Opinion

Helmut Kohl was a great friend of Georgia

by | June 20, 2017

Helmut Kohl, in hand with Edward Shevardnadze, Michael Gorbachev, and George H.W. Bush, convinced Europe to rise to the occasion and believe that history can progress, that unity and national sovereignty can go hand-in-hand, and that conflict is not inevitable when Germany is united.

Opinion

Zbigniew Brzezinski will be missed

by | June 2, 2017

To anyone close enough to speak with him in first name terms, he was Zbig. A typical American habit of kerbingconsonant-rich names that echo history to sound short, familiar, and approachable.

Opinion

To Understand Georgia’s Constitutional Reforms, Look Beyond the President

by | May 6, 2017

Georgia needs a parliament that is more pluralistic, not less. Rather than locking in Georgia’s democratic gains, the draft constitution appears likely to benefit Georgian Dream, writes Joseph Larsen, analyst at Georgian Institute of Politics. The Georgian Dream (GD)

Opinion

Constitutional Reform in Georgia – a Step Forward

by | May 6, 2017

In total, 33 amendments have been made to the Constitution of Georgia, adopted in 1995, however, only two rounds of these amendments have been of fundamental importance

Opinion

Georgian vulnerability to the EU’s uncertain future

by | March 28, 2017

As the EU is experiencing the greatest identity crisis in its 60 years of existence, it is important to remember that  European integration is a history of crises and compromises. The current crisis is a good chance for the EU to address its democratic deficit,

Opinion

Tbilisi and Brussels: tending to the democracy we have fired up

by | March 14, 2017

Every time someone in Brussels criticizes the Georgian government, a chain reaction begins in Tbilisi.  With specs of truth, the opposition starts a fire designed to scorch the reputation of Georgia, while certain media will provide ventilation. It is not long before the whole

Opinion

Remembering Bob Walsh: A man who brought big ideas to life in Georgia and around the world

by | March 10, 2017

The Memorial Service, remembering Bob Walsh, will be held on March 11 in Seattle… So today, indeed, is a sad, tough, rough day because Bob Walsh was my friend for 30 years. Maybe it was for even longer, it seemed that he was a part of my entire life.

Opinion

About a former KGB operative’s lawsuit

by | January 17, 2017

Igor Giorgadze, the former Security Minister of Georgia, and an extremely controversial person in the country’s modern history, has sued DFWatch for an article published on July 23. First of all, he objects to the title of the English version of the article, which refers to him as ‘public enemy number one’.

Opinion

In Memoriam of Sen. John Glenn

by | December 24, 2016

It is with great regret that we received the news of the passing of Senator John Glenn, a man who best expressed the pioneering spirit of the American nation.

Opinion

Mshybzia! Futile activism serves the interests of elites

by | June 27, 2016

The new Georgian social media campaign aimed at reaching out to Abkhaz society is an example of a futile activism informed by nationalist narratives which are being used by Georgian political elites to distract society from the core issue of unresolved ethnic conflict

Opinion

Strengthening the European Agenda – A view from Georgia

by | June 7, 2016

In today’s world, the citizens as well as the leaders of organisations are faced with ever dynamic and fast shifting socio-economic and political climates, individuals as well as organisations are challenged to their limits in terms of successful and sustainable leadership to navigate within such a turbulence setting. Leaders, institutions, and citizens are tested by fast paced shifts in socioeconomic and political conditions. Navigating through turbulence is a litmus test.   

Opinion

Reading the 2016 Independence Day Parade

by | May 30, 2016

The 2016 Independence Day parade was different from any other. It was different in form and in content. It was, I would like to claim, a parade that most adequately reflected the Georgian spirit. It was both international and originally Georgian. It struck the right

Opinion

In Memoriam: Hans-Dietrich Genscher

by | April 4, 2016

As Georgia made its first toddler steps in the community of free nations in 1992, Germany was there to help in a period of dramatic institutional, economic, diplomatic, and political transition. And the face of Germany for the world was none other than the patriarch of diplomacy, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who served Europe as much as his country for eighteen years.For nearly one generation, Mr. Genscher expressed a tradition of German diplomacy that identified German interests with Europe’s interests. No doubt, he will be missed. He represented a man who favored conflict management through negotiation, cooperation, dialogue, and consensus building. He had a vision of a unified Germany, in a unified Europe. And he played a part in laying its foundations.In 1992, Genscher was the first foreign minister of a European state to visit Tbilisi and Germany the first state to open an embassy. Eduard Shevardnadze and Hans-Dietrich Genscher had been working shoulder-to-shoulder for the reunification of Germany, and Europe. Their friendship was built on history, but the connection between nations is very often founded on the warmth between people who ...

Opinion

Threats to the Russian NGOs: Institute of ‘foreign agent’

by | September 23, 2015

Campaign of the Russian authorities to ‘reveal’ and include in the special ‘foreign agents’ registry of non-governmental (NGOs) organizations, has been accelerating exponentially. After two and a half years of introducing the law, there are

Opinion

Responsibility, not informal influence

by | August 7, 2015

Georgia’s greatest obstacle to becoming a European democracy is the persistence of an informal system of political governance. Though most welcomed the change of government in 2012, the signs were there early on: When then Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili

Opinion

Nuclear deal opens up business opportunities for Iran and Georgia

by | August 3, 2015

After a landmark deal with the P5+1 group in Vienna, a window to the world will open up for Iran. Iranians are set to start a new era of cooperation with important global businesses in many fields. This is bound to affect many of Iran's economic sectors positively,

Opinion

Georgia’s Magna Carta

by | July 13, 2015

Shakespeare would no doubt concur that democracy has an element of drama. In this drama, a constitution may be likened to a play, minus the actors. Setting the scene, a constitution lays out the notion of a state, like the preamble of a play. Articulating the script,

Opinion

Dances with a bear

by | June 30, 2015

The lukewarm Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga further outlined the value of Georgia’s two most important interconnected strategic goals: transforming the country into a modern European state and its European perspective of joining the EU.

Opinion

Alexandre (Alika) Rondeli, in memoriam

by | June 25, 2015

Alexandre Rondeli (Alika for most of his Georgian friends and colleagues) was a charming and talented man, a close friend, a consul, a strategic ally, from the category of “usual suspects”, and, at times, a political opponent. Most of the people who dealt with him called him a “Wise Man of the Caucasus,” at times because he

Opinion

Freezing the Kremlin’s policy

by | February 18, 2015

How Europe should respond to Putin at the Riga Summit Against the backdrop of a rain of bullets, and the rumble of tanks and cannons, Europe is preparing for the Riga Summit in May. Expectations are already low, but one likely positive decision is visa liberalization

Opinion

#jesuisgeorge

by | January 15, 2015

“Freedom of speech and the press are supreme values that must be duly protected everywhere and at all times,” Irakli Garibashvili stated before flying to the global peace rally in Paris. These are the words of the man who was the head of the Ministry of Internal

Opinion

Eurasian Customs Union Crawling Closer to Georgia

by | January 2, 2015

In 2015 Armenia became a full-fledged member of the Russian-led Eurasian Customs Union (ECU). Georgia, on the other hand signed Association Agreement (AA) and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area Agreement (DCFTA) with the European Union.

Opinion

Georgia’s labor code still favors employers

by | December 9, 2014

Last week hundreds of train workers went on strike after negotiations to improve working conditions and raise salaries failed. The strikers demand overtime compensation, new salary rules and a 13th month salary payment [1]. Leaders of the trade union say the railway

Opinion

Respect will not save women from violence

by | December 5, 2014

Arguably the most influential person in Georgia, the Patriarch Ilia II, does not agree that a woman should be equal to a man in  a family. Instead “she must be respected by her husband. She [a wife] has been always holding high authority in Georgia, and so it shall

Opinion

Ashamed of being straight

by | November 13, 2014

I am lucky to be born straight. I am lucky to be one of those people who are not stigmatized on the basis of their sexual affection to a certain human being; who can kiss and hold hands in public without being attacked or bullied for it; who can get officially married

Opinion

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women

by | October 27, 2014

Two weeks ago the weekend news was dominated by cases of acts of violence against women. Especially the murder at Ilia State University on October 17 and the subsequent media reports of other cases of domestic violence over the course of two days spurred the debate.

