood at the launch was tangibly cheerful. In his brief speech, Nasmyth described Georgia as an adolescent country buffeted by change, but, perhaps uniquely, all the recent changes have been good. “Svaneti is full of tourists…we were up in Tusheti: it’s being developed in an eco-way, the World Bank is doing well, all the improvements have been good improvements,” Nasmyth said. “I remember when Georgia was the Soviet Union’s richest region, then it became a technocracy, but the thing about it is that it’s always an optimistic country”. One of the main things Nasmyth has tried to capture in his book is the character of the Georgian people. “There’s not a great deal of similarity between the Georgians and the British,
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but one thing we do share is that we both love absurdity: when things go wrong, we love it”. The event itself took place on the lowest floor, next to the Caucasian section, and guests were treated to Georgian wine and churchkhela, the latter having been brought from Georgia by Nasmyth only the day before. It was an intimate setting which meant that capacity was limited, but greater than the sum of its parts with an eclectic mix of an ex ambassador, authors, artists, and the perpetually travelling. “[Georgia is] small, eccentric and people like to do things their own way. Like me,” quipped Nasmyth at the beginning of his speech. The book launch itself was a pleasing example of that outlook. Georgia in the Mountains of Poetry is published by Duckworth Overlook and retails at £25
Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Maka Lomadze, Joseph Larsen, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Nino Gugunishvili, Thea Morrison Photographer: Irakli Dolidze
The Meaning of ‘Border’
arlier this month, the discussion ‘Borders in Everyday Life’ took place within the scope of the Georgian-German Year at Goethe Institute. Lasha Bakradze, Director of the Giorgi Leonidze Georgian State Literature Museum; Irakli Khvadagiani, historian, researcher of Soviet research laboratory ‘Sovlab;’ and Tamar Tsopurishvili, Professor at Ilia State University, took part. The moderator was Zaal Andronikashvili, scientist-collaborator of the Berlin Literature and Culture Research Center. The main focus was made on where Europe ends and Asia begins. What influences do borders make and who actually makes them? What kind of borders do we have in everyday life? Where were the frontiers of the former Soviet Union and where are they today? These are the essential questions that surround the lengthy creative project ‘Border’, which is being implemented by the Goethe Institute and its numerous partners 2017-2018. The discussion was called ‘Of Black Box Recorder, Karaoke, National Anthem and Blurred Lines‘. Thibaut de Ruyter, world-famous curator, Parhad Parzaliev, an artist from Azerbaijan, and Lali Pertenava, Georgian art researcher, also took part in the discussion. The debates were about the western and eastern influences on the Post Soviet cultural space. It also touched on personal and political narratives, identity and hybridity, as well as humor and social traumas. The project ‘Border’, which represents an exhibition of contemporary visual artists (on at History Museum Karvasla, as a group expo, in which 24 works of around 30 young artists are displayed), as well as panel discussions, is being held by the Goethe Institute in Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Krasnoyarsk, Kiev, Minsk, Tbilisi, Dortmund and Middle Asia with the support of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The aim of the exhibition is to express the attitudes towards different kinds of understanding of borders that exist in the world, including territorial borders as well as the border as a cultural, private or social divisor, creating a dichotomy between the concepts of ‘ours’ and ‘yours’. “We’re celebrating two centennials: since the first German colonists arrived in Georgia and the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties 25 years ago,” said Monika Lenhard, Vice Ambassador of Germany to Georgia. “We also mark the 25th anniversary of the cooperation of development policies as well as mili-
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tary policies. We want to show the relationships that we had during the past centuries and to look to the future, outlining new plans for better bilateral cooperation. We have perfectly cooperated with the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and well as with the Ministry of Culture. It means that our relationship enjoys not only a common past but also a dynamic development for the future,” she said , adding their desire to demonstrate the full spectrum of collaboration, be it political or peopleto-people relations. The Ambassador went on to announce ‘Bolnisoba,’ a public holiday in the town of Bolnisi in Kvemo Kartli, which was once the settlement most populated by Germans. The holiday will be held on October 7-8. “We can say that we have a firework of events. More importantly, we are going to Batumi, which means that we also cover the regions with our program,” said Barbara Von Munchausen, New Director of Goethe Institute. “For us, the most important chord is Sasha Waltz’s Dance Theater tour on October 20-21. Before that, we also have a very interesting event on October 15 at Free University called ‘Children’s University’- a number of lectures and events addressed to children. It is associated with the children’s TV show in Germany called ‘Together with a Mouse’. The kids can find answers to their endless questions on our website, too. I’m very grateful for this celebratory year as it gives us a diversity to offer spectators. We are already busy selecting topics for Frankfurt (Note: Georgia will be represented at the biggest international book fair as an honorary guest in 2018). We hope that this book fair will boost further ideas and impulses for Georgian and German authors,” she said. “We can understand the word border in completely different ways. However, this word has a particularly painful hue for Georgia today as our borders, our imagination and reality, are totally different from one another. I think it was not uninteresting for society to listen to the diverse range of this word’s meanings,” Bakradze said after the discussion, adding that it is difficult to define whether Georgia is Europe or Asia even for foreigners. Georgia claims that it was a part of the antique world. In Bakradze’s words, it is Europe because it is a Christian country. He believes that linguistically, we are more inclined to oriental influences, but speaking from political values, we more belong to Europe. Paradoxically enough, there was a great Persian influence in the Antique Era as well as in the Middle Ages. So, our merged culture is quite obvious and understandable.
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