Page 1

Issue no: 933

• MARCH 31 - APRIL 3, 2017




In this week’s issue...

As Britain backs out, Georgia works on deepening relations with its EU counterparts PAGE 4-6

Georgian, Latvian Presidents Mull Deeper Ties NEWS PAGE 2

What Brexit Means for the EU, Russia, and Georgia POLITICS PAGE 4

FM Janelidze: Georgia is an Important Global Coalition Partner POLITICS PAGE 5

Microsoft Georgia Presents Cloud Technology Strategy BUSINESS PAGE 10


UN Security Council Discusses Developments in Georgia’s Occupied Territories BY THEA MORRISON


he Security Council of the United Nations (UN) discussed the recent developments in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia at a closed meeting on

March 28. The issue was raised by the Ukrainian Delegation and, as the Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko said, the issue will not be suppressed "as long as Ukraine is a member of the Security Council and even after that”. The top issues discussed at the meeting were: Reduction of crossing-points connecting breakaway Abkhazia with the rest of Georgia, illegal parliamentary elections in Abkhazia, unification of armies under the Russian Armed Forces, as well as the upcoming referendum on changing the name of occupied South Ossetia. While delivering his speech, Yelchenko stated the situation is deteriorating in the breakaway regions. “Some people think that this is a frozen or sleeping conflict but the situation reminds us very well of our own painful experience in Crimea. The action by the Russian Federation, which aims at the factual unification of the armed forces of the Russian Federation and Ossetia and

New Season of Tbilisi Fashion Week Kicks off in April SOCIETY PAGE 16

78-Year-Old Classic Writer Guram Dochanashvili Summons Us to Love the Earth & Mankind CULTURE PAGE 17

St David’s College Rugby Tour to Georgia SPORTS PAGE 19

Abkhazia; closing down of crossing-points; the ethnic situation in the field of human rights; all, in our opinion, deserve the attention of the Security Council,” he said. United Kingdom’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, also made a comment, saying the so-called elections in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region are a “farce”, and the UK does not recognize them.

All the delegations of the UN Security Council were in favor of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity except the Russian Federation. Russia’s acting Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Pyotr Ilyichev, said "the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is not a conflict, so the Security Council should not distract its attention to it." Continued on page 3




MARCH 31 - APRIL 3, 2017

Developments in Georgia’s Breakaway Regions Discussed at 39th Round of Geneva Int’l Talks BY THEA MORRISON

Georgian, Latvian Presidents Mull Deeper Ties BY THEA MORRISON


he prospects of further strengthening relations between Georgia and Latvia in various fields were discussed at the meeting of Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili and his Latvian counterpart Raimonds Vejonis in Tbilisi on Tuesday. The Georgian President highlighted the special importance of this visit, as it coincided with the launch of the visafree regime with the European Union. "It is symbolic that your visit coincides

with this occasion. Latvia has greatly contributed to this process. Our countries are strategic partners and at every step we feel your firm support of our sovereignty and territorial integrity, European and Euro-Atlantic integration, Georgian state, and its further reinforcement," Margvelashvili told Vejonis at the meeting. The parties also discussed the upcoming NATO Summit in Brussels and promotion of Georgia’s interests at the Summit, highlighting the necessity of strengthening business relations and the volume of bilateral trade in order to make full use of the economic potential of Georgia and Latvia. Continued on page 4


eorgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) reports that the 39th round of the International Talks of Geneva, established following the August War between Georgia and Russia in 2008, was held on March 28-29, at which the Georgian side condemned Russia’s actions in Georgia’s occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Tskhinvali). The talks were co-chaired by representatives from the European Union (EU), United Nations (UN) and the Organization for Security and CoOperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as delegates from Georgia, Russia and the United States (US), and authorities from de facto Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions. The MFA reports that the talks were held within a two meeting-group format. At one meeting, the sides discussed security and stability issues in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, while the second meeting concerned the safe return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees to their homes. The Georgian delegation reviewed the security situation in the occupied regions of Georgia and condemned the upcoming referendum on changing Tskhinvali’s name to "the Republic of South Ossetia – the State of Alania” similar to the name

of North Ossetia-Alania, which is a federal subject of Russia. Moreover, Georgian representatives condemned the so-called military deal over the unification of South Ossetian and Russian armies under the Russian Armed Forces which was assessed as another illegal move towards annexation of the region. The transportation of missile complexes to Abkhazia by Russia, intensive militarization and military drills in both breakaway regions were also assessed as violations of the August 2008 ceasefire agreement. The installation of barbed wire fences and new border signs, the kidnapping of Georgian citizens, depriving local youth of an education in their mother tongue, and the reduction of "checkpoints" at the Administrative Boundary

Line (ABL) of Abkhazia were also condemned by Georgian representatives. The co-chairs raised the Khurcha incident, where an unarmed 31-year-old citizen of Georgia, Giga Otkhozoria, was gunned down by Russian border guards on Georgian-controlled territory in the village of Khurcha, close to the Nabakevi Crossing Point at the ABL on May 19, 2016. They said the murderer, who is an Abkhazian citizen and who is wanted by Interpol, should be detained as soon as possible. Furthermore, the Georgian Delegation raised the issue of IDPs and their safe return to their homes in the occupied regions of Georgia. During the discussions, the representatives of the Russian Federation left the discussions in protest. The next round of Geneva Talks has been scheduled for June 20-21, 2017.




Gov’t Plans to Reduce Number of Self-Governing Cities BY THEA MORRISON


he government of Georgia is planning to reduce the number of self-governing cities from twelve to five. This means that during the local elections, Mayors will only be elected in Tbilisi, Batumi, Rustavi, Kutaisi and Poti. The other cities will be left without such opportunity. The information was confirmed by the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party which believes that the Local Self-Government Code, which was activated in 2014 and which increased the number of selfgoverning cities from five to twelve, needs to be revised. The Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure is working on the issue, which says that the increase of

such cities did not bring the positive results expected. “The administrative expenses were doubled, also the effectiveness of governance decreased,” Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure, Kakha Guledani, stated. However, the ministry stressed that the planned amendments do not refer to the direct election rule of mayors and governors. 120 public, media and non-governmental organizations addressed the Speaker of Georgian Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze and Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili with the request not to abolish the selfgoverning status of seven cities: Zugdidi, Ozurgeti, Gori, Telavi, Akhaltsikhe, Mtskheta and Ambrolauri. The organizations believe that this action will be a step backwards for the country. According to them, it is unacceptable to abolish the self-governing

entities formed after 2014. The authors of the document urge the government to formulate a clear position and not make a decision that could

hamper the process of development. The opposition believes that the intention of the majority is targeted at abolishing the direct elections of the mayors

and governors. They say the majority wants to centralize power. Opposition party Alliance of Patriots of Georgia (APG) believes that the decision should be made after active consultations with the people. “The population should have the right to decide whether they support these changes or not,” APG member Irma Inashvili said. Irakli Abesadze, member of the parliamentary minority Movement for Freedom-European Georgia believes that these amendments will weaken local governing, while the United National Movement (UNM) says the direct elections of the mayors and governors are vital. The Chairman of Parliament says that detailed discussions are necessary over the issue. “When it comes to self-governance, it is very important to take a cautious approach," Kobakhidze said.

UN Security Council Discusses Developments in Georgia’s Occupied Territories Continued from page 1

Russian news agency Tass reports that Ilyichev called on other delegations to ‘‘recognize the reality that has formed in the past eight years”. “The issue of the state sovereignty of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which were recognized as independent states by Russia, cannot be a subject for discus-

sion," he stressed. He reminded those present that a special format has been set up to settle problems between Georgia on the one hand and Abkhazia and South Ossetia on the other - the Geneva Discussions on Security and Stability in South Caucasus - and this format has “proven its worth”. Russia’s representative went on to stress that the initiative to discuss the forth-

coming elections and referendum at the Security Council "will only add to the obvious harm done to the Geneva Discussions" by the annual consideration at the General Assembly of a "politicized draft resolution" on refugees in the region. “If Georgia and its patrons continue to attempt to discuss security problems in New York without Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s participation, it may well be

the end of the Geneva Discussions," Ilyichev stated. The Geneva International Talks were established following the Russia-Georgia war of August 2008, which ended with the cutting of diplomatic ties between the two countries. Georgia supported the format which would allow some essential humanitarian measures to be taken in order to protect the rights of

Georgians in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, as well as for work to be carried out on an ultimate peaceful resolution of both conflicts. In addition, the Geneva format has been unprecedented as three moderating parties of the US, the UN, the EU and the OSCE prevent the Russian side from exerting direct diplomatic pressure on Georgia.




MARCH 31 - APRIL 3, 2017

What Brexit Means for the EU, Russia & Georgia BY DR. ALEXANDER KUPATADZE, KING’S COLLEGE LONDON


espite some recent positive developments (i.e., visa liberalization for Georgia) the outlook for future EUGeorgia relations is grim. There is little clarity of what, if anything, will come next in terms of Georgia’s further integration with the EU. What’s more, there are reasons for future EUGeorgia relations to become even more ambiguous in coming years. This post briefly outlines those factors, focusing on the implications of the Brexit referendum for EU-Georgia relations. Indeed, much of the implications for Georgia depend on EU-Russia relations, as well, a factor which is highlighted below. First, the EU faces an increasing challenge from right-wing populist groups ranging from the Five Star Movement in Italy to the National Front in France, and Brexit serves as a constant reminder that this challenge is very real. These movements and their associated nationalistic, anti-liberal ideologies undermine the EU’s supranational mode of governance and trust-based, multilateral decision-making processes. Moreover, these movements undermine the foundational ideas of the European Union—which include democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights— and have negative implications for the EU’s credibility and symbolic role around the world. These movements are invariably anti-globalist, anti-EU, and pro[Russian President Vladimir] Putin. For them, Russia’s interventionist and revisionist policies in its “near abroad” is only a second-tier problem and is rather interpreted as Russia defending itself from Western encroachment. The recent defeat of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) in Dutch parliamentary elections offers a glimpse of hope, but it’s also clear the party’s popularity has grown in recent years. Moreover, the extremist populist ideas still resonate with significant segments of the population within the EU. Consider this unrepresentative sample: in the undergraduate and postgraduate modules on EU-Russia relations that I’m teaching during the spring semester at King’s College London, most of the students are EU citizens, and most of them think Russia is a victim (of Western expansionism) rather than a perpetrator (of aggression against its neighbors).