Opinion

ECtHR condemns Georgia for harassment of Jehovah’s Witnesses

by | October 18, 2014

On 7 October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) unanimously ruled in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the case of Begheluri and Others v. Georgia. The 99 Georgians, all but one of whom are Jehovah’s Witnesses, alleged that they were victims of large-scale

Opinion

A red ghost of virginity

by | October 10, 2014

“Inga, can I stay with you for a week? Something terrible happened.” This is a message I got from a  close friend earlier this week. Apparently, she went out with her friends and did not hear her brother calling. Then, in the middle of the night, her brother and her

Opinion

The Georgian model of libertarianism and its applicability to Ukraine

by | September 29, 2014

Ukraine has garnered the world’s attention as a country facing a myriad of complex challenges, among which economic problems play a significant role.  The corruption-stricken government of Ukraine is reminiscent of Georgia in the beginning of the 21st century,

Opinion

Being a foreign ‘gogo’ in Georgia

by | September 22, 2014

It is always challenging to be a foreigner. But being a foreign woman in the Caucasus is even harder. “You will see that in Georgia women are treated like queens, like princesses”. This was one of the first sentences I heard when a Georgian man picked me up at

Opinion

From Europe to the Caucasus: hunting time, then and now

by | August 11, 2014

There is indeed a civilizational cleavage between “Europe” and the South Caucasus. To encapsulate this cleavage in a single metaphor, one could say it is the difference between youth and age: the European sense of time seems youthful, with the certainty that

Opinion

Lingering concerns over implementation of Georgia’s anti-discrimination law

by | August 4, 2014

Earlier this summer the UN Human Rights Committee published its concluding observations on Georgia’s fourth periodic report. The report praises the Government of Georgia on a number of positive steps, both at the legislative and the institutional level. Nevertheless,

Opinion

If NATO delays path to Georgia’s membership, what is the alternative?

by | July 30, 2014

Alliance’s September summit must offer ‘concrete,’ not ‘token’ help as Georgia faces Russia In the same week that the European Union signed an association agreement with Georgia on June 27, NATO officials meeting in Brussels decided not to offer the country

Opinion

How NATO can open a path to membership for Georgia

by | July 18, 2014

Amid Ukraine Crisis, US Should Push to Remove an Obstacle Mae West once said that “an ounce of performance is worth a pound of promises.” For Georgians, to whom NATO promised eventual membership in the alliance back in 2008, truer words have never been spoken.

Opinion

The missing page in the Association Agreements

by | June 22, 2014

On June 27, Georgia and Moldova will sign in Brussels the Association Agreements with the European Union that were initialed last year in Vilnius (Ukraine's new authorities are expected to sign only the economic part of the Agreements on the same day). After a high level meeting that took place last month between president

Opinion

Hate crime vs hooliganism

by | June 18, 2014

Last month marked the one-year anniversary of the LGBT rally which turned violent in Tbilisi. The tense situation in the country in the run-up to the International Day Against Homophobia made activists resolve to a silent protest [1] this year. A few days

Opinion

Emergence of entrepreneurship in Georgia

by | June 10, 2014

Georgia’s economy is made of two components: the so-called formal sector and the “unobserved” part. In the observed part of Georgian economy, 96 percent of all registered firms are small or medium sized enterprises (SMEs). However, there are many registered firms

Opinion

Georgia’s economic growth and budgetary indicators

by | June 3, 2014

In comparison with 2013, current year began with better economic indicators. In particular, high growth rate was observed in January, February and March – with 7,4 percent quarter average. However, April saw a decrease to 2,7 percent. One of the factors that ensured

Opinion

A lost Georgian letter & Europe’s idealist deficit

by | May 30, 2014

Recently, I made a discovery of the kind that spices up historians’ books. In my archive, I discovered a draft of a letter by Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the first Georgian President, directed to Secretary James Baker. The date was 1991. These were devastating but hopeful

Opinion

Who’s next?

by | May 16, 2014

When the Sarkozy Agreement was brokered after the brief war between Georgia and Russia in August 2008 it was expected that Russia would adhere to its terms. Six years on Georgians are still waiting for Russia to return back to the “boundaries” of August 7, 2008.

Opinion

The Trans-Caspian Pipeline – a strategic opportunity

by | May 14, 2014

The EU is advocating stable and transparent regulatory rules for energy production and trade in countries that play an important role as energy suppliers, and especially in countries that are interested in closer ties with the EU. Transparent and stable regulatory

Opinion

Georgia’s watered-down anti-discrimination law

by | April 26, 2014

The Ministry of Justice of Georgia has been working on a draft anti-discrimination law since early 2013. In December last year it was passed on to the government for review and this government-proposed bill was sent to the Parliament for approval on March 28. Several

Opinion

Planned funding scheme for religious groups is discriminatory

by | April 8, 2014

Late January the Government of Georgia adopted a resolution which enables the financing of four traditional religious confessions: the Roman Catholic Church, the Armenian Apostolic Church, and Muslim and Jewish groups. Until now, the Georgian Orthodox Church was the

Opinion

Ukraine-Crimea-Georgia – the West and Russia

by | March 21, 2014

There is much in a name.  Ukraine means borderland. The position of the extreme West–like US neocons–is clear: get all into NATO, encircling, containing, defeating Russia.  Some in Ukraine and Georgia share that goal.  The less extreme West would focus on EU

Opinion

Regarding the situation in Ukraine

by | March 14, 2014

A choice isn't a choice when it is made with a gun to your head. Yet on Sunday, the people of Crimea will be asked to make an impossible choice: to vote to become subjugated by Russia; or to vote for independence - with no guarantee that Russia will show any more

Opinion

Police complaints authority will increase public’s trust

by | March 4, 2014

In 2007, it was revealed that Georgian society was immensely dissatisfied with the performance of the police, and this negative perception has been growing incessantly. What are the reasons for the lack of trust in the police, and what does Georgia have to do

Opinion

Managing non-performing loans in Georgia

by | February 12, 2014

TBILISI, DFWatch--The problem of bad loans gets huge attention nowadays. It has become a headache for all from bank managers to government authorities. Bad loans were basically the driver of the recent world economic downturn. The situation is no different in Georgia.

Opinion

Saakashvili’s appointment as ‘Senior Statesman’

by | January 23, 2014

This letter was published January 21, 2014, in The Tufts Daily, a student newspaper at Tufts University.I was distressed to read in your newspaper that former Georgian President Saakashvili had been appointed as a so-called “Senior Statesman” at the Fletcher

Opinion

Child protection is missing from Georgia’s Association Agreement

by | January 12, 2014

In December 2013, Georgia signed the Association Agreement with the European Union during the Eastern Partnership summit held in Vilnius.The newly signed Association Agreement thus becomes the main treaty between Georgia and the EU and highlights key areas of cooperation.  The Agreement focuses

Opinion

Seeing Georgia plain

by | December 19, 2013

Almost two centuries ago, the Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote in an oft-cited verse “And would some Power the small gift give us/To see ourselves as others see us! /It would from many a blunder free us, /And foolish notion:/What airs in dress and gait would leave us, /And even devotion!”

Opinion

Better regulation of vehicle procurement by public offices

by | November 29, 2013

The issue of procuring vehicles by public agencies has frequently been discussed by the public and the media for the past several years. Procurement of luxurious cars by high state officials with state money has also been criticized. State procurement which is linked

Opinion

The Georgian Judiciary Today

by | November 19, 2013

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.-Thomas JeffersonThe judiciary is in permanent need of control from the side of an impartial and quality observer with a view to ensuring its existence. We are still on

Opinion

The “two truths” about the reserve funds

by | November 8, 2013

Since some days after the 2013 presidential elections, much has been said about the millions spent from the President’s Reserve Fund. Representatives of the ruling Georgian Dream Coalition allege that funds from the President’s Reserve Fund were spent for party

Opinion

Why ‘no’ to the Eurasian Customs Union

by | October 19, 2013

“The Eurasian Customs Union in the framework of Eurasian Economic Development” – the name of this union mainly has an economic connotation to it. However, everyone agrees that its main goal is political. Spheres of competence of the union prove this argument:

Opinion

Tbilisi enganges Europe, Europe engages an Eastern neighbor

by | October 18, 2013

In the recent International Parliamentary Conference that took place under the aegis of the Parliament of Georgia and the United Nations Development programme in Tbilisi on October 7, 2013, the focus was on the Vilnius Summit. Suitably, the Georgian delegates,

Opinion

Georgia and the Eurasian Union

by | October 16, 2013

A few weeks ago, speaking at a press conference, Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili floated the idea of Georgia joining the Eurasian Union. Although he later backtracked on his statements, the cat was out of the bag. Predictably, the United National Movement slammed

