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Russia-Georgia border hit by bad weather

by | February 2, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Snowfall and strong winds are making trouble for people all over Georgia. More than 72 000 were without electricity Thursday morning. The biggest distributor, Energo-Pro, said they had brought down the number of customers without power from 64 000 to around 49 000 by early afternoon. Motorists are heavily affected. Sections of some highways are closed in the east, according to a spokesman for the Regional Development and Infrastructure Ministry. Because of risk of avalanches, the road has been blocked in parts of the high mountainous area Kazbegi, the only road currently connecting Georgia to its northern neighbor Russia. The stretches of road between Stepantsminda-Lars and Gudauri-Kobi are closed, according to ministry spokesman Nugzar Gasviani, interviewed on Imedi TV. The Gudauri-Kobi road has been closed several times during the last year. Gasviani says only vehicles using skid chains will be allowed through. The bad weather has also created trouble in the vicinity of Tbilisi. According to Kakheti information center, the road Vaziani-Gombori-Telavi has been closed, and restrictions apply other places.

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Saakashvili’s account of Obama meeting challenged

by | February 1, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Georgian president says the results of his meeting with U.S. president Barack Obama exceeded his expectations. President Mikheil Saakashvili said the issues he discussed with Obama at the White House Monday represent “a new and higher level of cooperation between the two countries; on the one hand military security and on the other hand in the economic spheres". “I want that we all acknowledge that this is unimaginably big thing for Georgian economy. The U.S. has a free trade agreement with its close partners and signing this agreement was very solid ground for a serious leap for each country,” he told journalists after the meeting. But Georgian political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze disagrees with what Saakashvili says and claims that there is nothing in the released material which gives grounds for such overjoyous statements. He says that the strategic partnership charter signed between Georgia and the U.S. in the wake of the 2008 Russo-Georgian war contained all the things that Saakashvili now touts as something new. “I think the charter mentioned this and this is a planned step forward. The second ...

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U.S. to take more active role in building Georgia’s defense

by | February 1, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili says that his country's military cooperation with the United States is moving into a new phase. According Saakashvili's press spokesperson, America no longer only prepares Georgian forces for tasks like anti-terrorism or the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, but takes an active role in building Georgia's military capability. According to Giorgi Baramidze, state minister for European integration, this deepening of cooperation means providing weapons and equipment. Press spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze says U.S. president Barack Obama and Mr Saakashvili directly discussed how to improve Georgia's security, while meeting at the White House Monday. After their meeting Saakashvili told journalists that military cooperation for years had been within the frameworks of anti-terrorist operations or participation in Afghanistan and Iraq missions, but now the America will take an active role in developing Georgia's defense. He says meetings have been scheduled between appropriate officials from the two countries to further deepen military cooperation. Manjgaladze says Georgia's National Security Council Secretary will hold a meeting with representatives of the U.S. defense department, and in the near future there will also be a meeting bewteen the ...

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Obama and Georgia’s Saakashvili did not discuss Iran

by | January 31, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - According to the Georgian president’s administration, Iran was not on the agenda of Monday's meeting between U.S. president Barack Obama and president Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia. Before the meeting many had been speculating that the two would be discussing the increased tension between Iran and the U.S., especially in light of how close Georgia is to Iran. But Saakashvili's press spokesperson Manana Manjgaladze said at her regular briefing Tuesday that Iran had not been a topic during the talks. “This issue wasn't on the agenda at all, accordingly it couldn’t have become the subject to review. The issue regarding Iran or any new operation wasn’t discussed,” she said.

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Georgia hopeful about new ‘Swiss’ border checks

by | January 28, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Georgian Speaker of Parliament Davit Bakradze hopes that Switzerland will be able to fully monitor the flow of goods across the border between Georgia and Russia. Bakradze said this at a meeting with the delegation of the Swiss Foreign Affairs Department. Russia occupied parts of Georgia's territories after the war in August 2008. Georgia has been striving for a control regime for the flow of goods across these border. After Swiss-hosted negotiations last year about Russia's WTO accession, an agreement was made that Georgia would accept Russia as a member of the Word Trade Organizations in return for a new control regime on the border to be run by a private company overseen by Swiss authorities. Bakradze says the Swiss side played an important role in the negotiations about WTO and now it is important for Georgia that the achieved agreement will be fully implemented. “Switzerland has a crucial importance and function in the issue of monitoring of goods and it is important for us that goods be fully monitored on the Georgia-Russia border; also that Georgia has complete information ...

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Georgia answers Medvedev’s invitation: ‘Any time’

by | January 26, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia’s foreign minister says his country never refused to restore negotiations with Russia. Grigol Vashadze made the statement during a session of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly, while answering a question from an MP from the Netherlands. After a speech by Vashadzem the Dutch MP wanted to know what his views were on how to restore negotiations with Russia. Russian president Dimitry Medvedev earlier Wednesday said during a meeting with students that Russia wants to restore diplomatic relations with the Georgian government, but not with the Georgian president. Asnwering the question from the Dutch MP, Vashadze said: “We never say no to negotiations. We are ready for it any time, any place, but first of all we should know the goal of the negotiations and what structure it will have.” Another MP in the Council of Europe was interested in how the dialogue will be done while Russia refuses to have the relations with the current government of Georgia. “The Russian government doesn’t want to talk to the democratically elected Georgian government. After the elections in 2012-2013, when a new government ...

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Medvedev wants to restore diplomatic relations with Georgia

by | January 26, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Russian president Dimitry Medvedev says he wants to restore diplomatic relations with Georgia. But the president adds, only if he won’t have to shake hands with one person. That one person is understood to be Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili. Diplomatic relations with Russia and Georgia suspended after the war in 2008, when Russia occupied Georgian territories. Russian officials have said a number of times told that the Georgian president is unacceptable for them and refused to communicate with him. Medvedev made this statement on a meeting with students on January 25. “We are absolutely ready to restore diplomatic relations with Georgia. We didn't break them off. There is only one person I don’t want to have business with. You probably know who I am talking about, I won’t meet him and shake his hand,’ Medvedev said. Regarding other politicians and officials, and the Georgian people, the Russian president claims that he 'very much wants the estrangement phase to be finished as soon as possible'. “Several steps have been already taken in this direction. Specifically, flights are restored between the two countries. It’s necessary to ...

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Saakashvili to also meet Biden and Boehner

by | January 25, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili plans to meet other top people while he's over to talk with President Obama, including the Vice President and the House Speaker. While in Washington, President Saakashvili will have meetings with other top people both in the U.S.'s legislative and executive branch, including Vice President Joe Biden and John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives. Next Monday's meeting between the Georgian and American presidents will be important in many regards, noted president Mikheil Saakashvili's press spokesperson Tuesday. She says that the U.S.' support has been important for the protection of Georgian independence and sovereignty for the last 20 years. Manana Manjgaladze also emphasized that the support has been important for the country’s democratic reforms and economic development, and the success of Georgia on the way to NATO integration. The meeting between Barack Obama and Mikheil Saakashvili will be held on January 30 at the White House. Topis for discussion will be defense and security issues, strengthening democratic reforms, and cooperation on a number of areas, including economy, energy and trade. The two sides will discuss deepening existing ...

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Georgian president questions Human Rights Watch report

by | January 25, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, says through his press speaker that he may not agree with everything Human Rights Watch (HRW) is writing about his country. HRW's World Report 2011 is sharp in its criticism of the situation in Georgia, much of which revolves around the police operation to clear a peaceful protest in front of parliament on the night of 26 May. The organization points to shortcomings of the justice system, both in terms of not protecting the rights of those who were exposed to police brutality that night, including journalists, but also in not launching a single criminal investigation against policemen, although sixteen were disciplined and four of them dismissed. Furthermore, the influential group makes reference to the spy charges against four journalists in July, a case which is still classified and was settled by a plea bargain agreement, and the unscheduled audit of the media company Palitra. Both cases are by some seen as retribution for journalists covering the police brutality on May 26, HRW notes. President Saakashvili's press speaker says his administration carefully studies all information regarding ...

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Kitsmarishvili lost suit to claim Ivanishvili TV

by | January 24, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Tbilisi City Court did not grant Rustavi Media Management Company's request to sequester TV Company Igrika ltd. The reason is that Igrika ltd is no more the property of Ilia Kikabidze, general director of the independent TV company Maestro. A week ago Eroski Kitsmarishvili's Rustavi Media Management Company went to court, demanding to seize Igrika ltd because of damages to personal property. The story around Maestro events begin in December 2011, after Kitsmarishvili intruded into the company building, fired the directors and refused to leave. The police sided with him and helped in evicting the journalists from the building, and there has since been a frozen stand-off with Maestro broadcasting from a radio studio. Maestro was seized by Tbilisi City Court a month and a half ago, after Kitrsmarishvili requested it. Then there's another TV station called Igreka, that recently surfaced in the news when ownership of it was transferred to the company Aktsept one week ago. The latter is the property of opposition financier Bidzina Ivanishvili’s wife, Ekaterine Khvedelidze. Recently it became known that people around Ivanishvili have decided to found ...

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Ruling party mobilizing, gathering passport numbers

by | January 23, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia's ruling party has already started mobilizing supporters, before a date for the parliamentary election has been announced. Georgian newspaper Mteli Kvira reports that the National Movement Party has begun compiling lists of of supporters around the various districts of Tbilisi. Party activists are going round collecting passport numbers of people who are ready to vote for the ruling party in the upcoming election. The newspaper has asked several independent election commentators who say that there doesn't seem to be anything illegal with the ruling party's mobilization. Activists go from door to door and build up a list of people who promise that when they enter the voting booth, presumably sometime in October, they will circle the number of the the National Movement of president Mikheil Saakashvili. Non-governmental organizations working on electoral issues say the Election Code does not prohibit this, but it depends on what way this list is used. Previous elections have been blighted by various kinds of pressure being exerted on voters and by vote-buying.

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Georgia will support West in case of Iran crisis

by | January 22, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - A Georgian parliamentarian from the governing party says his country will support the West in case of a confrontation between Iran and the U.S. Davit Darchiashvili, head of the Euro-integration committee, says that ‘in case of an Iran-U.S. confrontation, Georgia’s choice will be clear’, which means that ‘Georgia will be with its international democratic partners.’ The MP was being asked questions January 20 from journalists about what Georgia will do if there is a war between the U.S. and Iran. “Everything is possible, but it’s unlikely that Iran will close the Strait of Hormuz and stop the rest of the world's access to oil supplies,” Darchiashvili said. On the other hand, in his opinion they will be thinking of a compromise in Iran. But in case of global tension and a confrontation, ‘Georgia’s choice will be very clear – to be together or against its international democratic partners. But I don’t think it will come to this.’ According to him, blocking off international transportation is considered one of the biggest crimes and if any country does this, serious steps will be taken ...

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Georgia not in talks about U.S. missile shield

by | January 21, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze says there are currently no negotiations with the United States about deployment of missile defense installations on the territory of Georgia. After the announcement of a meeting between the presidents of the U.S. and Georgia on January 30, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin spoke about the possibility of the U.S. deploying parts of its anti-missile system in Georgia. The Georgian government didn’t comment what PM Putin said. But both the parliament majority and part of the opposition say that they would have supported the deployment of such installations, while making it clear that they do not know about such negotiations. "On this level it’s not foreseen to review such issues," Nino Kalandadze told DF Watch on January 20. She added that there is an expectation that at the meeting between the presidents ‘priorities will be given to issues important to Georgia’.

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Four Georgian survivors from ‘Edirne’ return today

by | January 20, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - The four surviving Georgian crew members from a Turkish tanker that sank off the coast of Albania will return home today. Avto Basiladze, Koba Partenadze, Vladimer Varshanidze and Ioseb Katamadze were flown from Tirana to Istanbul yesterday and were given further medical examinations there before returning to Batumi sometime today. One Georgian is confirmed dead; Beka Urushadze, as well as the ship’s Azerbaijani captain, Khayyam Mammadov. Another Georgian, Malkhaz Lazishvili, is still missing. There are currently negotiations about the transfer of Urushadze’s body. The Turkish tanker Edirne had just unloaded three thousand tons of fuel January 16 and was about to leave Durres harbor in Albania when there was a massive explotion on board. Preliminary examinations indicate that the cause of the explotion was failure to vent the the tanks after unloading the fuel, according to Trend.az. Fourteen people were on board, of Turkish, Azerbaijani, Ukrainian and Georgian origin.  

