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Issue no: 959

• JUNE 30 - JULY 3, 2017



In this week’s issue...

Georgian Railway Releases Statement on Travel Fees NEWS PAGE 3

MEP Austrevicius on the Mukhtarli Investigation

FOCUS ON DEMOCRACY Georgian NGOs crying 'nay', the heat of the Mukhtarli case from a European Parliament perspective, and a look at Ukraine PAGE 3, 6



Tobacco Control Alliance: Plain Packaging of Tobacco Fully Compliant with International Intellectual Property Regime BUSINESS PAGE 9


Georgia Remains in Tier 1 of Countries Combatting Trafficking BY THEA MORRISON

TBC Bank’s Saba - Increasing Literacy & a Love of Reading SOCIETY PAGE 10

Rustavi to Have 3 Kindergartens with High Energy Efficiency Standards SOCIETY PAGE 11


eorgia remains on the country list of those that have the highest level of fighting against trafficking, according to the United States (US) Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report 2017. Through the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, the US State Department annually assesses actions carried out by 188 states to combat trafficking in persons. The assessment of the US State Department is based on such components as: prevention of human trafficking, protection of victims of trafficking, criminal prosecution of perpetrators and collaboration between governments and civil society with respect to trafficking. The report positively evaluates Georgia’s efforts to investigate and prevent cases of trafficking, actions carried out to protect victims of trafficking, and cooperation measures, as well as activities of the law enforcement authorities with respect to proactive investigations to reveal crimes and prosecute traffickers. Continued on page 2

Contemporary Chinese Artists in Tbilisi CULTURE PAGE 13




JUNE 30 - JULY 3, 2017

Georgia Remains in Tier 1 of Countries Combatting Trafficking Continued from page 1

With regards to the effective fight against trafficking, Georgia falls beside such countries of the European Union as France, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Spain, Sweden. Poland, Netherlands, Denmark, and Portugal. “The Government of Georgia fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, Georgia remained on Tier 1,” the report reads. It also said that the Government of Georgia demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by adopting the 2017-2018 national action plan and continuing proactive investigations and screening of vulnerable populations for trafficking indicators. However, the report says that although the government meets the minimum standards, authorities did not increase anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and identified fewer victims. “The labor inspectorate continued to operate with an unclear mandate and restricted ability to investigate employers. Victim identification remained weak for children in exploitative situations on the street, such as those subjected to forced begging and criminality, and for individuals working in vulnerable labor sectors,” the document says. It also sets a number of recommendations for the Georgian government: •Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers under Article 143; • Improve efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims, particularly street children and Georgian and foreign victims in vulnerable labor sectors; • Increase law enforcement capacity to investigate complex cases; • Further incorporate the labor inspectorate in anti-trafficking efforts with established roles and responsibilities;

• Improve measures to guarantee victims’ access to compensation, including asset seizure, informing victims of their rights to compensation, and legal assistance; • Increase transparency of the inter-ministerial trafficking coordination council; • Fully implement a law that provides street children with free government identification; • Create integrated, interagency strategies to reduce vulnerability and counter forced begging; • Continue awareness-raising campaigns about the existence of human trafficking, legal recourse, and available protection services, targeted at vulnerable groups. “For the first time, Georgia’s steady, serious and sustained efforts against trafficking are underlined in this year’s US State Department report,” the statement of the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia (POG) reads. The Prosecutor’s Office also says that they systematically train prosecutors and improve their qualifications to combat trafficking. “All prosecutors working on trafficking cases were re-trained in 2016. Moreover, all intern-prosecutors recruited in the system were trained regarding the importance of the fight against trafficking. Retraining of prosecutors is also scheduled for 2017. Further, it is planned to extend the role and functions of victim-witness coordinators employed within the system of the Prosecutor’s Office, which will positively affect the protection of victim rights,” the statement continues. Deputy Chief Prosecutor of Georgia, Giorgi Gabitashvili, stated that combatting trafficking is one of the major priorities of the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia. “A separate chapter in the six-year action plan developed by the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia is dedicated to human trafficking, where the actions making combatting traffickers as well as crime prevention more effective are set forth in detail,” he said.

East-West Highway Section Opens in Georgia BY THEA MORRISON


15.2 kilometer section was added to West Georgia’s Zestaponi-KutaisiSamtredia 65.5 km highway, making it fully operational. For the construction of the highway in Imereti region, the Government of Japan provided a Yen loan of ¥17,722,000,000 (around $2,601,891,051) and ¥4,410,000,000 (about $647,463,014) to the Government of Georgia through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Georgia’s Infrastructure Ministry reports that within the frames of the Kutaisi-Zestaponi bypass, a cement-concrete covered highway, nine parallel bridges, two transport junctions, four pedestrian bridges, underground exits and reinforced concrete culverts have been built. “The construction of this section will increase the safety of traffic movement on the E60 high-

speed motorway, reduce transportation costs and facilitate transit movement,” the ministry reports. Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Georgia’s Prime Minister, attended the opening ceremony with the representatives of donor organizations and governmental officials. The PM noted that the new section of the EastWest Highway is part of Georgia’s Spatial Arrangement Plan, which aims at modernizing infrastructural development in the country. The PM thanked the Japanese government and international financial institutions for their significant contribution to the development of Georgia. “Imereti is the heart of Georgia. Projects such as highways that will connect Kutaisi to Mestia and Tetnuldi resorts, to Abastumani and southern Georgia, and the East-West railway which will reach Kutaisi Airport and Kutaisi Technical University will turn this area into a real center,” he stated. Around 360 people were employed in the EastWest Highway construction project.

Street Inspectors Fine 926 for Polluting Tbilisi since April



treet inspectors from the ‘Tbilservice Group,’ a company responsible for waste management in the capital, have fined 926 individuals since April 20, among them 384 foreign citizens, for polluting

Tbilisi. In total, 882 individuals and 44 entities have been fined for littering. The total amount of fines given to violators amounted to GEL 106.820 ($44.4044). The main penalty protocols filled out by the inspectors are based on environmental pollution by domestic waste. As for construction companies, only 15 have so far been fined for environmental damage. Street inspectors appeared in Tbilisi streets from

April and for the first two weeks just informed citizens who had violated the law, warning them about the coming sanctions as well suggesting they pick up and throw their waste in the bin. After two weeks, they started filling out littering tickets and handing out corresponding fines. For leaving pet excrement in the street, pet owners are fined 50 GEL. For dropping rubbish up to 2 kg the fine is 80 GEL, while for dropping more than 2 kg rubbish the fine is 150 GEL. For throwing up to 2kg trash from a window or balcony the fine is 100 GEL and for throwing more than 2 kg trash, the fine increases up to 500 GEL. For leaving up to five car wheels in the street the fine is 150 GEL and for more wheels, violators are to pay 500 GEL. Individuals who drop dangerous waste have to pay a 400 GEL fine, while legal entities are charged 1000 GEL for such violations.




30 NGOs Claim Georgian Democracy Is in Danger BY THEA MORRISON


hirty Georgian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have expressed concern over the constitutional reform in the country that is being discussed in Parliament at present. The NGOs have sent an open letter to the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini; members of the European Parliament, President of the European Council, Donald Tusk; President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker; Secretary of the Venice Commission, Thomas Markert; and the US Department of State regarding the issue, saying the actions of the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party affect the quality of democracy in the country and is a “dangerous attempt to consolidate political power.” In particular, the civil society organizations refer to the reform of the electoral system and the decision of GD to move to fully proportional elections in 2024 instead of 2020 as was agreed after the four-month work of the State Constitutional Commission.

“After receiving a (constitutional) majority in Parliament, GD made a pledge to launch a comprehensive constitutional reform process, which should have resulted in a refined document with a broad political consensus,” the organizations say. The NGOs claim that the ruling party does not want to change the existing mixed proportional-majoritarian system because it favors the party in power. “It is exactly for this reason Georgian Dream received over 75 percent of the

parliament seats with only 49 percent of votes,” the letter reads. The civil sector says that after receiving the response from the Venice Commission, which also favors moving to a fully proportional election system, the ruling party decided not only to disregard it, but also to “neglect the whole process of the work of the Constitutional Commission, to ignore the voice of civil society and all political parties and, contrary to all expectations and the initial version of the draft, to postpone the

changes in the electoral system until 2024,” the NGOs claim. “Georgian Dream decided to keep [the current system], despite the promises given to the public, civil society and all other political parties, irrespective of the several month-long work of the Constitutional Commission, initiated by themselves, and in contradiction to the recommendations of the Venice Commission – and all this in order to retain power,” they added. On June 22-23, amid protests from political parties, civil society organizations and even the President of Georgia, the ruling party passed the legislation with two hearings in two days during an extraordinary session of Parliament. The discussions of the draft document in the Parliamentary Committees started before the Venice Commission opinion was published, the text was adopted with the first reading at the Plenary Session on June 22 and on June 23 the text was adopted with the second hearing by the relevant committee, as well as the Plenary Session on the same day. “The text was adopted without any opposing voice heard as none of the opposition MPs were present at the session as a sign of protest to the quick

speed of hearing and decision regarding the electoral system,” the NGOs stressed. “We assess this as a clear and a straightforward attempt and a step towards the consolidation of power, on yet another – constitutional – level, which posesa grave threat to democracy in Georgia,” the organizations said. The NGOs call on the EU and US structures to use all powers to help them mitigate and prevent these “unfavorable developments” taking place in Georgia, until the new Constitution is finally passed and approved in autumn. The letter also urges addressees to deliver very strong messages to the government and ruling party that “these tendencies and inclinations towards consolidation of power are incompatible to the Western standards of democracy and are thus unacceptable.” “We consider that such behavior from a country which is considered by many as a frontrunner in the post-Soviet as well as eastern-partnership regions, establishes a bad precedent for other countries. In order to avoid further deadlock in Georgia and a negative spill-over of this precedent in the broader region, we strongly encourage you to react now,” the NGOs stressed.