Opinion

The price of the state

by | September 30, 2013

Everyone demands something from the state budget: pensioners - increased pensions, public sector employees - higher salaries, socially needed – adequate social assistance, everyone else – free healthcare, education, etc. Not many of them realize that there is no

Opinion

What pension model should Georgia have?

by | August 19, 2013

We often hear pre-election promises of various political parties that envisage increasing pensions to equal the subsistence minimum. Such promises enjoy a positive reaction from society, however the necessity of a pension reform in the country is underestimated and is

Opinion

Georgia needs a competent energy strategy

by | August 5, 2013

Georgia is an energy dependent country – with 65% of energy demand being covered from external sources. Despite the richness in hydropower resources Georgia still has a negative balance even in electricity import-export. Energy dependence has a negative impact

Opinion

The Rule of Bonus Payment in Public Offices

by | July 26, 2013

Public officials’ remuneration is regarded one of the most important aspects for the functioning of public offices both in Georgia and elsewhere in the World. Issues such as effective fight against corruption in public office, attracting qualified candidates to government jobs,

Opinion

The Role of Fiscal Policy in Economic Growth

by | July 18, 2013

During the planning process of the state budget, a 6% real economic growth was predicted; however the civil society and political circles are questioning the feasibility of achieving 6% growth rate and performance of the planned budgetary revenues. According to the

Opinion

Local government reform – a new chance

by | July 17, 2013

Establishing true local self-government was one of the new Government of Georgia’s major pre-election promises. The ambitious goal of creating local self-governing units is now part of the government's strategy. In Georgia's two decades of independence, no other

Opinion

Freedom to peaceful assembly and freedom of movement

by | June 29, 2013

I can think of a number of demonstrations over the past few years when the police arrested participants for blocking traffic and violating the public order. However, today, I would like to draw your attention to the latest incident of May 1, 2013 in which the question

Opinion

The State’s Role in the May 17 Incident

by | June 21, 2013

The May 17 incident and its subsequent developments should be discussed in two paradigms: the legal and the socio-cultural. The legal aspect relates to the state, whereas the socio-cultural is linked to society, in particular the existing social and cultural structures.

Opinion

Washington and Tbilisi Are Still On The Same Side

by | June 20, 2013

For eight years, long before the 2008 war, I served as Ambassador of Georgia to Washington. At the time, the main issue at hand was capacity-building: to think in terms of policies, allocating competencies and tasks, preparing the normative ground, pinpointing

Opinion

NYT picks on an easy target

by | June 11, 2013

On June 5th, the New York Times was running an article entitled “Taliban Attack Kills 7 Georgian Soldiers in Afghanistan.” Despite the title, the article said very little about the circumstances surrounding this tragic event; it focused mostly on an analysis

Opinion

Foreign Policy or a Battle Cry?

by | June 10, 2013

What happened in October? The October 2012 parliamentary election gave Georgia a chance for normal development. Needless to say, a government assuming power through violence cannot be democratic. Thus, defeating the National Movement through the ballot box instead of

Opinion

Ill-treatment – old and new challenges

by | June 3, 2013

When thinking about the crucial events of the year 2012, what comes to my mind first is the prison abuse scandal. The released videos depicting the various acts of torture and ill-treatment

Opinion

Mere Violence or Clash of Values?

by | May 21, 2013

The May 17 events revealed confrontation between church and secularism as one of the main public conflicts in any political system. Public conflict is a matter of public concern. Public opinion on this issue is divided into opposite positions, various social groups

Opinion

Religious Radicals – the Biggest Threat to Georgia’s Democracy

by | May 20, 2013

These shameful events posed new questions (or rather question marks) for the Georgian democracy. The country has achieved a lot since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has effectively fought crime and corruption; it has managed to change its government through peaceful

Opinion

Being homeless

by | May 20, 2013

There are no accurate statistics about the number of homeless families living in Georgia. The homeless people have been particularly active in reminding the state of their existence following the October 2012 elections, when they occupied a number of buildings in Tbilisi, staged

Opinion

Understanding Georgia’s Foreign Direct Investment Trends

by | May 11, 2013

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows to Georgia fell significantly from the second quarter of 2012, closing the year 23% down from 2011. After several years of steady recovery, this is a serious concern for policy makers. Georgia’s domestic capital market is

Opinion

Preventive Measures in Criminal Cases

by | May 5, 2013

On April 2, 2012 GYLA held a presentation of trial monitoring results focused on criminal cases in the city courts of Tbilisi and Kutaisi. The trial monitoring was conducted within the framework of the USAID funded Judicial Independence and Legal Empowerment Project

Opinion

Land Market in Georgia – Threats and Challenges

by | April 22, 2013

It has been 20 years since the country’s independence, but 70% of the land in Georgia is still unregistered; fragmented land parcels impose another problem to the individuals, thus hinders their commercialization process; the land market in the country

Opinion

Moral of a Short Story

by | April 21, 2013

It has been almost three weeks since Adjara senior police official physically abused a driver that had committed a violation. The small story was followed by big developments – local police officer destroyed one of the pieces of evidence proving the truth

Opinion

Ten Questions Georgians Should Be Asking Themselves Today

by | April 15, 2013

Outsiders in both Russia and the West are quite prepared to tell Georgians what they should want and how they should pursue it. That is not their proper role: Georgians are the ones who must make choices about Georgia’s future. But outsiders sometimes can play

Opinion

The reserve funds should be regulated

by | April 9, 2013

On March 4, 2012, Georgian media outlets reported that the President of Georgia was opening a summer theatre in Batumi. Had it happened before the 2012 parliamentary elections, there would have been nothing unusual about it, but in fact it was

Economy, News, Opinion

Twin Deficit

by | April 1, 2013

Twin deficit is a situation where a country’s economy is running two deficits at the same time: a fiscal deficit, and a deficit on the current account of the balance of payments. According to the twin deficit hypothesis, persistent fiscal shocks cause a deterioration

Opinion

Between either/or and both/and: Georgia’s foreign policy choices

by | March 28, 2013

Even as Europe and the United States encourage the countries between Russia and the West to adopt a “both/and” approach to relations with the two and in many cases criticize those governments which don’t, Moscow has signaled that in its view, these countries

Opinion

The Quest for Mundane Democracy in Georgia

by | March 24, 2013

Democratura is a term that would resonate perfectly with a post-Soviet republic, such as Georgia, mainly because it is a word designed to resemble the word “Nomenklatura,” that is, people who rule in the name and by virtue of their patron. There is something lucid and honest about this word, in that it assigns personal responsibility for a specific phenomenon. In Brussels, this would be called “a democratic deficit” and would gravitate around structures rather than individuals, in a perpetual evocation of “systemic weakness” that must be addressed, albeit, blurring the question of personal responsibility: i.e. “who should address this question?” It is interesting that people prefer “grand narratives” and elaborate terms when they want to avoid talking on real issues or real responsibility. In a democracy, authority is a battle, not a fact. The problem with democratic legitimacy often stems from the fact that popular vote often conveys authority “indirectly” rather than directly. Already in 1960, Bell wrote a book entitled “the end of ideology,” describing how democracy was turning into a technocracy were “authentic” political choices were being blurred ...

Opinion

Georgia’s democratic transition

by | March 22, 2013

I hoped to publish this in an American newspaper during Speaker Usupashvili''s visit to Washington DC, a very successful one, by the way! I wanted Americans to read that message about Georgia and the recent developments there. I did not succeed, but I want to share

Opinion

Why the Bipartisan Foreign Policy Resolution is Significant

by | March 9, 2013

Adopting a bipartisan resolution on foreign policy in Georgia is significant both in terms of process and in terms of substance. In terms of process, anything bipartisan, in the first experience of a real bipolar party system, not least a cohabitation, should not be

Opinion

Intellectual Dilemma or Political Hoax?

by | March 3, 2013

“Georgia? What kind of place is that?” “Well, this is a post-Soviet country where a pro-Russian billionaire won the elections over a pro-Western reformer president…” That is a tag line that has already appeared in many foreign publications on Georgia,

Opinion

What Constitutions are not about and what foreign policy is about

by | February 13, 2013

Polemical reflections on the UNM's proposal for the constitutionalization of Georgian Foreign Policy Constitutions are binding principles that are non-negotiable in the context of a polity. This is why principles enshrined in a Constitution set minimum benchmarks,

Opinion

The End of Neoliberal Hegemony

by | February 11, 2013

The new ruling political class needs to make more effort to emancipate their minds from market oriented stereotypes, writes Bakar Berekashvili. 20 years of post-communist transition cultivated and produced lots of troubles, dramas and traumas in many post-communist

Opinion

Saakashvili and Friends

by | January 25, 2013

Certain powers in Europe declare unconditional support for Mikheil Saakashvili and his National Movement whom the Georgian people replaced peacefully, through tremendous efforts and social consolidation. This article offers the reader a description of reasons behind

Opinion

Local government after the parliamentary elections

by | December 29, 2012

The victory of the opposition in the October 1, 2012 parliamentary election created an unusual political situation for Georgia: the majority in parliament and the local governments are controlled by two different political forces, the ruling and the opposition party.