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Abkhazian leader opposed to neutral passports

by | January 19, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - The leader of Georgia’s breakaway region Abkhazia is opposed to so-called neutral passports being introduced. Neutral identity papers is a form of documentation used in Georgia for persons who are from the breakaway parts. Last summer Georgia’s parliament introduced a neutral passport that may be offered for people who live in Abkhazia. Today, most inhabitants in the region hold an Abkhazian passport, but it is of little use when travelling internationally, because it is only valid in Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru. Many also hold a Russian passport. The issue of passports and citizenship is a source of friction also for ordinary people. Abkhaz authorities have promoted, or by some accounts forced, the use of the Abkhaz passport, and since they do not allow double citizenship other than Abkhaz-Russian, many Georgian citizens, particularly in the Gali region, report that they have been forced to renounce their Georgian citizenship as a consequence of this effort, although this is denied by Abkhaz authorities. Gali is a town in the south of Abkhazia with predominantly ethinic Georgian population. Now the leader of the region, Alexander ...

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Obama to discuss fall election with Saakashvili

by | January 18, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - U.S. president Barack Obama will host his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili in the Oval Office on January 30 to discuss the upcoming parliamentary election in Georgia, expected in October. They will discuss democratic reforms that will ensure that Georgia is a vibrant and stable democratic state. Other topics will be the issue of territorial integrity. “The President will reconfirm U.S. support for the integrity of Georgia’s territory within its internationally recognized borders,” the statement says. But the U.S. president will also talk to Saakashvili about the defense cooperation with Georgia and its contribution to the security operations in Afghanistan. “The two presidents will discuss further strengthening the U.S. – Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership by enhancing cooperation in the fields of trade, tourism, energy, science, education, culture, and security.” 2012 is 20th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between USA and Georgia, the statement notes.  

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Georgian died after explosion on Turkish tanker

by | January 16, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - One Georgian crew member and the Azerbaijani captain have died after a Turkish tanker sunk off the coast of Albania on Sunday. Georgia's consulate in Turkey reports that the body of 22-year-old Beka Urushadze has been identified. The Embassy reports that one more Georgian, Malkhaz Lazishvili, is still missing following the accident, and some Caucasian news agencies are reporting him as deceased. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nino Kalandadze says the situation is complex and the government is therefore careful with releasing information until it is confirmed. The tanker Edirne had delivered three thousand tons of fuel in Durres, Albania. It was about to leave the harbour when the accident happened. Initial reports indicate that there was an explosion before the ship sank. Interfax reports that two Ukrainians were rescued. There are conflicting reports of how many people were aboard, with Interfax reporting 15, while Interpressnews, a Georgian agency, says 14. The crew included Turkish, Azerbaijani and Ukrainians, in addition to Georgians. Edirne had a deadweight of 4112 tons and was built in 1980. It flew the flag of Sierra Leone. Georgia used to have a significant trade fleet, but ...

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Tbilisi mayor’s 2010 campaign to be scrutinized

by | January 16, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Georgian Chamber of Control is looking closer at the financial activities of an organization which campaigned for Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava in 2010. The organization is called Our Vote to Gigi Ugulava and had several well-known Georgian singers among its members. This is the result of recent changes in the law about party financing which made the same restrictions apply to other groups than parties, and even individuals. The CoC's monitoring group quickly got busy using the new powers and started checking the finances of a movement called Georgian Dream, which was started by the billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who plans to win this year’s parliamentary election and then form a government. Several commentators asked why the body didn't do checks on organizations close to the government. Yesterday, a second organization was named as target of the expanded rules. Our vote to Gigi Ugulava was formed as a campaigning tool for the mayor's election campaign. Although the incumbent at the time, he had never been elected until the local elections in May 2010. When this organization was founded it was said to be ...

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Opposition politician released

by | January 16, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia has released an opposition politician who was arrested Saturday on charges of illegal possession of weapon. Elguja Chkhaidze, the leader of the Free Democrats in the Lanchkhuti region western Georgia, was released Sunday after paying a 2 000 lari fine. Сourt proceedings in the case are scheduled for March 7. He is charged with illegal weapon’s possession. Irakli Alasania, the leader of the Free Democrats yesterday held a briefing in the Lanchkhuti region and dismissed the allegations as yet another political game, claiming that the weapon found in the house of Chkhaidze had been planted. He also said that the whole family is also suffering because of such political ploys. Chkhaidze ‘s son was recently detained for illegal drug use. Alasania promised that ‘the next parliamentary elections will change the government, which persecutes people solely because of their political beliefs.’ Georgia has released an opposition politician who was arrested Saturday on charges of illegal possession of weapon. Elguja Chkhaidze, the leader of the Christian Democrats in the Lanchkhuti region western Georgia, was released Sunday after paying a 2 000 lari fine. Сourt proceedings ...

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Opposition politician arrested in Georgia

by | January 14, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Police yesterday evening arrested the regional leader of the opposition Free Democrats party in the town of Lanchkhuti, western Georgia. Spokespersons for the party say the police did not allow Elguja Chkhaidze access to a lawyer after his arrest, violating his right to defense. During the search of his home the police found an automatic weapon. According to the Free Democrats, Chkhaidze spent the whole night at the regional police office. Party leader Irakli Alasania today called the arrest ‘political persecution’ and connects it to the sudden move into politics by Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. Alasania was speaking at a press conference in Lanchkhuti. The Free Democrats is one of four parties supported by Mr Ivanishvili. “Chkhaidze is illegally detained and the weapon they found was deliberately put [there],” Alasania says, adding that also Chkhaidze’s family is victim of political persecution. Recently his son was arrested for alleged drug use, he says.    

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Georgian sailors held hostage return home

by | January 14, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - The fifteen Georgians who had been held captive by Somali pirates returned home yesterday. They were released on Sunday. The Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili greeted the sailors in Turkey together with the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Three Turkish sailors were also freed along the Georgians. They have spent 508 days in captivity. After arriving in Turkey the Georgians came home to Georgia together with President Saakashvili. The ship, which was sailing under a Maltan flag, was captured in September 2010. The Somali pirates demanded 9 million dollars in ransom. The amount proved too big for the shipping company, and the negotiations were broken off. The Georgian government ascribed the sailors’ release to their inter-agency commission which had worked intensely on the case, but claimed that no ransom had been paid. However, the news website Somali Report claims to have been in contact with the pirates who say that a ransom of 3 million dollars was dropped onto the ship. In October last year twelve other Georgian sailors were taken hostage off the coast of Nigeria, but were freed after several ...

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Green Party warns of ecological catastrophe

by | January 13, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Green Party claims a hydroelectric project in Turkey will divert too much water from Mtkvari, possibly creating serious environmental problems. A low water level in the river Mtkvari may lead to epidemics, because sewage water from Tbilisi and Rustavi will then make up the main mass of water, the party claims. Turkey is planning to build the Beshik Haya cascade reservoirs in Turkey’s Ardagani district. The Green Party claims this will redirect much of the water in the Mtkvari into the Black Sea instead of the Caspian Sea, where it runs today. This will lead to an ecological and economic catastrophe, according to leader Giorgi Gachechiladze. The Green Party appeals to authorities of Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan, which also may become the victim of the project, not to let this project be implementated, because ‘an artificially created water deficit might cause tension between the states.’ The river Mtkvari is the biggest water artery in the South Caucasus and is very important for Georgia and Azerbaijan, the Green Party states. Today the Georgian Minister of Environment Goga Khachidze said on Radio Liberty ...

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Georgia returns money taken in raid against bank

by | January 13, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - The cash which authorities in Georgia took into custody in an armed police raid last October has been returned to businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili’s bank. According to a statement from Tbilisi Prosecutor’s Office dated Tuesday, the cash apprehended on October 18, 2011, has been transferred to Cartu Bank's account in accordance with the law, in the form of a non-cash payment. In the raid, police took two million US dollars and one million Euros worth of Cartu Bank’s cash in a van. The money was an inter-bank transfer between Cartu Bank and Bank of Georgia, a common practice internationally when a bank needs to increase its cash reserve. The reason for this particular inter-bank transfer was that the government and its supporters had just closed all their accounts in Cartu Bank in a concerted response after Bidzina Ivanishvili October 7, 2011, published an open letter saying he would go into politics. The many closed accounts made the bank face cash problems, and a cash reinforcement from Bank of Georgia was necessary, according to Cartu Bank president Nodar Javakhishvili. The banks were given ...

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National Bank shared information about Ivanishvili

by | January 13, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia’s party finance watchdog claims it obtained information about the financial activities of the Georgian Dream movement from the National Bank. The body released a report Tuesday which showed how much money opposition financier Bidzina Ivanishvili has spent on advertisement in various newspapers and TV not affiliated with the government. As DFWatch has reported, there are some who question where this information came from, and whether the control body had the legal authority to base its report on unofficial information. The report says Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream movement refused to give the information to the Chamber of Control (CoC), and therefore the CoC obtained the information from ‘alternative sources.’ Thursday CoC spokesperson Natia Mogeladze declared that they have received that information from the National Bank. “The Georgian Chamber of Control has a memorandum with the National Bank. On the grounds of this memorandum we requested the information about the financial activity of the organization and it was made public,” Mogeladze says.  She is chair of the monitoring group of the Georgian Chamber of Control. Mogeladze also says that the changes to the ...

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Georgia’s capital is on the move

by | January 12, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili is moving yet another state body closer to Europe -- at least a few dozen kilometers. This time it's the Ministry for Internally Displaced Persons which will be moved from Tbilisi to the town of Gori, which lies close to the occupied territories and just a few kilometers from the administrative border. "I don’t know whether Gori is a suburb to Tbilisi, or Tbilisi to Gori, this is an issue for discussion, but Gori will definitely be one of the major centers of Georgia," Saakashvili said on January 11 as he announced his decision during a street appearance in the town that was occupied by Russian troops in August 2008. Several years ago the constitutional court was moved to Batumi, and parliament will be moved to Kutaisi later this year. The energy regulatory commission has been moved to Kutaisi, and the Chamber of Control will soon be there too. Moving public bodies out into the regions is a conscious policy choice by Saakashvili's government, explained as a means to create development in those places. But the opposition thinks ...

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Georgian tycoon-politician might use wife to form party

by | January 12, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Ekaterine Khvedelidze, wife of the Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili is going to set up a new political party and compete in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Khvedelidze said this today as she appealed for a judge to immediately enforce a court ruling which restores her Georgian citizenship. In October, her husband unexpectedly broke out of his role as a behind-the-scenes do-gooder and levelled a scathing attack against president Saakashvili, saying he would challenge him in Georgia's parliamentary election in October 2012. Four days later, Saakashvili revoked Ivanishvili's and his wife's citizenship, based on a request from the Civil Registry, which said it was not previously aware that the two were French citizens. Georgian law does not as a rule allow double citizenship. In December, a court rejected Ivanishvili's plea to annul the president's decision, but the court found that Khvedelidze's citizenship was incorrectly revoked. If or when she gets it back, she will be allowed to form a political party. As Ivanishvili's wife she will let him run in the election indirectly, a solution many have speculated that the businessman would go for after he ...

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Fox reaffirms UK’s military ties with Georgia

by | January 11, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - British conservative politician Liam Fox calls the administrative border around the Tskhinvali region ‘the occupation line between Free Georgia and Occupied Georgia.’ The MP for North Somerset and former Secretary of State for Defense was visiting the border border area when he made the comment January 9. During his stay in Georgia, Fox has met defense minister Bacho Akhalaia and discussed Georgia’s participation in the ISAF operation, security conditions in the region and what Fox calls the threats of Iran's nuclear program. “First of all, as a former Secretary of State for Defense I am given the opportunity on this meeting to thank the Georgian government for participating in the Afghanistan mission through the defense minister. Georgia's contribution is valued by the United Kingdom as well as by the whole ISAF mission.“ „We discussed the situation in Afghanistan and how to react to the violence there. We discussed the situation in Iran, the dangers of the nuclear program and instability in the region, which of course impacts not only the region, but on the larger global picture.” Fox said. According to the Georgian ...

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Georgian media: One for all, all for one

by | January 9, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia's crisis-stricken free media have agreed on a new plan to react against outside interference in their work. The plan comes after a cable channel had to escape to a different studio and newspapers in Tbilisi have seen many newspaper kiosks torn down, threatening their distribution. Former producer at Maestro TV Mamuka Glonti took the initiative to the alliance, which works on the principle that an attack on one is an attack on all, and requires a joint response from the media sector. The idea is to have a stronger and clearer voice so the message will get through both inside Georgia and abroad. In the new memorandum the aim is described as to protect its member journalists and media outlets against political pressure and other illegal actions. Also non-members might receive the alliance's protection, but that will be decided on a case by case basis. The memorandum will be signed at an official ceremony February 1 at 1 pm, at the offices of Obiektivi, an internet based radio and TV outfit in Tbilisi. Until then, media units will be invited to sign ...