Georgian Railway Releases Statement on Travel Fees BY THEA MORRISON


eorgian Railway released a statement this week regarding a planned increase in ticket prices. The statement says that from July 1, Georgian Railway will carry

out an adjustment of ticket prices of both the business class and first class train running in the Tbilisi-Batumi direction. However, it says that adjustment of ticket prices will not affect second class tickets. “The price of a trip in second class will remain the same. As in the previous tourist season, the price will be 24 GEL, and outside the tourist season - 18 GEL. In Georgia, railway passenger transpor-

tation is subsidized,” the statement reads. Georgian Railways says that the train has 400 seats, from which seats for passengers in first class will increase by 10 percent and in business class – 2 percent. “88 percent of passengers will travel according to the tariffs established in previous years. The Georgian railway wishes everyone a happy journey!” the statement reads.




JUNE 30 - JULY 3, 2017

The Return of the EU BY EMIL AVDALIANI


he European Union (EU) already has a long history of partnership and semipresence in the South Caucasus region. Despite successes such as the signing of the Association Agreement (AA), the EU has also seen a number of notable setbacks. For instance, in late 2013, Armenia and Azerbaijan pulled out of the Eastern Partnership program and saw Armenia choosing the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union instead. Now history is repeating itself as Brussels is close to completing what was abandoned four years ago –partnership agreements with Yerevan and Baku. Azerbaijan plans to have a new agreement with the EU primarily focused on security, trade and investment. What the agreement lacks in comparison with the 2013 one is commitments on political reforms from the Azerbaijani side. While the official negotiations on the new deal were only launched in February 2017, when Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited Brussels, many believe that the agreement could come to a conclusion by the end of this year. Baku has been oft criticized by the West for its poor human rights record and

largely because of that, Azerbaijan’s relations with Brussels have been difficult in recent years. Another reason was Baku’s abandonment of the EU AA talks. This deal would have been a far more extensive one than the agreement currently being negotiated. However, although Europe remained largely critical of Baku following the abandonment of the Agreement, from the EU perspective, geopolitics plays an important role and this is when Azerbaijan’s geographic position comes to the forefront. Located on the Caspian Sea and being a hub for energy resources of local and potentially Central Asian provenance, Baku being on your side brings many political and economic advantages. Indeed, as perhaps the most vital player on the Southern Energy Corridor, Azerbaijan’s energy resources are important for Europe in terms of the ongoing discourse on Europe’s over-dependence on Russian gas, and though Azerbaijani gas will not be enough to diversify, it is nevertheless important for the EU not to let Russia spread its influence to Baku if EU-Azerbaijan relations soar further. Thus, if the work on the new agreement goes unhindered, major topics in the deal would be political and security cooperation, trade and investment. Azerbaijan’s neighbor Armenia is also in the process of completing negotia-

tions with the EU, and is expected to sign a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement at the Eastern Neighborhood Summit to be held in Brussels this November. For the EU, Armenia is less strategically important, but leaving out Yerevan would further increase the latter’s already large dependence on Moscow. Here, too, the upcoming treaty will be different from the one proposed in 2013 as it commits Yerevan to a range of reforms in the political and economic sectors. Considering that to date Moscow has not voiced any concerns regarding the negotiations (as it did in 2013), it is difficult for the moment to imagine that Russia

will try to scuttle the signing. But there are deeper reasons for Moscow’s position as apparently the new agreement does not offer Armenia any security ties to Europe. Apart from Russia, Iran, too, should be very interested in the developments to its north. If signing goes unhindered, Iran will have its entire northern border if not integrated to Europe, then at least related in some spheres. As the EU tries to increase its footprint in the South Caucasus, for Teheran the question will be how to perceive this development because Iran’s traditional competitors in the region have been Russia, and partially Turkey. Turkey will also be watch-

ing carefully. Both Ankara and Teheran understand that the agreements between Armenia, Azerbaijan and the EU will be short of something substantial, but it is nevertheless a development to reckon with. The EU has made a comeback four years since Armenia and Azerbaijan refused to sign Association Agreements. The new agreements are well watereddown in terms of the commitments both Yerevan and Baku will have to make and are unlikely to see resistance from Russia. Another interesting aspect will be Turkey and Iran’s positions, as both are interested in increasing their influence in the South Caucasus.

King or No King? That Is the Question



hat ought a small post-Soviet country with Euro-Atlantic aspirations do to further boost its claims that it belongs in the European family? Well, introducing a constitutional monarchy isn’t exactly the first idea to spring anyone’s mind – and yet Patriarch Ilia II voiced just that, in the belief it will bring “calm and stability” to the country. Considering the trust and respect he commands, it was enough to become the talk of the week, up to the highest circles of Georgian politics. So, what would a constitutional monarchy bring to Georgia? Who better to ask this question to than subjects of the world’s oldest constitutional monarchy? Tbilisi-based British journalists and writers, Peter Nasmyth and William Dunbar, were at hand to discuss the topic for GEORGIA TODAY and the Panorama TV Show.

GEORGIA, BEACON OF DEMOCRACY, IS THINKING TO RESTORE THE MONARCHY. IS IT NECESSARY? William Dunbar (WD): I don’t think Georgia wants a monarchy. The last time this question was asked in a reputable survey was in 2009 by CRRC, questioning the type of constitutional arrangement people wanted. 25% of people said ‘semi-presidential republic,’ 4% said ‘constitutional monarchy’ and 34% said ‘don’t know’. Peter Nasmyth (PN): Probably not. I

think the instinct to have a king is in everybody. We like large, powerful leaders which are either physically or symbolically powerful. Psychologically, it’s a useful thing to have an image of a king, though having a physical king is another matter entirely, possibly even dangerous. Because if the king has too much power, then you’re in trouble.

WHAT WOULD THE WEST’S REACTION BE? WD: If there was firm separation of powers between the constitutional monarch and the elected government, and as long as the monarchy was completely transparent in terms of financing, and promised to uphold the European values the Georgian government said they are committed to, then I don’t think anyone would complain. At the same time, I think it’s incredibly unlikely. MP Eka Beselia and Parliamentary Speaker Kobakhidze were [last week] saying how important it is to listen to the Patriarch, but they’d probably say that no matter what he said as he is such a respected figure [here]. PN: When I was a journalist back in 1993, the British newspaper Observer sent me to Spain to interview the ‘future king of Georgia’ at his residence Villa Georgia in Puerto Banus: then-Prince Jorje Bagrationi. He never became king, and some would say unfortunately. But it was quite an interesting interview. He’d never been to Georgia, he didn’t speak Georgian, but when we did the interview, he used the royal ‘We’ the whole time which is a hint that he thought that he might have become king. Very shortly after that, Shevardnadze effectively took the role of king and whole

project collapsed. As for the reaction of the West, and the world, I think they would react with interest, not hostility. Personally, I’d be quite interested how expensive it would be to reinstitute the monarchy, because Georgia is not a wealthy country…

conversation about it. People who worry about this sort of thing would see the Patriarch making the statement and then politicians reacting to it. That’s the sort of power relationship which worries people who are concerned about entrenching democracy in Georgia.



PN: There are many kinds of monarchies that could be reinstituted. You can have the grand one, like the British, or a much smaller one, like the Danish, who go around on bicycles. It’s really for you to choose what kind of monarchy you want. It is an interesting proposition and the world would be interested if you did it. WD: I think the West will be happy if Georgia remains calm and stable and an increasingly democratic place. Whatever Georgia decides, as long as it ends up a predictable, stable and democratic partner, I think no-one will mind.

SO, DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXCLUDE A CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY? WD: There’s always tension between the idea of having a hereditary principle and “these people get to live in a nice house and get free money just because they happen to be born into a certain family”. Yes, in essence there is a certain anti-democratic principle to it. But if Georgia increases its level of democracy and its stability and reliability as a partner for Europe and the West, then I don’t think they would object. But I do think many people in Europe might look suspiciously on the fact that the idea was generated by the Patriarch.

SOME CONSIDER THIS A STEP TOWARD THEOCRACY, WITH THE CHURCH GETTING ADDITIONAL LEVERAGE IN POLITICAL MATTERS… WD: I don’t think there’s a real risk of Georgia becoming a theocracy. It’s unrealistic. Georgia’s developing, becoming more modern socially and culturally. I think the Georgian Orthodox Church and traditional religious pact have a huge and positive role to play in Georgia. I’d just like to them to play that role more transparently. If there was a movement, a large number of people that felt very strongly about the monarchy idea, then I think we’d have a slightly more serious

WD: I don’t think it’s conspiracy theory. I think any government in the world would gladly pick up on the topic in order to distract from more difficult ones. But you make a good point that there’s a very important process going on in Georgia’s constitutional settlement right now which has nothing to do with the king but everything to do with the new constitution which looks like it’s going be adopted with a very little consensus. These are things we should be really concerned about. These are things which will chart Georgia’s democratic future over the next 10 years. These are things which Georgia’s European partners are concerned about, too. Once again, if Georgia had a fabulous democratic constitution that ensured pluralism and legitimate balance and separation of powers, and it had a constitutional monarch – great! But the main thing is to ensure democracy and separation of powers and that’s what I’m worried about – constitutional changes, which are much more important than a constitutional monarchy.

BUT WHY HAVE A RE-ELECTABLE, POTENTIALLY TROUBLEMAKING PRESIDENT WHEN YOU CAN HAVE A YAY-SAYING, ETERNALLY GRATEFUL KING FOR AT LEAST 20-30 YEARS? COULD THIS BE AN ATTEMPT TO REPLACE THE PRESIDENCY? PN: I don’t agree with that theory. Certainly not at the moment in Georgia. Maybe in the early 90s when Georgia had no experience of democracy. Now it does and there’s a real possibility that the population wouldn’t buy that any more and for very good reason. Georgia’s

opened up; it can see how other countries are responding to and dealing with monarchies. Certainly, Georgia would not go back along that line.