Attitudes such as these have direct implications for Georgia. Russia’s behaviour vis-à-vis Georgia is often accepted as “legitimate” and justified on grounds of defensive realism; i.e., Russia is just defending itself and would not be occupying parts of Georgian territory if it did not feel threatened. From this perspective, Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations are met with scepticism because those aspirations irritate Russia. Second, the EU is increasingly driven by pragmatic policies. For example, it’s not entirely fair to treat Georgia and Ukraine on a parity basis in terms of visa liberalization policies. Georgia has been a regional leader in governance reforms and Ukraine has implemented only incremental improvements. Clearly, the policy of parity in Georgia and Ukraine’s respective EU integration processes is based on geopolitical considerations. Furthermore, the EU’s amicable relations with authoritarian and repressive but oil-rich Azerbaijan indicates that its policies are driven by a pragmatic approach rather than by normative considerations such as respect for human rights. This example indicates that future actions by the EU could defined increasingly by interest-based calculations that don’t match up with the normative power status it currently enjoys. This should be viewed in light of Russia remaining an important market for European goods and a key supplier of gas to many EU member states. The dependency of key EU countries on Russian gas

is highly unlikely to change over the short and medium term. This situation could be exacerbated by Brexit, because the UK’s approach has always focused on ensuring security of gas supplies through flexibility, while Germany, in contrast, focused more on long-term contracts with Russia and subsidizing renewables. After Brexit, EU member states may further increase gas imports from Russia, exacerbating the dependency problem. This has implications for Georgia. Increased dependency, the related pragmatism of the EU, and Russia’s eagerness to use energy supplies as tool for exerting political pressure all undermine Georgia’s chances for deeper integration with the EU. Third, Brexit means the EU will lose one of its three members with a global agenda and international strategic ambitions. That may make the EU’s common foreign policy more cohesive. At the same time, it may eventually make EU policy toward Russia more conciliatory. In the context of EU-Russia relations, the UK is currently one of the most “hawkish” EU member states. The UK’s role in imposing sanctions on Russia after its military intervention in Ukraine was so important that many analysts question whether, without the role played by the UK, the EU would have been able to impose sanctions at all. Brexit means that support for EU sanctions will decrease significantly. Moreover, sanctions will be a lower priority for key EU countries such as Germany and France. Consequently, the

increased relative weight of countries such as Hungary and Italy—which are openly advocating for reconciling with Russia and turning a blind eye to its aggressive handling of its neighbours— may become decisive. Some observers think that preoccupation with the refugee crisis—which is perceived to be a much larger problem for the EU than is Russian aggression in Ukraine and Georgia—may also aid the emergence of a more conciliatory politics toward Russia. There are good reasons why Russian politicians have sounded enthused statements after Brexit referendum. For example, Moscow May Sergey Sobyanin said that without the UK, no one in the EU “will so zealously defend the sanctions against us.” Georgia will lose one of its partners in the EU once Brexit is completed. The UK has traditionally been very supportive of Georgia’s interests. For example, in 2008 then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned the August War as Russia’s “continued aggression”, and then-Foreign Secretary David Miliband repeatedly called for the suspension of EU-Russia partnership talks. The UK also supported visa liberalization for Georgia and ratified the EU-Georgia Association Agreement ahead of the 2015 Riga Summit, thus demonstrating its support. More recently, current Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond called Georgia a “key international security partner and regional democratic role model” and condemned Russia for bullying its neighbors. On the other hand, there is every indication that Russia is ready to take adverse measures to maintain influence in “its zone of privileged interest.” Western sanctions may not necessarily have a deterrent impact. Not much has changed in Russia’s handling of the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine. While the success of sanctions is mostly defined in terms of non-events (e.g., if not for sanctions Russia would have taken the city of Mariupol) that are impossible to quantify, there is next to nothing that indicates Russia is backing away from its military support for separatists in the Donbas. Moreover, recently Russia has been trying to project influence as far from its borders as the Balkans and the Middle East. With receding EU influence in the Western Balkans, Russia has been working to fill the vacuum and has stepped up its military collaboration with Serbia while also trying to keep Bosnia, Macedonia, and Montenegro out of NATO. The projection of power beyond its

“privileged zone of interest” implicitly means that Russia will not easily give up control in its immediate neighborhood. Even if Russia’s engagement in Syria is more about international prestige and demonstration of military strength than about contesting the assumed monopoly of American power in the Middle East, those goals would be undermined if a former protectorate such as Georgia successfully drifted away from the Russian orbit of influence. Brexit also means the relationship between the EU and NATO may become more difficult. UK has always been conceived as a crucial link between the two, bridging and reconciling contested claims from both sides: i.e., European resistance to perceived American unilateralism and America’s pressuring of Europe to share the burden of ensuring transatlantic security. French President Francois Hollande’s comment that “NATO has no role at all in saying what Europe’s relationship should be with Russia” indicates that without the UK, transatlantic policies may become less concerted, thus undermining NATO and US efforts to counteract Russia’s aggressive aims in Eastern Europe. In the meantime, the EU’s policies in its eastern neighborhood remain vague. The EU lacks a strategy for engaging its eastern neighbors. There are unclear assurances about potential accession, and the notion of “privileged partnership” is poorly defined. Unlike Russia’s clear carrot-and-stick approach, EU rewards and sanctions are vague and uncertain, and so are its monitoring mechanisms on the ground. In sum, Brexit damages the potential for deeper integration of Eastern Partnership countries with the EU, Georgia included. Furthermore, it increases the chances of the EU taking a more conciliatory approach towards Russia. This has strong implications for Georgia, especially against the background of an assertive Russia and an ambiguous EU. Given that, the prospects for EU-Georgia relations over the medium term look grim.

The Georgian Institute of Politics was founded in 2011 to strengthen institutions and promote good governance and development through policy research and advocacy in Georgia. It publishes its blog with Georgia Today twice per month. Check out our website in English and Georgian at for more blogs, data, and analyses.

Georgian, Latvian Presidents Mull Deeper Ties Continued from page 2

The Georgian President pointed out at the meeting that Georgia is becoming increasingly attractive for Latvian business investments. The importance of Georgia as a EuropeAsia transport corridor, the Silk Road, and the prospects of strengthening trans-regional cooperation were also discussed. The conversation also touched upon the issue of strengthening economic ties between the regions of the Black and Baltic Seas, as well as cooperation in the areas of security, economics, culture and tourism. “President Vejonis is our truly outstanding friend and I would like to thank him for his firm support of Georgia. We have discussed bilateral and multilateral cooperation, which Georgia and Latvia

develop for the well-being of our peoples. We discussed regional cooperation between our countries. There is greatpotential for strengthening multilateral relations between Georgia and Latvia and it will definitely be realized. This includes strengthening cooperation in the areas of military, economics, education, science, and culture,” Margvelashvili said. He also added that the Latvian President had criticized the occupation and annexation policy of the Russian Federation in Georgia’s breakaway territories. Margvelashvili pointed out that those living in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia holding Georgian biometric passports are also able to benefit from visa liberalization with the EU. “I believe that European integration will provide European ways of solving

our conflicts. Solution of the conflicts that exist between us and the citizens living in the occupied territories should firstly be peaceful and secondly, in accordance with the format and tradition of the European states,” the Georgian President said. The Latvian President congratulated the Georgian population on the successful termination of the visa liberalization process and the commencement day of the visa-free regime. “We believe that each country has the right to make independent and sovereign choices on foreign and security policy, free from external pressures. We welcome the choices that Georgia has made and we continue to strongly support Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Georgia is one of the closest partners for NATO and the European Union. Latvia has always supported strengthening

Georgia-EU relations and the main priority is to make full use of the Association Agreement,” he said, going on to underline that Georgia serves as an example for other aspirant countries with its dedication and hard work. “It is important to continue this progress under the Substantial NATO-Georgian Package; it will boost Georgia’s defense capacities to better provide for your security, as well as strengthen relations with NATO member countries. It will also help Georgia to prepare for Georgia’s eventual membership,” Vejonis added. “The so-called parliamentary and presidential elections, as well as the socalled referendums in breakaway regions, are not in accordance with international law and will not be recognized by the international community”. Following the extended meeting of the Presidents, Georgian and Latvian offi-

cials signed several memorandums of understanding and agreements regarding cooperation in various areas. The two presidents also visited Khurvaleti village, which is adjacent to the occupied Tskhinvali region, where they spoke to the local people and listened to their problems. President Vejonis said it is tragic that in the modern world, barbed wire can divide a sovereign country into two. “These fences divide families. Latvia will never recognize such actions of Russia or occupation and we will always support Georgia’s integrity and sovereignty. I think it is very important that each country be sovereign and independent and, of course, we will work until this situation is resolved,” he stated. Within the framework of visit, Vejonis will also visit EUMM office in Gori, Shida Kartli region.




FM Janelidze: Georgia is an Important Global Coalition Partner gia’s self-defense capabilities. The Georgian Prime Minister had a chance to meet with US Vice-President Pence on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, where the parties agreed to hold a similar-level meeting in Washington. Currently, we are working to hold a plenary session of the USGeorgia security partnership program to be chaired by the Prime Minister of Georgia and US Vice-President.



oice of America met the Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mikheil Janelidze State-side.



Georgia joined the global coalition at its founding in 2014. My visit to the global summit in Washington DC, as well as Georgia’s participation in coalition efforts, is an affirmation of our commitment and contribution to global and regional security. After becoming part of the Coalition, we undertook legislative reforms inside the country as well as institutional reforms to ensure our border security and the added safety of the country. By doing so, we also helped bolster regional security.

HOW IS GEORGIA’S RELATIONSHIP WITH THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION / US GOVERNMENT AT THIS POINT? Fortunately, we have cultivated a very good relationship, an active one, with the current US administration. I was among the few foreign ministers to meet with the US Secretary of State one-onone. We discussed the history of our 25-year bilateral relations, as well as our progression on establishing a strategic

communication format. We have strong US support, reaffirming our territorial integrity and sovereignty, and it is involved in the international format of the Geneva negotiations to achieve security guarantees, non-use of force and an opening for an opportunity to return IDPs home.

I got to address the UN Security Council meeting while here in the open-debates format. The meeting was called to discuss conflict on the European continent, where a US Envoy to the UN made a specific statement underlining US support for Georgia’s territorial integrity

and sovereignty, as well as support for assistance to Georgia’s security sector. We also had a meeting with the US Defense Secretary on the Georgia-NATO partnership progress, the ongoing programs for Georgia’s NATO integration process and the development of Geor-

First of all, because of the planned meetings between NATO and Georgia. NATO’s military committee visited Georgia this year to assess Georgia’s defense capabilities and other projects being implemented, in order to foster Georgia’s defense and military sector and update these sectors to NATO compatibility levels. Georgia successfully carries out the substantial package of NATO-Georgia partnership and we are in close relations with NATO-member states to strengthen Georgia’s integration process. This year we are also expecting a session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly to take place in Georgia. This is unprecedented and will be attended by a US Congressional delegation. We also expect the session to adopt a resolution supporting Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Link to Georgian version: http://www.

Welcome to Indian Punjabi Restaurant Sanjha Chulha 1 Mobile +995 596 56 13 13 Phone +995-322-95-96-14 Skype: SANJHA CHULHA Facebook: sanjha chulha indian restaurant mail: Website: Agmashenebeli Avenue 130, Tbilisi 0112 Georgia Delivery service are available




MARCH 31 - APRIL 3, 2017

Romanian Ambassador on Navy, NATO and Russian Relations INTERVIEW BY VAZHA TAVBERIDZE


eorgia is offering NATO the chance to deploy its navy in Poti port. If realized, this will dramatically change the power balance in the Black Sea basin and pose a geopolitical threat to Georgia – stories like these, reported by Russian media over the last month, made Georgians scratch their collective heads – on one hand, we’d really, really love that to happen, and the recent decision at the NATO Defense Ministerial in February fueled our optimism further. After all, the Alliance had announced its plans to bolster Black Sea security. On the other, more sensible, hand, though, the story checked all the boxes for potential Russian disinformation and neither Georgian media nor government rushed in to explain how things really stood. IF this comes true, this basically means NATO can circumvent the 1936 Montreux Convention which explicitly prohibits the stationing of non-Black Sea country warships of over 15000 tonnage for more than 21 days in Black Sea waters. To clarify, GEORGIA TODAY and Panorama Talk Show contacted the Ambassador of Romania in Georgia, His Excellency Radu Horumba, to talk about the existing situation. The interview was made possible courtesy of the International Black Sea University, students of which eagerly joined the interview as its firsthand audience and supplied many a challenging question to the Ambassador, who opened the discussion by congratulating Georgia with the recent EU visa liberalization. “I would like to use this opportunity to congratulate the Georgian people and the Government of Georgia with the entry into force of the EU-Georgia visa liberalization agreement. This is a fantastic advantage and I felt it personally when visa liberalization was allowed for us in 2001, before we joined the EU as a full-fledged member state 10 years ago. For many of us, it was a great opportunity to better know Europe, European citizens and other places. Georgia’s visa liberalization is a milestone, not the end of the road, for Georgia’s European aspirations. There will be different dynamics of implementing reforms, and some will not be easy, speaking from our own experience. These dynamics need further support from the entire Georgian population.