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Georgian hostages in Somalia to be released

by | January 8, 2012

Fifteen Georgian sailors who have been held hostage by Somali pirates for a year and a half are expected to be released in a few hours. Their release comes after intense negotiations by a an inter-agency commission within the Georgian government and is reported today by Georgian Tv station Imedi. The 15 were captured in September 2010 along with the three Turkish sailors. The pirates demanded millions of dollars in ransom, some reports said 15 million, which lead the company which owns the ship Olupel Aiji to break off negotiations, due to the size of the demand. The government’s inter-agency commission has since been in ‘intense negotiations’ to secure the release of the Georgian sailors. There has so far been no official comment from Georgian authorities. But according to Imedi, the parties have recently achieved significant progress and as a result there is a high likelihood that the process will lead to the Georgian hostages being released. In recent years, groups of pirates have been capturing merchant vessels in the waters off the coast of Somalia and demanding ransom. They move using cargo ships, boats, fishing ...

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Georgian soldier dies in Afghanistan

by | January 7, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - A Georgian corporal has died in Afghanistan while serving in the ISAF mission. This is the twelfth Georgian soldier who dies in the war. According to the Georgian Ministry of Defense, Shalva Palodze died of wounds received during a Taliban attack. Georgia is one of the biggest contributors to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. In 2004, 50 Georgian military servicemen participated in the ISAF operation, providing security for the presidential elections. Since November 2007, Georgian doctors from the town Chagcharan in Georgia’s Gori region are carrying out a peacekeeping mission with the 6 month rotation in the Lithuanian contingent’s province reconstruction group. From November 2009, the Georgian peacekeeping company began carrying out a mission with the French contingent in Kabul, to provide security at regional command headquarters, Camp Warehouse. Rotation means that a new company takes over every six month. Since April 2010, a third Georgian unit has been station in the Helmand province in the south of Afghanistan; third infantry brigade’s 31st battalion, consisting of 749 soldiers. The battalion has been performing the full spectrum of ...

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Party finance boss’ neutrality questioned

by | January 6, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Opposition parties in Georgia object against the appointment of an employee at the Ministry of Justice as new head of the party finance monitoring body. The objections come not only from the many fiercly anti-government parties, but also from those that signed an agreement with the government last summer about how to overhaul the election system. Later, the government introduced new elements that had not been agreed, and one of these is a stricter and more complicated regime to control party finances. The statement strongly criticizes the appointment of a lawyer formerly employed at the chief prosecutor’s office as head of the financial monitoring of party politics. Opposition parties are against her appointment, because they think that ‘this way the ministry of Justice will personally control the opposition parties and will use it for harassment against them.’ In her new post at the Chamber of Control, Natia Mogeladze will instruct her staff to monitor not only the finances of parties, but also organizations and persons directly or indirectly connected to parties. Mogeladze today used the new law about party finances to order ...

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Detainees may register at university

by | January 5, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Youth who are sentenced to administrative detention in Georgia will be guaranteed that they will be able to register as a university student while serving time. This has been decided by the Georgian interior minister’s in a decree, effective from January 1, 2012. According to the decree, a person sentenced to administrative detention has a right to register for higher education by the rules prescribed by the Ministry of Education and Science regarding continuation of education and participation in unified national exams. This should happen by submitting written application. On examination day, the applicant will be transferred from the place of detention to the appropriate exam center, accompanied by an escort. According to the decree, a person sentenced to administrative detention will be provided with the conditions to continue his or her general education program. It’s prohibited to prevent detainees from having access to school textbooks and other things, except for reasons of security or other urgent concern.  

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New restrictions on prisoner belongings

by | January 4, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Prisoners in Georgia will no longer have the right to watch DVDs and receive certain kinds of things in the mail but will have to buy those things in the prison shops. Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance Khatuna Kalmakhelidze made this decision by a special decree which is already in force. The decree will shrink the list of consumer goods, articles of hygiene and other things which a prisoner has the right to receive in the mail, keep, legally use or buy in the prison shops. Until today, a prisoner could receive or buy tobacco and matches, clothes, hat, shoes and items’ samples set for convicts for the bed; underwear; handkerchief, belts, socks, tights, gloves, indoor slippers, sports shoes, yarn, robes, towels; toiletries (toilet and household soap, toothbrush, tooth powder, tooth paste, perfumed oil, comb, hair clip); kerchief, belts, bras, cheesecloth, hygiene packs, hair clips, jelly, cotton, shampoo, cosmetic things (for women); mirror, mechanical, electrical or single razor, shoes and clothes brushes, shoe-lubricant, made from plastic glasses, soap and a toothbrush nests, utensils, cups and spoons; board Games, except ...

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Used cars is Georgia’s export article no 1

by | January 4, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch – Used cars has become Georgia’s most important export article, accounting for 21% of all exports in 2011. Second and third are ferroalloys and fertilizers. The country’s exports rose by 40% in 2011, compared to the previous year. Georgia ended the year 2011 with an average inflation level of 8.5. In 2010 and 2009 it was 7.1 and 1.7 respectively, according to the National Statistics Office, GeoStat. The new report shows a significant increase in prices on food and soft drinks (1.5%) at the end of the year; also vegetables, melons, potatoes (9.6%), fish and milk, while prices decreased for sugar, sweets (4.3%) and bread products (0.9%). For the whole year, the most significant changes are seen in the prices for transportation. They increased by 14.6 percent. The report also covers information about Georgia’s foreign trade from January to November. This totaled 8 259 million US dollars, which according to the report is 37% more compared to the previous year. 1 936 million US dollars of that amount was export, 40% more than in 2010; 6 323 million USD was import, which is 36% ...

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Eleventh Georgian soldier dies in Afghanistan

by | January 3, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - Corporal Besik Niniashvili was serving in Helmand province with the Third Infantry Brigade’s 31th light infantry battalion within the frameworks of the ISAF mission. According to a statement from the Interior Ministry Niniashvili was killed when a mine exploded. He had the medal of Military Merit, an honorary diploma, a medal for combat wound and for participation in peacekeeping operations. Currently there are up to 950 Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan, according to official information from the Defense Ministry. In December, 2011, the government agreed to send one more battalion, which will be serving under American command. This will increase the size of Georgia’s contingent by 750, making it the biggest non-NATO contributor to the ISAF operation with 1 685 soldiers in total. Besik Niniashvili had been serving in the Georgian armed forces since 2007.  

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Prisoners pardoned

by | December 31, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The President pardoned 114 convicts today, according to the Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance. 75 prisoners, four of whom are women, will leave jail, while 13 prisoners had their sentence halved and 26 had their suspended sentence lifted. The commission to review early release reviewed cases it had received from local councils the past three months and decided that 55 prisoners will leave prison early. The commission gave 73 positive recommendations in total, 15 of whom are women and one underage girl. The commission halves the sentence for 10 prisoners. Except for the Pardon Commission, the Georgian Orthodox Church and the prosecutor’s office send their own lists of persons recommended for clemency to the president. The pardoned prisoners will leave jail today.    

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Why, Mr President?

by | December 30, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Democracy activists and rights groups descended on president Saakashvili's palace in Tbilisi's Avlabari district Thursday to protest against his signing of a bill into law. Frustration and disbelief has been the dominating reaction among political circles after this became known, and in a spontaneous show of emotion, activists took to the streets outside Saakashvili's residence later in the day. Nina Khatiskatsi in Transparency International told Interpressnews the bill signed by the president is unconstitutional, and pointed out that the bill is forcing political parties to return donations made before the law was enacted. The law on campaign finance works restroactively and groups say it is a violation of the constitution and international treaties. Wednesday there was a brief window of opportunity during which the president could have vetoed the bill, and a number of influential organizations signed a plea to the president for him to use his veto powers, but without results. Tamar Chugoshvili, leader of Georgian Young Lawyer's Association, said that the group is going to ask the Constitutional Court to declare the amendments unconstitutional. In addition, they plan to carry ...

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US embassy’s statement

by | December 29, 2011

The US Embassy has released a statement regarding the changes to the Georgian Electoral Code and the legislation regarding campaign financing. DF Watch publishes it unchanged: “The United States supports free, fair and reliable elections in Georgia. Our attention is focused on the electoral process. We do not support any specific party or candidate. In this spirit, the US embassy carefully learned the amendments regarding the election campaign and political party financing into the electoral code and the law about the political associations, which parliament approved this week. We think that many amendments will support to create a competitive electoral environment along with the successful steps taken to eradicate the real or imaginary errors in the electoral lists before the parliamentary elections in 2012. We regret that an agreement wasn’t achieved regarding part of the new election code, which cast away the suspicions regarding unequalness in the electoral system. We fear that retroactive usage of the regulation regarding party financing will make the political competition even more unequal. Building democracy is a permanent process. We call for the Georgian government to continue working with the ...

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President signed controversial campaign finance law

by | December 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Georgian president has signed the law about political associations of citizens, which imposes restrictions on campaign financing. The amendment includes restrospective powers, which are prohibited by international conventions and the Georgian constitution. This means that the law has come into force and political parties which have received financing which until now was entirely legal must return the money to the donor or transfer it to the state within three days. Parliament approved the law about political associations of citizens on December 28 and the president signed it the same day, despite the fact that many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) protested against it, asking the president not to sign this law, because it contains unconstitutional regulations that are also in violation of international law. Political parties and independent organizations fall under the law’s retrospective definition when they are directly or in-directly related to political associations which have received financing via violating the law regulation and haven’t spent the money before this law comes into force. They must return the money to the one who granted it within three calendar days from the ...

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Gov’t postpones media monitoring debate

by | December 28, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The ruling party in Georgia has postponed until spring to decide how to monitor the media before next election in ten months time. If things stay the same, the national TV networks will have the same opportunities as last time. During the local elections in 2010, media monitoring was conducted with the support of the EU, and the report clearly indicates that the news coverage in the national networks was supportive of the government, violating standards regarding secret advertising, unbalanced programs, unequal conditions and other things. A group of media workers presented parliament with a proposal for how to address this problem. It suggests having a comprehensive media monitoring group before every election. They also demand new regulations to separate news and advertising items, so as to avoid secret advertising of candidates. Hidden political ads may have a bigger influence on society than clearly defined advertising. Another demand is to have a clear definition of what secret advertising is and to establish sanctions in case of violations. The group also thinks that during the election campaign, the state should compensate the expenses ...

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Ivanishvili appeals court ruling

by | December 27, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - A businessman has decided to appeal a court decision given today which upholds president Mikheil Saakashvili's decision to rob him of his Georgian citizenship. Bidzina Ivanishvili declared October 7 that he would use his significant wealth and influence to remove Saakashvili from power. Four days later the president revoked his citizenship, thereby blocking him from entering politics. Ivanishvili took the decision to court, arguing that it was politically motivated. Today at 2 pm, Tbilisi City Court upheld the president's decision, though restored the citizenship of Ivanishvili's wife, Ekaterine Khvedelidze. Lawyers for Mr Ivanishvili told DFWatch that they consider the ruling a partial victory, since the court took their side regarding Khvedelidze, but they are not satisfied and have already decided to appeal the case as a first step towards claiming full rehabilitation of the businessman's citizenship status. The case now goes to the appeal's court, the mid level in Georgia's three tier justice system. If it doesn't rule in the businessman's favor, the case could eventually end up in the European Court of Human Rights. DFWatch will return later with more on ...

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Citizenship decision today

by | December 27, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Will a city court in Georgia dare to go against the country’s president? By Tuesday afternoon this should be known, as Tbilisi City Court prepares to announce its ruling in a citizenship case. President Mikheil Saakashvili October 11 revoked a businessman’s citizenship, four days after the latter had declared he would mobilize his 5 billion dollar fortune to remove Saakashvili from power. But losing the citizenship blocked his progress, because it’s illegal for non-Georgians to engage in politics here. The case proceedings were characterized by lengthy speeches by the businessman’s lawyers, while the authorities answered in short statements lasting only a few minutes. Adding to the complexity of the case, yesterday it became known that Bidzina Ivanishvili had renounced his Russian citizenship. This means that he is now only a French citizen. Ivanishvili until recently was a triple Russian-French-Georgian citizen. His lawyers argued in the case that it was a mystery why his wife’s citizenship was also revoked. Ekaterine Khvedelidze already held a double French-Russian citizenship when she was granted Georgian citizenship in 2004. Lawyers for Ivanishvili have argued that president Saakashvili’s decision ...

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Journalists compensated for May 26 violence

by | December 26, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Three of the journalists who were beaten and shot by police on May 26, 2011, will be fully compensated for health expenses and partly have their lost equipment compensated. Tbilisi City Court announced the decision Monday. In addition four media companies will be compensated. Batumelebi Ltd will be fully compensated for lost and damaged equipment. Akhali Ambebi’s request was only partially granted. It will get the value of one flip camera fully compensated. The demand by Chokhatauri Matsne was rejected. The judge said that the court agrees with the plaintiffs and their explanations, but in the cases where their demands were rejected there was unsufficient evidence to make a decision. The claimants have not yet decided whether to appeal, says Natia Kapanadze, lawyer at the Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), who has been represented them. The case started October 4, when three journalists and four media units lodged a case in Tbilisi City Court demanding compensation for material and health damage sustained on May 26, 2011, when police violently raided a peaceful anti-government demonstration. The demonstrators were blocking the road in front ...