EVEN IF THE PATRIARCH SAYS TO DO SO? PN: Even if the Patriarch says so. I just don’t believe it right now. WD: One thing about Georgian politics is that you don’t bet on the guy making trouble. Think what we’ve seen between [President] Margvelashvili and Bidzina Ivanishvili. I’m in favor of that trouble because that’s what the president is meant to do- not just go along with everything. I think lots of Saakashvili’s PMs caused problems for him as well. So, anyone who thinks that you can rely on a single guy for 40 years to be a puppet doesn’t know Georgian history or Georgian politics.

SOME MPS FROM THE RULING PARTY SAID THERE WILL BE A PLEBISCITE ON THE ISSUE IN AUTUMN. DO YOU THINK IT SHOULD BE DELAYED UNTIL THE MONARCHY IDEA HAS BEEN PROPERLY ASSESSED? WD: It’s unrealistic. Without wanting to deal with conspiracy theories, it’s entirely possible that the constitutional reform project has developed its own logic, its own teleology, and is rolling on its own without the government really being in control. There’s a lot of conflict within the ruling party about whether we should have majoritarians- they don’t want to lose their jobs, they don’t want to switch to a full proportional system in next elections, etc. As such, perhaps the idea of having a plebiscite about the constitutional monarchy is a nice way of stopping that fight and having another fight instead. But I think it’s unrealistic as there’s no time for political campaigning over the summer.

IS THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH NEGATIVE OR POSITIVE ON THESE ISSUES? PN: Well, I’ll be a little bit hesitant there. I’m not sure religious emotions should not be mixed with political emotions. It should be kept separate, as it helps to maintain a more stable society. It’s a very important role. I’ve seen the Church do marvelous things here, but I don’t think it should get too big.




JUNE 30 - JULY 3, 2017

Germany, Austria & Czech Republic GTS Write to EC in Support of Nord Stream-2 BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE

T MEP Austrevicius on the Mukhtarli Investigation INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE


ast week, the European Parliament adopted a rather strong-worded resolution regarding the alleged kidnapping of Azerbaijani journalist, Afghan Mukhtarli, who, as President Margvelashvili aptly put it, “vanished from spot A and reappeared in spot B”. The resolution underlines the importance of “prompt and transparent investigation by the Georgian side” and stresses that “Baku and Tbilisi must be partners in the investigation and have to share all and final information on this case”. For more in-depth analysis, GEORGIA TODAY and Panorama TV Show interviewed one of the co-authors of the resolution, Lithuanian MEP Petras Austrevicius.

HOW REALISTIC IS BAKU AND TBILISI PARTNERING UP TO INVESTIGATE? The undeniable fact is that an Azerbaijani investigative journalist, who had been in Georgia for some years, was forcible abducted and transported to the border between Georgia and Azerbaijan. This is a very sad event for Georgia because on its sovereign territory a man who asked for shelter and security went missing. And it’s a very bad event for the Azerbaijani side as, once he crossed, not of his own free will, they “found” illegally planted money in his pocket and sent him to prison. It’s now a matter of international prestige to wash this stain from the suits of both countries and a very serious investigation should be underway in both. Of course, it’s up to Tbilisi and Baku to what extent they cooperate to clarify all circumstances of this mysterious incident, and we appreciate the statement of President Margvelashvili in this regard. The sooner Georgia investigates and presents the findings of the investigation, the better it will be for the country’s reputation.

WHAT IF THE CASE ISN’T INVESTIGATED? I sincerely hope that Georgia will be a willing and effective partner in this investigation. As a friend of Georgia, I don’t want to see it mentioned in such a dark story because we are speaking about the abduction of a foreign journalist living in Georgia, which raises the issue of what will happen to other peo-

ple given free refuge there if no safety is guaranteed. This will beckon another question as to what extent we can trust Georgian authorities. In fact, it touches upon democratic criteria and rule of law in Georgia.

IN SAYING IT IS A “SERIOUS BLOW TO THE REPUTATION OF THE COUNTRY,” WHO ARE WE BLAMING? THE COUNTRY OR ITS GOVERNMENT? I don’t blame Georgians. They are excellent people. They are future-orientated people and they love their country. Of course, we’re speaking about the State and rule of law, which Georgian authorities are responsible for. It’s up to today’s ruling coalition to ensure that we have a clear opinion and understanding what Georgia is striving for.

AZERBAIJAN IS A CHIEF PARTNER AND ENERGY SUPPORTER FOR GEORGIA, AND ON THE SCALES ARE GOOD RELATIONS BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES. HAD GEORGIA OFFICIALLY HANDED OVER THIS JOURNALIST TO BAKU, WHAT WOULD THE WEST’S REACTION HAVE BEEN? To my knowledge, Afghan Mukhtarli is not accused of any crime. It is natural for a journalist, especially investigative journalist, to be critical. Everybody has the right to an opinion since we are not in Putin’s Russia where journalists are silenced and opposition shut down. We believe that Mukhtarli had every right to express own opinion. I don’t believe Mukhtarli is so important for future bilateral relations between Georgia and Azerbaijan. If it is so, and Mukhtarli is prosecuted in such a brutal way from Azerbaijan’s side, then we have to be very much concerned about the state of play and democracy in Azerbaijan. In fact, I am, but I still have hope for improvement and cooperation between Azerbaijan and the EU, and Georgia and the EU.

CAN WE EXPECT FURTHER ACTION FROM THE EUROPEAN SIDE ON THIS ISSUE? I can tell you straight that if there is no investigation, no cooperation and no clarification on the Mukhtarli case, while it probably won’t destroy our relations, it will definitely not be a clear improvement and certain suspicion will be left on our part.

he European Commission received a letter from six operators of gas transmission systems (GTS) from Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic with an expression of support for the construction of the ‘Nord Stream-2’ gas pipeline, a spokesman for the European Commission said. "I can confirm that the letter was received, as are all letters addressed to the European Commission. We will respond to it at the appropriate level," the agency's interlocutor said. Bloomberg says that the letter was addressed to the Head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and was signed by Gas Connect Austria, Fluxys Germany, ONTRAS, NET4Gas, Gascade and Gasunie Germany. The GTS operators also expressed concern about the planned negotiations for an agreement with the Russian Federation on the key principles of the gas pipeline operation, Bloomberg writes. “Nord Stream-2 will help to maintain competition in the European gas market and will strengthen security of supply, while negotiations can cause significant negative effects,” the letter claims, adding that “if the attitude towards the Nord Stream-2 project differs from that of other similar pipeline construction projects, for example, in the Mediterranean,

this will increase the prospect of legal uncertainty for the supporters of pipeline projects in the future”. The GTS operators started investing in new gas infrastructure assets related to Nord Stream-2 on land. Any postponement related to potential negotiations can cause significant economic damage to these companies. In addition, as noted in the letter, it can become a factor that keeps companies from investing in the future. The total amount of investment required for operators of the GTS is about EUR 3-4 billion. Nord Stream-2 involves the construction of two strings of a gas pipeline with a total capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year from the Russian coast through the Baltic Sea to Germany. The new pipeline is planned

to be built next to the ‘Nord Stream’. Nord Stream-2 does not apply to all the rules of the internal market of the European Union, the third energy package, since the pipe will not pass through the land part of the EU, but will go across the sea. Therefore, the EC expresses its desire to reach an agreement with the Russian Federation on a number of key principles that it would like to extend to the work of this gas pipeline. Among these principles are transparency of the gas pipeline operation, non-discriminatory establishment of tariffs for pumping gas, access of third parties to the ability to pump "blue fuel", as well as separation of activities for the sale and transportation of gas, previously reported in the materials of the EC.

Zaliko for Mayor: More Serious than You Think OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA


he President has yet to announce the date of the local elections, but this hasn’t stopped the leading duelists from presenting their gladiators to the public. The former governmental party or the United National Movement has chosen TV Anchor of Rustavi 2 Zaal Udumashvili; and the Georgian Dream will announce on July 1 their candidate for the Mayor of Tbilisi - Kakhi Kaladze, the former Minister of Energy. Thus, the unofficial stopwatch will start ticking. Rumor has it that President Margvelashvili plans to set the date of the self-governmental elections for October 21 but the final answer may not come until 60 days prior to the date, so by the end of August. Undoubtedly, the race for the post of city mayor will be the main and decisive show of the near future. Everyone agrees that the Tbilisi Mayor’s influence is no less than that of the Prime Minister, and surely of the President as well, who’s constitutional influence has diminished to that of the “The Shagreen Skin.” Media and experts are eagerly trying to guess the chances of the candidates in the upcoming battle. “It is time Georgian Dream learned how to walk independently. If up till recently its baby walker was Ivanishvili, that time has passed,” said political analyst Soso Tsintsadze in his interview with newspaper Rezonansi. “Quite predictably, sooner or later, Ivanishvili would get bored of dragging them with him. He did everything for them, he handed over the government to them, but they started to writhe in place, competing with each other to make mistakes”. In light of the upcoming elections, the “disappearance” of Ivanishvili seems

quite suspicious; and this became even more apparent after the political council of the Georgian Dream announced Kaladze’s candidacy for the post of Mayor and stated that current mayor, Davit Narmania, would not be taking part in the race. Notably, four years ago, at that same political council meeting, it was Ivanishvili who announced Narmania’s candidacy, while today his chosen one was openly refused. So did Ivanishvili’s influence on the council of the governmental party diminish and did that of somebody, in this case Kaladze, increase? The “disappearance” of the billionaire is not coincidental. Notably Kaladze is not without his own millions, and he too comes from a province, which apparently satisfies the criteria set by Ivanishvili; even more, Kaladze seems more imposing than Narmania. Now, everything is on Kaladze to prove to Ivanishvili he is leaving Georgian Dream in reliable hands. The National Movement’s candidate, Zaal Udumashvili from Rustavi 2, is another story though. Preliminary data suggests he has high chances to beat his rival Elene Khoshtaria, from European

Georgia, as well as others. If he takes second place in the mayoral race, it will already be a very serious victory for the UNM, even if he ends up way behind Kaladze. Nominating Udumashvili is a very clever and insightful decision by Mikheil Saakashvili. Bringing the Kurieri anchor into big politics was instantly regarded as another Saakashvili moment of craziness; “how could you compare him with vice-premier Kaladze?” asked the political class. In reality though, what makes Udumashvili less than Kaladze apart from money? Well, in reality, not much- in some components, he might be even better. At least he is not from the province and is a Tbilisian, as they love to highlight here; also “Zaliko” is a face without bureaucratic and/or political baggage like Kaladze; he’s imposing, “stylish” and popular. Moreover, the masses perceive him as a solid and nice person, which is no small thing. Most importantly, he doesn’t bring out any aggression in people. So, “Zaliko Udumashvili for Major of Tbilisi” – is not a mistake, but a very serious political step! Let’s see what happens in the pre-election period.