THE NATO’S BLACK SEA ANNOUNCEMENT MADE THIS REGION SOMEWHAT LESS PREDICTABLE – HOW DO YOU SEE THE CURRENT POWER BALANCE IN THE BLACK SEA BASIN? Since 2014, following the illegal annexation by Russia of the Crimean peninsula, we are witnessing permanent, constant degradation of security and stability in the Black Sea area. This is the reaction that all NATO members had towards what Russia was and is doing, and not only in the Black Sea, but also in the Baltic Sea, because we have three NATOmember Baltic countries which, unlike Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey, have a direct border with Russia. And we see military build-up in this area as well. So this is why I’m saying that the reaction

lyas Ciloglu, Rector of International Black Sea University [left], with Ambassador of Romania in Georgia, His Excellency Radu Horumba [right]

of NATO is gradual and adapted in accordance to the situation on the ground.

GIVEN OUR RATHER LIMITED NAVAL POTENTIAL, WHAT WINDOWS FOR PARTNERSHIP EXIST BETWEEN GEORGIA AND NATO, AND BETWEEN GEORGIA AND ROMANIA? WHAT CAN GEORGIANS OFFER? Why do we need a naval presence in the Black Sea? Because we need stability. And stability is important for Georgia, for the transport and energy corridors that cross Georgia. There is an increase of commodities trade and economic connections between Europe and the Far East, especially China; there is interest in developing transport corridors for freight, and the shortest route passes through Georgia. From the Georgian ports, cargo goes to other Black Sea ports and further on, to Central and Western Europe. We are also interested in that, because Constanta is the largest port in the Black Sea and is connected directly to the Danube. The energy corridors matter, too. Most of the pipelines coming from the Caspian Sea to Europe and the Mediterranean Sea cross Georgiathe South Caucasus gas pipeline will be continued by the so-called TANAP pipeline to the border of Turkey and further to Europe. There is also the oil BakuTbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which has been operating for several years now.

UNREALISTIC AS IT MAY SOUND, IF NATO WERE TO BUILD A MILITARY BASE IN POTI, WOULDN’T THIS ACTION PROVOKE THE KREMLIN? There are no NATO military bases in Poti and it is not planned to have such a military base. I agree, it would potentially raise tensions in the region, and as I said before, the NATO reaction is an adaptive response to what Russia does. It is not something we want to overreact to, so let’s keep it real: NATO is reacting, and Georgia is also coordinating its reactions according to what Russia does in the region.


DELIVER LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS FROM AZERBAIJAN TO GEORGIA AND THEN, VIA THE BLACK SEA, TO ROMANIA AND OTHER EUROPEAN STATES? This is why we are interested in having a stable situation in Georgia and the Black Sea, in order to ensure and guarantee unhindered freedom of trade movement and navigation. As for the AGRI project, it’s not just an issue of strategic thinking; it’s first of all an issue of commercial interest. For the moment, we have discussed the feasibility study that was done – and this discussion continues at the governmental level. We’ll soon see the continuation. Also, keep in mind that the price of oil, to which the gas price is connected, is lower today, compared to years ago. Therefore, some of the calculations have to be revised to see if it is still feasible. You have to look at the developments in the region and look very carefully into the capacity of the suppliers and the demand of the buyers.

EIGHT YEARS SINCE THE BUCHAREST NATO SUMMIT, AT WHICH GEORGIA WAS GIVEN A PROMISE OF EVENTUAL NATO MEMBERSHIP, AND ONE MAJOR CONFLICT LATER, WHAT ROLE DO YOU THINK THE PROMISE PLAYS IN RELATIONS BETWEEN GEORGIA AND RUSSIA? 2008 was indeed a hugely important moment, with NATO deciding to continue its open-doors policy for countries wishing to join. Of course, this was probably one of the reasons why warning lights went off for some in Moscow. Why? Because not everybody in the “near abroad” was happy to remain under the influence of a certain regime which was historically too connected, by its ideology and attitude, to an old regime, which was a prison for people like Georgians, and not just them. So, this invitation might have been one of the reasons behind what happened in August 2008. However, the decision made at the Bucharest NATO Summit still stands. At the Warsaw NATO Summit, the policy of open doors was stated and re-stated again. And to conclude, let me bring in the case of Montenegro. It was one of the old candidates, and it was received as a NATO member. The system works.




Eenie, Meenie, Miney Mayor OP-ED BY ZAZA JGARKAVA


eorgian Dream (GD) is in disarray. Who will be the governmental candidate in theMayor’selection?Famous Levan Gachechiladze or influential Kakha Kaladze? Levan, aka Grechikha (buckwheat), is protected by Prime Minister Kvirikashvili, while Vice Premier Kaladze is under the wing of the parliamentary beau monde. These circumstances make the choice even harder, though Georgian media insists that all is already decided and the GD elite will not face the necessity of having to make the vital decision anymore. Premier Kvirikashvili is said to be being prepared by outer powers to leave office and will probably be sent for ‘retirement’ by the end of May. It is also said at the State Chancellery that Giorgi Gakharia or Dimitry Kumsishvili will take his position. Therefore, there will be no alternative for the influential Vice Premier Kaladze anymore. Despite the fact that Mr. Kaladze is uncontested within his own political party, these elections will be nothing like a pleasant walk for him. Quite the opposite, as the voting might even become fatal for the mighty Vice Premier. The political developments suggest that for the first time an independent candidate will substitute one from the United National Movement

longer without alternative, I doubt that the new city Mayor will be a candidate from either of the parties. If Elisashvili raises himself as an independent candidate, more votes for him will be guaranteed,” says expert Gia Khukhashvili, adding that if GD and UNM candidates face each other in these elections, the chances of winning will be much less for the latter. Analyst Vakhtang Dzabiradze predicts that the elections will be both challenging and extremely important. “GD and its candidate will be the favorite, at least because they own the governmental mechanisms and have good financial resources. Nevertheless, this won’t be enough for them to win the first round of elections,” he says. As such, it is hard to predict whether the government will lose the race or not. The main problem today is the arrangement of self-governing institutions, as the political and administrative positions are mixed together. Remember Narmania used to say that we should vote for him because he is a good manager? Well, being a good manager proved insufficient; first of all, the Mayor should be a good politician and have the trust of the citizens. As the political leader, he should be able to convince citizens and achieve the priority objectives. Mr. Elisashvili is better in these qualities than Mr. Kaladze, but the question is if these will prove enough for him to win the elections this autumn.

(UNM) in the upcoming electoral wars. Aleko Elisashvili from the Tbilisi City Assembly is said to be Kaladze’s main rival. Allegedly the Republicans and Free Democrats will raise the candidacy of the former together. Elisashvili confirms that he will take part in the Mayoral elections, however, he does not approve or reject rumors that the said political parties will raise his candidacy. Yet, he does claim to have received offers from some political parties. The UNM is getting ready for the elections and have spread information that they will participate in the elections together with those nine political parties who united to protect Rustavi 2 TV, and that the negotiations in this regards have already begun, with Nika Melia marked for their likely candidate. European Georgia will also raise their own candidate, most likely Irakli Abesadze. Despite the ambitions of both branches of the former government, the will to defeat the Georgian Dream is so strong that it is quite possible that Elisashvili will become the mutual candidate representing the whole oppositional spectrum. Political experts predict that real chances for winning the Tbilisi Mayoral elections are on the side of an independent candidate because neither the GD nor the UNM have the support of the population anymore. “The local electorate is unsatisfied by the work of both current and previous governments, therefore as these are no

Russia to Connect Belarus with the Sea and "Cut off" the Baltic States BY DIMITRI DOLABERIDZE


n the event of an attack on the Suwalki corridor, Russia in one swoop will provide land communication with the Kaliningrad region and cut off the Baltic States from the main territory of NATO, the Polish edition of ONET cautions. However, while there is still no such danger, “this 70-kilometer stretch of territory of Poland must be urgently strengthened,” advises the author, Polish journalist Przemyslaw Henzel. Experts fear that this strategically important region is a potential place for a Russian land invasion, the result of which may be the emergence of a "bridge" between Kaliningrad and Belarus, as well as the separation of the Baltic States from the rest of NATO territory. In the context of this theoretical scenario, the issue of the so-called Fulda Corridor of the Cold War times reappears. "The Suwalk isthmus is the biggest breakdown of NATO in recent weeks," the author notes. “Having a length of 70 kilometers along the Polish-Lithuanian border near the city of Suwalki, and located between the Kaliningrad region and Belarus, it is of great importance for the eastern flank,” the author says. This region provides a ground connection with the Baltic countries. And, using this very road, if necessary, other states of the alliance would be able to support Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. General Frederick Hodges, Commander of the US Armed Forces in Europe, does not hide his fears. In early October he drew attention to the potential risk associated with this part of NATO territory. This question was written not only by Western media, but also by the Daily Times in Pakistan. The worry of the US military is the result of fears that a possible seizure of this region by Russians would not only lead to the creation of a land bridge connecting Kaliningrad and Belarus, but

would also separate the Baltic States from the rest of the alliance's territory. “In such a scenario, rendering assistance to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by other NATO states by land would be impossible,” Henzel says. “While the debate on this topic is still theoretical, it should

be related to two practical issues - the military strengthening the eastern flank of NATO, as well as the possible plans of Poland for its north-eastern border”. The military alliances are concerned about the exercises being organized by Russia in the vicinity of the Baltic States.

General Hodges, during a visit to the Pentagon last week, stressed that they had not been warned and there were no observers from the West. "We learn about them only when they are conducted. This is a threat and a cause for concern," the Commander

acknowledged. There are already serious concerns about whether NATO is able to react so quickly to prevent a possible seizure of the Suwalki corridor by Russian military forces, for example, those who participated in the exercises.



Oettinger - N1 Bavarian Beer in Georgia


he spring arrived and drinking beer became far more pleasant in a warm weather. Beer fans traditionally are expecting novelties. The first one this year is Oettinger. Oettinger, a real Bavarian Beer has been brewed since 1731 with strict observance of the German Beer Purity Law. The history proved that in Germany Oettinger

is the most consumed Bavarian beer. Now it can be enjoyed by Georgian beer fans as well. Unique combination of light color malt, aromatic hop and soft water creates transparent, golden liquid, which along with various flavors bears higher than average bitterness. Enjoy it!


MARCH 31 - APRIL 3, 2017

Address by JSC Tbilisi Tobacco Workers to NGOs and Business Ombudsman BY JSC TBILISI TOBACCO WORKERS


bilisi Tobacco JSC is a Georgian enterprise that manufactures Georgian products of domestic raw materials. The enterprise and related units employ more than 700 persons. Regretfully, artificial problems have been created in relation to our company. Moreover, in the course of time the threat of job loss grows, and this is the result of an indifference of opinion towards national production that has continued for many years. Our trade was developed in Georgia in ancient times. Naturally, we cannot compare our production to world brands today, but we always occupied a significant segment of the Georgian market. In 2013, the ratio of Georgian tobacco products on the market was 35% and this acted as a guarantee for our job welfare. However, criminal activity and the machinations of immoral foreign importers have narrowed this ratio to 6%. They used to apply restricted mechanisms and inadmissible methods, sell imported products at dumping prices and employ other illegal schemes. As a result, they have led our production to the brink of destruction and we are threatened with unemployment and life on the street. We, the workers of this plant, have lived as a family for many generations and we do not plan to sacrifice the future of our children because of these scamming businessmen. Impudent tatements made by Fady

Asly, seller of low-quality chicken hams, who protects dishonest tobacco importers, members of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), were particularly confusing. Namely, he said that he would not let domestic businesses extort finances from foreign business. Who extorts money from whom? Who robs whom and who persecutes others? Naturally, he knows everything very well, but Mr. Asly is trying to make loud statements to conceal criminal schemes applied against Georgian tobacco production. It is not even ridiculous any more, when Fady Asly, barnstormer, classic face of dishonest newcomer businessman, dares to blackmail the government, insult our court system and issue an ultimatum to the country. The position of politicians and nongovernmental organizations bribed by them is not surprising anymore. We will expose all of them, who, supported by Fady Asly, attack domestic production, real economic growth and our job security. We address the NGO sector and Business Ombudsman's Office – it is incomprehensible and unacceptable for us that

society has turned a blind eye to these so-called businessmen and their supporters, who try to destroy Georgian production. We hope the Ombudsman's Office and NGO sector will provide a real assessment of the existing situation, give valuable and healthy recommendations to persecutors of Georgian domestic production and express their own position. We welcome all foreign investors who put money into Georgia, create new job places and promote the country, but those who fight against Georgian production and threaten to leave us unemployed and destine us for hunger should not be accepted in Georgia. We do not ask for privileges or protection, we simply request equal conditions, justice, honest competition and the rule of law. We cannot wait anymore. Starting today we will defend our jobs ourselves. We plan to arrange a strike committee to start active protest in compliance with legislation with the aim to protect our rights. We are sure Georgian society will share our position and contradict everybody who threatens Georgian production.