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Ivanishvili renounces Russian citizenship

by | December 26, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Georgian businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili has renounced his Russian citizenship. This comes while there is only one day left until a court ruling about his Georgian citizenship. Ivanishvili held triple Georgian-Russian-French citizenship until recently, but is now only a French citizen. His Georgian citizenship was revoked by president Mikheil Saakashvili shortly after publishing an open letter in which he strongly criticized Saakashvili and declared his plans to claim power. Formally, the Georgian citizenship was terminated because authorities were unaware that Ivanishvili was a French citizen. Georgian legislation as a rule does not allow double citizenship, though there are exception to the rule and some people hold double citizenship. Not having a Georgian citizenship blocked Ivanishvili's political ambitions, because it means that  is not allowed to engage in any political activities in the country and is prohibited from financing political processes. He went to court, seeking to get the presidential decree declared invalid. Tbilisi City Court will announce its decision Tuesday at 2 pm. In anticipation of getting back the citizenship, Ivanishvili launched what is called a ‘public movement’, which does not require being ...

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Decision in journalist beatings case

by | December 26, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Tbilisi City Court will today announce its decision about compensation for the journalists who were beaten and shot by police on May 26. Journalist Beka Sivsivadze (photo) was hit by almost 40 rubber bullets, but is not part of the claim. Three journalists and four media units October 4 went to court to demand compensation for damages they suffered to themselves and their equipment at the hands of police, during a violent police raid against a peaceful demonstration May 26. During proceedings the Ministry of Internal Affairs accepted responsibility, and December 13 offered to pay compensation for the health damages, some of it from rubber bullets, but refused to cover parts of the claim which deals with lost and destroyed equipment, due to the lack of evidence.  

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Last chance to adjust election system

by | December 23, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Today several laws are up for revision which will change Georgia's election system and set the ground rules for the parliamentary election in October 2012. This will be the second hearing of the changes in the constitution, the electoral code and the law on political associations. Included in the bill are new rules and regulations, some of which are part of an agreement between the government and part of the opposition. But there are also new regulations that the government has introduced on its own, some of which have been controversial. There are new restrictions on party financing which many see as a measure to prevent a financier turned politician from playing a role in the next election. The bill will be passed at a special session next week.

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Georgia to allow conscientious objection

by | December 22, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Citizens of Georgia will be allowed to apply for an alternative service to the military, based on religious, ethical and other grounds. The change comes after a ruling by the Constitutional Court, which decided in favor of the country’s Public Defender, who had sued the parliament for being in breach of the constitution. Ombudsman Giorgi Tugushi had argued that the law on Reserve Military Service conflicts with parts of the Georgian constitution. Specifically, the appeal pointed out that the law deprives people who hold certain religious, ethical or other views of their freedom of belief, guaranteed by the constitution, as long as they are not offered an alternative way to serve. The Public Defender in his appeal wrote that ‘the Military Reserve Service, alike the Compulsory Military service, creates legitimate grounds for good faith resistance stipulated by the good faith of people’ The Constitutional Court agreed with Tugushi, and accordingly, the law on Reserve Military Service was found unconstitutional.  

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Battling poverty through pearly whites

by | December 22, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, is embarking on a bold new plan to repair the teeth of all the elderly in his country. “Let’s fill, insert and polish the teeth on all, so that they will be in a good mood and can smile all the time,” Saakashvili said as he announced his ambitious plan, called “Smiling Georgia”. The president’s announcement came in the midst of his own birthday celebration on December 21, which took place in a municipality dining room in Batumi, a city on the Black Sea close to Turkey. Socially challenged elderly had been invited to his party, whom he treated to a meal consisting of caviar and Spanish cheese; a present from friends of the Georgian leader. The aim of project “Smiling Georgia” is to send the entire elderly population to the dentist, on the notion that bad teeth may lead to a gloomy outlook on life. “When a person has a problem with teeth, he loses the joy to work, joy to smile and has a different opinion of the world,” Saakashvili said. Saakashvili said the program will ...

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Martens supports Georgia’s ruling party

by | December 22, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Belgian veteran politician Wilfried Martens says he supports the party of Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, the National Movement. Wilfried said this Wednesday on a news show on one of the Georgian national networks. During their conversation, President Saakashvili said his movement is not dependent on persons, and that he will keep on as long as he is able to make a contribution. The president said his strongest opponents are forces from the past; what he termed 'neo-shevardnadzists', alluding to the name of former Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze. The National Movement has observer status in the European People's Party, which Martens co-founded in 1976. The EPP is a center-right political party which works towards a further deepening of European integration, primarily through the EU. (Image shows Wilfried Martens, co-founder of the European People's Party.)

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Businessman has a backup plan

by | December 22, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The businessman who is trying to claim power in Georgia has a plan for what to do in case he doesn't get back his citizenship. One of his lawyers, Zakaria Kutsnashvili, said this Wednesday. He was answering a questions from a representative of the Estonian embassy, who wanted to know what Mr Ivanishvili plans to do if his court case to reclaim his citizenship fails. A citizenship is required in order to engage in politics in the country. Mr Kutsnashvili answered that a backup plan is underway, but primarily the legal team is looking to see justice enforced by the court. Ivanishvili's lawyers and associates met foreign diplomats to explain a number of legal troubles he is having after going to politics in October. One of the topics was Mr Ivanishvili's citizenship, which has been revoked, making it illegal for him to be involved in politics. They also discussed the crisis which has struck the businessman's Cartu Bank, which is accused of money laundering and has suffered from a new law regarding debt claims. Cartu Bank director Nodar Javakhishvili met the diplomats to ...

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Citizenship case continues today

by | December 22, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Tbilisi City Court 10 am today continued hearing the case of businessman Bidzina ivanishvili and his wife Ekaterina Khvedelidze. The couple are asking the court to declare invalid a decree by president Mikheil Saakashvili which revoked their citizenship. This made it illegal for Mr Ivanishvili to run in next year's parliamentary election. Polls show him close to the ruling National Movement party in popularity. The last hearing in the case two days ago exposed that authorities had acted on assumptions when the citizenships were revoked. Ivanishvili's lawyers argue that the decision was politically motivated. (Source: Interpressnews.)

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6.2% growth in 2011

by | December 21, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia will have 6.2% growth in the economy in 2011. But the prices will have increased 10.5%. In the third quarter of 2011, Georgia’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 7.5% compared to last year's third quarter, and amounted to 6 203 million lari by current prices, which is nearly 38 billion US dollars, according to the national statistics department. According to the report, the price index grew 7.7% in Q3 of this year, compared to the same period last year. All three quarters of 2011 taken together, the real increase of the GDP in the period is 6.2%, and the price index rise 10.5%. Zaza Chelidze, executive director of Georgian Statistics said at a December 19 briefing that the bureau estimates that the adjusted growth for the whole year will be 6.2%, compared to 2010, while the price index grew 10.5%. Broken down by sectors of the economy, the third quarter data show that there has been most growth within the sectorial structures of the GDP (18.3%); followed by trade (17.2%), transport and communications (11%), state government (10.4%), agriculture, fisheries (9.3%), ...

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President Saakashvili, don’t kill the press!

by | December 19, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Today many Georgian newspapers are running the same slogan on their frontpage: "President Saakashvili, don't kill the press!" The reason is a new plan by Tbilisi City Hall to remove newspaper sellers from the whole capital and put in place a new system of kiosks. There is doubt whether the new kiosks will be distributing newspapers freely -- or at all. Many of the newsstands and old kiosks have been forced away already, and newspapers are experiencing a sharp drop in circulation numbers. The subscription system is not a viable means of distribution in Georgia, and newspapers are therefore reliant on kiosks and newsstands to reach their readers. Some of the papers running this slogan in today's edition are Asaval Dasaval, Kronika, Kviris Palitra, Resonance, Versia, and Axali Taoba.

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WTO signed Russia up as member

by | December 17, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - After an eighteen year long struggle, Russia on Friday finally signed the document which formally makes it a member of the World Trade Organization. The ceremony took place in Geneva with Elvira Nabiullina, Russia’s Minister of Economic Development, sitting down with Pascal Lamy, head of WTO, to sign the membership agreement. For the last few years, the Georgia has been using its veto powers to block a Russian WTO membership after the Russia-Georgia war in 2008. In November an agreement was achieved between the two countries after mediation by Switzerland. As a result of the agreement, an international monitoring force will be established on the borders between Russia and Georgia to check goods moving between the two countries. After signing the document, it must be ratified by Russia. Thirty days after ratfifying the agreement, Russia will become full member of WTO.  

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‘Georgia’s C-SPAN’ had filming interrupted

by | December 15, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - An opposition lawmaker has accused a Georgian politics channel of having been pressured by the government to stop the filming of a political meeting. A lawmaker claims that the work of the public "C-SPAN" like channel in Georgia was interrupted by government intervention. Dimitri Lortkipanidze of the parliamentary faction Unity for Justice said a camera crew from the Second Channel arrived to film a meeting he had with victims of Soviet repression, but stopped filming after only two or three minutes and left the place. Now Lortkipanidze is demanding an explanation from the chairman of Second Channel, Dodo Shonava. Second Channel is one of the two nationwide channels left over from Soviet times. In 2009, it was reorganized in the wake of the protests that summer, and now works on the basis of a memorandum with parliament meant to give more voice to alternative political groups. According to news agency Pirveli, the MP says that the cameramen yesterday explained that the reason they interrupted the filming was that the victims of repression themselves requested it, a reason Lortkipanidze considers absurd. He thinks the real ...

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New protests in Tskhinvali today

by | December 15, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The opposition leader Alla Dzhioyeva in Georgia’s breakaway republic South Ossetia is calling for supporters to return and continue the protest against the cancelled election results. Dzhioyeva Sunday called off her demonstrations on Tskhinvali’s main square, and asked on supporters to go home. It seemed for a few days that an agreement between her and the authorities would hold. It meant the dismissal of three top officials, in addition to president Eduard Kokoity, who left his post Saturday. But Wednesday the region’s elected assembly blocked the dismissal of two officials; the supreme court chief and the prosecutor general. Dzhioyeva afterwards said in a statement directed at the Russian government that the situation now is so difficult that it requires ‘urgent response’ in order to avoid a civil war. But Russian president Dimitry Medvedev said that the people who live in the region must decide how to run it, and Russia can only offer to be a mediator, according to RIA Novosti. South Ossetia held internationally unrecognized presidential elections on November 27. Initial results indicated that Alla Dzhioyeva won a decisive victory ...

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‘Ashton to probe Ivanishvili case’

by | December 15, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is going to confront the Georgian government about the case of a businessman who is struggling to establish a political movement. Georgian businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili has been subject to a number of misfortunes at the hands of the authorities after he declared his wish to go into politics and challenge Mikheil Saakashvili’s position. The EU’s top foreign diplomat will be asking Georgian authorities what is going on, to find out whether fundamental democratic principles have been respected. The source for this claim is the Republican Party in Georgia, which has sent out a press release saying Sir Graham Watson, the President of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party, discussed Ivanishvili’s case with the Republican Party leader Davit Usupashvili a week ago. Then on Monday, Watson raised these concerns with Baroness Ashton, and requested her to bring it up with the Georgian government and get from them ‘an explanation and a guarantee that fundamental principles of political freedom and democracy will be followed’, according to the press release. Catherine Ashton visited Georgia on November ...

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Warns of Russian border raid

by | December 14, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - A Georgian parliamentarian warns that a statement from Russia's chief security adviser could signal Russian military action of the kind that took place in 2002. Giorgi Targamadze, representative of the parliamentary opposition and a member of parliament’s Trust Group, calls for the government to pay serious attention to accusations made by the Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev that terrorists are being trained in Georgia. Patrushev said in an interview with the newspaper “Argumenti i Fakti” that persons are trained on Georgian territory to carry out terrorist acts in Russia. Giorgi Targamadze claims that the same kind of statement was made by Patrushev almost a decade ago, and it was followed by bombing of Georgian villages in the Pankisi Gorge, a part Georgia bordering on Chechnya with a historic Chechen population. Following the two Chechen wars, thousands of refugees settled there, and it is regularly mentioned by Russian security officials claiming that it is a base for terrorists operating in North Caucasus. In 2002, there were reports of 40-minute raid by Russian military jets that dropped bombs over several villages in Pankisi causing ...