Ukrainian Security Expert on his Homeland INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE


astern Partnership: Together Towards Tomorrow – was the title of a grand conference that the Konrad Adenauer Foundation’s South Caucasus’ Office hosted last week as part of its School of Excellence Program. Of six Eastern Partnership countries, it is Ukraine whose future is perhaps most uncertain today, so it was the tomorrow of Kyev that we discussed with one of the conference’s main speakers, Taras Mykhalniuk, a security expert and director of the Open Ukraine Foundation.

THE UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT IS OUTSPOKEN ABOUT IMMINENT EU AND NATO MEMBERSHIP. HOW CAN THAT BECOME REALITY WITHOUT SOLVING THE EASTERN UKRAINE ISSUE FIRST, NOT TO MENTION CRIMEA? Everybody knows that the conflict prevents Ukraine from becoming a NATO member. But it’s our strategy to secure ourselves in the future because nobody knows how the conflict will develop. NATO membership and the process for NATO integration means a lot for Ukrainian security.


The West is confronting Russia now on their own territory. But there are some questions, namely of hybrid warfare, that the West has yet to understand. For Ukrainians, it’s very easy: we’re at war, we know who the enemy is. For Westerners, it’s not so clear, though they are starting to realize that somebody is trying to damage their critical infrastructure, their political life, and their political systems. Another concern is for the Baltic States and other NATO members because nobody knows what to expect from Russia. Its aggressive foreign policy and attack on Ukraine means that the Baltics are just as at risk. They try to deny it but I believe they still know it’s a danger. The promotion of NATO military forces to the east means that they want to secure the region; that they would rather prevent any experiments from the Russian side.

TELL US ABOUT THE CURRENT PROCESS OF UKRAINE REDISCOVERING ITS IDENTITY. WHAT KIND OF UKRAINE DO THE UKRAINIANS WANT TO HAVE? We’re still building it and it has nothing to do with national identity. Recent polls showed that about 80% of people living in Ukraine consider themselves Ukrainians no matter which language they speak. In eastern Ukraine, everybody understands that it is not about nation or language, it is the fight between a totalitarian and democratic approach. The majority of people have not changed

but they know what their purpose is and how they imagine their children will live- and they see a European future for their children. Russia created conflict in the east because it was vulnerable to post-Soviet thinking. If you looked at the Russian discourse online, there were very often statements by pro-Russian forces that they wanted to bring the Soviet Union back. Not because it was highly developed, or with big industries, an IT sector or offered a good lifestyle, but because the whole world was afraid of it. This is a very big problem of the post-totalitarian state: that you do nothing, you can achieve no personal success, you just sit on your sofa and belong to a state the whole world is afraid of. This is a very dangerous psychological thing. What we have in eastern Ukraine is confrontation between civilizations.

TELL US ABOUT EX-PRESIDENT OF GEORGIA AND EXGOVERNOR OF ODESSA, MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI Saakashvili failed in Odessa. Many Odessa citizens say that a lot was promised but little was done. People were disappointed.

COULD THIS BE BECAUSE HIS TIME IN THAT OFFICE WAS SO SHORT? Yes, but if you look at all these processes you don’t find a positive tendency of development. Many people had hopes for him as a foreigner not marred by Ukrainian political life. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. I don’t know about his current political prospects in Ukrainian political life but Odessa, I believe, was a test that he failed.

COULD ANYBODY HAVE SUCCEEDED IN HIS PLACE? THIS IS A COUNTRY WHERE OLIGARCHS HAVE THEIR HANDS IN EVERY PIE I do believe we’re changing, although we don’t have the dramatic changes society would like. Now civil society plays a great role in the country but the problem is that while civil society is taking care of the country’s agenda, they still face bureaucracy which is too lazy to change: it is a strong civil society with weak state institutions. But it is dramatically different compared to Yanukovich’s period, where he aimed to have every power in the country in his hands. Ukraine is too liberal a country. It’s not like Russia, it’s not totalitarian. Ukrainians never wanted the Tsar.




JUNE 30 - JULY 3, 2017

Tobacco Control Alliance: Plain Packaging of Tobacco Fully Compliant with International Intellectual Property Regime FROM THE TOBACCO CONTROL ALLIANCE


he plain packaging of tobacco is a public health policy that removes the promotional and advertising features of tobacco packs, while leaving the brand and product names on the packs so that smokers can distinguish their tobacco brand. Banning tobacco advertising on TV and billboards is accepted as a sensible public health policy around the globe. Removing the ability of big tobacco companies to advertise through the packaging of their deadly product just makes common sense. Let’s not forget that tobacco kills 6 million people a year and that most people become addicted to tobacco when they are under 18 years old, with young people being more susceptible to the effects of branding and imagery. The tobacco industry has for many years tried to promote false claims that plain packaging of tobacco would be unlawful and would breach international intellectual property rules. The companies manufactured these legal arguments in the 1990s, but disclosed internal documents demonstrate that the advice from their own lawyers and from the World Intellectual Property Organization at that time was that plain packaging would not breach either the Paris Convention (treaty on intellectual property protections) or national intellectual property laws. Countries across the globe are now adopting plain packaging to protect future generations from the effects of glitzy tobacco branding and promotion. Australia was the first to implement the policy in 2012 and France and the UK now have laws fully in force. Other countries that have adopted plain packaging law which are due to come into force in the next few years include Ireland, Hungary, New Zealand, Slovenia, Norway, Romania and Thailand. Many other countries such as Canada, Uruguay and Singapore are formally considering the policy with strong political commitments. The governments in all these countries have carefully considered their international commitments and the alleged impacts on intellectual property rights and have decided to proceed. However, the tobacco companies continue to argue that plain packaging will breach the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) and the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) agreements. But these arguments are becoming increasing unsustainable in the light of judicial decisions from around the globe that have dismissed all the tobacco industry’s legal challenges to plain packaging laws. Part of the recognized strategy of the tobacco industry is co-opt third party organizations and “experts” to make their arguments for them. This has been seen in the tobacco companies’ opposition campaigns in every country that has taken plain packaging forward. The organizations then parrot the tobacco industries’ flawed arguments. Rarely are these organizations independent of tobacco industry money and sometimes they are in effect proxy organizations established by the industry specifically to provide the appearance of independence. In each country the arguments promoted by the industry are very similar. They include that there is no evidence to support plain packaging being effective; that plain packaging will breach the WTO agreements; that introducing the policy will undermine a country’s reputation for intellectual property protection; and that plain packaging of tobacco is the start of a slippery slope which will lead to plain packaging of other unhealthy products such as alcohol or unhealthy foods.

THE EVIDENCE Five independent systematic evidence reviews have been published that consider over 70 peer-reviewed scientific research studies, notable for their breadth and diversity of methods and for strong consistency in showing that plain packaging will contribute to reducing smoking rates. There is also four years’ post-implementation research and statistical data from Australia, all of which points towards the measure being effective. The Chantler Review from the UK stated that all the evidence “points in a single direction, and I am not aware of any convincing evidence pointing the other way.” None of the studies used by the tobacco industry to oppose plain packaging has been peer reviewed; almost all were funded by the industry and they

have been the subject of serious criticism by academics and judges for their flawed methodology. The official statistical evidence from Australia shows an increase in the rate of decline of both smoking prevalence and tobacco consumption after implementation. The Post-Implementation Review (PIR) analysis attributes a 0.55 percentage point reduction in smoking rates to plain packaging, equivalent to 118,000 fewer smokers over the 34 months after implementation.

TOBACCO PLAIN PACKAGING DOES NOT BREACH THE WTO AGREEMENTS The WTO agreements are not designed to prevent members from implementing genuine public health measures. This was affirmed in the WTO Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and public health which states that “the TRIPS Agreement does not and should not prevent members from taking measures to protect public health.” The preamble to the TBT agreement recognizes “that no country should be prevented from taking measures necessary to ensure the quality of its exports, or for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health…” These principles have been confirmed by the courts that have dismissed all the tobacco company legal challenges to plain packaging laws. In the UK, for instance, the High Court ruled that “It is no part of international, EU or domestic common law on intellectual property that the legitimate function of a trademark (i.e. its essence or substance) should be defined to include a right to use the mark to harm public health.” And in France, the Conseil d’État ruled that the provisions in the WTO TRIPS and the Paris Convection “do not in any event prohibit States parties to exercise the option to adopt measures necessary to protect public health, which can be applied, where appropriate depending on the objective, to certain categories of products.”

NO DAMAGE TO THE REPUTATION FOR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PROTECTION The Property Rights Alliance (PRA) is a “special project” and “affiliate” of the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). The ATR has known financial links to the tobacco industry and frequently allies itself to RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris. The PRA has also been a strong opponent of plain packaging of tobacco and its Director, Lorenzo Montanari, has claimed that “The Georgia plain packaging policy might affect the IP system in Georgia…” and that the Georgian government should not “support the final implementation of this detrimental policy against IP”. The PRA publishes an annual International Property Rights Index (IPRI) which seeks to quantify countries’ protection of property rights, including intellectual property. Strangely, the PRA position completely ignores what has happened in the countries that have adopted plain packaging, where the IPRI scores have increased or remained the same. Australia first proposed plain packaging in 2008 and that time its IPRI score was 7.8 but in 2016 it had a score of 8.2 for intellectual property rights. The UK proposed plain packaging in 2012 when its score was 8.2. After implementing plain packaging in 2016 its score for intellectual property rights was 8.4. Similar increases occurred in France, Norway, New Zealand and Ireland. This is because plain packaging has no impact on intellectual property rights. The IPRI scores are based on a survey of experts on intellectual property in each country by the World Economic Forum. The experts in each of these countries clearly see no detrimental impact based on the adoption of plain packaging.