Opinion

Elite Corruption and Government Pressure on Business in Georgia

by | December 27, 2012

Elite corruption directly affects the economic development of a country. There are a number of studies, including publications by the World Bank, which prove the interdependence between the size of the unobserved economy and corruption in a country. Moreover,

Opinion

The fate of truth in our days

by | December 20, 2012

The example of one small country The reason behind this letter lies in critical comments made by western political circles and media concerning the government, which was elected by the majority of the citizens of Georgia in the October 2012 parliamentary election,

Opinion

Misunderstanding that Georgia will not Facilitate a Solution

by | December 3, 2012

If our strategic allies’ warning is about reversing the current legal processes, I would say it is impossible and could be even harmful. If it is about being more considerate in decision-planning and aware of the environment, I would agree and subscribe to it.

Opinion

Georgia and the Great Ideological Struggle

by | November 21, 2012

Mikhail Saakashvili’s conceding speech heralded historical victory for liberal democracy in a region, where intimidation, oppression and revolution had been the common place for two centuries of Russian domination. His speech indicated that for the first time in

Opinion

Can Georgia Avoid the Traps of the Past?

by | November 19, 2012

The results of the recent parliamentary elections in Georgia caught everyone by surprise. Observers had confidently predicted that Misha Saakashvili and his United National Movement (UNM) would prevail and that his declaration of victory would be followed by protests

Opinion

Do we have an opposition in today’s parliament?

by | October 31, 2012

If we look at the current parliament through the eyes of an outside observer, then the question in the headline will become completely rhetorical. An outside observer will say that in the current parliament, there is Georgian Dream as majority, and the minority is

Opinion

Neither Saakashvili nor Ivanishvili is what the West believes

by | October 22, 2012

For many in the West, Mikheil Saakashvili remains the poster child of the Rose Revolution, an uncompromising promoter of democracy and defender of his country against Russia, and the incoming Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili is viewed as a shadowy and authoritarian

Opinion

The challenge for democracy in Georgia

by | October 17, 2012

On October 1, Georgia successfully concluded its first constitutional transfer of power through internationally monitored free and fair elections. President Saakashvili graciously accepted his governing party’s defeat and has worked constructively with Bidzina Ivanishvili,

Opinion

Reflections on Georgia’s 2013 draft budget

by | October 11, 2012

Georgian government October two presented draft for state budget adjusted to the interest of the United National Movement to the Georgian parliament. But now election winner Georgian Dream awaits the draft in parliament. This force’s election promises is radically different

Opinion

Will there be civil confrontation?

by | September 29, 2012

Elections are won by media which feed people’s minds and create attitudes. For the first time since November 2003 Georgia has a strong opposition along with a strong ruling team, which makes the parliamentary elections of October 1 really competitive. But government-

Opinion

No more violence

by | September 28, 2012

As a representative of Switzerland I am looking forward to be allowed to observe democratic parliamentary elections in Georgia. Both countries, Georgia and Switzerland, are small, very dynamic, and extremely lovely countries. Both together should always and under any

Opinion

Why my husband was arrested

by | September 24, 2012

Nina Khatiskatsi explains that her husband’s recent imprisonment, for arguing with a member of the District Election Commission, is symptomatic of the government’s increased use of police powers to intimidate Georgia’s opposition and the electorate. On the 20th of

Opinion

In Memoriam of Greg Guroff

by | September 1, 2012

For those of us that retain their curiosity, willingness to fail and to learn, age is measured not in years but in lost friends. I lost a good friend – Greg Guroff. He died of an incurable disease but he fought strong for his life as he did in energetic and rich life – as a diplomat,

Opinion

Georgia: From the Beacon to the Crossroads

by | August 24, 2012

What is the internal political situation established in the country since the Rose Revolution? How much competition is there between political parties, and what are the threats and challenges in the pre-election environment for the parliamentary elections scheduled for

Opinion

How will ethnic minorities vote in the parliamentary elections?

by | August 19, 2012

Will number 5 strike first again? Today many citizens of Georgia ask themselves what will be their choice in the parliamentary elections, while politicians and analysts try to make prognoses about the electoral behavior of different groups in society, including ethnic

Opinion

Food safety in Georgian — A fairy tale

by | August 16, 2012

What do you do, if you happen to buy a food in Georgia and before eating it you notice that it is spoiled? In such a case, many people simply throw the food away and that’s it. Some people go back to the shop and request to exchange the food, or to return money.

Opinion

Putin’s Defeat in Georgia

by | August 15, 2012

In 279 BC, Pyrrhus of Epirus defeated Roman forces at Asculum in Apuleia at such a cost that the king observed, according to Plutarch, that yet another such “victory” would utterly destroy him and his cause. Because of that observation, made famous by John

Opinion

Learning the Lessons of 2008

by | August 13, 2012

As the fourth anniversary of the Russian-Georgia war of 2008 has passed, the two nations remain locked in a political and military confrontation which is poisoning the atmosphere of their entire region. A restart of hostilities remains a real danger in several

Opinion

Conflict settlement 20 years after the war in Abkhazia

by | August 8, 2012

by Dieter Boden, former Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Georgia 1. Lessons to be learnt On 14 August it is 20 years that Georgian troops under the command of Tengis Kitovani, then Minister of Defence and head of the National Guard crossed

Opinion

Is Georgia still on your mind, America?

by | August 7, 2012

A Letter from Washington DC by Tedo Japaridze, former Georgian foreign minister, political advisor to Bidzina IvanishviliI shall wrap up my blitz visit to Washington DC by tomorrow, a place where I spent more than 8 years as Georgia’s Ambassador to the United

Opinion

Seizures without Prosecution

by | July 30, 2012

One of the blatant illegalities that the Georgian authorities have repeatedly committed in the last few months is that they seize one’s property without bringing charges against the owner of such property or any other person with whom the owner may somehow

Opinion

Rejoice Gods of Georgian Democracy!

by | July 18, 2012

Prometheus is in the Cave! by Tedo Japaridze, former foreign minister of Georgia and political advisor to Bidzina Ivanishvili.Last year, the government of Georgia held a session of the cabinet in a grotto named after the mythical martyr of humanity, Prometheus,

Opinion

Inflation in Georgia – Causes and Cures

by | July 17, 2012

In 2011 inflation can be regarded as one of the major challenges for the Georgian economy, writes Irina Guruli, program coordinator at the Economic Policy Research Center. Even though Georgia has been successful in suppressing the inflationary pressure

Opinion

The Saakashvili government’s osteochondrosis

by | July 5, 2012

This headline shouldn't concern us. It has a sarcastic meaning, but should not be taken as mockery. It is only a convenient metaphor for understanding today's processes, because this naturally derives from the government's early formula – 'Merabishvili

Opinion

President Saakashvili attempts to challenge history

by | June 18, 2012

It would be strange if the things were different, it would confuse the classics; ad fontes: power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Could this maxim be wrong in Georgia's case? Could Saakashvili be an exception from this truism? asks Giorgi Margvelashvili,

Opinion

Why HSBC discontinued its banking activities in Georgia

by | June 11, 2012

Britain's largest bank HSBC opened business in Georgia in 2008. But in 2011, it decided to end its involvement here. Why?, asks George Khelaia, economist and former Deputy Chairman of the Chamber of Control. The Bank has branch offices in 65 countries and is one of the

Opinion

Georgian Puzzle – Minorities and New Challenges (Part II)

by | June 5, 2012

by Arnold Stepanian, chairman of the movement Multinational Georgia.   Israel, the Israel Lobby and Georgian Authorities Georgian authorities' interest in Israeli capital is hard to overestimate. Since 2003, the authorities have been made efforts to strengthen

Opinion

Georgia needs the U.S. to send Saakashvili a message

by | June 1, 2012

What does the U.S. expect from Georgia and what does Georgia expect from the U.S.? The U.S. has repeatedly declared Georgia a beacon for democracy and the most westernized country in the region, which accordingly can be called 'partly democratic', writes Zaza

Opinion

Hillary Clinton’s visit to Georgia – what to expect

by | June 1, 2012

Secretary of State Clinton's visit to Georgia and the South Caucasus June 3-6 underscores both the importance of the region to the US and the pressing political and security issues in the Caucasus, which could involve the West, writes Kenneth S. Yalowitz, former U.S.