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Strong opposition bloc being formed in Georgia

by | December 14, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili is to form an election bloc and aims at running in next year’s parliamentary election in Georgia. His allies are Irakli Alasania, leader of the Free Democrats, and Davit Usupashvili, leader of the Republican party, Ivanishvili’s press office told Dfwatch. Several polls indicate that if the bloc survives until next October and is allowed to stand for election, it will be the first time in the country’s history that people have had the choice between two viable political alternatives. According to Ivanishvili’s press service, the leaders have agreed that the coalition will be set up after Ivanishvili has managed to set up his own political party. This could take some time, since he is currently without a Georgian citizenship, which technically makes it illegal for him to engage in political activities. A court case is underway, and Ivanishvili is also pursuing other ways of reclaiming his citizenship, so he can establish a political party. It is likely that the three will include other opposition groups later on as part of their line-up of candidates for parliament. According ...

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Journalist claims Ivanishvili censored her

by | December 14, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - A journalist working for the Georgian online television Presage.tv has left her job, saying businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili pressured her to write laudatory stories about him. “I left the Pressatv.ge, which Misha [President Mikheil Saakashvili] couldn’t destroy but Bidzina [Ivanishvili] has put it in his pocket,” Rusudan Mumladze wrote on her Facebook page yesterday. “When you are told that we are given the financing we had been dreaming of, and this is not the time for objectivity, and it doesn’t fit to us to write anything but laudation about this person, what can a journalist do?” she writes, noting that this is happening on the anniversary of pressage.tv freeing itself from the president’s control. “Mr. Bidzina, do you think that it was my Georgian Dream, the Journalist’s dream?” she appeals to Mr Ivanishvili. She says that she has been a journalist for a long time, and no one has ever dared ‘cut down’ her material. “That’s how the money-friendship is destroyed. I don’t need the Georgian Dream. Misha has already made such a dream come true.” Mumladze also works at the independent media unity ...

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Criticizes prisoner mistreatment

by | December 13, 2011

Georgia’s ombudsman has published a new report which lays out the situation in the country’s detention centers, saying the situation remains problematic. The report was prepared by a team working under the ombudsmann’s office, tasked with carrying out Georgia’s obligations under a United Nations convention to monitor the situation in all detention facilities in order to prevent torture or degrading treatment. The group also inspected conditions for prisoners in pretrial detenion. Special attention was paid to improper or insufficient medical treatment. Georgia has lately seen a number of prison deaths due to turberculosis. In their report the monitoring group analyzes the reasons for and trends in the deaths among prisoners in the first six months of 2011. On the basis of its findings, it also makes recommendations within each issues to the Georgian government, the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assisstance, the Department of Corrections, the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor General Office. It also includes an appeal to the Georgian parliament. Ombudsman Giorgi Tugushi presented the report at a press conference Tuesday which was attended by the foreign diplomats, international and local organizations ...

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Joint statement regarding the situation in Russia

by | December 13, 2011

The Foreign Relations Committee and the Diaspora and Caucasus Issues Committee of Georgia’s parliament has made a joint statement regarding the situation in Russia. DFWatch here publishes the statement unchanged.   Joint Statement of the Foreign Relations Committee and the Diaspora and Caucasus Issues Committee of the Parliament of Georgia on the Situation in Russia Whereas, the elections of the Lower House of the Russian Parliament – Duma - held on December 4, 2011 were assessed by international observers as marred with serious violations, including numerous instances of clear fraud; Whereas, pressure on media and arrests of civil society representatives, in breach of international electoral standards and restriction of freedom of choice of Russian citizens occurred; Whereas, public outcry against the widespread fraud aligned with the very concept of the so-called "managed democracy” demonstrates that the Russian government does not see the futility of attempts to reverse the course of history; Whereas, the first democratic protest of such scale coincides with the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the "evil empire” – the Soviet Union, when captive nations, including Georgia, broke free from decades of totalitarian ...

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Police and defense get a fifth of 2012 budget

by | December 10, 2011

Defense and police get 19 % of the total state budget next year. This represents a quarter of direct appropriations to state bodies. Revenues are expected to be 6 839 399 400 Georgian lari, while expences are calculated to be 6 528 243 300 lari. Revenue from taxes is given as 6 300 000 000, grants 239 399 400 and other income  300 000 000 GEL. Salaries make up 1 133 145 500 of the expenses; subsidies 210 009 100; grants given by the state 1 173 748 900; goods and services 916 537 100; social security 1 691 160 900 lari. Budget revenues are 8 040 430 000 and charges 7 940 430 000. Funding for various state agencies are as follows, with percentage of direct appropriations (not of total expenditure):   Ministry of Health, Labor and Social Affairs 1 772 081 100 34.5 % Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure 968 350 100 18.8 % Ministry of Defense 675 000 000 13.1 % Ministry of Internal Affairs 595 000 000 11.6 % Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources 290 337 600 5.6 % Ministry of Economic Development 172 343 700 3.4 % Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance 120 000 000 2.3 % Ministry of Agriculture 119 998 200 2.3 % Ministry of Finance 111 732 800 2.2 % Ministry of Justice 77 000 000 1.5 ...

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South Ossetian leader resigns

by | December 10, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity today resigned as part of a deal with the opposition which also allows its leader to run in the breakaway republic's rescheduled election in March. Eduard Kokoity, the de facto president of Georgia’s breakaway republic South Ossetia, today announced his resignation . Acting president will be the current Prime Minister, Vadim Brovtsev until a rescheduled election on March 25. The late night deal seems to have avoided a clash as opposition leader Alla Dzhioyeva called off her unofficial inauguration planned for today, Saturday. Kokoity's departure comes as a result of consultations with the region’s opposition leader Alla Dzhioyeva as way to release some of the tension after the election result was annulled. Dzhioyeva is claiming victory in the election and started mobilizing supporters in front of the so-called government building ten days ago. When Kokoity's resignation has been confirmed, they are to end their demonstration. Another important development is that Dzhioyeva will be allowed to take part in the new election in March. Shortly after annulling the results of the elections, the Supreme Court prohibited Dzhioyeva ...

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Warns against new definition of ‘refugee’

by | December 9, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The pressure group Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) warns that a new, narrower definition of what it means to be a refugee could expose people to danger. GYLA is appealing to parliament regarding a new bill initiated by the government which makes changes to the law about Internally Displaced Persons – Refugees, saying that the changes may harm the rights of the persons, to which the law applies. According to the bill, ‘a person will be considered internally displaced persons from the occupied territories of Georgia [if he or she is a] Georgian citizen or non-citizen person permanently living in the country, who was forced to leave the permanent living, due to the endanger to his, his family member’s life, health, liberty, by the foreign country occupation, aggression and massive human rights violation.’ GYLA’s appeal says that the new definition decreases the number of persons, to which the law applies. “It is limited to the internally displaced persons from the occupied territories, while after the war in 2008 many people were forced to leave their homes from non-occupied places - villages ...

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Shooting in Tskhinvali

by | December 9, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Six cars and a bus were shot at in Tskhinvali last night, according to the news agency Pirveli. The cars were on the capital's central square, where supporters of presidential candidate Alla Dzhioyeva have been holding out since November 30 to claim victory in the election, which was annulled the previous day. The bus was in a residential area and had all its windows broken by gunfire.

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Decisive citizenship case postponed

by | December 8, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - A court case which could decide the future of Georgia has been postponed due to a judge’s illness. Georgian billionaire and opposition politician Bidzina Ivanishvili was told Thursday that his and his wife’s appeal about their revoked citizenship has been postponed until December 12, because the judge is ill. The final ruling in the case may decide whether one of the country most popular politicians will be allowed to run in next year’s election. Tbilisi City Court held a preparatory session in the case on December 5 at which the detailed review of the case was rescheduled for today. Ivanishvili’s lawyers are asking for presidential decree number 602 to be declared invalid. The decree was issued by president Mikheil Saakashvili on October 11, 2011, four days after Ivanishvili surprisingly had announced he would enter politics, set up a new political party and claim power as prime minister after the election for parliament in 2012. Ivanishvili argues that Saakashvili acted unlawfully when revoking his and his wife Ekaterine Khvedelidze’s Georgian citizenship. If a person doesn’t have Georgian citizenship, according to the Georgian legisltation, he is ...

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Abkhazia to claim customs tax on Georgian goods

by | December 7, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Alexander Ankvab, the newly elected leader of Georgia’s breakaway region Abkhazia, says that it’s necessary to establish customs control on the Abkhaz side of the border with Georgia, Russian news agencies report. “It's no secret that in the stores and markets a lot of fruits and vegetables and consumer goods are entering illegally via the Abkhazian-Georgian border, and the state has no income from this trade,” he is quoted saying at a press conference in the Abkhazian capital Sukhumi. Customs check will be put in place on the so-called border in the near future, he added. Alexander Ankvab was elected president of Abkhazia in August 2011.  

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‘No revolution’: South Ossetian candidate

by | December 7, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Alla Dzhioyeva, the candidate who apparantly won the so-called presidential elections in Georgia’s breakaway region South Ossetia, said today that she does not yet intend to seek political asylum. The comment came after Russian diplomats pointed out that her statement about seeking political asytlum in Russia is meaningless as she is a citizen of Russia. Dzhioyeva says that the media quoted her incorrectly. “I again appealed to the president and prime minister of Russia to recognize the results of the elections in the country held on November 27,” Dzhioyeva told the Russian news agency Ria Novosti. “And I said only as a last resort to consider the possibility of requesting political asylum from Russian authorities. And just in case if I stay alive,” she said. Dzhioyeva competed in the so-called presidential elections in Tskhinvali against Anatoly Bibilov, the Kremlin favorite. Dzhioyeva, regarded as an opposition representative, beat him by a wide marign and would have become the winner, if not the Supreme Court on November 30 had annulled the results of the elections and appointed new early elections for March 25, 2012. Dzhioyeva’s ...

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Improved corruption ranking

by | December 4, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - According to the latest ranking from Transparency International, the perceived level of corruption in Georgia has improved since last year. Georgia gets 4.1 points out of ten and receives the 64th place among 183 countries on the ranking list called Corruption Perception Index, which is published by Transparency International. 0 points mean highly corrupt; 10 – not corrupt. Last year Georgia got 3.8 points and 68th place, which means that according to Transparency International's survey, the situation in Georgia has improved. Transparency International Georgia calls for the Georgian government to strengthen the role of parliament to develop a balanced system of governance; also to create a competitive environment ahead of the election in 2012 and equal circumstances for the parties; continue the court reform to create an independent and transparent court system and that the government must not intervene in the activities of the media. European countries like Croatia, Slovakia, Italy, Romania and Bulgaria are placed after Georgia on the 2011 edition of the Corruption Perception index. This year’s index for Georgia was based on seven surveys, from including Asian Development Bank, ...

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Ossetian opposition to appeal to Supreme Court

by | December 4, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Supreme Court in Georgia’s breakaway region South Ossetia will Monday decide when to hear the case of Alla Dzhioyeva's supporters, according Atsamaz Bichenov, chairman of the Supreme Court, who is quoted in Russian media. Dzhioyeva supporters are asking the court to recognize Dzhioyeva’s victory in the so-called presidential elections on November 27. Russian news agency Ria Novosti reports that the so-called Prosecutor General of South Ossetia will give a legal assessment of illegal actions of supporters of Jioev, according to Eldar Kokoev, the so-called Deputy Attorney General. “Those actions that have taken place are of course crimes, but we must understand that there is a political will which sometimes trumps the requirements of the law,” he says. He adds that the Prosecutor General awaits the decision of the so-called Supreme Court of South Ossetia. On Tuesday the so-called Supreme Court annulled the results of the so-called presidential results. The date of the next early elections was scheduled for March 25, 2012. The second round of the so-called elections saw a match between Alla Dzhioyeva, former minister of education, and Anatoly Bibilov, head ...

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Georgia had real veto power

by | December 3, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - National Security Council Secretary Giga Bokeria, who was involved in the Swiss meditated talks between Russia and Georgia regarding Russia’s WTO membership, claims that Georgia’s Western partners never considered giving Russia WTO membership without Georgia agreeing. He said this December 2 at a session in the Georgian parliament between three committees; the foreign relations, Europe integration and diaspora relations committees. Bokeria presented details of the negotiations together with Sergi Kapanadze, Deputy Foreign Minister. “Some speculation has taken place about this topic; including from [Russia’s foreign minister] Sergey Lavrov. The principle position of our partner countries is that there should be a consensus and not to create some other precedent,” Bokeria added.  

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Georgia is a partner of ‘the civilized world’

by | December 3, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - According to National Security Council Secretary Giga Bokeria ‘Georgia appeared as sensible and flexible partner of the civilized world’ during WTO current negotiations. He made this statement on December 2 on the united session of the foreign relations, Europe integration and diaspora relations committees in parliament. According to him, Russia’s WTO membership will bring positive results for the EU and the United States, and those are Georgia’s main trading partners in the whole civilized world in economic regard. ‘Georgia will benefit in this way too,’ Bokeria says. According to him, during the negotiations the main thing was that Russia was precented from presenting Georgia as troublemaker and a party which doesn’t seek solutions and creates problems for the EU and other partners. Bokeria says effective diplomatic efforts were important to secure that the Russian Federation agreed to having international monitoring of the border, which was unacceptable to them before. “This was a key moment and it caused a strange period of hesitation for our northern neighbor,” Bokeria claimed and added that as a result of this process Georgia got what has been ...