MARCH 31 - APRIL 3, 2017

Microsoft Georgia Presents Cloud Technology Strategy BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI


t a meeting with media representatives held on March 23 in Rooms Hotel Tbilisi, Microsoft Georgia introduced Microsoft’s new strategy, the Microsoft Cloud digital platform, and the advantages it offers customers, business organizations and the business sphere in general, worldwide. Microsoft Cloud is considered as the heart of Microsoft’s strategy and growth, as well as a tool for a business transformation, giving organizations operating in various spheres the chance to develop assets and values. Cloud technology transforms businesses worldwide, as its implementation and usage is growing considerably. It is said that using Microsoft Cloud changes the work style of the individual, the place and the way in which people run their businesses. Cloud technology enables modern IT companies to play an important role in creating and implementing business strategies. “Digitalization may bring a lot of benefits to society in general, while forging environment protection sustainability, ensuring the creation of new employment opportunities and raising the safety level of our lives,” said Nikoloz Doborjginidze, General Director, Microsoft Georgia. “Microsoft’s mission and vision is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, while elaborating on the fourth industrial revolution we’re facing today,

mixing cybernetics, physical and digital spheres- a change we see as extremely rapid, with internet playing a vital role”. To illustrate the paradigm that has changed entirely the modern world, Doborjginidze gave the example of the Fortune 500 member companies, “Where they needed at least 20 years to become worth a million dollars, today, digital start-ups need only two to four years to achieve that, meaning the structure of business has drastically changed as well. In retrospect, where oil companies were among the world’s richest in 2006, ten years later, technology companies have become the key players at the top of the list, marking the start of the technological era,” Doborjginidze said, moving on to describe cloud technology: “Cloud is

a space where all the devices and data centers are connected to each other. Our vision sees mobility and ability to access and be linked to information from anywhere- with more personal computers and an intelligent Cloud technology.” He named Satya Nadella, current Microsoft CEO, as the initiator of the company’s move towards the cloud technology. Microsoft is investing massively in artificial intelligence development, having hired 5000 developers to work on it. Cloud is not a “one size fits all” or “everything or nothing” offer. The Microsoft Georgia representatives believe that technologies can assist us to solve a variety of problems, including Microsoft Azure - an integrated Cloud service which offers global, reliable and safe

hybrid Cloud for businesses of today and of the future. “80% of the Fortune 500 companies are using Microsoft Cloud, as it’s regarded as the best solution for large size companies and smaller startups,” Doborjginidze said. In Georgia, according to Microsoft Georgia representatives, almost 85 companies are using Microsoft Cloud already. The meeting closed with a presentation from financier, Eprem Urumashvili on block chain technologies and the recent private property and business registration project successfully initiated together with the National Agency of Public Registry. “Block Chain is a unique, safe registering system and while registering your business or property within the country

using this technology, the transactions will be listed on a block chain platform, available for you to use everywhere in the world, not just in Georgia,” Urumashvili said, adding that implementing smart contracts are considered the next step for block chain technology in Georgia Highlighted several times during the discussion was that, compared to previous years, Georgia has made considerable progress in technology development, and although the problem of qualified personnel still exists, the change is visible due to a number of state and private initiatives. Additionally, a pilot project for computer programming learning is said to have started in twelve schools in Tbilisi. “We are very actively involved with the Georgian Innovations and Technology Agency, and we’re closely collaborating with them, assisting start-ups with our Cloud technologies, and also offering coaching. In other words, we’re actively supporting start-ups at every stage, from initial idea to helping them export the product they created,” said Ketevan Tatoshvili, Account Executive at Microsoft Georgia. The vast possibilities of Microsoft Cloud usage for information backup was emphasized during the discussion, which then centered on the potential cyber threats Georgia might be facing and preventative measures. Microsoft Georgia says it is cooperating with the Georgian Data Exchange Agency, assisting the Georgian government to be able to address possible cyber threats in a timely manner. Tatoshvili mentioned that the government security program will be expanded in future, with Microsoft’s larger participation in it ensured.

FINCA Bank Celebrates Global Money Week with Children


lobal Money Week is celebrated in 130 countries around the world every year at the end of March. Global Money Week’s purpose is to inform children and young people about what money is, about the importance of saving, how to become an entrepreneur, and how to develop business skills. This year’s Global Money Week’s message is Learn, Save, Earn. FINCA Bank as an international financial institution is actively involved in the Global Money Week celebration for the third year now. Special brochures and posters were printed and distributed to thousands of children in all the regions

of Georgia. Guided tours around FINCA Bank’s service centers were organized for children, for them to know how the bank works and how financial operations are done. Almost 1,000 children participated in the tours. “It’s important to constantly inform children about the nature of money, so that they know the importance of saving, and to help them learn to save from a very early age. For this, we created an interactive book last year. This year we adapted the book for children with visual impairment. An Audio Book on financial education has been sent to all regions of Georgia,” Mariam Esebua, Head of Mar-

keting Department at FINCA Bank said. A public lecture on the importance of money saving was held for the students of the Youth Palace in Tbilisi, where FINCA Bank employees introduced the history of money, how financial institutions function and talked about the significance of saving. Prizes were given to the winners of an entertaining quiz that was organized during the lecture. FINCA Bank continues different activities to raise awareness in financial education. Fifty FINCA Bank employees are volunteers in the USAID and G-PriEd project, and for the second year already they are organizing lessons on business skills in different schools throughout Georgia.






iverAstarachay,whichdivides the Azerbaijani and Iranian nations, is no Rubicon, and its crossing over a newly constructed bridge by an Azerbaycan Dimir Yolları’s GE/LKZ TE33A Evolution locomotive was hardly noticed by Georgian media. Yet, the project has immense implications for the future of transportation across the Caucasus. President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Tehran on March 5, 2017 (his third visit to the Islamic Republic in just as many years) was timed to provide him and his Iranian vis-à-vis Hassan Rouhani with an opportunity to inaugurate the railway connection between Iran and Azerbaijan – perhaps a small step for the two men, but a giant leap for the 7,200km North-South Trade Corridor (NSTC) project connecting India’s Mumbai to Bandar Abbas (Iran’s only port with the ability to handle large container vessels above 8,000 TEUs) and further to Baku in Azerbaijan; Astrakhan, Moscow and St Petersburg in Russia; and from there to northern Europe and Scandinavia. NSTC received a major boost in January 2016, with the lifting of international sanctions on Iran. Understandably, however, Iran is not alone in its fascination with cross-border railroad connectivity. NSTC is expected to provide a faster and cheaper trade connectivity between Europe and South East Asia. Crucially, it will allow to bypass Georgia and the Black Sea for any cargo heading north from the Indian Ocean. In the other direction, NSTC will give Baku direct access to the Persian Gulf via Iranian railways as an alternative to Georgian Railway and Georgia’s ports on the Black Sea. Moreover, while Georgia is still awaiting for the completion of the long-overdue Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway, Turkey, Iran and Azerbaijan have already started planning another ambitious project connecting Azerbaijan to Nakhichevan and Turkey, and further to Europe, using the newly constructed Marmaray tunnel under the Bosphorus. The new Baku-TabrizBabak-Kars (BTBK) line will bypass Armenia’s Syunik province and Armeniacontrolled Nagorno Karabakh through the Iranian territory. According to Ahmet Arslan, Turkey’s minister of transport, maritime and communication, BTBK will have a total capacity of more than 20mln ton cargo/year, presenting a viable alternative to BTK. The dual-track, fully electrified line will include 18 bridges and 7 tunnels, and is expected to become fully operational in 2023, in time for the Turkish Republic’s 100 year anniversary. To ensure the highest quality of service and eliminate corruption risks, freight services over the BTBK will be operated by the Swiss Federal Railways’ subsidiary SBB Cargo, Switzerland’s market leader in rail freight. SBB Cargo’s CEO Nicolas Perrin confirmed to Georgia Today that it will license the Swiss railway clock’s iconic design – a symbol of simplicity, reliability and precision – for use as BTBK’s official trademark.

GEORGIAN RAILWAYS’ STARK CHOICES It would be wrong to think of the new Silk Road as a simple chain that crucially depends on each and every one of its links. Today’s transportation routes form complex networks – similar to parallel electric circuitry – which allow to redirect cargo and passenger flows through alternative routes. In the parallel circuitry reality, providers of transport services compete for their share of trade flows. Countries that will do well in this competition, will attract greater volumes of traffic and related investment. Countries that will

create bottlenecks along the way, will be bypassed. Georgia certainly has its advantages when it comes to transit from Central Asia (over the Caspian Sea) and from the Persian Gulf (via Iran) to Azerbaijan and from it, across the Black Sea, to Europe. Georgia’s location, the free trade agreements it possesses with Europe, Turkey and the CIS, as well as its safe and corruption-free business environment can make it an attractive choice for Asian companies seeking to ship their products to Europe (and vice versa). A key point is this: traders will judge whether to channel their goods through Georgia (or not) based on time, price, service quality and reliability considerations. Not based on how many days it takes to register a business, or whether Georgians are a hospitable nation. And when looking at these four parameters, Georgia’s is yet not a match for the Baltic ports and the Russian railways for cargo to/from Central Asia and Northern China. With the NSTC and BTBK becoming operational in 2023, Georgian Railways LLC, a 100% state-owned company, will face a stark choice: to upgrade or not to be. Georgian Railways LLC is Georgia’s monopoly railway operator, owning rolling stock, tracks, terminals and other infrastructure. In Soviet times, Georgia handled over 50 million tons of freight and 13 million passengers annually, most of which was transit traffic. Today’s volumes are more than four times lower. After peaking at 22-23mln in 2007/8, freight volumes on the Georgian Railways went into freefall: 14mln ton in 2015, and just under 12mln in 2016. While we continued to import in 2016, transit (down by 22% y/y), domestic (down 17%) and export (down 3%) cargo suffered significant losses. Our interviews with Georgia’s major exporting companies suggest that the Georgian Railways’ uninspiring performance in recent years has its root causes not only in economic difficulties faced by Georgia’s neighbors, but also in the company’s management and pricing decisions. Having issued foreign currency-denominated bonds to finance its modernization projects, the Georgian Railways board felt obliged to keep its tariffs in Swiss Francs so as to reduce the problem of aggregate currency mismatch on its balance sheet. Yet, as the dwindling cargo figures tell, failing to make a sufficient adjustment to prices at the time of a protracted economic slowdown in the region and drastic currency devaluations in Russia and Azerbaijan (Georgian Railways’ direct competitors for rail freight to/from Central Asia) may have been not the smartest strategy. As a result, some of the cargo originating in North China and Central Asia switched to the Russian Railways, which became much more affordable following the ruble’s crashing from 30 to almost 70 rubles to the dollar. At the same time, road transportation has become the preferred option for many Georgian logistics operators exporting over the Black Sea (through Poti or Batumi) who indicate the Georgian Railways’ pricing and service quality as the main motivation for doing so. * * * Given tighter competition for cargo traveling along the new Silk Road, the Georgian Railways may have to adjust its pricing and upgrade the quality of services it provides to both foreign and domestic clients. With the amount traffic generally in decline, the company is no longer held back by technical throughput limitations on the mountainous Khashuri-Zestaponi section. Instead, it may be constrained by its own pricing policy and service standards. With road and alternative rail transportation options becoming increasingly available, the Georgian Railways has to take some bold management decisions. Failing to adjust in the parallel circuitry reality is simply not an option.