Opinion

Global TV: Freedom of Speech under Attack

by | May 28, 2012

Global TV is a cable operator that provides services to its subscribers in Tbilisi and some other regions of Georgia. The company also owns a satellite broadcasting license which allows it to broadcast its signal by way of satellite. Before 2012, Global TV had a

Opinion

The Glorious Lies – Where’s that “Georgia”, Mr. President?

by | May 25, 2012

The recently delivered speech by Michael Saakasvilli in Princeton University was a wholesome educational experience for every graduate in communication studies, writes Tedo Japaridze, former Foreign Minister of Georgia and an advisor to Bidzina Ivanishvili. Those who

Opinion

NATO Summit in Chicago its Importance for Georgia

by | May 22, 2012

At the Summit of NATO, leaders of the NATO and non-NATO member states are discussing the next major phase of transition in Afghanistan, furthermore, related to the further steps to ensure that North-Atlantic Alliance has the capabilities necessary to meet the challenges

Opinion

So what about the NATO-Georgia relation?

by | May 21, 2012

On 11th of May Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty published an interview with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. It might not raise big interest amongst Georgian media if it would not be right before the NATO Summit on May 20-21, and the question about Georgia

Opinion

NGOs’ proposal: concrete step towards fair elections

by | May 15, 2012

Last week was remarkable due to the activities of a number of NGOs (such as TI Georgia, GYLA, ISFED, Coalition for Free Choice, Media Coalition and others), which several months ago started a civic movement called “This Affects You Too”, writes Eka Gigauri, executive

Opinion

Inefficient system for releasing prisoners due to illness

by | May 14, 2012

Recent practice and statistics have revealed the extreme severity of the problem of inefficiency of the legal mechanisms that envision release of convicts from imprisonment due to their serious illness, writes Tamta Mikeladze, lawyer at Georgian Young Lawyers'

Opinion

Violence against journalists on World Press Freedom Day

by | May 7, 2012

TBILISI, DFWatch - During several days, while the whole world was celebrating World Press Freedom Day, journalists have been violated, insulted, beaten or deprived of their cameras and belongings in Georgia, writes Tamar Chugoshvili, leader of Georgian Young Lawyer's

Opinion

Disappearances inefficiently investigated by Georgia and Russia

by | April 28, 2012

During and after the Russo-Georgia conflict in August 2008, there have been a lot of human rights violations committed by both parties in the conflict, such as unlawful and disproportionate use of force by the military, unlawful detention of persons, inhuman treatment,

Opinion

Major Aspects of the Public Service Reform

by | April 25, 2012

One of the priority directions of Georgian Development Research Institute (GDRI) is the concept on public service reform, writes Levan Izoria, lawyer at the GDRI. The aim of the given concept is to create a guarantees for the independence of the public servant. Until recently

Opinion

Protection of Intellectual Property Rights in Georgia

by | April 24, 2012

In 2011, within the framework of the Eurasia Partnership Foundation’s European Integration Program, a report: Implementation of European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan (ENP AP) for 2011 in Georgia: Assessment of Civil Society Representatives was prepared. Economic

Opinion

Russian investigation of violations against ethnic Georgians in August 2008 war

by | April 21, 2012

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) in partnership with the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) and the Russian Justice Initiative (RJI) have lodged a number of cases against the Russian Federation of victims of 2008 August war with the European Court of Human Rights, writes Tamar Abazadze, lawyer at Georgian Young Lawyer's Association (GYLA). The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA) represents the interests of a number of victims of the Russian-Georgian armed conflict of August 2008 in applications to the European Court of Human Rights against the State of Russia. In 2009, GYLA working together with EHRAC applied to the Office of the Prosecutor of the Russian Federation through its partner human rights NGOs, Memorial and the Russian Justice Initiative, on behalf of around 400 victims of the Russian-Georgian armed conflict of August 2008, requesting the launch of preliminary investigations into the crimes committed against them. The applications set out the various crimes committed against the victims by representatives of the Russian military and the de-facto South Ossetian armed forces at the time the territory where they resided was under the ...

Opinion

Eavesdropping without judicial oversight is no longer permitted

by | April 17, 2012

On 28th of February 2012, the Constitutional Court of Georgia upheld the complaint of Georgian Young Lawyer's Association and repealed article 8.2 of the Georgian law on “operative investigative activity.” Only if the investigative authority has obtained judicial

Opinion

The Truth about Denial of Citizenship

by | April 9, 2012

A couple of days ago the Government of Georgia denied the Georgian billionaire Bizdina Ivanishvili the Georgian citizenship for which Mr. Ivanishvili, a child of Georgian parents, one who was born, grown up and educated in Georgia, applied in early January 2012.

Opinion

Answer to Marine Chitashvili regarding NDI’s survey

by | April 6, 2012

  Marine Chitashvili, Thank you for your letter and for citing many of the interesting issues that the survey brings to light. We also thank you for your comments supporting our representative sampling methodology on the March 26 showing of "Tskheli Khazi." As my

Opinion

I am ready to talk again

by | April 6, 2012

In a press conference held in Tbilisi on 5 April the Georgian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nino Kalandadze, has attacked me for adopting unfriendly positions regarding her Government's policy line, in particular for critisizing as „illusionist“ official

Opinion

Open letter to Mr. Navarro, NDI – Georgia

by | April 6, 2012

  Dear Mr. Navarro, From March 21 to 30 I was honored to be named by you as a local expert supporting the methodological part of your recent sociological survey published at 03.21.2012. First of all, I want to express my gratitude for regarding me as an expert or a trustworthy person,

Opinion

NDI’s survey and its influence on Georgian politics

by | April 5, 2012

The survey which was implemented in March of 2012 in Georgia, by the one of the leading and authoritative organization in the World - The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDIIA or NDI) has caused a hard discussion in Georgian society, writes

Opinion

The American Institutes’ Surveys and Georgian Politics

by | April 4, 2012

As for many things in Georgia, the fate of sociology is dramatic in Georgian politics, writes Ramaz Sakvarelidze, political commentator. The culmination of this drama was the so-called exit poll on election day in 2008. The results of this survey were nearly identical to

Opinion

Torture still happens in Georgia

by | April 4, 2012

Giorgi Okroporidze – a convict, who suffered from something that authorities maintain “no longer happens”. He was tortured, writes Mikheil Ghoghadze, lawyer at Georgian Young Lawyer's Association. In late December 2011, Giorgi Okropirize’s mother came to us.

Opinion

Why Is Social Sensitivity Required for Judges

by | March 31, 2012

About a month ago Tbilisi Appellate Court delivered a judgment in a case involving a person with a disability, who was represented in court by Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association. The respondents were the legal entity of public law Social Service Agency at the Ministry

Opinion

Socially Dangerous Elements – Past and Present

by | March 21, 2012

On February 29, 2012, during a debate in Parliament, President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili referred to a former pupil at Tbilisi Public School #53 as a hooligan, writes David Jishkariani is researcher at the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI). 

Opinion

Georgian Administrative Detention Undermines Human Rights

by | March 20, 2012

The regulation of administrative offenses and administrative detention in particular are of grave concern to local and international human rights organizations, which has been clearly demonstrated several times, inter alia, by providing observations on the issue and expressing

Opinion

An Empty Circle – Access to Public Information

by | March 15, 2012

Several days ago I had a meeting with two experienced lawyers. They and I are all rather concerned about freedom of expression in the country. During the discussion we concluded that those who don’t write, are not worried about anything at all; they have nothing to say

Opinion

Westerwelle’s visit and Georgia-Germany relations

by | March 14, 2012

The visit of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany Guido Westerwelle to Tbilisi on March 15, 2012 represents an important event for the Germany-Georgia relations, taking into account the fact, that this visit coincides with the 20th anniversary

Opinion

What can we expect from Westerwelle’s visit?

by | March 13, 2012

We have bad experience with a German Foreign Minister’s visits to Georgia. Former Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Georgia several weeks before the August war in 2008. He brought along a map with several points for how to solve the Abkhazian conflict.