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Switzerland will establish border monitoring

by | December 3, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - A new border monitoring force between Georgia and Russia will be put together by Switzerland. Sergi Kapanadze, Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, saidthis in the Georgian parliament Friday at the initiative of himself and National Security Council Secretary Giga Bokeria. Kapanadze has been involved in the Swiss meditated negotiations between Russia and Georgia regarding Russia’s WTO membership. Three corridors will be set up to monitor the movement of goods between the two countries, which were at war with eachother in 2008: Roki-Gori; Psou-Zugdidi and Larsi. At these crossing points, movement of goods will be controlled by a company, which will be chosen by Switzerland. Kapanadze says Switzerland has shown Georgian authorities a list of suggested companies, to which Georgia will express its position and finally the monitoring company will be selected as well as given the formal mandate by a sole Swiss decision. The agreement further entails that both Russia and Georgia are prohibited from intervening in this company’s activity by way of domestic legislation. As for the company’s service compensation, Kapanadze explains that it will be provided by a special trust fund, which ...

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Tbilisi TV producer leaves

by | December 3, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Mamuka Glonti, producer in chief and co-founder Maestro TV, has left his post. He announced this on his Facebook page Saturday. Glonti told Interpressnews that they have created  a negative attitude towards him, and he is concerned that this may negatively affect  Maestro's  level of trust. In light of this he believes himself unfit to continue making decisions on behalf of the station. “I publically announce that I leave the post in Maestro to become just an adviser, because I can’t get rid of the responsibilities in such a difficult situation,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “Now, when I’m free of being Erosi’s ‘hostage’ I have been browsing Facebook and found out that part of society thinks badly of me, some doubt in me. To my detriment I was at the center of such events and I’m not perceived as a part of the media anymore and I’m sorry about this.” Glonti writes. He says that up till now he was general producer at Maestro. He thinks that he will harm his colleagues in the television by him being there ...

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‘Clan rivalry’ behind unrest in Tskhinvali

by | December 2, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - National Security Council Secretary Giga Bokeria claims that there is a confrontation between clans in so-called South Ossetia to become the Kremlin favorite. He said this to journalists in parliament Friday, commenting current events in Tskhinvali region. Bokeria said that everybody knows Georgia’s and the international community’s position that any elections can’t be legitimate in Tskhinvali under the current conditions, when there has been ethnic cleansing and people living there have been thrown out of the region by force, and where there is a Russian-occupied regime in full control. The security secretary further added that it is clear that a confrontation among two clans is developing about gaining Moscow’s support. Despite this fact, he thinks that it needs more attention. “This fact displays what type of corruption and chaos there is everywhere the Russian Federation intervenes and what kind of despair there is in the population regarding the current situation,” Bokeria remarks.  

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Ivanishvili to support the press

by | December 2, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili promises to support and help Georgian print media. Lasha Tugushi, editor in-chief of the daily Rezonansi, said this after a meeting with the businessman Friday. Ivanishvili decided to meet with leaders of print media regarding Tbilisi City Hall’s decision, which will involve removing some newspaper kiosk from the capital. City Hall announced the tender within the framework of a project called ‘1000 Booths’. The tender is mostly announced for the places where there have already been newspaper kiosks for years. Removal of booths has already begun. Subscriptions are not a viable distribution system in Georgia. Therefore, the only realistic way to get the papers out to readers is street sale. Therefore, representatives of print media see the City Hall’s plan as an attempt to destroy the free media. In Georgia press is considered free, while the national TV networks are government-controlled. There are a few small cable channels, but they are unable to reach the whole country. Georgian Press Association, different media units, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and political parties protest against City Hall’s decision, and have brought it up in the ...

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Which ranking to choose?

by | December 2, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Prime Minister Nika Gilauri recently claimed that Georgia is number one tourism country in the South Caucasus region. But in a ranking of quality of life it gets 214th place, and in a personal safety ranking 215th. Mercer, the world's largest human resources consulting firm, has published its 2011 Quality of Living Worldwide City Rankings. 221 cities are listed. Tbilisi got the last place among Eastern European cities in terms of the both quality of life and personal safety. According to the survey, living conditions in Tbilisi are worse than in Baku (195) and Yerevan (173). Moscow is number 163. Living conditions are evaluated by ten categories, including economic, political and social environment, health, education, public services, natural environment and consumer goods. The countries are compared to each other according to 39 factors within these categories. Vienna is on the top of the list, while Baghdad is at the bottom. Tbilisi also scored low last year, when it ended up on 217th place, followed by Khartoum (Sudan), N’Djamena (Chad), Bangui (Central African Republic) and Baghdad (Iraq). “Georgia is the main tourist country in ...

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South Ossetian opposition to boycott Russian Duma election

by | December 2, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Part of the population in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia will boycott the Russian elections for Duma on Sunday, according to Russian media reports. A large section of the population in the Tskhinvali region supported Alla Dzhioyeva in the so-called presidential elections. Kremlin, on the other hand, supported the candidate who came in second, Anatoly Bibilov. Bibilov demanded that de facto Supreme Court announced the so-called elections invalid and prevented the winner Alla Dzhioyeva from participate in the new election, because of the actions of her supporters. Afterwards supporters of Dzhioyeva took to the streets in Tskhinvali demanding that the current so-called president Eduard Kokoiti resign and transfers government power to Dzhioyeva. They began on November 30 in front of the de-facto government building and still continuing. According to Russian media, Dzhioyeva’s supporters in South Ossetia who are Russian citizen have decided not to participate in the Russian elections for State Duma on December 4, despite an appeal from de facto president Kokoity for them to participate. The de facto republic is planning to open four election precincts for the Russian election ...

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Lawyer on hungerstrike

by | December 2, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - A famous Georgian lawyer is in his sixth day of hunger strike, protesting against the lack of independence of the country’s courts. Zurab Rostiashvili started his hunger strike November 27 because he thinks that in every single case he has worked on, the court has found an innocent person guilty. Due to official data from the National Statistics Service, the courts have aquitted in less than 1% of trials. Zaza Khatiashvili, chairman of the Georgian Lawyer’s Association says the association supports Zurab Rostiashvili’s position about the courts lacking independence and calls for the diplomatic corps to speak out against this injustice. “A month ago, chairman of the Georgian Supreme Court proudly informed about the next results of the survey about Georgian citizens and stated that the trust in the courts has increased in the eyes of the population. This was just another lie to society. I have repeatedly stated that the courts with its unjust judgments have been the main stronghold for the Saakashvili regime,” Zaza khitarishvili says.  

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City Hall didn’t expect press’ reaction

by | December 2, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Zaza Gabunia, representative of the opposition Christian Democrats in Tbilisi City Council, claims that ‘the dismantling the press kiosks in the city is impacting the newspapers distribution and the newspaper circulation has decreased with several thousands.’ He see this as a consequence of Tbilisi City Hall’s decision to remove newspaper kiosks in the capital. Subscriptions is not a viable distribution system in the country. Therefore, the only realistic way to get the papers out to readers is selling them in the kiosks. Representatives of print media see city hall’s decision as an attempt to destroy the free media. Georgian newspapers are seen as the freest media sector, while national TV networks are widely considered under control of the government. There exist a few small stations, but they are not able broadcast nationally. Zaza Gabuna says they suspected that when City Hall announced the tender about locating new booths around Tbilisi, they didn’t expect there to be such a strong reaction from press interests as we are witnessing. According to him, several newspaper distribution booths are already removed in the capital. Gabunia thinks that ...

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Vaulted into an Imedi scandal

by | December 2, 2011

He scaled the 3 meter wall in the early morning dusk and bolted into the yard as effortlessly as a panther. Images from Maestro TV's surveillance cameras reveal the athletic abilities of the man who now is in control there. The owners of the station are pushing criminal charges after the wall-jumping, which landed Erosi Kitsmarishvili in the yard of Maestro, to where police later arrived to take his orders and force the station off air. If he plans to get the broadcast going he has a few things going for him -- a building with studios and a large security force to help him out -- but no journalists. They all left last night, together with Maestro's producer Mamuka Glonti, to continue broadcasting from their radio studio, which appears a safer location, after they received a warning that there would be bloodshed if they continued resisting the police siege. Erosi Kitsmarishvili, who some in Tbilisi now call "Spiderman" because of his impressive acrobatics, has a background from using media as a tool in politics. He founded a TV company called Rustavi 2, which ...

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Maestro appeals for people to stay the night

by | November 30, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - As police peeped in through his locked studio door, Maestro TV's producer Mamuka Glonti appealed to viewers Wednesday evening to come to Nutsubidze Street 83 and stay there overnight, in order to prevent that he and the others who are hauled up inside the studios are evicted. He said that he believes that if enough people don't stay outside Maestro's building overnight, it is highly likely that the TV station will be overtaken during the night, and that will be the end of the station in its present form.

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Young lawyers concerned about press freedom

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA) supports the Press Association rally Tuesday and says Tbilisi City Hall is worsening the conditions of the print media’s distribution system. GYLA says that the organization thinks that the government has a positive obligation to support freedom of the media; which first of all is to get rid of the direct or non-direct factors intervening in the spread of the free word. “GYLA shares the Press Association’s concern regarding the fact that holding a tender to locate booths, in the form which the City Hall is now doing, is nothing more than restricting the spread of newspapers and magazines in an indirect way.” “It is unacceptable to grant the right to sell food products and newspapers-magazines under identical conditions and without treating them differently. Due to information spread by the Press Association, the City Hall decision has negatively impacted the circulation of print media and significantly damaged the press, which is already in a very difficult condition,” GYLA’s statement says. GYLA considers it of vital importance that there will be an adequate reaction from City Hall ...

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Republicans also against newsstand scheme

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Republican Party expresses solidarity with distributors and publishers of print media and joins the Press Association in its demands. The party released a statement Tuesday saying that it protests against Tbilisi City Hall’s decision to remove newspaper kiosks. “Tbilisi City Hall’s decision several weeks ago about the location of booths turned out, as expected, to be the next instrument of attack against the press and small business. We have been opposing this decision since the very first day, because it serves to monopolize this sector and root out small business. In addition we demand from City Hall that they publish statistical data of already conducted auctions, and also specific information about the companies and individuals which have been granted the several years right to locate booths on the territory of the capital,” the statement says. It is quite clear to the decision-makers that the distributors of newspapers will never manage to really compete with food, cigarette or lottery companies, the statement explains. “Everybody knows that a ‘special’ place in this segment is held by Kezerashvili’s company and the government leaves ...

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Walked 250 km for democracy

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Three supporters of the Georgian businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili walked for five days and nights to support his right to get back his citizenship. The ordeal started in front of Gelati, a church in Western Georgia vested with religious and historical significance, and ended at the Trinity cathedral in central Tbilisi. Ivanishvili was stripped of his Georgian citizenship four days after announcing he would enter politics to remove the current government lead by Mikheil Saakashvili. Georgian legislation bars a non-Georgian citizen from engaging in any kind of political activities or finance any political parties in the country. Supporters of Ivanishvili have gathered signatures from all over the country demanding that his citizenship is restored. Luka Kurtanidze, several times world champion in wrestling, director Soso Jachvliani and writer Merab Shatirishvili expressed this demand in a different way – with a special action. They walked on foot for five days and nights from Gelati, which is located in the city Kutaisi in the western part of Georgia, to the Trinity cathedral in the center of Tbilisi – a distance of more than 250 kilometers. The demonstration participants ...

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Tskhinvali’s election commission gagged

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The election commission in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia has been forbidden by the supreme court from announcing any more preliminary results after Sunday's election. The region is on the verge of conflict, as a standoff is developing between the region's supreme court and central election commission (CEC). Tensions grew after it became clear that the opposition's candidate Alla Dzhioyeva seems the clear winner with 57 per cent of votes in the CEC's last announcement Monday afternoon. Supposed Kremlin favorite Anatoly Bibilov received only 40 per cent. After the announcement, the region's supreme court has forbidden the CEC from announcing more election results, South Ossetian news agency RES reported. Tuesday morning, the Russian news site Lifenews.ru is reporting that the situation could escalate into a civil war. It claims to have information that the supreme court might dissolve the CEC. If the CEC is dissolved, there will have to be assembled a new election commission, and a new election will have to be held. Bibilov has claimed that the election was fraudulent.