MARCH 31 - APRIL 3, 2017

How Commercial is Commercial Media in Georgia? OP-ED BY NUGZAR B. RUHADZE


he Georgian television market is both rich and poor. Rich because there are more than 50 TV stations on cable here, broadcasting to just a one million viewership – I mean a million by any possible stretch. And poor because none of those media players make a profit, or even break even. They daydream about the revenues that might be worth writing home about. If only they were real! The Georgian television industry is business magic. It is working perfectly well, with myriad high-quality and attractive programs, using a lot of staff to produce them, but all in vain – working for nothing. Why should one sweat so much over something if there is no bread-and butter and mug of beer expected beyond that ‘something’? This is a truly weird style of doing business, to say the least. Shouldn’t commercial media be commercial? I’ve written before on this curious theme, although to no avail. As the saying has it, the dogs are barking, but the caravan moves on. It would not take a rocket scientist to make a slightly educated guess that the broadcast media in Georgia is used mostly to political ends, plus an interesting element of satisfying the personal ambition of the finicky owners of those white elephants who can afford the pleasure

of tinkering with a handsome little plaything, plus the potential profits in case the Georgian economy grows and flourishes some day so much that the television market turns from a commercial desert into a greenback oasis. I have nothing else on earth to deduce from this. On the other hand, believe it or not, the Georgian media has certain capitalistic features like taking over somebody else’s better media personnel, or the ‘human resources’ as modern euphemistic terminology would have it. This is a new feature of the Georgian media industry, and often, it is handled with a certain amount of pungency and exacerbation, the acidity being egregiously political, heard and felt in political speeches and in occasional comments of the management of media units, especially of those who are commercially concerned, but politically engaged at the same time. In my securest consideration, it must be a good thing that a medium of mass communication tends to have as good a performer on the air as possible, thus making itself more attractive on the market, although the market is still (temporarily?) impotent. Well, getting ready for future successful leaps in business also counts, I would say. Quoting the great Uncle Joe, the cadres are key to everything. As a matter of fact, the more movement within the journalistic powerhouse the better – this probably helps the accumulation of experience, and also creates agreeable conditions for healthy com-

petition. The only thing I would refrain from in this healthy process is an overly vitriolic commentary on ‘takeover’ of a competitor’s talent. There is no takeover! We are all in a labor market within which every single participant has his or her own value and specific gravity, and we are all interested to sell ourselves for as much as possible at a given moment of our development. Actually, this is the only way to let talent be appreciated fairly enough to find its deserved niche in the highly competitive market, no matter how prolific or barren that market is. Think about this: if we never try to play a real game on the grounds of real capitalism, we will always remain as unreal as we currently are. The exchange of talent within the media, although politically driven, is a fine beginning,

which gives the impression that it is not only the newly acquired European visa liberalization but also the latent preparedness of this society to turn itself into a natural part of western social and political culture, and economic, too, for that matter. Hopefully, this all adds up and makes sense. What remains now is

to avoid blunders as wisely as possible, for our recent history persistently reminds us that every error made on the way of our capitalistic and democratic development costs us more than we can afford. Are we not smart enough not to let the mistakes shut us out from what seems to be our better prospects?

Trafficking of Children: Council of Europe Experts Highlight Widespread Problems OFFICIAL MEDIA RELEASE


n its latest annual report, published today, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA), has highlighted important shortcomings in a number of European countries related to the trafficking of children. The report shows that 4,361 children were identified as victims of trafficking in just 12 European countries between 2012 and 2015. Many others have failed to be detected and protected, due to gaps in the identification procedures, a failure to appoint legal guardians and the lack of appropriate and secure accommodation. GRETA’s report shows that, on average, children represent a third of the identified victims of human trafficking, but there are important variations between countries. Children are being trafficked transnationally, as well as internally, for different forms of exploitation including sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude, forced begging, forced criminal activities and forced marriage. GRETA highlights widespread problems with identifying child victims of trafficking and providing them with safe accommodation. Many children are not being given the support they are legally entitled to, says GRETA, and some are still being punished for crimes they are forced to commit. The report also underlines that unaccompanied and separated children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, but the authorities often have little or no information on the identification of victims of trafficking among such children.

GRETA is responsible for assessing countries’ compliance with the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. Today’s annual report summarises GRETA’s monitoring work over the last year, which has particularly focused on trafficking in children. It also gives examples of many positive changes which the convention has helped to bring about, as well as good practices in the area of child trafficking.

Notes Examples of states taking steps to improve anti-trafficking legislation, policy and practice in the light of GRETA recommendations include the following: • Albania has updated legislation to criminalise trafficking in men and women as well as knowingly using the services of a victim of human trafficking; • Austria has increased the penalties for trafficking for trafficking in human beings as well as setting up a drop-in and counselling centre for undocumented migrants

workers and a specialised support structure for male victims of trafficking; • Bulgaria has introduced a new provision on the non-punishment of trafficking victims for offences they were forced to commit as well as developing action plans in the areas of gender equality, violence against children and Roma integration; • Croatia has criminalised acts relating to travel and identity documents intended to facilitate human trafficking; • Cyprus has introduced a comprehen-

sive new anti-trafficking law as well as broadening and strengthening the mandate of the Police Office for Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings; • Denmark has developed awarenessraising campaigns and guidelines to help tackle labour exploitation and to support police and prosecutors in anti-trafficking work; • Georgia has changed its legislation to provide for social and legal assistance to child victims of trafficking and temporary residence permits, as well as setting up a unified trafficking database; • The Republic of Moldova has strengthened the Permanent Secretariat of the National Committee for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and commissioned external evaluations of two national anti-trafficking action plans; • Montenegro has amended its Criminal Code to include additional forms of exploitation linked to trafficking as well as introducing a new law granting a 90-day recovery and reflection period to victims; • Romania has further developed the training provided to relevant professionals, including border police, and set up joint investigation teams with a number of other countries; • The Slovak Republic has adopted a new procedure for identifying victims of trafficking, with a view to enabling their access to state-funded assistance, as well as introducing a new provision on the non-punishment of trafficking victims forced to break the law; • The United Kingdom has adopted a new Modern Slavery Act, consolidating and simplifying the offences previously contained in a number of different laws, increasing the maximum sentence for trafficking offences and making it easier to confiscate traffickers’ assets.



MARCH 31 - APRIL 3, 2017


Spelling Success: Tbilisi BY TONY HANMER


he had only once before in her life been to the capital, and that was five years ago, when she was in grade four. Things would surely have changed much, both for her and the city, in those years. Lizi Gerliani was back, this time accom-

panied by her English teacher (my wife) and as one of only two finalist representatives of Svaneti for the National English Spelling Competition, Georgia, for 2017. She had displayed a talent for this part of our language some years ago, when I was still my wife’s co-teacher, often trouncing pupils some years older than herself in our village school. So this was, in a way, a natural result of that. She is most fortunate to be an easy traveler like me, as some people get

carsick very easily on our winding mountain roads, needing frequent stops. They arrived just fine, Lali went to our flat, and Lizi ended up in the hotel where the 24 young contestants from grades 9 to 12 in two age groups would stay for the event. First would be a rehearsal, then the real thing, at the

State University. (I don’t know why it’s not called a Spelling Bee here; the use of “bee” as a gettogether of people with something in common goes back to 19th century USA, with the first national spelling bee winner there being an eleven year old boy, way back in 1925. There’s a rather good film based on the wonderful novel Bee Season by Myla Goldberg, about an unraveling Jewish-American family whose young girl, formerly in the “slow” class, also shows promise as a speller. Her father is rather a mysticist, and dives with her into the Kaballah to help her prepare for the National Bee. She gets in over her head, but I won’t spoil the rest. Suffice it to say that no such thing happened with Lizi. The film even has Richard Gere as the father! But the book is even better, in my opinion.) As I made a point of telling her before she left, Lizi was already a winner in all our eyes. She didn’t win in Tbilisi, but the competition was very strong, with some contestants practically using English like a mother tongue. The couple of thousand words which she pored and agonized over daily in the couple of months she had from receiving them by email up to the date of the event aren’t wasted. Indeed, this year’s winner had placed second last year, and returned.

So another thing I told Lizi, when she returned, was that she now has a whole year until next time; it’s not over yet, by a long shot! Some of those words on the lists, to be honest, I wasn’t sure of the pronunciation of myself, and I’m virtually a bibliovore… but we did what we could to help Lizi prepare, then let her go. She enjoyed herself, had some hotel luxury, got to see some of the shiny new lit-up Tbilisi, as well as escaping for a few days the comparative drudgery of farm life in a Svan village and making some new friends. And she saw what the spelling competition is, and will be like in 2018. I’m delighted with her progress, which apparently is giving her new inspiration in some of her other school subjects as well. I expect to see her back with a vengeance twelve months from now. Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with over 1350 members, at He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:

Specialized Family-Type Service Established for Disabled Children in Kutaisi

Thinking out of the Box: The Annual Public Speaking Competition from ESU



new Specialized FamilyType Service for Children with Severe Disabilities has been established in Kutaisi by the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs with the support of USAID and UNICEF. US Ambassador Ian Kelly; Minister of Labor, Health and Social Affairs David Sergeenko; USAID Mission Director, Douglas Ball; and UNICEF Representative in Georgia, Laila Omar Gad visited Kutaisi to open the new service. The Specialized Family-Type Service is the first unit in Georgia with community-based care for young children with severe and profound disabilities and health problems. Within this service, children transferred from large state-run institutions receive 24-hour nursing care, physical rehabilitation, and community integration services. The Specialized Family-Type Service for Children with Severe Disabilities is established with the support of USAID’s $1million 5-year Protection of Children with Disabilities project, implemented by UNICEF since 2015. The goal of the project is to ensure that infants and young children grow in a family environment and receive services necessary for their individual developmental needs. A local NGO, Breath Foundation, donated a building for the Service in Kutaisi and will manage it with Ministry of Health funding and regulations.

