1 Oct 2015
Georgia – September 2015
Start of the school year, protests of vignerons, electricity price hike, establishment of relations with China, and film festival victories
Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili announced at the annual Ambassadorial meeting that he does not see alternatives to the peaceful dialogue and pragmatic politics in the relations with Russia. In the words of the Prime Minister, such politics increases Georgia’s stability, and the government should therefore stick to it. Concerning the other neighbors, the head of the government noted that Georgia has close collaboration ties with Azerbaijan, as well as with Turkey and Armenia.
However, the representatives of the United National Movement opposition party accuse the government of inaction. One of the leaders of the party, Member of the Georgian Parliament Nugzar Tsikaluri demands the government’s resignation since in his opinion “the government is not doing anything in regard to the occupied territories.” “We all remember well Minister Zakareishvili’s statement holding that the success of the Georgian government is keeping Russia locked in the occupied territories…,” stated Tsiklauri.
In his turn, Minister of Reconciliation and Civic Equality Paata Zakareishvili expressed his opinion in a letter. In his words, the most obvious expression of “the occupation are the border demarcation signposts and barbed wire fence that are installed and erected by the Russian military with varying intensity and based on relevance. These signposts and the barbed wire fence are the only means of aggression that the occupants are left with,” writes Zakareishvili.
Despite the complexity of the situation with neighboring Russia, there are constituencies in Georgia that demand fence mending and resumption of diplomatic relations. In September, more than 100 people held a pro-Russian demonstration with similar demands in front of the presidential residency.
In addition to non-governmental organizations, some politicians also favor rapprochement with the Russian Federation. Leader of the Democratic Movement Nino Burjanadze visited Saint Petersburg at the invitation of the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament. “We have to look for new avenues to solve these problems, and I am doing everything to that end. I promise my people that I will bring about a turning-point in the Russian-Georgian relations and will start addressing the issues that are especially painful for our country,” said Burjanadze.
September began with post shifts in the government of Georgia. On September 1, Minister of Foreign Affairs Tamar Beruchashvili left her post that was filled by Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Georgi Kvirikashvili. Consequently, former Vice-Mayor of Tbilisi Dmitri Kusishvili assumed the office of the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development. A scandal revolved around the newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgi Kvirikashvili’s mention of cooperation with the “Eurasian continent” that the media interpreted as alluding to the Eurasian Union.
The trial against former Mayor of Tbilisi Gigi Ugulava also gained publicity. He was sentenced to 4 years and 6 months of imprisonment for misappropriation of budget funds. The United National Movement party and its supporters hold that Ugulava’s case is politically motivated. Ombudsman of Georgia Ucha Nanushvili is going to study the case.
On the background of political peripeteia, Georgia is preparing for the mid-term elections to be held on October 31, 2015. Despite previous intention to boycott the elections, the United National Movement opposition party has decided to participate to use the intended privileges and the free broadcast time. On September 5, the Central Electoral Commission registered the United National Movement as a participant to the elections.
In the run-up to the elections, Georgia has ranked 69 – an improvement of 15 places from last year – among 180 countries in the press freedom index published by the Reporters without Borders.
September kicked off with an electricity price hike. In line with the decision of the Georgian National Energy and Water Supply Regulatory Commission, the electricity purchase price has increased by 5 tetri (about $0.02) and this has influenced the tariff of Telasi JSC that purchases electricity for Tbilisi.
Georgia for the first time started producing aircraft parts of world importance. “Out of high-tech materials, the company will be producing parts for passenger planes for such world giants as Boeing, Bombardier, Sukhoi, Airbus. Of course, the production of the company will be entirely for export,” – stated Prime Minister Garibashvili. The project is implemented in partnership with the Israeli ELIBIT Systems company and the Georgian Partnership Fund. The company will be launched in 2017.
Another important event in the sphere of economy has been the meeting between Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili and his Chinese colleague Li Keqiang that put a start to negotiations on free bilateral trade. According to the administration of the Georgian government, Georgia will be the pioneer in the region in that respect.
One of the widely discussed topics of the month became the demonstrations of the Georgian vignerons protesting against the low prices of grapes. The state purchases white grapes for 60 tetri ($0.25) and black grapes for 85 tetri ($0.35). In 2014, the price ranged from 1 ($0.41) to 2 lari ($0.83).
Society, Culture, and Sport
By symbolic coincidence exactly 3 months after the natural disaster of June 13, the Tbilisi zoo reopened to visitors. Zoo director Zurab Gurielidze said that by Spring 2016, new arrivals are expected. Despite the tragedy, the zoo already saw the arrival of several newborn animals.
Schools and higher education institutions welcomed students all over Georgia on September 14. As the Georgian Ministry of Education and Science communicated, teacher salaries will be raised for the 2015-2016 school year. Starting from September 1, the base salary increases by 50 lari ($21). Teachers of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th degrees will receive a further increase of 160 lari ($67), 250 lari ($104), and 300 lari ($125) respectively.
The Georgian national football team defeated Scotland 1:0 in the qualifications for the European Championship. Despite the victory, it still ranks 5th in the qualification Group D. The match between the Georgian and Scottish national teams took place in the Dinamo Arena stadium in Tbilisi.
On September 9, the Georgian basketball players celebrated their first victory in the qualifications of the Eurobasket. The Georgian national team defeated the Macedonian national team 90:75.
Georgian rugby players brought home another victory in the world of sport from the Rugby World Cup in England. With the score 17:30, they defeated the Tongan national team that ranks in the top 20 of the world.
The Georgian cinematography registered achievements in September as well. The film “Brides” directed by Tinatin Kajrishvili received 2 awards in the film festivals in Romania and Bulgaria. At the international film festival in the Bulgarian city of Verna, “Brides” was awarded the main prize of the jury – “Aphrodite,” and at the Romanian international film festival, it brought the best actress award to Mari Kitia.
The names of the winners of the annual Georgian Literature Prize were also announced. This year, “Saba” was awarded to 9 nominees. Besides the special award, the statue in the shape a quill, the winners were granted with money awards.
This news review reflects the major events of the month and is based on media publications. The views expressed in the Review may be different from the views of the editors of the Caucasus Edition.