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Kiosk owners asked to boycott censorship plan

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Coalition for Freedom of Choice expresses solidarity with the print media regarding a new system for kiosks in Georgia’s capital which is threatening the newspaper sector and calls other booths owners to join in. “We call for all persons interested in City Hall’s so-called ‘1000 Booths’ tender: to express a civic and social position and do not participate in the tender for locations where there are already standing or until November 25 had been standing newspaper stands. There are only 150 such stands in Tbilisi. If you keep this firm position it will give the opportunity to persons who have sold newspapers for years to participate in the tender and keep the same locations where they’re working now. This way you will support the free media.” “Here we want to request representatives of the press to publish in their editions which locations are the same as the locations of existing newspaper kiosks. We acknowledge that some of the governmental businessmen may still participate in the bidding for the above-mentioned locations, either as businesses or as individuals. In this case, ...

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Saakashvili’s opponent joins press protest

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili expresses solidarity with the Georgian Press and is joining them in a protest outside Tbilisi City Hall on Tuesday at 2 pm. “Under the cover of a project called ‘supporting small and medium sized enterprises’, the government attacked the free Georgian print media. We think that the City Hall decision to stop newspaper kiosks’ activity is directed not against ‘uhealthy competition’, but against press freedom, freedom of speech and democracy in Georgia,” the statement released by the businessman’s press office says. Georgian Press Association is organizing a protest rally to be held in front of Tbilisi City Hall on November 29, against City Hall’s decision to remove newspaper kiosks in the city. This might seriously threaten the newspaper sector because it strangles their main distribution channel – street sale.  

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Media coalition joins protest

by | November 29, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Coalition of Media Advocacy is expressing its solidarity with Georgian newspapers which are facing a dire threat of having their distribution virtually strangled. The Coalition said in a statement they too will attend Tuesday’s rally in front of Tbilisi City Hall at 2 pm, along with representatives of the press to protest against city hall’s new kiosk plan. Tbilisi City Hall recently announced a tender within a project called “1000 Booths”. Most of the new booths within the scheme will be placed at locations where there have been newspaper kiosks for a long time, either run by chains or individual vendors. Over the last few days, some of these have been forced to leave. “Newspaper distribution is a problematic issue in Georgia. Announcing a tender for newspaper kiosk locations will make the situation even more difficult, because it will significantly restrict the distribution of magazines and newspapers. We think newspapers, magazines and books are particularly important products for society and it is preferable to have a healthy competition among the distributors of printed media, but not between newspaper distributors and ...

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‘Not an election’

by | November 28, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - “What is happening in the Tskhinvali region can not be called elections,” Davit Bakradze, Georgian Speaker of Parliament said Monday at a parliamentary session to discuss the developments in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia. Alla Dzhioyeva and Anatoly Bibilov were pit against eachother in the second round of the de facto presidential elections November 27. According to preliminary results, Dzhioyeva is heading for a decisive victory, but the final results won’t be announced for another five days. Meanwhile, Tskhivali authorities are mobilizing riot police in anticipation of civil unrest when the results are announced. In the first round November 13, Alla Dzhioyeva was declared the winner by French news agency AFP and others, because she seemed to have a clear margin, but when the final results were published she was a fraction of a per cent behind assumed Kremlin favorite Bibilov. Bakradze claims that the elections are illegitimate and that the position of the international community remains the same. “An election means expressing the people’s choice and position. While thousands of our co-citizens aren’t given the opportunity to return to their ...

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Saakashvili’s opponent allowed to start movement

by | November 28, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili’s press office Monday announced that the Public Registry has finally registered the movement ‘Georgian Dream.’ An hour earlier, they announced that the Civil Registry had refused to register Georgian Dream. “An hour after releasing the [first] press statement the Civil Registry registered the public movement 'Georgian dream'. This information was published on the civil registry website today at 15:04,” the statement says. ”We remind you once again that we have been waiting for a reply from the Civil Registry confirming the registration confirmation since November 24." Ivanishvili’s press office notes that it has taken longer than normal to get an answer from the registry. “Civil Registry was obliged to register the public movement ‘Georgian Dream’ at the same day of the appeal (24/11/2011); or inform the appealer of the shortcomings in the documents,” the press-office special statement says. At the beginning of October the Georgian businessman unexpectedly announced that he is entering politics to set up a political movement with the aim of forming a government after parliamentary elections in October 2012. A few days later Bidzina Ivanishvili’s ...

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Opposition leads in Tskhinvali

by | November 28, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Oppositional candidate Alla Dzhioyeva is leading and might win the second round of the election in Georgia's breakaway region South Ossetia. At 2 am counting showed she had more than 51 per cent of the votes, while alleged Kremlin favorite Anatoly Bibilov fell significantly behind with 46 per cent. This is a clearer difference than in the first round when the two were head to head. But the outcome is still hanging in the balance, because only 43 of 85 districts had completed counting. Dzhioyeva is the sole female in the breakaway region's election to find a successor for de facto president Eduard Kokoity. She is seen by many seen as an oppositional figure, though another candidate,  Dzambulat Tedeev, had a stronger standing among Tskhinvali's opposition earlier on. He was however prevented by authorities to register as a candidate. Dzhioyeva also seemed to be beating Bibilov in the first round of the election on November 13, but final results showed she fell behind with just a fraction of a per cent, both receiving a quarter of the votes cast.

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‘Georgia world leader in fighting corruption’

by | November 26, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The whole world is taking note of how Georgia is tackling corruption, at least according to Prime Minister Nika Gilauri. While answering questions in parliament Friday he said that the whole world is learning from the methods Georgia is using to fight corruption. The comment came during a debate regarding the government’s ’10 point plan’, which was held at the initiative of the Christian Democrats. Gilauri qualified his claim by pointing out that the World Economic Forum has established a task force to deal with fighting corruption which will make recommendations for G20 countries. He noted that the group consists of international experts, journalists and representatives of Interpol, while he is the only representative of a country in the group. “The whole body of work that are the Georgian reforms should be suggested to the international community to decrease the level of corruption in other countries,” the prime minister said.  

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‘Access to Russian market crucial’

by | November 26, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Christian Democrat leader Giorgi Targamadze says that improving relations with Russia is crucial to Georgia’s economic development. The statement came during a debate in parliament Friday about the government’s ’10 point plan’, a debate his party had called for. Targamadze said, if investments are the most important factor for the country’s economic development, then providing security and stability should be the government’s main concern. But this issue is not even mentioned in the ten-point plan. According to him, the free industrial zone in Poti is not functioning today, because there are Russian tanks standing a few kilometers away. “If your goal is to attract more investments, then we should achieve a stabilization of the relations with aggressive neighbors and minimize the risk for investors. And not the opposite, as you and the media created hysteria when Patriarch visited Russia. We have put this person in an awkward situation and this hysteria is unacceptable for the goals, which foresees creating security guarantees for the investors,” Targamadze said. According to him, the negotiations about a Russian WTO membership has opened new opportunities to enter ...

In brief, News

PM: Tourism is booming

by | November 26, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - “Georgia is the main tourist country in the region and we will see better results in the next few years,” Nika Gilauri, Georgian Prime Minister told lawmakers Friday at a debate about a ’10 point plan’ recently announced by the government. Gilauri said the tourism sector has even better results to show than the government had expected. “We didn’t expect that during two years in a row we would have 40% growth in tourists and visitors. But our aim is to increase the number of tourists to minimum 5 million until 2015 year,” the PM remarked. According to him, tourism development is the best way to create employment, and the government is doing everything to achieve this. “Representatives of 100 countries arrive here without visa; we run tourism advertising campaigns; we have direct flights to 29 cities and we continue working on this. There will be investment in Kopitnari [a village in western Georgia] airport; Poti [a city on the Black Sea coast] airport will be built by the end of next year. We have negotiations with budget airlines about coming ...

In brief, News

Doubts about gov’t employment plan

by | November 26, 2011

Parliamentary faction Christian Democratic Movement demands that the government presents statistics about an employment program implemented before the elections in 2006. Levan Vepkhvadze, representative of the Christian Democrats made this statement at a debate in parliament Friday regarding the government’s ’10 point plan’. The plan was brought in during the campaigning period ahead of the local elections in 2006. Within the frameworks of the plan, two hundred thousand unemployed were ‘attached' to private enterprises and were paid 200 lari each as ‘salary’ from the state for a three month period. Vepkhvadze brought up the five-year old program because the government now has a new initiative, which excempts people from 45 to 60 years old of income tax for one year, if they are able to find work within a six months’ window of time. Vepkhvadze is sure that the new initiative, just like the first one, is targetted only at harvesting votes and not increasing employment. “Let the government present appropriate statistics for the 200 000 people, which were involved in the employment program in 2006 and received 200 lari for three months. How ...

In brief, News

PM: ‘Thousands of investors coming’

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian Prime Minister Nika Gilauri claims that “hundred and thousand times more investors are planning to come into Georgia”, because they trust Georgia more than Eastern Europe countries, Greece and Italy. He made this statement in parliament Friday at a debate regarding the government’s ’10 point plan’ held at the request of the Christian Democrats. The Prime Minister said a Standard & Poor’s report indicated that the country has moved forward. “Because of this single report, hundreds and thousands times more investors are going to come to Georgia who have big amounts of money, and they cannot invest in the traditional countries at the time, because of various reasons, and they’re looking for new markets,” the Prime Minister claimed. “Our Eurobonds are traded on more than the Eastern European countries’ Eurobonds.” This indicates an increased trust in Georgia, according to the PM. “So the trust of the international investor is much higher towards Georgia, than towards Eastern European countries, towards Greece or Italy,” Gilauri said.  

In brief, News

‘Elite corruption’

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Jondi Baghaturia, representative of the parliament faction Unity for Justice and the leader of the Georgian Group Party accuses the government of creating monopolies in the country and protecting these monopolies. He made this statement at in parliament Friday. The political debates were held at the request of the Christian Democrats and revolved around the government’s ’10 point plan’. Baghaturia asked the government how many companies import gas to Georgia, and answered the question himself, that there are two such companies. “Why doesn’t a third and fourth company try to get involved in such highly profitable business? Because there is elite corruption, monopolized and corrupt clans won’t allow them. The catastrophic increase in prizes is caused by the divided market among these clans. Corrupt and monopolized clans have divided the whole market among themselves. Competition has died. Accordingly, there are catastrophic prices and the gas price is 2.35 lari,” Baghaturia remarked, and added that the government doesn’t do anything against this situation, but on the contrary protects it.  

In brief, News

‘Nepotism’

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Jondi Baghaturia, representative of the parliamentary faction Unity for Justice and leader of the Georgian Group Party accuses the government of nepotism. He made this statement in parliament today, during a debate by the request of the Christian Democrats regarding the government’s ’10 point plan’. “Mr. Nika, your brother is head of the Bank of Georgia, don’t you approve this? I don’t have pretensions to you nor to your brother; but when the president goes to the bank headed by your brother, has a meeting and says that it is the best bank and you all should transfer to this bank, what is this called? Isn’t it nepotism; protectionism and elite corruption?” – Baghaturia asked Prime Minister Nika Gilauri.  

In brief, News

‘Georgia one of world’s healthiest economies’

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - “Going by macro-economic parameters, Georgia is one of the healthiest countries in the world,” Georgian Prime Minister Nika Gilauri said Friday at a debate in parliament. The debate was held at the request of the Christian Democrats regarding the government’s ’10 point plan’. According to Gilauri, economic growth rates are directly dependent on macro-economic parameters, and so the first point in this plan is connected to this issue. “Macro-economic indicators are important to create jobs in the country. Let’s take Greece as an example; or the other countries which have entered into a crisis – what’s happening there? Jobs are being lost there. The countries cannot handle their obligations. They cannot repay the pensions; cannot repay ordinary salaries; the economy is crashed down; the private sector is crashed down and as a result we have seen very difficult situation in Greece; because macro-economic parameters were not right and healthy,” Gilauri said. Georgia is in the best situation in the world, according to him. “We are the only one economy this year, which has increased its [growth] prognosis from 5.5% to 6%; but ...

In brief, News

Will Georgia’s population be halved?

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Christian Democrats in parliament argue that comparing the specific numbers in the government’s 10-point plan’s to the reality puts the government in a very awkward situation. One of their representatives, Levan Vepkhvadze, said this at a special debates today, which has been held on their request regarding the government’s ten-point plan. “In this document you say that for 2014, GDP per capita will become 5-6 thousand US dollars. Today GDP per citizen is 2 700 US dollars; and if there is 6% economic growth this year, we expect 6% growth for the next year too. In case of a doubling of per capita GDP for 2014, then there has to be 18-20% growth for the next year and these rates should permanently increase the next 3-4 years. Otherwise, the GDP per capita will be doubled only if the total population number will be halved,” Levan Vepkhvadze said in an address directed at prime minister Nika Gilauri, who had been invited to the debate. According to Vapkhvadze, the health program envisaged in the 10-point plan foresees a reduction in the ...