T Source: LifeMattersMedia

Within the framework of the USAID supported project, UNICEF has been assisting the Georgian government in rehabilitating and equipping the building, developing standards of care, training of professionals like nurses and social workers who will work with the children, and linking the service with healthcare clinics and the Social Service Agency in Kutaisi. The establishment of such services will

allow the government to expand the alternative services for children with disabilities to gradually replace the model of institutional care for these children. The opening of another specialized service in Tbilisi is planned for the end of 2017. Several more similar services need to be established to have the children with disabilities remaining in large institutions transferred to a family-type environment.

his week the British Corner, Vake Park, hosted the annual English Speaking Union’s Public Speaking Competition which saw ten young Georgian English-speakers braving the stage before an audience of experts and fellow students. The aim of the English Speaking Union (ESU) is to promote friendship and understanding through the English language. The Public Speaking Competition is one of its most successful projects, with 40,000 youth from over 60 countries taking part in the Final in Londonup from just three when the project was started in 1981 (Great Britain, the USA and Australia). Georgia has participated for 20 years and has so far sent 34 youngsters aged between 16 and 20 to speak at the Finals. The jury members were the UK Ambassador to Georgia, Justin McKenzie Smith; Irakli Gulauri and his wife, and Archil Gachechiladze, Deputy Director of the Bank of Georgia. Aiming to inform persuade, entertain to inspire the audience, the ten young speakers conveyed their opinions in a variety of styles, from personal accounts to lectures and jokes. Some were clearly nervous; others were notably at home on the stage; all were admirable for their strength of character to have come so

far with both language and ability to communicate. The winners were: 1st place: Tatia Kakhetelidze, with the title: “Back to my desk." Tatia is a schoolgirl from Khashuri who says she learned English from watching movies. 2nd place: Akaki Makatsaria, with the title: "Box". 3rd place: Irakli Chkhikvadze, with the title: "Human-a limited creature or a labyrinth". The winner will go to London to take part at the ESU International Public Speaking Competition in May. The ESU was set up in London in 1918 as an independent, non-political, nongovernmental, educational charity. The Patron of the ESU is Queen Elizabeth II, the President - HRH The Princess Anne. One of the ESU’s first chairmen was Sir Winston Churchill. Georgia joined the ESU in 1998 and is supported by the British Embassy.




MARCH 31 - APRIL 3, 2017

Continuing Professional Development, Teaching for Success Conference Held


conference held on March 25 presented the British Council and St. George International School joint Teaching for Success (TfS) program to teachers of other subjects and parents, as well as English language teachers and administration representatives of the private education sector. The Teaching for Success approach follows the principles of effective continuing professional development (CPD). CPD is a planned, continuous and lifelong process. Teachers develop their personal and professional qualities, and improve their knowledge, skills and practice. This leads to improvements in their performance as teachers, the outcomes for their learners, benefits for their schools, and the teacher’s own confidence and autonomy as a professional. This process requires the teacher to change habits, experiment with new methods and find solutions to the challenges that developing their teaching presents. TfS leads the teacher towards being an expert who takes full responsibility for their own professional development, and is committed to continuous learning, practice and reflection. During the first part of the event, plenary speakers talked about key features of the Teaching for Success approach, CPD concept, and implementation tools. The audience had an opportunity to hear about the joint program outcomes as well as real life case studies from English

sionally. It helped me to be more modern as a teacher. It means that I started thinking more in-depth about my classes. I’m in the constant process of searching. Being a teacher means you have to always develop and move ahead,” said teacher Sophio Gurgenidze. In the second part of the conference, a variety of practical ‘How To’ Sessions were conducted for English language teachers. “Within the framework of the conference, English language teachers had an opportunity to work with British experts and be involved in different activities after which they could implement new, innovative approaches in the teaching practice,” said Zaza Purtseladze, Director of British Council Georgia.

teachers who have been involved in the developmental program and eagerly shared with the conference guests what they had done over the months of being involved in the project. “Teachers had a chance to diversify their teaching practice, to become more confident in the teaching process, and

to get acquainted with methodological novelties, which of course showed in the students’ success: they became more motivated and more active during the classes,” said Maka Makharoblidze, Director of the St. George International School. The invited teachers took away some useful tips by attending the planned

activities and by simply networking throughout the day. All this raised their awareness of up-to-date, effective methods recommended to make their teaching process more productive and enjoyable for learners, as well as for the teachers themselves. “This training helped me a lot profes-

Innovative Reforms to Increase Education Quality in Georgia From Aleksandre Jejelava’s Article published in The Economist’s World 2017 Georgian edition TRANSLATED BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI


he four stage reform plan initiated by the Government of Georgia foresees education as one of its top priorities, meaning revolutionary changes to be applied in the secondary, higher, science and professional education spheres. The reforms to be realized by the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia are set within both short and long term perspectives and aim for the professional self-realization of individuals, notwithstanding their age, nationality or religion. The short term perspective changes planned by the Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia are ongoing, and we think that by the end of 2017, as a result of improving services, the motivation of both teachers and students will be up. There will be free lessons in schools, oriented towards developing analytical, critical, logical and creative thinking in students. At the same time, educational services for individuals left behind in schools will be set. School management will be improved, work related study programs will be taught in professional colleges, the number of foreign students willing to acquire an education in Georgia will rise, the work of research institutions will be better and all this I just the tip of the iceberg of our planned reforms. In terms of general education, school programs will be aligned to the contemporary sciences, based on the age development of school children and their abilities. That’s why the first stages of school education will be based on the learning through play principle. The now existing subject programs at the basic and middle levels will get easier, with schools giving enough education to students to enable them to enter higher education institutions without the help

of private tutors. To achieve that goal, school text books will be improved both in terms of their content and technicality, new resources will be used, as will electronic text books. With the diverse non-class programs and activities, school life will become much more interesting. Through implementing free lessons, distance learning and other methods, schools will have more possibilities to use more alternative approaches, whereas teachers will have more room for their professional self- realization. Schools will be divided in accordance to their conditions and needs into small and leading categories. Programs to support private schools will also be launched. As to secondary education, the government takes the responsibility to make sports activities popular among young children as the best possibility for them to be acquainted with team-playing principles, and in acquiring skills for healthy living. Schools will regularly hold sports competitions, and phys-ed teachers will be retrained. At the same time, school children will have a chance to express their talents in different art

forms through art lessons. Due to cultural specifics and history, every country has its own literary heroes loved by children and which play a crucial role in their development, their way of thinking and vision. Unfortunately, after the demise of the Soviet Union, there were no new heroes added to Georgian children’s resources. It is vital for modern children and teens to have new heroes whose patriotism, friendship, diligence and loyalty will be replicated by them. In this form, attention will be paid to the skills that are important for the development of a system of values in children from a very early age. There are also significant novelties planned in the higher education sphere. An effective system of financing, oriented on the quality of education, will be set. The State will again finance those priority professions in high demand from employers. Specialists needed in the manufacturing, production, construction, business, agriculture, politics, civil, sports, arts and culture, and academic and science spheres will be trained. Successful students will be given a chance to study at the world’s leading universi-

ties with state financing, although getting higher education in Georgian and English languages will be available in Georgia. It’s our ambition to make Georgia a leader in education in the Eastern European and CIS countries. By 2020, Georgia expects to have the status of Regional Center for Higher Education. With consultations held between state organizations, a package of legislative changes will be carried out enabling foreign citizens to obtain student visas and other necessary documentation in Georgia through a simplified procedure. An internet portal will be launched with all necessary information available for students who intend to come to our country to study. Foreign students will have a chance to study 1+4 BA programs in the Georgian language. Those who express their willingness to study in Georgia will receive stipends. After the revolutionary dual education implementation, there will be more reforms carried out in the professional education sphere. Apart from professional colleges in the regions, new programs complying with employment market needs will be launched. The list of professions will become more diverse and the same goes for innovative approaches. The different study programs in colleges will be tailored to the needs of individuals of all age groups, offering students a chance to continue secondary or higher education while studying at college simultaneously. There will be a change in legislation: within professional education, a student will be able to obtain a full cycle general education with the possibility to enter a higher educational institution upon finishing professional college. In terms of science, our mission is to generate new intellectual product that will develop the areas necessary for the country’s economic growth. Cooperation with leading international science and research institutions, foundations and organizations will continue and deepen. Every professor and scientist

will have access to modern scienceelectronic bases and, in order to improve the quality of education, scientific research will be integrated into the educational process. Science-research institutions and scientists will have access to science infrastructure, bringing them new possibilities of scientific development. More Georgian scientists and professors will participate in exchange programs. Programs to support young Georgian scientists and those working abroad will be launched. A united scientific - informational system will be created where all the works from scientists and professors, their researches and achievements, will be stored. University and scientific projects will be financed. Collaboration with Horizon 2020 and different international foundations will deepen and continue. Young inventors and scientists will have an opportunity to present their discoveries in commercially interesting proposals. As I mentioned, these are just few of the plans. In order to make the Georgian language accessible for national minorities and foreigners, electronic study methods are to be implemented. The Ministry of Education and Science offers Georgian language courses in a non-stop regime for anyone interested, fully financed by the State, while, for the raising of awareness on the Abkhaz culture, educational resources are to be prepared and offered. Together with international partners, a world class electronic study platform will be launched and implemented at every stage of education. School children and university students will have access to high level education resources, virtual laboratories, video lectures by distinguished teachers and professors, to the programs of foreign language learning, and more. Mobile phones, computers, virtual and mixed reality will be used for electronic education, which will help to deepen knowledge in each subject and an increase of interest towards learning overall.




MARCH 31 - APRIL 3, 2017

New Season of Tbilisi Fashion Week Kicks off in April BY NINO GUGUNISHVILI


he annual 5-day Tbilisi Fashion Week is to start on April 19, organized with the support of the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia, and Tbilisi Municipality, with Tbilisi Mall the general sponsor of the event. Establishing the tradition of honoring legends of Georgian art and culture, the famous Georgian actress, Sophiko Chiaureli, will host the opening event at Wine Factory N1. From April 20 to April 23, the Museum of Tbilisi History (Karvasla) and Meidan Group Event Spaces will host runaways, a press room and a working showroom. The organizers of Tbilisi Fashion Week claim that the 2017 Autumn/Winter season will have even more fashion shows from the young and talented Georgian designers, including Mariam Gvasalia, LTFR, Ani Datukashvili, WOYOYO, Elene Giorgadze, ETHERE ACCESOIRES, Salome Tkabladze, Atelier 27, Lasha Jokhadze, Laboratory the Window, Giorgi Tatanashvili and others. Famous Ukrainian designer, Lara Quint, will be attending the fashion week again as will the London brand ZDDZ, which has been featured at fashion weeks around the world. Luciano Champagne tastings will be held between shows. This season Tbilisi Fashion Week is organizing a new project called Talk with Impact Hub Tbilisi will host a discussion on branding and commu-

nication led by leading specialists from Marangoni University and Rosa Sinaisky, a journalist working for Barneys, New York, Vogue Italia, and Elle Russia. With the support of Georgian National Tourism Administration, Tbilisi Fashion Week will be featured in leading international fashion magazines like Vogue Italia, W Magazine, Dust Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar USA,, Fashion to Max, Elle Russia, WWD Japan, WWD USA, China Morning Post, Men’s Uno Hong Kong, Marie Claire France and Monaco, Style Sight Worldwide, Vogue Russia, NOWFASHION, British Vogue, OFFICIEL Ukraine, Elle Ukraineand A Tbilisi tour will be organized for the guests attending the fashion week by GNTA. The Entrepreneurship Development Agency of Georgia will host the group of buyers during the Tbilisi Fashion Week from Harvey Nichols HONG KONG, RIJOUX STORE Tel-Aviv, Concept Store PORTA 9 Russia, Al Duca D’acosta VENICE, United Legend Strasbourg and Joseph Store London. They will be introduced to Georgian designer collections. Additionally, the Entrepreneurship Development Agency will introduce several Georgian companies too. It’s with the help of this agency that Georgian designer Mariam Gvasalia first began to cooperate with Italian buyers, and clothes made by the Eurotex factory in Georgia are now available in the shops of Venice, Italy. On April 12, a Tbilisi Fashion Week official showroom will open in Tbilisi Mall’s main atrium, featuring seasonal collections presented by the modeling studio and agency Geomodels. The

showroom will be open for guests of Tbilisi Mall until April 24. MAC will be the official cosmetics brand of the Tbilisi fashion week, haircuts will be provided by ART House. From its foundation Tbilisi Fashion Week is aimed at supporting the Georgian fashion industry, and discovering emerging talents and promoting them. For the fourteen seasons of its existence, the organizers believe it had achieved

that goal, expanding Georgian fashion industry, transforming it into business and introducing it through the various fashion media outlets internationally. Tbilisi Fashion Week is now regarded as a space that assists new, talented and ambitious young Georgian designers to evolve and work both in the country and beyond. To a large extent Georgia being discovered and placed on the world’s fashion map is thanks to the contributions of Tbilisi Fashion Week, according

to the organizers. Tbilisi Fashion Week founders decided to start a new project within the Georgian fashion industry, offering a chance to the young, undiscovered designers to have full fashion shows at Tbilisi Fashion Week, giving them an opportunity to fully show their potential, get introduced to the wider public and professionals in the sphere. The participants will undergo a strict selection process to develop their collections.