Opinion

The Subtle Art of Realpolitik

by | March 12, 2012

Guido Westerwelle, a German Foreign Minister, a distinguished and energetic German politician, will soon be visiting Georgia. A visit by the German Foreign Minister in any corner of Europe these days is a significant event, writes former Georgian foreign minister, Ted

Opinion

How Georgia’s future leader should not be

by | March 7, 2012

When George Washington held the first State of the Union address in the U.S. Congress, there was a debate about where the president should sit so that his official status wouldn’t be diminished, but at the same time wasn't looking down on Congress, in order to visually

Opinion

How Party Financing Regulations Should be Changed

by | March 6, 2012

Georgia's party financing law was amended in December 2011. A campaign called This Affects You Too was formed in February out of concern that the amendments are a threat to democracy. Recently, the campaign presented their proposal for how to make new amendments, so that

Opinion

Budgetary Expenses and State Debt in Georgia

by | March 5, 2012

Social expenses comprised the largest share in the State budget of Georgia in 2011, with 30% of total expenses directed towards this category. Dynamics indicate clearly that the budget is getting more and more burdened by the social obligations, writes Irina Guruli,

Opinion

Virtual Universe Keeps Turning into a Dynamo

by | March 5, 2012

President Saakashvili in his recent address to the Parliament referred to the entire opposition as ones locked in a virtual world who have completely lost touch with reality. Interestingly, the ruling team has crafted a virtual reality of another nature, one that manifests

Opinion

From Post-Soviet to Soviet – Something has changed!

by | March 5, 2012

‘Something’ really changed, because the party, the leader who called the collapse of the Soviet Empire the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century, in fact lost majority support from voters and was only able to retain power through falsification

Opinion

Waiting for Saakashvili’s state of the nation speech

by | February 28, 2012

It’s already the fourth year that I am a member of parliament, and for the fourth time I have to listen to the Georgian president in the Georgian parliament; listen to his promises and views, in what in the constitution is called “report about the country’s

Opinion

Georgian Puzzle – Minorities and New Challenges

by | February 28, 2012

Part 1: Russia and Georgia One cannot Play at Giveaway Since the Rose Revolution and the assumption of political power by Mikhail Saakashvili the scope of influence of the Russian Federation over Georgia has been weakened to that extent that the Russian Federation has

Opinion

Cherchez la femme: look for the woman in Georgian politics

by | February 22, 2012

It was a long way of looking for the women in Georgian politics. For the last decade, the only explanation for the lack of women in positions of power was: women are not ready themselves, are not showing will, writes Nina Tsihistavi, researcher in gender issues and women's

Opinion

Analysis of 2012 State Budget and Elections

by | February 21, 2012

Georgia's 2012 budget is significantly different from the 2011 budget due to it being an election year. The expenditure part of the budget is particularly interesting. There are several expenditures which directly or indirectly aim to increase voters’ content, and this will

Opinion

eTransparency in the Government of Georgia

by | February 20, 2012

From 2009 to 2011, the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) carried out the first and so far only survey of eTransparency in Georgia, monitoring some 100 web pages of different public authorities in Georgia, writes Constantine Janjghava, project

Opinion

Saakashvili’s victory is his own defeat

by | February 16, 2012

In official or semi-official conversations, president Saakashvili's supporters often remark that Saakashvili should somehow stay in power to finish the reforms he started, because otherwise the country's direction will be reversed and it will head back into the past,

Opinion

New law imposes criminal liability on voters

by | February 13, 2012

In December 2011 the Parliament of Georgia upheld amendments to rules about party financing and other relevant regulations. These amendments impose severe and disproportionate limitations on voters, the private sector: business, non-governmental organizations outside o

Opinion

Lazika: Democratic Deficit in Public Decision Making Process

by | February 10, 2012

On December 4, 2011, the president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili announced an initiative to build a new city called “Lazika” in the West of Georgia, between Anaklia and Kulevi. The new city is supposed to be the largest after the capital, Tbilisi, and reach a population of about

Opinion

Administrative-territorial reform – a taboo in Georgian politics

by | February 6, 2012

A lot of reforms have been carried out in the country during the first two decades after Georgia's independence in 1991. Although some of them were rather controversial and contradictory, they led to significant changes in various spheres of Georgia’s social life, writes David Losaberidze,

Opinion

Saakashvili: “We basically got what we wanted to get”

by | February 3, 2012

- Right! What we did not get was, something that was in the preliminary statement of the White House, stating that: “The President will reconfirm U.S. support for the integrity of Georgia’s territory within its internationally recognized borders”. We did not hear that; and really lacked that

Opinion

Beyond Reset – Building a Pluralistic Political Society

by | February 3, 2012

Georgia’s only way forward towards strengthened security, economic growth and modernization is to build a pluralistic political society. Georgia cannot build a national security state, it must build a liberal state, writes international relations specialist Levan Tsutskiridze.

Opinion

Is Georgia’s government still trying to improve the investment climate?

by | February 2, 2012

The Georgian public is already used to multiple amendments to different laws, which dramatically change regulation principles in different areas in the country. We also got used to the fact that some of the changes are introduced to the parliament and adopted by the legislator

Opinion

What are Georgia’s chances of NATO membership?

by | January 31, 2012

A number of articles and statements have been boosting our hopes that NATO membership is within Georgia’s grasp. There are several arguments made to this effect, some more serious than others, writes Tedo Djapharidze, Georgia's former ambassador to the United States. This rhetoric surely reflects a commitment to this objective, which no one disputes; but there are also reasons to believe that this rhetoric is also contributing to a false perception that the West, like a Deus ex Machina, will descent upon Georgia not merely as a security guarantor, but also as a peace-maker. Somehow, this fantasy seems more related to forthcoming legislative elections rather than “facts.” Most public statements made to this effect point towards NATO membership as a possible “exit strategy” from the current strategic deadlock with Russia and the unacceptable for Georgia status quo. True, Rasmussen, in his recent visit to Georgia (November 2011), verified the fact that the alliance considers South Ossetia and Abkhazia as integral parts of Georgia. However, it requires a huge leap of faith in order to go from support towards the restoration of ...

Opinion

Sham Justice: Chamber of Control’s treatment of Georgian Dream

by | January 31, 2012

A couple of days ago, Georgian Dream, a civil society agency established by the Georgian billionaire, Mr. Bidzina Ivanishvili, got notice from the Georgia Chamber of Control where the said government agency warned Georgian Dream to refund a total of GEL 1.1 million to Elita Burji Ltd. The failure to implement the Chamber of Control demand would result in the forfeiture of GEL 1.1 by Georgian Dream, writes Alexander Baramidze, lawyer for Georgian Dream. Back in December 2011, Georgian Dream entered into a contract with Elita Burji whereby the latter undertook to manufacture some furniture for the former. The contract price was set at GEL 2 million, which money was paid by Georgian Dream to Elita Burji in advance. Later on, it turned out that Elita Burji was able to perform its obligations under the contract just within the limits of GEL 0.9 million. Naturally, Georgian Dream requested the rest of money – GEL 1.1 million – back which request was fulfilled without any delay. What can be unlawful or even unusual in this story? The Chamber of Control claims that Georgian ...

Opinion

Legislative Novelties Leading to the Absurd

by | January 30, 2012

An election reform which started out with the aim to create an equal and fair election environment in Georgia ended up creating discriminatory regulations, violating freedom of speech and property rights; imposed real threats for voters, media, NGOs and business organizations, writes Tamar Chugoshvili, chair of Georgian Young Lawyer's Association. Amendments made to the law on Political Union of Citizens and the Criminal Code of Georgia in December 2011 have a restrictive effect on civil and political activities. It imposes unreasonable prohibitions and disproportionate sanctions. The Law imposes unequal restrictions for the ruling party and the opposition in terms of vote buying. The newly adopted law provides unreasonably restrictive regulations for voters. Both a party representative and a voter will be charged with up to 3 years’ imprisonment in case of vote buying, while there are no liabilities for the cases when activities that would lead to vote buying are funded from the state or local budget. The law imposes significant restrictions for expression of political views by citizens, whereas civil servants and state officials are subject to minimum restrictions on political agitation. ...

Opinion

The Georgian-style principle of subsidiarity

by | January 30, 2012

During his meetings with ordinary citizens (especially in the regions) the Georgian president often assures them he keeps a close eye on everything happening in the country, be it a new road or monument in a small town or village. "Nobody can do it but me," he says, writes David Losaberidze, project coordinator at the Caucasus Institute for Peace Democracy and Development. It is interesting that these statements have so far drawn no reaction, neither positive nor negative, from the public. At first glance, it seems normal and even exciting that the country’s leader cares for the nation as well as he does for his own family, trying to involve himself in every detail of social life, for instance advising on architectural design or choosing a colour for a school walls. In a patrimonial society such deep involvement can only strengthen the leader’s popularity and approval rating - "The country is in good hands". And the president’s statements are not mere words. The central government indeed has complete control over every aspect of the country’s everyday life and is trying to take advantage ...