In brief, News

Strong growth in GPD

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia’s Prime Minister Nika Gilauri says that gross domestic product (GDP) per capita will be 3 100 US dollars this year. He has made this statement at a political debate in the parliament Friday, regarding the government’s ’10 point plan’ at the request of the Christian Democrats. According to the Prime Minister, the GDP rates for Georgia are the best and achieving it is the government’s merit. “This is not the high rates, but everything is comparable. In 2003 the GDP was 900 US dollars and during these 8 years it has grown threefold, which is the best rates, and in the next 4-5 years Georgia will transfer to a higher level than that of a developing country,” Nika Gilauri stated. A  

In brief, News

‘No threat of recession’

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian Prime Minister Nika Gilauri says ‘there is no threat of economic recession in the country’ due to the government’s successful efforts. The new aim for the government is the creation of jobs. The Prime Minister made the statement during a special debate in the parliament Friday regarding the government’s ’10 point plan’, following a request by the Christian Democrats. Gilauri explained that this plan was created based on the ‘Financial Stimulation’ plan implemented in 2009 by the government, which according to the governmental was the most successful in the whole region. “Let’s remember the specific numbers: during the world economic crisis there was increase in the minuses in our neighboring countries – minus 15% in Armenia, minus 12% in Ukraine, minus 10% in Russia, minus 8% in Turkey, minus 18% in the Baltic countries, and Georgia was the only country in the region where the economic fall was only 3.5% and which could manage to get out of recession very soon. In 2010 we had an economic growth of plus 6.4% and this year we also expect good economic ...

In brief, News

Christian Democrats wants kiosk plan changed

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Christian Democrats has asked City Hall to directly transfer a hundred booths to newspapers and distributors within the framework of the project ‘1000 booths’. Zaza Gabunia, Christian Democrats representative in Tbilisi City Council, said this at a press conference November 25. He added that if Tbilisi City Hall doesn’t do this, the recent initiative to clear away newspaper booths will be an ‘attack on the free media.’ Tbilisi City Hall announced an internet bidding contest for a contract to place 1 000 kiosks around the capital, explained as an effort to support small and middle sized businesses. It is clear from the announcement that Tbilisi City Hall mainly wants to locate the new booths exactly in places where there already are newspaper kiosks. This has caused concern among representatives of the press, except for a few pro-governmental newspapers. According to managers of print media, the distribution of newspapers is in the serious danger and this will benefit neither the press nor for the government nor the wider society. The Christian Democrats say they have requested the City Hall to establish special ...

In brief, News

Republicans shares press concern about kiosks

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Republican Party joins representatives of the Georgian press in expressing protest against Tbilisi City Hall’s decision to remove newspaper kiosks. The Party’s statement says that City Hall’s decision, which was made several weeks ago, as expected had become an instrument for attack on the press and small business. “We Republicans were against this decision since day one, because it serves for the monopolization of this sector and to oust small business,” the statement reads. The Republican Party demands that City Hall publishes not only the statistical data about the conducted bidding process, but specific information about companies and individuals which were entitled to locate booths on the territory of the capital for many years. “It’s quite clear for the decision-makers that newspaper kiosks will never manage to really compete with food, tobacco or lottery companies. It is known that a ‘special’ place is given in this segment to Davit Kezerashvili’s company, and the government leaves a monopolized situation exactly to this company by the eviction of other firms in the market,” the statement says. The government has announced a internet auction ...

In brief, News

Informal alliance around Ivanishvili

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Republicans, Free Democrats and businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili’s team will be cooperating with eachother, but they have not yet decided to set up a formal coalition or alliance. Davit Berdzenishvili, one of the Republicans leaders, announced this statement today after a meeting with Ivanishvili. The meeting was held at the businessman’s residence on his own initiative. It lasted for one hour and was attended by all Republicans and Free Democrats representatives. According to David Berdzenishvili, they have created a new political unity which will be an “alternative political center to the government.” “Its final form and the identities of its members will be clear in the near future. It cannot yet be an electoral bloc due to the simple reason that the elections are not yet scheduled. Now it is a process of forming one united political machine,” David Berdzenishvili remarked. Viktor Dolidze, representative of the Free Democrats, explained that it was decided to create eleven working groups which will thematically work on security, economy, agriculture, health and social issues.  

In brief, News

Prison guards get more protection

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - It has become a criminal offense to threaten a jail worker or his family. A bill adopted by parliament, which makes changes to the Criminal Code, is now in force. Before the change, to resist a lawful order made by a prison or detention facility employee, or in any way prevent the activities of the institution or disrupt its activity, could carry a sentence of up to three years’ imprisonment. With the new regulation, to resist a lawful order by a prison or detention facility employee, to use violence against them, threaten to kill them or their nearest relatives, or the make threats to damage health or property, will carry a sentence of imprisonment of up to three years, but only if the threat is connected with the employee’s job activities. Preventing the activities of the institution in some way, or disrupting its activity, is punished in the same way.  

In brief, News

Old taxes may be cancelled

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Some category of high income taxpayers will have their accumulated unpaid taxes until 2005 cancelled. This is foreseen by a bill to change the Tax Code which was presented to parliament on November 25. If the bill is passed, the Revenue Service will be entitled to write off tax debts, fines and penalty in case it is not considered as recognized and if the tax payer hadn’t been informed by the Revenue Service of the amount of debt accrued. At the same time, in order to be entitled to write off the debt, it must have been presented at least 6 years in before. Parliament is now reviewing the bill about expenditure procedure.  

In brief, News

2011 budget passed

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia’s 2011 budget was passed Thursday after a debate in an almost empty parliament. In its revised form it is increased by 219 million lari to a total of 7 570 million. 84 votes for the budget and 4 against. But during the debate there were hardly anyone in the hall. Only 24 lawmakers attended, 20 from the ruling party and 4 opposition representatives. Dimitry Gvindadze, Georgian Finance Minister presented the revised budget at a plenary session. There had to be three roll calls before the voting was allowed to proceed, because too few deputies were in attendance. The minimum number is 76, while at first only 70 members of parliament were registered, and second only 75. At last the problem was solved after a call from the parliamentary speaker.  

In brief, News

‘Smear campaign’

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Giorgi Tsagareishvili, member of the Free Democrats Party, accuses the government of being engaged in a smear campaign against the opposition. He had made this statement during a debate in parliament Thursday about tightening the rules regarding party financing. Tsagareishvili said that the media have launched what amounts to a smear campaign lately against the Free Democrats, in which the party is accused of working for Russian interests. According to him, the Free Democrats’ choice is a free Europe and Georgia’s integration with NATO. “The Free Democrats admit and focus including you that 20% of our territory is occupied by Russian military forces. We admit that thousands of people are displaced from their home-lands; and now there is Russian boot is stepped in so-called South Ossetia, Akhalgori, also in so-called high-Abkhazia – Dariali Valley,” Tsagareishvili said. According to him, such ridiculus accusations should be stopped once and for all, as should the rest of the smear campaign which the governemt is engaging in against the Free Democrats and other opposition parties via the media. He called for the government to return to legislative ...

In brief, News

Opposition talked to deaf ears

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - When the opposition bloc Unity for Justice had their thirty minutes in parliament Thursday, the rest of the deputies had left. The only one there was parliament speaker Davit Bakradze. Not only the ruling National Movement were missing, but also other minority representatives. A faction is allowed thirty minutes’ time once for the summer and fall season according to parliament’s regulations. Giorgi Tsagareishvili, Dimitry Lortkipanidze and Jondi Baghaturia shared their bloc's slot to criticize a number of the government’s policies. Besides speaker Bakradze, the only other representatives listening to them were Petre Mamradze and Tamaz Diasamidze, also part of Unity for Justice. The majority and minority explained their non-attendence with the fact that they needed to rest. Jondi Baghaturia called it ‘shameful’ and ‘a protest against their own people.’ He thanked David Bakradze for staying and listening to the end.  

In brief, News

Mega dams will go ahead regardless

by | November 25, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Aleksandre Khetaguri, Georgia’s minister for energy and natural resources says two controversial hydropower projects in the west of the country will be built and there is no alternative. He had made this statement during question time in parliament Thursday. The minister saud the construction of the Khudoni and Namakhvani dams started during the Soviet Union and now they are in such condition that they need to be built. Khetaguri claims that both projects have had an environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) conforming with international standards, and there will be public hearings. As for the population in those regions, according to the minister, they will be provided with alternative settlement. “The construction of Khudoni hydropower station will probably begin in the coming year. We have announced the tender for the construction of the Namakhvani nearly a week ago. I hope that the construction will begin shortly after conducting a tender, because it’s the most studied object in terms of the ecologic impact on the environmet,” Khetaguri added. According to parliament regulation government question time is held on the last Thursday in a ...

In brief, News

Tbilisi boosts defense by 7%

by | November 24, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgia expands its defense budget by 7% next year. The growth is explained with the country’s need for security. 44 600 000 Georgian lari more will become available for military spending, bringing the total to 704 631 200 lari for defense, finance minister Dimitry Gvindadze told lawmakers Thursday at a session to review the 2011 budget and plan ahead. The revised 2011 budget will grow by 219 million lari compared to its original form, to a total of 7 570 million lari. Members of the opposition in parliament expressed interest in the increased defense budget. Gvindadze says the growth is due to certain tendencies the last few years. The Ministry of Defense was growing until 2008 when it had 23% of the total state spending at its disposal. This amounts to 8.1% of the gross domestic product (GDP). According to the Minister, since 2009 the Ministry of Defense have seen a fall in financing to 9.3% of the total expenses in the current year. “This level is necessary for the Ministry of Defense’s responsibilities in providing the country’s security,” the minister stated.  

In brief, News

Victims of Soviet repression lose compensation

by | November 24, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - Georgian authorities have stopped paying compensation to families of people who were victim of Soviet repression, according to Giorgi Tsagareishvili, representative of the Free Democrats and chairman of the parliamentary bloc Unity for Justice. Tsagareishvili asked finance minister Dimitry Gvindadze to clarify the issue Thursday at a plenary session in parliament to review the 2011 budget. According to Tsagareishvili, the Finance Ministry has stopped paying even small installments defined by court, specifically 150, 200 and 220 Georgian lari. In addition, court appeals about granting compensation have been suspended, according to the Free Democrats representative. Georgian legislation leaves it up to courts to decide who should receive compensation for repression by the bolshevist regime. Tsagareishvili asked the government to solve the problem. “These people at least deserve that their compensation funds be recorded in the specific article in the budget,” he says. Finance minister Gvindadze claims this is the first time he hears about the freeze in compensations payment. Answering the call to enter a record in the budget for compensation funds, Gvindadze said: “This is not necessary, and the government will return to the issue ...

In brief, News

Did 219 million lari disappear?

by | November 24, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - An opposition lawmaker accuses the government of having spent 219 million lari and trying to hide it by creative budgeting. Jondi Bagaturia of the Georgian Group party, who is part of the Unity for Justice bloc in parliament, said this at a plenary session Thursday to review the country’s 2011 budget. The 2011 budget is being expanded by 219 million lari compared to the original plan, to 7 570 million lari. Such an increase at the end of the year has raised suspicion in opposition quarters. As Bagaturia sees it, if the government has an extra 219 million, then the pension raise should start from January 1, instead of in September, at least by five lari. “You say that you have 219 million lari. Then increase the pension from January 1. But I have a suspicion that this money is already spent, and now you want to legalize it. Our faction will not support such a legalization of illegal spending,” Bagaturia told the ruling majority. Basic pension in Georgia is 100 lari per month. The government vows to increase it from September, but ...

In brief, News

Georgia braces for Euro crisis impact

by | November 24, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch - The Georgian finance minister says the country will financially stand on its feet in 2012. Dimitri Gvindadze made this statement today in parliament as lawmakers were gathered for a plenary session to review the 2011 budget. In its revised form, the 2011 budget will be increased  by 219 million lari, to 7 570 million lari. The minister explained the increase with larger tax revenues because the economy has grown more than expected. ‘Current resources and fiscal strength’ give grounds for forecasting that the country will ‘financially stand on its feet’ next year. “These resources are necessary for the country to withstand the various outside pressures stemming from the Euro crisis,” Gvindadze said.  

In brief, News

Georgia waives visa on ethnic grounds

by | November 24, 2011

TBILISI, DFWatch – Georgia establishes a new system based on ethnicity, which gives people of Georgian origin the right to visa free travel, education grants and to represent their mother country at sports events. The Law on Diaspora Organizations and Compatriots Living Abroad was approved by parliament Thursday. It establishes a new status for citizens of other countries who can show that they were either born in Georgia or can trace their roots here. After filling in the required application, and upon approval, a special document will allow visa free entry, if a visa would otherwise have been required, for up to 30 days. In addition, the law foresees state education grants and state Master’s degree grant for people having the new status. Pending approval from the international sports federation within the relevant sports discipline, compatriots with the new status will also have the right to represent Georgia in international tournaments.  

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