Vilnius Airport Welcomes First Visa-free Georgians BY THEA MORRISON


he first Georgians to arrive at the capital of Lithuania following via liberalization were welcomed at the Vilnius Airport with a street banner installed near the airport. The banner says - "Closer than ever” in the English and Georgian languages. A photo of the banner was posted by the Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Simasius

on his personal page of Facebook. Georgian travelers were also greeted at the airport by the Mayor, Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister, and by local journalists and the Georgian Ambassador to Lithuania. The visa-free regime with the EU took effect on March 28, which means that all Georgians holding biometric passports can enter the Schengen Area for 90 days within any 180-day period for vacation, business, or any other purpose except work. Georgians are able to travel without



10 Galaktion Street

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

visas to the following 22 EU member states: Belgium, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Greece, France, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary, Finland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. Georgians can also travel without visas to four non-EU-member states (Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) as well as four Schengen candidate countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania and Croatia). Exceptions for visa-free travel include Ireland and the United Kingdom.


TK 387 TK 385 TK 383 TK 386 TK 384 TK 382





05.50 11.45 18.10 01.40 07.30 13.55

07.25 13.25 20.00 04.55 10.50 17.15





17.50 13.55

19.10 16.55

TK 381 EVERYDAY TK 380 TK 393 TK 392




MARCH 31 - APRIL 3, 2017


Bel Canto: George Andguladze BY MAKA LOMADZE


EORGIA TODAY met with George Andguladze, opera singer, representative of the splendid cast of the recent Aida, a renowned and exceptionally young Bass who, at the age of 32, has already conquered pinnacles in the world opera art. George Andguladze was a prodigy, from an early age participating in Georgian cultural days abroad as a soloist of the Philharmonic. During one of his musical trips in Kazakhstan, he met with legendary Robertino Loreti at the concert organized by the Kazakh first lady, where they sang a Neapolitan song in duo. “The Italian singer told me that he’d listened to many little ‘Robertinos’, but that I really reminded him of his childhood and promised to visit Georgia.” Purportedly, the Italian singer kept his word. “He said that I resembled him in everything, including the appearance,” George remembers. They sang in duo several times thereafter. “The recent Aida staged by Zeffirelli was my premiere in Tbilisi, which I treated with a great sense of responsibility.” George started singing folk songs at the age of 6. When he was 10, he became the youngest soloist of the Tbilisi Philharmonic. As a child he performed at various concerts and theaters, including: Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, Kremlin in Moscow, State Opera House of Georgia and Philharmonic Hall in Tbilisi, Binyanei Hauma of Jerusalem. George has shared the stage with such renowned conductors as Vladimir Minin, Givi Azmaiparashvili and Revaz Takidze, and performed with such orchestras as: the Orchestra of Russian Radio and Television, the Orchestra of Georgian Radio and Television, the Orchestra of the State

Opera House of Georgia, where the grand names James Brown, Robertino Loreti, Katia Ricciarelli, Paata Burchuladze, Renato Brusson, Kaludi Kaludov and Maia Plysetskaya joined him on stage. The young bass notes that even for him and his colleagues enjoying world acclaim, homeland is something incomparable. “I see many changes. First and foremost, I see the positive changes in people, their attitudes, something that in my opinion makes real changes for the country.” He also makes a comment about the indelible Aida, staged by Franco Zeffirelli that took place on March 4, at the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater: “I am really overwhelmed with emotions. I also talked to Daniel Oren who noted that even though he has conducted on all major stages of the world, he has rarely seen such enthusiasm from the public as that of Tbilisi.

I agree with him. I am really happy that I professionally met with my Georgian colleagues for first time and it happened in our home town. This is the incomparable sensation and energy that I got from singing with my compatriots. Frankly speaking, Ramfis is not my favorite part, but it is an important part for a bass singer and therefore, I did not decline it”. Nowadays, the former wunderkind’s repertoire is multifaceted. Apart from opera, it comprises Georgian and Russian romances, as well as Neapolitan songs, for which he gained a lot of awards. In 1998, Rai Uno telecasted him in the show World Talents. At the age of 13, he participated in the International Festival Bravo, organized by Paata Burchuladze, where he was awarded as the youngest participant. George tells us that his voice as a Bass

started to develop just two years ago, even though he has been singing in the global arena since 2011. “One of my first performances was in Parma, at Verdi’s Festival, which is considered to be probably the most prestigious festival in the world. However, the age of 32 is very young for a Bass singer.” Having graduated from Musical School (Tbilisi, Georgia) with a degree in piano, George proceeded with his studies and received a master’s degree in chorus conducting. He graduated at the Conservatory of Reggio Emilia with Maestro Mauro Trombetta and at the Accademia delle Voci Verdiane di Busseto. He completed his education attending masterclasses with Renato Bruson, Lella Cuberli, Bonaldo Giaiotti and Badri Maisuradze. Until today, he has been distinguished for his musicality, elegance and vocal talent. George’s debut in Il Mondo della

Luna at the Teatro Comunale di Ferrara in 2009 proved to be a triumph, revealing his vocal quality and artistic gift but the turning point in Andguladze’s career was to be Fernando’s part in Trovatore in Bussetto, Verdi’s hometown, in 2011. He has sung in Verdi’s other performances, too, such as Rigoletto, Simon Boccanegra, Don Carlo and Stiffelio. A cascade of success stories followed. In Moscow, he was the honorary guest of the Rostropovich Society. Andguladze has performed the part of the king in Verdi’s Aida by Zeffirelli in Italy, conducted by Marco Boemi. From the concert career, the gala concert held at Auditorium Ranier III is worth particular note, dedicated to Richard Straus and accompanied by the Orchestra of Monte Carlo Philharmonic directed by Jeffrey Tate. He is very nostalgic, which most probably helps him to live inside art and remain deeply in love with it, in spite of his young age, and stay faithful to eternal values. On March 19, George Andguladze participated in Messa di Requiem by G. Donizetti in the Mysterium Festival, conducted by Gianluigi Gelmetti. As for future plans: L’elisir d’amore by the famous sculptor Fernando Botero will be hired again for the State Opera House of Georgia in which he has already participated. In April, he will sing the part of Massimiliano of I Masnadieri at Teatro Regio di Parma, which he sang before and merited great appraisal in 2016 at the Verdi Festival, thanks to his musicality, art of Bel canto and thorough Verdi’s style. In July, he will take part in the concert in the New York Central Park and then will prepare for cooperation with the famous studio Decca Record where the part of Banco from Macbeth will be recorded. In September, he will perform the Inquisitor’s part in Don Carlos, in Salerno Verdi Theater, conducted by Daniel Oren.

78-Year-Old Classic Writer Guram Dochanashvili Summons Us to Love the Earth & Mankind BY MAKA LOMADZE


n March 29, the Information Center on NATO and European Union hosted the lecture of Guram Dochanashvili, famous Georgian classic writer. The meeting was dedicated to his 78th birthday. Guram Dochanashvili is the greatest Georgian writer alive today. His books count The First Garment – the most popular one, which is also included in the national school curriculum and was staged at the State Opera House of Georgia last year; The Man Who Loved Literature Very Much; Youth from Tavparavani; About Former Blind, a series of short stories, and more. This was a meeting with a young audience, saturated with the same healthy humor present in his books. The author remembered one story from an earlier period. Reportedly, in those days, the books were very cheap. Writers had quite a few copies that they could distribute among their relatives and friends for free. Among them was Aunt Katusha who was once left without a book. The young author got scolded by his grandmother and went to the suburb of the city in hopes of finding a copy for her. On entering the bookshop, the attendant told him that the book had sold out. “She was polite and encouraged me, but there are different kinds of encouragement,” Dochanashvili remembered with a laugh. And what do you think she said? “Don’t worry, I read the book! It was total stupidity!”

The lecture was interactive. To the question which is the most precious to the experienced author from his own literary creatures, he named ‘A Youth from Tavparavani’, based on Georgian folk poetry. The writer underscored the uniqueness of this genre, saying that it comprises the best ode to mother. To the question which book he would recommend to readers, he named the book of Catholicos Patriarch Ilia the Second. Dochanashvili voiced that everything – music, literature and art – should serve to make a human being better – a phrase that he thought he had invented, but that

had existed before him. Again his calm and kind sense of humor, full of modesty. Dochanashvili did not preach, however, he sadly noted that bad language has been spread around far too much. He also underlined that real creative talent is always accompanied with assiduity, and “one cannot live without another”. “However, we should not boast about our talent, nor about our beauty. It has nothing to do with us, as we have been granted it,” he noted. To the question whether titles come first or texts, he said: “Very often, titles come to my mind first. I think it is very

difficult to find a title after the book is over.” The main virtue of the writer is the honesty. He notes with sorrow that animated films are very sadistic nowadays, which poisons children. “As if wolves are the positive heroes, not the rabbits,” he says with a bitter laugh, noting that the aggression in films reflects on children and youngsters which he thinks is not their fault at all. “I am very happy. The questions were very interesting, that fills me both with joy and a grown sense of responsibility to the youth,” Dochanashvili said after

the meeting. “This meeting took place within the framework of the cycle ‘I, European’, to talk about the literature and culture and mark his birthday. Such meetings will be held weekly,” Giorgi Pareshishvili, Deputy Director of the Information Center on NATO and European Union, told us. Following the meeting, the public, which mainly consisted of students who were so abundant that they could not be roomed and whose long line wove out into the street, got the chance to get Guram Dochanashvili’s books with his autograph.




MARCH 31 - APRIL 3, 2017


TBILISI ZAKARIA PALIASHVILI OPERA AND BALLET THEATER Address: 25 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 04 56 April 1 GORDA D. Toradze's ballet Choreography by Vakhtang Chabukiani Choreographic version and staging by Nina Ananiashvili Conductor: Revaz Takidze Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 30 GEL

KATHARINA BLUM Directed by Mikheil Charkviani Language: Georgian English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 16 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 555 260 March 31 Premiere PERFORMANCE DON JUAN Directed by Kakha Bakuradze Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 15 GEL CINEMA

GABRIADZE THEATER Address: 13 Shavtelis Str. Telephone: 2 98 65 93 April 6 MARSHAL DE FANTIE’S DIAMOND Rezo Gabriadze Directed by Rezo Gabriadze English Subtitles Start time: 20:00 Ticket price: 10, 15, 20 GEL GEORGIAN STATE PANTOMIME THEATER Address: 37 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 99 63 14 April 1 NATRVRIS KHE Start time: 21:00 Ticket: 20 GEL Venue: 1 Melikishvili Ave., Event Hall TBILISI VASO ABASHIDZE MUSIC AND DRAMA STATE THEATER Address: 182 D.Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 2 34 80 90 April 1, 2 DIVORCE Giorgi Eristavo Directed by Davit Doiashvili Musical Comedy Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 8, 10 GEL MARJANISHVILI THEATER Address: 5 Marjanishvli Str. Telephone: 2 95 59 66 April 6 THE LOST HONOR OF