NO SLIPPERY SLOPE The tobacco industry tries to promote the myth that plain packaging of tobacco will inevitably lead to plain packaging of other products. There is no evidence to support this idea. The World Health Organization does not recommend plain packaging for any products other than tobacco. Its view is that tobacco products are uniquely harmful and there is a body of evidence that shows plain packaging of tobacco will be effective. The stated aim of many governments is to eradicate all tobacco use and have a tobacco free society. This is not the goal for other potentially harmful products such as alcohol or sugary foods. Branding on other products is not at risk but the advertising effects of tobacco packaging should be removed.




Georgia Needs to Improve its Vocational Education, Warns 2nd Education Policy Forum BY DAVID MONGAZON


ocational Education Training (VET) is important not only for the State, but for you, experts, private sector, students, for all of us,- said Irina Tserodze, Head of the VET Department of the Ministry of Education during the second Education Policy Forum organized on June 15 at the International School of Economics of Tbilisi (ISET) both by UNICEF Georgia and the World Bank. Indeed, all professionals who participated to the forum were aware of the fact that no industrial policy is possible without skilled workers that go with it. They also spotlight the fact that a lot of progress had been made since the start in 2013, but it appears Georgia still suffers from the Soviet Union heritage, not only in its industrial point of view, but also in its educational practices. To solve these problems, the forum aimed to start a national discussion involving the State, social partners, educational centers, and also the private sector on the goals and challenges raised by the necessary development of vocational education. The discussion started with the observation that in Georgia, general education is favored by children and their families, something which has to be changed, professionals say. It must prepare young people much earlier for the necessities of entrepreneurship. The forum highlighted two points to focus efforts on. First are transferable skills, such as problem-solving, analytical capabilities or communication, which must be learned from high school. Young people can’t wait to finish general school anymore to be interested in these subjects, because these skills are essential in all kinds of structures and activities, especially in such a mobile and globalized economy. The second issue to emphasize is volunteering and internships in order to increase professional skills. This overall preference for general education leads to a significant lack of technical professionals in Georgia compared to other European countries. Many studies prove that a national economy does better where there is a slight majority of technical degrees, which is the case in Germany where 48% of children choose the vocational path after high school as compared just 20% in Georgia. Furthermore, the ratio between general graduation and vocational graduation is even more negative in Georgia, with 25% of young people choosing to go to university after high school against 16% in Germany. This situation is a

10 Galaktion Street

result of the unique educational and industrial system of Germany, but also because in Germany technical degrees do not lack reputation at all. In fact, vocational paths are strongly integrated - something which should a deep source of inspiration for Georgia, emphasizing a link between general and vocational education. The issue of the reputation of the vocational path is seen as the main problem for its further development in Georgia. Vocational education is still seen as something for children who can do "nothing else", meaning university. The stereotype that says you need to continue to university to get a proper job dies hard, even if studies tend to prove that students from VET find jobs more easily after graduating. It is important for organizations involved in these issues to change the mindsets by mediatizing the success stories of people coming from a vocational path. The solution to make it visible includes the increasing involvement of leading companies and the private sector. Companies have a major role in the development of vocational education, the forum observes. It is the private sector that knows which skills must be improved for current productions and which ones must be developed for the future. Companies often complain that skills learned in VET don’t correspond to their recruiting expectations. The education sector needs private organizations to better understand these new challenges. It also has a major impact on vocational education in a practical sense; the huge changes that are being prepared nowadays need substantial donations or even private projects. Big companies having trouble enrolling skilled employees have started training by their own means. But “at this stage, companies are not ready, so we should wait and lead the process” said Tserodze, explaining the necessity to be proactive. One solution would be the creation of a training center as “artificial companies”, specialized on one sector and where practical skills would be learned, as is done in other countries such as Germany and its construction sector. Progress is rapidly made, says the Ministry of Education, by the establishment of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), such as the one recently signed with British Petroleum. The company settled in Georgia in 1999 and started training their employees from the beginning. BP is soon to establish the 'Georgian Technical Training Center' in partnership with the State, resulting from five years of preparatory discussions. Other PPPs regarding vocational education are being prepared, the Ministry of Education claims, involving the railway, IT and the construction sector. “Projects have been started and they'll be up and run-

Baltic Bees Flying the Skies of Georgia BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE

ning,” said Tserodze. However, one problem of these partnerships is that they tend to involve only large companies and thus only a few economic sectors. Indeed, it wouldn’t make any economic sense for a small company to train its employees. Small companies’ sectors need a common structure to start involving in vocational education. This is where the State has a role to play, by coordinating energies. On this issue, the Georgian Furniture Cluster can be mentioned as an example to duplicate. This gathering of up to 100 companies employing 1200 people in an area of 3,5ha has started organizing training courses with 20 people having graduated so far, while the site is already able to enroll up to 200 skilled people. Such gathering of small enterprises enables training by sharing the costs as well as the benefits. Further, successes such as this cluster or PPPs should also benefit for the image of vocational education, on the condition that they are well publicized. Yet, the key problem for the future, identified by both the participants and the officials, is equity. There are too many young people who are left outside in Georgia- one fifth not being enrolled in any education program and potentially unable to fulfill their potential. Likewise, one million Georgians are in a situation of very low productivity due to a lack of organized labor. It is not only a problem for these people’s future, but it is a loss for Georgia as well, being a small and low-populated country. The government’s priority seems to be the integration of these populations by prioritizing rural and mountainous areas to establish new training centers, cities being relatively well equipped and ready for the establishment of private training centers.

Tel: (995 32) 2 45 08 08 E-mail:


he newspaper ad said that an aviation show was going to be held at the Natakhtari Aerodrome in the vicinity of Tbilisi, with Georgian and European pilots to demonstrate their skills flying jet planes. Para-gliders, blimps and parachuting displays were also part of the show. A thing like this has never happened in Georgia before. It certainly caught my attention! Thirty or so years ago I enjoyed this kind of a show in the suburbs of Oklahoma City where I was on my TV journalistic venture for a couple of weeks. At the time, I could hardly imagine I’d ever see such loops, rolls, pitches and yaws in my own country, which is hardly out of the soviet quagmire, still wistfully and desperately skidding and wobbling towards the heights of the cherished Western lifestyle. Last Saturday, June 24, thousands of drivers descended on the small aerodrome, myself among them, having no idea where to park our cars, frantically trying to stick the vehicles into any open spot on the grassy parking fields to then head to the event on foot. The scene reminded me of a film episode in which the spectators of some grandiose show swarm at a slow pace towards the main venue; eating, drinking, and dragging their kids with them to let them have their own share of the entertainment. The scent of celebration was in the air. Two local companies- ServiceAir and Vanilla Sky - were the ones to organize the aviation show, intending to lay the foundation for a new festival called FLYFEST-GEORGIA. Festivals like this take place annually in various European cities, which constitutes a significant component of developing the tourism industry. Indeed, Fly-Fest-Georgia will promote the popularization of amateur and sports aviation in Georgia. Moreover, a young democracy like ours, in combination with our budding capitalism, will probably need to be in the foreground of this

type of promotional endeavor for the benefit of its European future. The project was brainstormed and put to life by founder of Service Air Georgia, Amiran Manjavidze, director of Vanilla Sky, Nino Peradze, and veteran of Georgian aviation, Tamaz Andguladze. The program of the show was absolutely amazing, prepared by the famous Baltic Bees experts: six jets painted like yellow-jackets and flown by genuine aces of aviation, performing the most complicated flight figures in the sky. The entire picture was uncanny. An explosion of applause met the completion of one act which saw a heart being drawn on the blue canvas of the sky with white track smoke. The Baltic Bees Jet Team was formed in 2008. The first flights were flown in a two-ship formation. In the following years two more jets were added to the team and a full aerobatic display program was created. From the very beginning, the flight instructor and creator of the display program was the skilled aerobatic pilot Valery Sobolev. The program was developed quickly and the Baltic Bees Jet Team gained a reputation as a professional civilian aerobatic display team, based in Jurmala Airport, 60 kilometers west of Riga, Latvia. The display consists of complex and tricky vertical maneuvers in a six-L-39C aircraft formation and exceptional individual performance with a unique and top difficulty concept which leaves the audience with the feeling that flying in the sky has become for humans more natural than walking the earth, seeing us prevailing over birds in flight skills. Applauding alongside me at the FlyFest were members of the Georgian government, members of the diplomatic corps accredited in Georgia, and representatives of the business community, local and foreign air companies, National Tourism Administration, Georgian Civil Aviation Agency, ladies and gentlemen of the press, and, of course, numerous interested Tbilisians. The following day saw “take-2” of the show in Batumi, met with just as much excitement as the first.




