1 Dec 2015
Georgia – November 2015
“Rustavi 2” Lawsuit, abolishing compulsory military service, visit of Azerbaijan’s President to Georgia, and scandalous painting of Virgin Mary
In November, the public eye was focused on the broadcasting company “Rustavi 2” lawsuit. On November 3, the Tbilisi City Court decided the matter in favor of the previous owner of the company Kibar Khalvashi, who in August had made a claim to the court to return his shares of the company. This decision was called politically motivated by 9 of the most influential nongovernmental organizations in Georgia. The USA embassy, the EU representatives, and the leaders of embassies of the EU countries in Georgia released a joint statement calling to the government and the law enforcement intuitions to protect media pluralism.
Another significant development in November has been the support of the law committee of the Parliament of Georgia to the abolishment of compulsory military service. According to the bill, the law should be in place by January 1, 2016.
On November 19, Irakli Shotadze was selected as Attorney General of Georgia. The Minister of Justice qualified his reformatory course as his positive side and his age of 32 as the negative one.
On the contrary, an experience of 35 years as an opera singer did not keep Paata Burtchuladze back from changing the sphere of activity and founding a new organization – Development Foundation of Georgia. Moreover, Burtchuladze didn’t exclude the possibility of beginning a political career as well.
The messages of the Islamic State did not bypass Georgia. On November 23, a propagandist video message was broadcasted for Georgian people in the name of the Islamist State. Georgian speaking men criticized Muslim churchmen who live in the Adjara region of Georgia and threatened to behead the “the faithless people living in Georgia that have been fighting Islam”.
Related to the topic of terrorism and after the terroristic attacks in Paris on November 13, border security has been intensified and 479 foreign citizens have been denied entrance to Georgia according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
On November 5, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev visited Georgia. After a meeting with the President of Georgia, he said he did not have any disagreements with Georgia. However, it is speculated that the meeting was about Georgia receiving gas from “Gazprom”. At the meeting, Aliyev said that Azerbaijan has so much gas that it could satisfy not only its own demand but also that of the neighboring countries for the next 100 years. Earlier Georgia’s Vice Premier and Minister of Energy Kakha Kaladze had announced that Azerbaijan doesn’t have additional resources for Georgia
The external politics scene was also marked by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini’s visit to Georgia on November 10. At the meeting held with Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Gharibashvili, she approved of the measures taken by Georgia in accordance with the Association Agreement. She thanked Georgia for taking part in the EU operations in the Central African Republic and Mali. Meanwhile, the EU-Georgia Association Council held its second meeting in Brussels on November 16 to discuss the progress achieved so far in the implementation of the Association Agreement.
On November 19 in Prague, Russian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigory Karasin approved the direct negotiations between Moscow and Tbilisi saying that dialogue will help to lead the relationship of the countries out from a “dark and unproductive blind alley”.
According to Geostat, in October 2015 the inflation rate in Georgia was higher by 0.8 percent than in the previous month’s reports. This has been the cause of the higher prices on products like food, nonalcoholic beverages and medicine.
Another negative indicator has been the increase of the public sector debt of Georgia. The data from the first three quarters of 2015, compared to the data from the first three quarters of 2014 year, has shown an increase of 25 percent or 2.47 billion lari (about $1 billion).
On a more positive note, the National Agency of Wine announced that the last 10 months of 2015 have shown growth in export to many of the EU countries from Georgia. As the agency states, during the last 10 months, 42 countries received 28,101,431 bottles (each 0.75 liters) of wine, which adds up to a total sum of $77.2 million.
Meanwhile, the excise tax on tobacco and alcoholic beverages will increase from January 1 according to the Finance Minister of Georgia.
The economy around nonalcoholic beverages is also on the go. In particular, the Georgian government plans to rehabilitate tea plantations in the country through the “Georgian Tea” program prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia.
The building speed of new power stations in Georgia cannot satisfy the growing needs of the country. During the last 5 years, the generation of power has been increased by 23 percent and the consumption of energy by 27 percent.
Society, Culture, and Sport
November had a loud beginning in the cultural field. On November 2, a group of citizens addressed a petition to President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili, Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church Ilia II and Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Gharibashvili to protect artist Lia Ukleba who painted Virgin Mary killing herself with a gun. Patriarch Ilia II talked had deemed the painting insulting to the country and the religion.
Another cultural development has been the launch of the “Tbilisi Open Film Forum”, a new festival emerging on the base of the “Russian Film Festival” in Tbilisi. On November 4-8, 10 countries were represented by 30 films. The organizers of the festival link the change of the name to the change of the format.
From November 13 till December 6, “Tbilisi Baroque Festival” will be held for the first time in Transcaucasia. On every concert during the festival, music will be played on vintage instruments.
On November 17, the exhibition of Aleksandre Kartveli was opened in the National museum. He is one of the first innovators in the field of American and world aviation. Aleksandre Kartveli created several models of military airplanes during World War Two.
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.