AMIRANI CINEMA Address: 36 Kostava Str. Telephone: 2 99 99 55 Every Wednesday ticket price: 5 Lari March 31- April 6 GHOST IN THE SHELL Directed by Rupert Sanders Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Juliette Binoche, Rila Fukushima Genre: Action, Crime, Drama Language: English Start time: 16:30, 19:30 Language: Russian Start time: 16:45, 22:15 Ticket: 10-14 GEL BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Directed by Bill Condon Cast: Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor Genre: Family, Fantasy, Musical Language: Russian Start time: 16:30, 19:20 Ticket: 10-14 GEL SPLIT Directed by M. Night Shyamalan Cast: James McAvoy, Anya TaylorJoy, Haley Lu Richardson Genre: Horror, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 19:20 Ticket: 13-14 GEL LIFE Directed by Daniel Espinosa Cast: Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller Language: Russian Start time: 22:20 Ticket: 13-14 GEL

RUSTAVELI CINEMA Address: 5 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 55 50 00 Every Wednesday ticket: 5 GEL March 31- April 6 GHOST IN THE SHELL (Info Above) Start time: 14:10, 17:00, 19:45, 22:35 Ticket: 9-14 GEL LIFE (Info Above) Start time: 16:30, 19:20 Ticket: 10-14 GEL SPLIT (Info Above) Start time: 22:00 Ticket: 13-14 GEL MUSEUM


OF FINE ARTS COLLECTION IOSEB GRISHASHVILI TBILISI HISTORY MUSEUM - KARVASLA Address: 8 Sioni Str. Telephone: 2 98 22 81 March 15 – April 15 THE EXHIBITION "DIFFERENTLY THAN USUAL MODERN DESIGN AND THE POWER OF CUSTOMS /ANDERS ALS IMMER. ZEITGENÖSSISCHES DESIGN UND DIE MACHT DES GEWOHNTEN" The exhibition showcases 148 works by designers and groups of designers from 47 European countries. Miscellaneous projects are free from influence: their structure, function and meaning is perfectly comprehensible. MUSEUM OF SOVIET OCCUPATION Address: 3 Sh. Rustaveli Ave. PERMANENT EXHIBITION Visitors can discover the State's personal files of "subversive" Georgian public figures, orders to shoot or exile, and other artifacts representing Soviet-era cultural and political repression in Georgia. ART PALACE Address: 6 Kargareteli Str. Telephone: 2 95 35 63 March 31 – April 11 The exhibition MAELSTROM: FRANZ MARK, GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM AND MODERNISM IN GEORGIA The exhibition will showcase the works created by Irakli Gamrekeli, Kirill Zdanevich, Lado Gudiashvili, David Kakabadze, Beno Gordeziani, Petre Otskheli, Elene Akhvlediani, and other artists tell us about the united strong wave of theater and cinema, literature and art created by the epoch of Modernism. Curator: Ketevan Kintsurashvili Exposition and graphic design: David Janiashvili Video and sound: Giorgi Janiashvili


MOMA TBILISI Address: 27 Rustaveli Ave. Telephone: 2 98 60 30



Salome Rigvava is an active representative of young painters. Her exhibitions are organized abroad and after a 4-year break, for the first time in Georgia. LITERATURE MUSEUM Address: 8 Chanturia Str. Telephone: 2 99 86 67 April 4-22 VAKHO BUGADZE’S PERSONAL EXHIBITION Dedicated to Oto Bagrationi. GALLERY


DJANSUG KAKHIDZE TBILISI CENTER FOR MUSIC & CULTURE Address: 125/127 Agmashenebeli Ave. Telephone: 295 01 19 April 1 THE CONCERT DEDICATED TO THE BIRTHDAY OF SERGEI RACHMANINOFF Georgian State Choir performing for a mixed choir ALL-NIGHT VIGIL Start time: 19:30 Ticket: From 5 GEL MOVEMENT THEATER Address: 182, Aghmashenebeli Ave., Mushthaid park Telephone: 599 07 50 61 April 4, 6 JAZZ AT MT RESO KIKNADZE QUINTET Free Admission Start time: 21:00 April 5 MILONGA, LA CUMPARSITA ARGENTINE TANGO DANCE NIGHT Start time: 20:00 Ticket: 5 GEL TBILISI STATE CONSERVATOIRE Address: 8 Griboedov Str. Telephone: 2 93 46 24 April 1 AFTER HOURS SESSION 25th Anniversary of Georgia-Japan Diplomatic Relations & Cooperation with the Embassy of Japan in Georgia Keiko Ueda- Flute Yasuo Oshima- Oboe Hiroki Matsubara- Clarinet Yu Sekomune- Horn Hajime Shuto- Bassoon Yasuko Ukon- Piano George Babuadze- Conductor/Violin Program: F. Danzi- Wind quintet in G minor, op.56 #2 W. A. Mozart- Concerto for piano and orchestra in B flat major #27, k.595, Adagio for violin and orchestra in E major k.261, Symphony #40 in G minor, k.550 Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5-15 GEL April 4 GEORGIA MODERN Ensemble of modern music Participants: Nino Zhvania, Rezo Kiknadze, Lela Mchedlidze, Shota Gogodze, Sandro Chidjavadze, Tamar Zhvania, Teimuraz Kharadze Start time: 19:00 Ticket: 5 GEL




13 International Sports Tournaments Planned by Check in Georgia Championship; World Youth Handball Championship; Chess World Cup; and Women’s Volleyball European Championship Finals will be held in Georgia in 2017. “All of this is, of course, recognition of our country and of the reforms the Georgian government is making,” said Minister Khechikashvili. “Georgia is gaining an important place on the world sports map and it helps the development of sports and sportsmen, as well as the growth of awareness of our country. Georgian sports fans will have a chance to see existing and future world sports stars and enjoy their high class performances”. “Hosting international tournaments is our goal, as sports create a positive image of the country. These competitions will have media coverage in many countries around the world and it will of course affect Georgia’s image very positively,” Bochorishvili added. The Check in Georgia project annually brings together a series of activities and events in the cultural, sports, and business tourism spheres.



eorgia is to host an unprecedented number of international sports tournaments in 2017 within the Check in Georgia project. A detailed presentation was made by Tariel Khechikashvili, Minister of Sports and Youth affairs of Georgia, Deputy Minister Akaki Lodia, and Ketevan Bochorishvili, Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, at Tbilisi Marriott Hotel on March 29, where Georgian sports federations and Judo international federation representatives gathered. The Judo Grand Prix; Georgia-Lithuania Davis Cup Match, European Championship in Sumo, World Run Wings for Life, European Championship in Wushu; European Rafting Championship; World Youth Rugby Championship; European Fencing Championship; European Youth Football

Presentation of Check in Georgia sports events planned

St David’s College Rugby Tour to Georgia


t David’s College from North Wales are the first British school to bring a rugby tour to Georgia. They have an action packed schedule beginning with their first game against one of the Georgian Rugby Academy teams on Saturday April 1 at 11am at the Martkopi Rugby Ground. They will also get a chance to watch some of the Big Ten sides play on Sunday followed by their own second game on Tuesday April 4 at 4pm at the Shevardeni Stadium. The team will be housed in the National Team’s training facilities at Shevardeni and are very honored to have National Coach, Milton Haig, putting them through their paces in a training session on Monday morning. Head of PE Daniel Lycett said, “this is a great opportunity for the boys to experience a trip of a lifetime to a country very few people travel to. We are extremely privileged that the Georgian Rugby Union has been so hospitable to us”. They will also meet the British Ambassador and hear more about the UK’s activities in Georgia, visit Social Café and gallery Rhea’s Squirrels, which supports local, disabled children, and take part in a mixed Georgian and British Quiz with students from Education and Training International, ETI, to help them learn more about Georgia and for

local Georgian students to learn more about Britain. Whilst recovering between games, they will also have time to see the sights of Tbilisi and enjoy Georgian food, music and culture. The tour is supported in Georgia by the Georgian Rugby Federation, Kemsley Tours and ETI. Georgians and the local expatriate community are invited to come out and watch the rugby on Saturday and Tuesday. Any questions about the match venue should be addressed to Pam KemsleyDugladze at



Commercial Director: Iva Merabishvili Marketing Manager: Mariam Giorgadze



Editor-In-Chief: Katie Ruth Davies

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Dimitri Dolaberidze, Maka Lomadze, Tim Ogden, Joseph Larsen, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Nino Gugunishvili, Thea Morrison Photographer: Irakli Dolidze

Website Manager: Tamzin Whitewood Website Copy-Editor: Gabrielle Guerrier Layout: Misha Mchedlishvili Webmaster: Sergey Gevenov Circulation Managers: David Kerdikashvili, David Djandjgava


1 Melikishvili Str. Tbilisi, 0179, Georgia Tel.: +995 32 229 59 19 E: F: GeorgiaToday ADVERTISING & SUBSCRIPTION

+995 595 279997 E-mail: marketing@

Reproducing material, photos and advertisements without prior editorial permission is strictly forbidden. The author is responsible for all material. Rights of authors are preserved. The newspaper is registered in Mtatsminda district court. Reg. # 06/4-309




MARCH 31 - APRIL 3, 2017

Thrashing of Latvia Can’t Heal Georgia’s World Cup Wounds BY ALASTAIR WATT


he emotionless expression of Jano Ananidze’s face after he walloped home a spectacular goal to put Georgia four ahead against Latvia on Tuesday 28 March said it all. Too little, too late. Four days too late, to be exact. Head coach Vladimir Weiss had called up a squad of 24 players for what was billed a double header, concluding with a friendly against Latvia, and starting with a World Cup qualifier against Serbia on Friday 24 March. Clearly though, it was the first of these encounters that would carry all of the importance. Georgia had played well in each of their opening four qualifiers against Austria, Ireland, Wales and Moldova but only had two points to show for their efforts. Therefore, only victory against Serbia would keep alive already slim hopes of reaching a World Cup for the first time ever. And, in front of a boisterous 30,000 home crowd at Tbilisi’s Dinamo Arena, it started perfectly. A suicidal backpass by Aleksandr Kolarov allowed surprise starter Nika Kacharava to poke the ball past the never convincing Vladimir Stojkovic – whose appearance once ignited a riot by his own supporters in

Genoa – to give the Georgians a precious sixth minute lead. Euphoric scenes ensued. The Georgians continued to create chances, with Vako Kazaishvili forcing an unnecessarily dramatic save from Stojkovic soon after. The Legia midfielder then passed up a glorious opportunity to double Georgia’s lead in the 34th minute, shooting wide when clean through and with a teammate waiting unmarked in the middle. This proved a significant turning point as the Serbs were level before half-time. Georgian right-back Otar Kakabadze dragged down Serbia’s Filip Kostic to concede a clear penalty kick, duly converted by Southampton’s Dusan Tadic. That blow somewhat killed the halftime mood at the Dinamo and worse was to follow after the interval. Although Ananidze and the returning Jaba Kankava did produce noteworthy saves from Stojkovic on around the hour mark, the visitors, perhaps not deservedly, took the lead for the first time in the 64th minute courtesy of a merciless finish from striker Alaksandar Mitrovic from 20 meters. Georgia huffed and puffed but without properly threatening an equaliser, and Serbia made sure of victory four minutes from the end as Tadic fed Mijat Gacinovic to kill off another World Cup dream. The result left Georgia trailing joint group leaders Serbia and Ireland by

nine points with five matches remaining. Mission impossible, although a top three finish could still be within reach and that may have some value when it comes to seeding for Euro 2020 qualification. Four days later, and a significantly smaller home crowd enjoyed a highly

attractive 5-0 demolition of Latvia. Ananidze’s 18th minute penalty broke the deadlock after which a double from Rapid Vienna striker Giorgi Kvilitaia gave some encouragement that he might be Georgia’s long-awaited solution for the number nine jersey. A second for Ananidze late in the sec-

ond half, spectacularly dispatched from 25 meters, was followed by a free-kick by newcomer Giorgi Arabidze to seal an emphatic, but ultimately hollow, win. Next up for Georgia is a friendly against St Kitts and Nevis before a qualifier in Moldova, both to be played in early June.

Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #933  

March 31 - April 3, 2017

Issue #933  

March 31 - April 3, 2017