JUNE 30 - JULY 3, 2017

TBC Bank’s SABA- Increasing Literacy & a Love of Reading


he most prestigious literary award in Georgia, the leading innovative web-platform of electronic books and social-literary projects is the result of 15 years’ work of SABA, the summarizing report of which was introduced to the public in TBC Gallery on June 26. SABA was founded by TBC Bank in 2003 to give society the chance to choose books and writers, and to increase literacy in Georgia. When SABA first appeared, only 80 authors agreed to participate, but by 2016 that had risen to more than 270 authors. On the whole, SABA has discussed 3,800 books, delivered 127 awards to the amount of GEL 500,000, and discovered a huge number of new writers. In 2013, SABA was transformed as an international literary competition. A new nomination "Best Foreign Translation" was added, in which foreign publishers and translators could take part. From 2013-2017, SABA rated 120 Georgian books translated into foreign languages and published in 30 different countries. In 2012, the electronic book house ‘SABA’ was created, which gave readers the opportunity to be able to read books on their electronic devices and create their own personal library. Today, on, more than 140,000 people are registered and there are more than 4000 electronic books in Georgian as well as in foreign languages. SABA also works to realize various literary-educational programs. In 2013-2016, SABA gave away 500,000

free books to 50,000 people. This is the largest social-literary project in recent years, which focuses on raising literacy in society as well as accessibility to books. SABA is also fulfilling various new projects to make comfort zones for reading. One of these projects is ‘The reason for meeting’ (შეხვედრის საბაბი) which entails reading assistance in the regions. This project focuses on spreading electronic books in the regions, which has so far seen 6000 books spread for free in public schools and libraries. Another project is ‘Free Books in the Metro’ (უფასო წიგნები მეტროში) which started in 2015 and aims to spread the use of electronic books and popularize

reading. ‘Books in the Mountains’ (წიგნები მთაში) is another project which was fulfilled by SABA. Free electronic libraries appeared in Gudauri and Bakuriani in 2016 and both locals and tourists can download a variety of electronic books free of charge. ‘City Library’ (ქალაქი ბიბლიოთეკა) is one of the biggest projects for free electronic books in Tbilisi, seeing Electronic Libraries placed in the 50 streets in the city which are named after writers, at museums, and in parks and squares. There, people can download free elec-

tronic and audio books onto their Smartphones and compile a private library. The project was supported by the Municipality of Tbilisi and the private fund of the President. The project will soon grow to include a sister project- the Kutaisi City Library. ‘Audio Books for the Blind’ is the first application for audio books to be adapted for the blind. Within the frames of the project, the blind get 400 books for free. The project was fulfilled by the Open Society Georgia Fund (ღია საზოგადოება საქართველო) and is the only way of reading independently for the blind.



Rustavi to Have 3 Kindergartens with High Energy Efficiency Standards



ustainable Development and Policy Center (SDAP) was founded in 2009 with the aim of assisting the Government of Georgia and local companies in assessment and evaluation of the processes and phenomena associated with the concept of sustainable economic development. Based on conducted research and analysis, it provides support in implementation and realization of various energy efficient projects. Through carrying out energy efficiency and environmental expertise, comprehensive energy audits, developing energy passports for new buildings and evaluating their design, the company provides a full spectrum of services connected to energy resources, analytical assessment, analysing economic benefits and exploring possibilities for the implementation of renewable energy resources. From the day of its foundation, SDAP has successfully implemented numerous international projects administered by USAID, EBRD, EU and DANIDA. In 2014, the SDAP Center was awarded a European Union (EU) grant for the energy-efficient reconstruction of three kindergartens in the city of Rustavi. The project aims to achieve high energy efficiency and greenhouse emission reduction; a goal and a concept that is relatively new for Georgia. The project is funded by the EU Commission within the Sustainable Urban Demonstration Program (SUDEP) under the Covenant of Mayor initiative which was joined by the city of Rustavi in 2011. Rustavi Municipality is a partner of the project. GEORGIA TODAY met Dr. Karine Melikidze, Director of the Sustainable Development and Policy (SDAP) Center, to talk about their activities and, most importantly, about the ongoing retrofitting of those three kindergartens. “The aim behind founding our center back in 2009 was to assist the Georgian government in implementing the concept of sustainable development. Our major focus is on energy efficiency and renewable energy utilization. The construction sector is one of the key users of energy, and as we still don’t have applied standards in Georgia for energy

usage, the risk of wasting it still remainsa critical issue,”she says, emphasizing the stand point of the organization. One of the first international projects realized by SDAP, as sub-contractors, was NATELI, supported by USAID, which saw numerous energo-audits and energy-passports for local hospitals, which, according to Melikidze, is a crucial step to enable the construction process to be led following the new approaches and requirements. The situation, Melikidze says, is radically different now compared to previous years, “to a large extent thanks to the many incentives advocating the energyeficiency and renewable energy usage,” and yet another project: Enhancing Capacity for Low Emission Development Strategies (EC LEDS), Clean Energy Program, where SDAP has been involved as a partner organization, working on developing energy performance methodology for buildings. “Lots of work has also been done to ensure a shared, common vision on energy efficiency standards in Europe. Being involved in these projects gave us a chance to discuss energy efficiency Directives, namely EPBD (the 2010 Energy Performance of Buildings Directive), as we had the chance to analyze how the situation was changing in this regard in Europe. Of course, each country has its own goals complying with its economic development, however, there must be a convergence of these visions,” the SDAP Director says. “We’ve been actively carrying out and setting energy efficiency regulations and standards to be implemented in Georgia, and as a result they will take effect in one year’s time,” she told us. The EU-funded project retro-fitting three kindergartens in Rustavi was implemented under the Covenant of Mayor initiativeintroduced by the European Union in 2008, uniting local and regional authorities in taking on responsibility for raising energy efficiency and using renewable energy resources within their respective territories, focusing on lowering CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030, thus contributing to the development of a green, environmentally friendly-oriented economy and improving the living conditions of the population. “Rustavi city had a Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) and we assisted the local government to start implementing

it. That’s why we chose three kindergartens, N40, N41 and N6, for energy efficient reconstruction. These kindergartens were built during soviet times with no energy efficient standards being met. The rehabilitation works started in 2015. First, we made a feasibility study, carried out the energy audits and then launched the actual reconstruction process. There were no central heating systems in the kindergartens, so we installed a boilerroom, a heating system combined with the DHW system with solar-collectors, and we changed the windows to doubleglazed PVC. Since this is a so-called demonstration project, we tried to maximize the energy efficiency of it as much as we could, also insulating the walls, roofs and floors,” Melikidzesaid. “We also installed mechanical ventillation with a recuperator that saves energy and installed a new comprehensive electrical system with a ground loop and energy-effective bulbs. All outdoor constructions have also been insulated. We conducted an energy-audit after a feasibility study, which, from 2017-2018 will become a necessary component in Georgian legislation where energy-efficiency projects are concerned. NEEAP, the first National Energy Efficiency Action Plan, is already drafted with all the major sub-sectors such as industry, building, public sector and transport sectors included”. At this stage, the energy effective reconstruction of two Kindergartens (N6 and N40) is complete and Kindergarten N41will be fully rehabilitated in August 2017. “Signing the EU Association agreement brings with it the responsibility to follow requirements set by the EU regarding energy efficiency directives, and it is crucial to comply with them in various sectors,” Melikidze said. “In the construction sector, energy efficient rehabilitation must be carried out, and for that, the energy saving potential must be assessed. As an organization, together with international experts, we’re here to assist our governmentin implementing the energy efficient strategy. Georgia has to become a reliable partner, we have huge potential to be integrated into the European energy market and we have to bring our systems to the point where we can sell the energy produced in our country,” she concluded.





JUNE 30 - JULY 3, 2017

Georgian Vocalist Leading an Italian Opera School BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


ino Lezhava was a child prodigy from the start, and then she became a diva of the Georgian opera, and finally found herself at the head of the famous Italian vocal academy in Pesaro. Pesaro is one of the pearls of the Adriatic art scene, with a population of only 95,000; it is a creative city of music which is tightly bonded with the sacred name of its famous native, the great Gioacchino Rossini. One might say that it was a sheer accident but I am qualifying the story of the wonderful Nino Lezhava as a logically built musical career because nothing big happens without talent and hard work put together. The Renata Tebaldi & Mario Del Monaco International Academy of Opera Singers, headed today by Nino Lezhava, was founded 15 years ago by its eternal Maestro, Mario Melani, who was so fascinated by the talent and beauty of the Georgian singer that he wanted to bequest his best creation in life to the favorite student of his, and so he did. After his demise, Lezhava moved even further into the musical deeds of her beloved teacher and today, the Academy functions at full swing, preparing vocalists from various nations for the big stages of every continent of the planet. A graduate of Tbilisi State Conservatoire, Nino Lezhava, currently the art director and head of administration of the Pesaro Academy, has enthusiastically and successfully continued the high tradition of Maestro Melani and others before him, teaching the lyrical style of

operatic singing by using a full, rich, broad tone and smooth phrasing – the so called Bel Canto, literally meaning ‘fine song’. Nino is assisted in administrative affairs by her sister Leeka Lezhava, a lawyer and marketing expert by trade, who has volunteered to stand by her sister in this new arena of activity. The academic scope of the school is not restricted to teaching the vocal art; piano accompaniment is also taught there. The new Maestra Nino is a leader of a new type, who sees with utmost precision the artistic and educational future of the school. Her personality and musical image is a modern but organic continuation of the vocal and academic traditions of her Italian forerunners. This is probably an ideal paradigm of international teamwork and the triumph of good will between the peoples of the world. Isn’t it astonishing that the elderly Italian Melani was willing to turn over his rich musical legacy to the young Georgian Lezhava, who was prepared to accept the honor and responsibility?! The best and the brightest example of this extraordinary sequence between generations is the contest in the form of a festival, titled ‘Stars of the Future’, now having become a traditional event based on the memorandum signed in 2017 by director of the Academy and director of the Festival, Nino Kupatadze. The Festival has revealed and promoted many outstanding talents in vocal arts, piano, brass and string instruments, orchestra and chorus, among them Georgian, Italian, Lithuanian, Swiss, Russian, Turkish, Armenian, Azeri and Persian performers of five different age groups. The Festival has widely celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Acad-

emy and the centenary of its unforgettable Maestro Melani, having established a special contest prize in his name – a ten-day masterclass in the Academy. Incidentally, the price of each master class is equal to EUR 1500. Among the guests of this international festival, which lasted from May 12 to 18, were Pesaro’s vice mayor, Georgia’s ambassador to Italy, president of the Opera Pesaro, director of the Pesaro Concert Association, president of the

Academy and other dignitaries. During the meeting of the Georgian ambassador and Nino Lezhava with local authorities, the idea of twinning Pesaro and a Georgian city was discussed. As Lezhava has told us, her good friend, Mr. Daniele Vimini, the Vice Mayor of Pesaro, is a man who has readiness, desire and qualification to make the plan a mutually beneficial reality between Italy and Georgia. As a direct consequence of this contest-

festival, concerts, individual performances, auditioning and master-classes will follow abundantly with the participation of those artists who revealed themselves in the most favorable way. Georgian opera talent is scattered throughout the world – a well-known fact! The phenomenon of Nino Lezhava and her entire operatic and pedagogical activity in both countries is a precursor of that outstanding national success, and a harbinger of even more.