Opinion

A critical time of choice for Georgia

by | January 28, 2012

Dear Amb. Yalowitz, I am writing to thank you for your compelling editorial in “Democracy and Freedom Watch” in which you rightly warn that my country is at a critical crossroads with upcoming parliamentary elections.  I too share your concern that free, fair and transparent elections are being threatened by an increasingly authoritarian rule by President Saakashvili who is moving to consolidate his power while at the same time undermining the peaceful and democratic opposition that is being rallied by Bidzina Ivanishvili.  Our hope is that during his meeting with Saakashvili next week, President Obama and other US leaders will clearly and firmly state that the Putin-like moves being engaged by President Saakashvili are of grave concern to the US. These authoritarian moves by President Saakashvili have been confirmed by such independent observers as Human Rights Watch, whose 2012 World Report compared the protests for fair elections and an end to corruption in Georgia and President Saakashvili’s use of excessive force in order to attempt to quell demonstrations in the streets to the protests of the Arab Spring.  These actions are regarded ...

Opinion

Democracy, National Interests, Idealism and Realpolitik

by | January 28, 2012

Saakashvili is meeting Obama on January 30. The agenda announced on the White House webpage names issues such as: 20 years of diplomatic relations, the U.S. – Georgia Charter, Georgia’s contribution to operations in Afghanistan, U.S. support for Georgia’s territorial integrity, and upcoming elections, writes Giorgi Margvelashvili, rector of Georgian Institute of Public Affairs. The list is quite extensive, nevertheless, Georgian public opinion concentrated on two issues, and even speculates on which of these two will be dominating the discussion – security or democracy. What will this meeting be and how will its members act? Will Obama perform as a descendant of the Founding Fathers, of Woodrow Wilson, or will he talk hard about current interest and military geopolitics? Will Saakashvili talk about Georgia’s national interests or try to negotiate his political future or severance package? The dichotomy is probably too simplistic, and probably any acting politician, even the most idealistic one, is engaged in realpolitik and naturally has to defend his national interests, as well as the concerns of his party and of individual political actors. But the question is not ...

Opinion

The United States and Georgia: Freedom is in the Interest of Both

by | January 27, 2012

When President Obama sits down with his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili on Monday, the conversation they have will take but a small part of the busy and beleaguered American leader’s day, but could have far reaching consequences for Georgia, writes Irakli Alasania, leader of the Free Democrats Party and Georgia's former United Nations ambassador. It could provide another look at what in the United States is the often-debated question about the respective roles played by their interests versus their values in world politics. Both America’s values and interests would be well-served were Obama to speak firmly to Saakashvili about taking a more democratic stance in the run-up to parliamentary elections here later this year. It is hard to overstate the importance of the United States to Georgia. The road that leads from the airport into the capital city, for instance, is called George W. Bush highway, a sign of tribute Saakashvili paid to Obama’s predecessor. Any pronouncement from Washington dominates the headlines here for days. We consider the United States as playing a critical role in our country’s security, especially in the ...

Opinion

Will election year work as a reset button for Georgian democracy?

by | January 26, 2012

Two presidents that came to power under the sign of change meet January 30th. Below are some thoughts elicited by my friend Ambassador K.S. Yalowitz’s letter, writes George Khutsishvili, director of the International Center on Conflict and Negotiation. We live in the election year 2012, and I belong to those who believe change is needed, and the alternative exists. Yet is the change possible in a country where all branches of power, information and resources are controlled by one power vertical, the ruling team insists it is unchangeable, and the silent majority’s voice is accounted to the administrative majority? Looking back, we see that similar hopes, questions and doubts existed in the election year 2003, but the peaceful revolution happened. What could have dramatically clicked within a few days in a skeptical society’ mind, where everyone was supposed to know everything about anyone else? The turning point that had made November 23 possible was created by the opposition media who demonstrated the effects of (a) virtual critical mass of popular support, and (b) virtual US support for the change. Both supportive ...

Opinion

What will be on agenda of Saakashvili’s Washington meeting?

by | January 24, 2012

It is very fitting and important that Presidents Obama and Saakashvili meet in Washington on January 30, writes Kenneth S. Yalowitz, former U.S. Ambassador to Georgia. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Georgia and this is an excellent time to reflect on the many successes in our bilateral relationship and the issues we will be confronting in years ahead. Looking back on the precarious situation Georgia found itself upon independence and the collapse of the USSR, the progress made to date in state building and developing the economy is very impressive. The United States has been a consistent supporter of Georgia's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and has provided diplomatic, economic and technical, and security assistance towards those ends. In particular, the US has supported the desire of the Georgian people to be a part of Europe and join the Euro-Atlantic economic and security community. Georgian government efforts in recent years to deal with widespread corruption and support allied policy in Iraq and Afghanistan have been welcomed. Indeed, the bilateral ...

Opinion

The electricity meter produces rubbish in Tbilisi

by | January 22, 2012

Most of the government's decisions are routine in nature and ordinary people rarely feel their effect in everyday life, writes David Losaberidze, project coordinator at Caucasus Institute for Peace Democracy and Development. From time to time, however, the government makes

Opinion

NATO Accession Not a Right, but a Reward

by | January 16, 2012

While the Free Democrats strongly support the idea of Georgia’s accession to NATO, the government’s language with which the path to achieving this has recently been described, as "inevitable and irreversible," reflects the wrong attitude for success, in our view. As a club of democracies, NATO requires of its members sound and lasting commitment to democratic values, its own leadership has made very clear. I was heartened by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s remarks at the meeting with students at Tbilisi State University this past November when he reminded the audience of the essential role of democratic institutions for countries aspiring to NATO membership and urged Georgia’s rising generation to play as active a role in our country’s civic life as youth groups did during the 2003 Rose Revolution.  In essence, Rasmussen was suggesting that Georgia re-capture the very promise of that time which attracted the world’s attention in a most positive way.  His message did not fall upon deaf ears. The current government’s rhetoric on this issue consistently lacks the balance we need to advance towards membership.  Right now, Georgia ...

Opinion

Georgia and NATO integration

by | January 13, 2012

Georgia is getting prepared for the NATO Summit in Chicago, when the Leaders of NATO member states will gather to discuss the current agenda of the Euro-Atlantic community, including enlargement issues. The outcome of the Summit is determined by exclusively one particular session, which in this case will be held in Chicago in May 2012. It is a comprehensive and enduring political process, resulting in a set of decisions and solutions eventually reflected in the final statement of the summit. This process is going on right now and I want to draw your attention to the important decisions that NATO has already made and adopted in reference to Georgia in the context of the Chicago Summit. Let me start with the official visit of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) to Georgia led by the Secretary General in November 2011, which is an important part of the preparatory process for the summit in Chicago. It is important to keep in mind that NATO rarely conducts such official visits to non-member states. I would like to remind you that since the 2008 Russian invasion, ...

Opinion

Problems in the border areas

by | January 12, 2012

After the Russia-Georgian conflict of August war 2008 the administrative boundary line still remains as one of the most widely discussed issues for international and Georgian society. Before August 2008 Ossetians and Georgians travelled freely from one side to another, but since October 2008 when South Ossetia closed the administrative boundary line (ABL), which it treats as a “state border”, large-scale arrests began for “illegally crossing” the ABL or other fabricated crimes. As of the present time, access to South Ossetia still remains limited. On 14 August 2009 in the scope of the mechanism of Incident Prevention and Response to them, through the mediation of EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia the parties to the conflict reached an oral agreement that local residents shall not be detained on charges of crossing the border in case if they cross the ABL in any direction. However, in practice the real situation is more complicated. People are detained on both sides of the administrative boundary line. While detentions are usually brief, some last for months or for years. In the areas adjacent to South Ossetia, local ...

Opinion

The role of remittances in Georgian economy

by | January 11, 2012

Remittances constitute 6% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and outweigh the inflows of both grants and FDIs in Georgia, writes Irina Guruli, program coordinator at the Economic Policy Research Center. International remittances are personal flows of money by migrants to family and friends in their countries of origin. With more than 215 million people living outside their countries of birth, remittances sent home by migrants accounted for 2 % of GDP for all developing countries in 2008, but 6% of GDP for low-income countries.  This is where Georgia stands: remittances constitute 6% of the country’s GDP, as of September 2011, the amount of remittances transferred to Georgia amounted to 812.6 million USD, which is a 19.6% increase compared to the same period last year. Roughly, 9% of the population is remittance recipient. For financial institutions, 20% of their net income is from money transfer payments, although they are competing with a very large informal sector (an estimate of one third), i.e. remittances sent through friends, relatives, etc. To better understand the role of remittances for Georgian economy we shall look at ...