To Nino’s House, Part 1 The resulting columns and large-scale rock textures must be seen to be believed. The region’s name is derived from a Persian description, Land of Beautiful Horses. Our bus eventually deposited us in Nevsehir, as close as we could get to our hotel by this transport, at 6am. We left our luggage in a willing taxi office and walked around the town center for a while. Now, Vardzia and Uplistsikhe are remarkable cave cities in Georgia, definitely worth seeing. But Cappadocia is full to bursting with such places, and are also mixed with living communities, some of which use and even make more caves to this day. Nevsehir is one of many such. The fantastic shapes that wind and water have made in the rock also contain vibrant towns and tourist sites. Vardzia juxtaposed with a children’s playground? I must say I’m glad that local people can earn a living both by being here and by making a visit to this place enjoyable for outsiders. Next week, more details of this stunningly beautiful place and what we found here.



t last: Neither my wife, who is Georgian, nor I, had yet been able to visit Cappadocia in central Turkeyuntil now. An opportunity arose. We handed off the barn denizens to some very willing friends, packed the car and set off early in the morning. First leg, drive to Batumi and park the car. I could have driven the whole distance, or flown to a local airport, but these seemed to be expensive options, with all flights having to go through either Istanbul or Ankara, far out of our way. So, bus it would be. Here, the options are many, what with various competing bus lines. The border was ridiculously easy, after a five-minute online process had secured me a visa in advance, which my wife didn’t need anyway. A shared taxi to Hopa, first border town in Turkey; then it would have to be an overnight bus to the town nearest our hotel. There seemed to be no other choice to meet the deadline for registering with our hotel, so we resigned ourselves and boarded. This night turned out not to be as hellish as I thought; we both managed to get a bit of sleep, on smooth roads with relatively quiet passengers. Still, sleeping in a bus seat is never easy for us, so it was fits and starts. Turkey continues to seem very well developed after Georgia, one must say;

there is serious money, along with a hard work ethic, on display here in infrastructure. Even though tourism from outside has suffered a great drop since recent events in the country’s main airport and in its politics, things are open as usual and Turks seem to be taking advantage of the downturn to holiday more inter-

nally. Plus, it was the end of Ramadan, so they were likely travelling more for this holiday. Cappadocia is beloved by Georgians as the home of two of the country’s most important saints: George the dragonslayer, patron of the country, and Nino, she who brought Christianity to flower

as a slave woman in the royal household in Mtskheta. This region, of about 5,000 square kilometers and formerly part of the territory of ancient Greece, also contains some of the weirdest landscapes this photographer has ever seen, formed by erosion acting on volcanically deposited layers of stone of varying hardness.

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 1500 members, at He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:




Contemporary Chinese Artists in Tbilisi BY MAKA LOMADZE


f you happen to be passing the Georgian National Gallery on Rustaveli Avenue, nip in to discover a marvelous exhibition of contemporary Chinese artists. Ai Weiwei, Hu Xiaoyuan, Li Shurui, Liu Wei, Lu Pingyuan, Lu Shanchuan, Ma Qiusha, Wang Guangle, Wang Sishun, Wang Yuyang, Xie Molin, Xu Qu, Xu Zhen, Yan Xing, Zhang Ding, Zhang Zhenyu, Zhao Yao and Zhao Zhao are on display there until September and GEORGIA TODAY went along to the opening to see what it’s all about. Ami Barak, the curator of the exhibition, calls his preface to the catalogue ‘Challenging Ideological Conventions’. An independent curator based in Paris, Barak travels and tours the world. “Contemporary art in China broke the stalemate 25 years ago thanks to the opening of the regime to the capitalist market system,” he says in his prologue to the respective album. He says the artworks shown in the current exhibition were created recently and are representatives of the emergent Chinese avant-garde artists who are influencing the art scene in China today. “It shows a vision of contemporary art in China as a cosmopolitan branch of international art and an understanding of Chinese art as a vital and outstanding way of dealing with political, social and aesthetic issues.” In his words, the art scene is constantly on the move, redefining itself. “Openness,

Georgian National Museum

movement and communication are the qualities this project wants to promote,” Barak writes. The works come from private collections, yet they are not only significant on a personal level, but also on a larger scale. There is obviously a museum approach, which explains why there is a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, installation, collage, video and photography. To choose this kind of approach implies making the art accessible to the public. The title ‘Constellation’ echoes Zhao Zhao’s series of paintings in which the artist reconstitutes the visual evidence of the after-effects of glass shattering, and successfully melds his passion for

painting and his inclination to reject it in conceptually oriented objects and activities. Like all the others in this exhibition, Zhao Zhao contemplates the meaning of a significant moment in his life and invests it with a wide range of metaphorical associations. This is a new generation of Chinese artists are those who did not grow up under the shadow of Mao Tse Tung. The Cultural Revolution is not their cultural touchstone, the Chinese government is not the source of their politics, and indeed, China is not necessarily their focus. These artists are global in their thinking and motivation. They are moved by humanity, technology, energy. They are concerned with the true wheels of

the world’s economics – they travel, they run businesses, they are knowledgeable and creative. It means that they are earthly rather than dreamy. The exhibition was made possible thanks to the commitment of the Georgia-based French collector John Dodelande, Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia and Georgian National Museum. According to Barak, Georgia was chosen as a location because it is in the middle of the ancient Silk Road, even more so that there is a declared will to reenact it. “China has become a very powerful economy. We consider that it’s not enough to use products, but also to have cultural exchanges, because culture is also goods,” he told GEORGIA TODAY. Ana Riaboshenko, Director of the Department of Popularization and Regional Programs of the Ministry of Culture, noted: “Such exhibitions should be held in Georgia more often. ” “I hope that visitors will discover a lot of interesting things, regardless of their artistic preferences, because we are rarely indulged with such exhibitions,” said Mikheil Giorgadze, Minister of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia. “I’m very glad that an exposition which has evoked high public interest abroad, is here, in Georgia, now”. The next stop will be Baku, Azerbaijan, in October. The third destination is Astana, Kazakhstan next year. WHERE: D. Shevardnadze National Gallery, 11 Shota Rustaveli Ave. Tbilisi WHEN: Until September 11

Exhibition of Nino Tsereteli, 1st Georgian Female Sculptor BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI


n exhibition dedicated to the 115th anniversary of the first Georgian female sculptor Nino Tsereteli opened at the Shalva Amiranashvili Museum, showcasing 60 pieces of her art: sculptures, graphics, theatrical costume sketches, and private belongings of the artist. Tsereteli was an artist of the 1920s, a woman sculptor who attempted to break down the stereotypes of the epoch with her distinctive individual style in a way that was almost revolutionary. Being one of the favorite students of Iakob Nikoladze, founder of the Georgian Sculpture School, Tsereteli is regarded as a master of psychological portraits, her works filled with intimacy and lyrical elements. The exhibition of her works at Shalva Amiranashvili is open until July 29.




JUNE 30 - JULY 3, 2017


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 June 30 DON QUIXOTE L. Minkus Don Quixote Soloists: Ekaterina Krysanova, Vladislav Lantratov– Bolshoi Theater (Russia) State Ballet of Georgia and the Orchestra of the State Opera Theater Conductor: Alevtina Ioffe (Russia) Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-70 GEL July 1 SWAN LAKE Soloists: Chinara Alizade, Vladimir Yaroshenko Polish State Ballet of Georgia and the Orchestra of the State Opera Theater Conductor: Alevtina Ioffe (Russia) Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10-70 GEL July 5 KEIICHIRO SHIBUYA HATSUNE MIKU THE END (VOCALOID OPERA) Hatsune Miku is a 16-year-old humanoid anime character voiced by Vocaloid, a singing synthesizer application. “The End” is an opera performance to close the festival. Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 25-50 GEL RUSTAVELI THEATRE Address: 17 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 72 68 68 July 7 GURJI-KHATUN Premiere of Giorgi Aleksidze Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet Based on Dato Turashvili's Novel Original idea and choreography by Mariam Aleksidze Music by Josef Bardanashvili Stage Designer- Ana Kalatozishvili Artistic Director– Mariam Aleksidze Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 7-25 GEL

SHALIKASHVILI THEATER Address: 37 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 595 50 02 03 June, 30, July 1 BEHIND THE JAIL Directed by Amiran Shalikashvili Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 June 23 IGI Jemal Karchkhadze Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL June 30 Fan Do's Magory Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Composer: Sandro Nikoladze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL GABRIADZE THEATER Address: 13 Shavtelis St. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 June 30, July 1, 5 MARSHAL DE FANTIE’S DIAMOND Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL July 2 STALINGRAD Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL July 4 AUTUMN OF MY SPRING Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10, 15, 20 GEL


AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 GEL June 30-July 5 DESPICABLE ME 3 Directed by Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin Cast: Jenny Slate, Kristen Wiig, Steve Carell Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure Language: Russian Start time: 15:45, 19:00, 22:00 Ticket: 8-14 GEL TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT Directed by Michael Bay Cast: Laura Haddock, Mark Wahlberg, Gemma Chan Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi Language: Russian Start time: 15:45, 19:00, 22:00 Ticket: 10-14 GEL

TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (Info Above) Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 13-14 GEL MUSEUM

GEORGIAN NATIONAL MUSEUM SIMON JANASHIA MUSEUM Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 PERMANENT EXHIBITION: GEORGIAN ARCHAEOLOGY FROM 8TH MILLENNIUM B.C. TO THE 4TH CENTURY A.D EXHIBITION OF GEORGIAN WEAPONRY NUMISMATIC TREASURY The exhibition showcases money circulation on the territory of Georgia from the 6th century BC. to 1834.

EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING Directed by Stella Meghie Cast: Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Anika Noni Rose Genre: Drama, Romance Language: Russian Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL


THE MUMMY Directed by Alex Kurtzman Cast: Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella, Annabelle Wallis Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy Language: Russian Start time: 22:15 Ticket: 11-12 GEL


RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00

March 6 – August 30 EXHIBITION MASTERPIECES FROM THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS COLLECTION The exhibition includes works by Bernardo Daddi, Lucas Cranach (Elder), Guido Reni, Jan Steen, Jacob Van Ruisdael, Auguste Rodin, Pablo Picasso, Vassily Kandinski; Masterpieces by Niko Pirosmanashvili, Lado Gudiashvili and David Kakabadze.

Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL June 30-July 5 DESPICABLE ME 3 (Info Above) Start time: 12:00, 12:30, 15:00, 17:30, 20:00, 22:30 Ticket: 8-14 GEL

September 27 (2016) – September 22 (2017) EXHIBITION STONE AGE GEORGIA

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS Address: 1 Gudiashvili Str.

June 29- July 29 EXHIBITION DEDICATED TO THE 115TH ANNIVERSARY OF FIRST GEORGIAN FEMALE SCULPTOR NINO TSERETELI The exhibition showcases up to 60 works of Nino Tsereteli- sculptures, graphic works, and theatrical costumes. The exposition also includes personal items belonging to the sculptor. GALLERY

THE NATIONAL GALLERY Address: 11 Rustaveli Ave. June 8 – September 11 EXHIBITION CONSTELLATION Artworks by Chinese contemporary artists- Ai Weiwei, Hu Xiaoyuan, Li Shurui, Liu Wei, Lu Pingyuan, Lu Shanchuan, Ma Qiusha, Wang Guangle, Wang Sishun, Wang Yuyang, Xie Molin, Xu Qu, Xu Zhen, Yan Xing, Zhang Ding, Zhang Zhenyu, Zhao Yao and Zhao Zhao. MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 4 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 80 22, 2 93 48 21 PERMANENT EXHIBITION 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. MUSIC

WINE FACTORY N1 Address: 1 Petriashvili Str. Telephone: 577 22 77 00 June 30 VELVET SESSION: VALERI KOCHAROV Kocharov’s solo concert with Nika Kocharov and Zaza Sakhamberidze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 10 GEL SILK FACTORY STUDIO Address: 59 Kostava Str. Telephone: 577 99 19 03 June 30 GEM WARM UP PARTY Lineup: Stimmhalt, Nuno Dos Santos, Noxiron, Daria Zet Nuno Dos Santos Start time: 22:30 Ticket: 25 GEL SPACEHALL Address: 2 A. Tsereteli Ave. June 30 BLOK9 SEASON CLOSING: ILLA J, GIORGI ZURABISHVILI, CUTKILL Start time: 21:0 Ticket: 15 GEL BATUMI SUMMER THEATER Address: Batumi Boulevard July 3 BASTI BUBU’S BIRTHDAY Basti, Bubu, Gio, Babilina, children from Basti Bubu Studio and children’s favorite songs Start time: 17:00 Ticket: 6-12 GEL




Nederlands Dans Theater Performs at Tbilisi at International Ballet Festival Bel Canto: Georgian Baritone Mesmerizes City of Verona EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW BY MAKA LOMADZE


T Chabukiani’s ballet ‘Laurencia’, restored by Nina Ananiashvili. Source: Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater



n June 21, the Tbilisi International Ballet Festival opened with Alexander Crain’s ballet in two acts, Laurencia, the premiere of legendary Vakhtang Chabukiani’s restaging, edited by prima ballerina Nina Ananiashvili, Artistic Director of the Georgian National Ballet Company. The leading roles were performed by the female soloist Lali Kandelaki and male soloist Lasha Khozashvili of the Boston Ballet with honored guests of the festival, the Nederlands Dans Theater. The festival is ongoing until July 2. On June 28, audiences saw ‘Sleight of Hand’ by Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot, as well as ‘Mutual Comfort’ by Edward Clug, ‘Solo’ by Hans Van Manen, and ‘Cacti’ by Alexander Ekman. On June 29, the program included ‘’ New Then” by Johan Inger, ‘Sleight of Hand’ and ‘Cacti’. On 30 June, ‘Don Quixote’ by Ludwig Minkus is scheduled. Guest performers for this day are Ekaterina Krysanova and Vladislav Lantratov (Bolshoi Ballet) with the State Ballet of Georgia. The guest conductor will be Alevtina Ioffe. On July 1, Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” will be performed. Guest performers include Chinara Alizade and Vladimir Yaroshenko (Polish National Ballet) with the State Ballet of Georgia. The guest conductor will be Alevtina Ioffe. On July 2, the festival will be concluded in a gala featuring Nina Ananiashvili. This is the Nederlands company’s first tour in Georgia. NDT 2 is one of the best modern companies in the world, led by the choreographer Paul Lightfoot. Each year, the company appears on various stages of Europe, United States and Australia which sees up to 115,000 spectators attending. Since its inception, the ensemble has constantly striven for novelty, creating a rich repertoire comprising over 600 ballets by such choreographers as Jiri Kylian, HansVan Manen, Sol Leon and Paul Lightfoot. The cast collaborates with Crystal Pite, Marco Goecke, Johan Inger, Medhi Walerski, Alex-

ander Ekman, Edward Clug, and others. The supporters of the festival are Check-In Georgia, the Georgian National Tourism Administration, Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater, Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection, Tbilisi City Hall, the Embassy of the Netherlands in Georgia and the ambassador, H.E. Johannes Douma, the Government of Hungary, a considerable number of private companies and TBC Bank. In addition to opening the festival, ‘Laurencia’ was also performed on the June 23 and 25. On the last day soloist Nino Samadashvili, danced the leading role. GEORGIA TODAY talked to her just before the premiere. “I have danced the main roles in ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘Giselle’ but I believe ‘Laurencia’ is one of the most complicated ballets. It’s not my first encounter with the great Chabukiani, as I have danced in ‘Gorda’, another of his works. These two ballets are distinguished from all others in style because they belong to him. ‘Laurencia’ is not only difficult from a technical point of view, but is also dramaturgically difficult. We as actresses and actors in aside from dancers, should be able to convey the whole plot to spectators. This is the main challenge – to dance well while performing the drama for the audience,” said Samadashvili. We also spoke to Machi Muto, another member of the Georgian National Ballet Company who is from Japan. “I joined the company two years ago. This is the first time I played this role in this ballet. It’s a really exciting production. Before Tbilisi, I was in the Hong Kong Ballet which is where I met Nina Ananiashvili when she came to stage Don Quixote. My husband Frank and I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a great opportunity to grow as a dancer, so we came to work here.” Beautiful costumes and sets, a rich palette of colors, incredible performers, and the splendor of the Opera and Ballet Theater itself combine to create splendid performances this festival. Actresses fly as light and beautiful as butterflies around the stage, opposite gentle male dancers who show sophistication and vigor. Don’t miss out this weekend!

he annual Arena di Verona Opera Festival was opened on June 23 by Giuseppe Verdi’s ‘Nabucco’ with Georgian Baritone George Gagnidze in the title role. It merited a storm of applause and great appraisal in the Italian press. Nabucco was conducted by the outstanding maestro Daniel Oren (under whose baton Aida was performed in the Tbilisi State Opera and Ballet Theater just a few months ago). GEORGIA TODAY spoke to George Gagnidze.

THIS PERFORMANCE PLAYED A DECISIVE PART IN GIUSEPPE VERDI’S ARTISTIC CAREER. IS IT OF SIMILAR IMPORTANCE IN YOUR MUSICAL LIFE? Nabucco brought wide acclaim to Verdi. For me personally, of course, it was paramount to open the Festival of Arena di Verona in the skin of Nabucco himself. Articles following the performance began with the words: “Georgian Baritone captivates audience with his most beautiful and vigorous voice”, “The Great Baritone George Gagnidze as Nabucco in Verona”, etc. Even after the performance, Maestro Daniel Oren said “George Gagnidze is today’s best baritone”.

WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THIS PARTICULAR STAGING AND YOUR PARTNERS? I have sung Nabucco in different theaters. I sang it first in Weimar, Germany, where the famous Weimar Staatsckapelle played. I also performed the same role in France, at the Orange Festival. In 2022, I will play it at Metropolitan Opera, New York. This recent performance was staged by Arnaud Bernard with the famous maestro Daniel Oren conducting and my singing partners Walter Frac-

Nabucco is one of those sparkling works of Verdi which is distinguished not only by arias, duet, and ensembles, but also by its magnificent chorus. One of the most famous chorus is "Va, pensiero", also known in English as the "Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves”. Some scholars initially thought that the chorus was intended to be an anthem for Italian patriots seeking to unify their country and free it from foreign control in the years up to 1861. 18,000 spectators at Arena di Verona were mesmerized by Nabucco which opened the season on June 23.

THIS TIME, NABUCCO WAS INTERPRETED DIFFERENTLY: THERE IS NO BABYLON AND THERE ARE NO JEWS. INSTEAD OF THESE BIBLICAL NARRATIONS, THERE ARE AUSTRIANS AND ITALIANS, CONQUERED BY THE FORMER It was a very interesting version, because probably all nations have experienced some wars and frustrations in their times. Bernard used the film by Luchino Visconti ‘Senso’, namely, five days of Milan, and made his own interpretation.

IN THE CITY OF LOVE, VERONA, YOU SANG A SERENADE TO YOUR WIFE. WAS IT AN UNPRECEDENTED CASE? The day after the performance, I was in high spirits. My spouse and I decided to have a walk and see Romeo and Juliet’s famous balcony. When she went up and looked from the balcony, I was standing below the balcony, holding a rose in my hands and singing her a serenade. When I finished the song, I threw her the flower. People were astonished, gifting me with a storm of applause. I often sing to my wife. All of my performances are dedicated to her.

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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #959  

June 30 - July 3, 2017

Issue #959  

June 30 - July 3, 2017