Opinion

2012 Georgian Elections – Battle without Rules?

by | January 9, 2012

National law-making pre-New Year incidents The history of how the Georgian parliament amended the law about Political Unions of Citizens is taking on more and more of a comic character. First, while amending this law parliament violated its parliament procedural regulations. Specifically, the second article of the law appeared in the text at the third hearing on December 28, having bypassed the second hearing. This is a violation of parliament’s regulations, article #155, paragraph 4. After this, parliament approved the law’s second article’s, following editing: “Political associations of citizens and political subjects defined by article 26/1 of this law foreseen by article one, paragraph 6, which have received financing in violation of this law’s requirements and haven’t spent the money at the moment of enforcing this law, are obliged to return the money to the one who granted it not later than three days after enforcing the law. In case of not fulfilling this obligation the money will become state property.” A political party, which didn’t have any idea of what kind of restrictions the legislator would place on him at the end ...

Opinion

Electronic Record Management and Georgia

by | January 1, 2012

Electronic communications occupy a very significant role in daily activities of state authorities. Accessibility of such kind of electronic data and archiving it must be regulated by law. At the same time access to e-information of state officials will be a very significant step forward to open government and transparency. Also, this will give opportunity to future generations to better understanding and research about the internal communication and decisions of state officials. “When records are well managed, agencies can use them to assess the impact of programs, to reduce redundant efforts, to save money, and to share knowledge within and across their organizations.  In these ways, proper records management is the backbone of open Government” – this is how the US President Barak Obama looks at record management in his new Memorandum for the Heads of the Executive Departments and Agencies on Managing Government Records released on November 29th, 2011 http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/28/presidential-memorandum-managing-government-records. It is a significant commitment since the initiative started in September, 2011 when the White House put forward the Open Government Partnership as a National Action Plan for the United ...

Opinion

Patriot’s guide

by | December 31, 2011

First of all, I welcome member of parliament Mr. Gia Tortladze’s pathos to research Russian capital’s influence on the Georgian reality and accordingly on the policy. As you know, this topic is not unknown to me and I’ve been trying for years (unfortunately, in vain) to focus the government’s attention in this direction. Accordingly, I have gathered knowledge, and I’m ready to share with the author of the ‘Patriot Act’ specific information, or statistic, which I have gathered for all this time. Before we meet, I can tell him and all the interested persons in advance about one person’s activity, someone who deserves more attention as persons interested in the Georgian economic security talk about. The issue is exactly about that infamous Gazprom, about which there are a lot of discussions. It’s about the person who bought a controlling share in the company Atomstroyexport in 2003. Atomstroyexport is a company, which produces Russian nuclear power plants abroad. I think Mr. Gia did not need to explain which services supervise such so-called ‘businesses’ in Russia. A little bit later he resold it to ...

News, Opinion, Security

Fighting in Afghanistan for Georgia’s Security

by | December 29, 2011

Georgia has increased its military presence in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan making it the biggest non-NATO contributor to ISAF operations. The Georgian parliament supported this decision and the Christian Democratic Movement of Georgia voted in favor. This was a well thought-out decision designed for making Georgia a part of a global security network. Although this is was a painful decision and obviously has its downsides, we, Christian Democrats strongly support Georgia's active participation in NATO-led international operations and believe that rather than being just a consumer, Georgia should become an active contributor to the global security system. Today, the most effective way for Georgia to play a role in the world's security system and fight against global terrorism is to be actively involved in ISAF operations in Afghanistan. Taking into account the present developments in Russia, is Georgia taking an unnecessary risk by sending another battalion to Afghanistan? While not being a member of NATO, is it worth having more troops in Afghanistan than a majority of NATO members do? Will the Georgian troops be mobile enough to oppose ...

News, Opinion, Security

The Flanks That Should Be Well Defended

by | December 29, 2011

Pressure for democratic transformation and modernization challenges Georgia from three main “flanks”: Internal stability – that was not a matter for real concern for President Saakashvili until the public unrest in 2007; imperatives of the European and Euro-Atlantic Integration; a proper Ambition and the promises of the ruling party to the public. Difficult to say, which one is more important factor, but in my view the presented order is close to what is the priority. I would start from the ambitions that the Government of Georgia shows towards fast modernization of the country. A motivation is well apparent, and the results in lots of directions are really impressive. Yet the examples of all transition countries show (and Georgia is not an exception) that democratic transformation is the last concern of the governments in this process. It is somehow believed that economic liberties and consolidation of power, security of the state and safety of citizens, i.e strengthening of basic state functions shall be treated as a priority order. That may be echoes still weak public demand on the democratic institutions. Indeed, it ...

Opinion

Welcome Back to the USSR!

by | December 29, 2011

Yesterday Parliament of Georgia passed a law which in fact outlaws political activity. Furthermore, to a degree it even outlaws political thinking. The law amends the Organic Law on Political Associations of Citizens, the statute which once controlled political parties as such. Hereinafter it is going to control non-political, non-for-profit or business organizations too and, strangely enough, even individuals. Apparently, the intention of the national legislature, in which the constitutional majority of seats are held by the President-Saakashvili-led political party, the National Movement, is to block financial sources for political parties and also for any individual or entity that may be “directly or indirectly associated with political parties”. The timing for adopting such a law now is easily explainable: (a) general elections are to be held next year; and (b) after almost three years of the ruling party’s domination and almost no opposition activity, there appeared a wealthy person who said he was going to fund some parties in opposition and to set up one of his own. There was a need to tie him up. But what does it mean to ...

Opinion

The right to health care and Georgia’s penitentiary system

by | December 28, 2011

Despite the fact that the Ministry of Corrections, Probation and Legal Assistance declared the reform of the penitentiary health care as one of the priority directions and carried our measures in this area, health care in prisons still remains the Achilles’ heel of Georgia’s penitentiary system. The situation is made difficult by the disproportionate distribution of persons deprived of liberty in places of detention, a clearly negative dynamics of the figures of sickness and mortality, disproportion and lack of geographic, physical, and economic access of beneficiaries to health care services, and a number of systemic and local problems that have remained unsolved from year to year. In the process of the reform of the penitentiary health care, it is clear that the principle of heredity is violated, which implies that the resolution of issues often continues with the principle of “counting and starting from zero” rather than in a continuous regime, which causes irrational spending of resources, time, and other very important means with undesirables consequences. The reform should be uninterrupted and be carried out in stages, and the processes should ...

Opinion

Did the police action on May 26 comply with international standards?

by | December 27, 2011

The government’s response to police violence on May 26, 2011, was clearly insufficient and inadequate and encourages a syndrome of impunity, writes Tamta Mikeladze, lawyer with Georgian Young Lawyer’s Association. The assembly held outside parliament on May 25-26 was peaceful in general, which, according to applicable international standards, imposed an obligation on the state to resort to dispersal as an extreme means for restriction of freedom of assembly. To the contrary, the state restricted participants’ freedom of assembly without using other lighter means for restriction of the right. Furthermore, the dispersal operation itself was planned by the police in violation of applicable international standards. More specifically, 1) the police did not use open exits for participants, which would have enabled demonstrators to flee the scene. Absence of exits was confirmed by witness statements, as well as video and photo materials recorded by media. We asked the Interior Ministry to present information and evidence that would have proven the existence of an open corridor, but the Ministry refused to provide such information. In absence of open exits, use of force by the police ...

Opinion

Provincial socialism and provincial liberalism

by | December 21, 2011

A conference of the Georgian national platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum took place in Tbilisi, in the Courtyard Marriott Hotel, on November 24, 2011. Its main objectives were to discuss and endorse the articles of the platform and the code of conduct of member organisations, and elect governing bodies. The discussion turned into a heated – and at times even noisy and unruly – polemic, reflecting differences and tensions between two rival groups of the member organisations. The conference failed to achieve all its objectives. In the last hours many delegates simply walked out, leaving the conference without a quorum and effectively spoiling the elections. This insignificant – at first glance – incident is a vivid illustration of the deep rift in the Georgian civil sector. This case is about more than just mere disagreement between two interest groups with conflicting views. To begin with, there is a high level of mistrust and mutual suspicion among Georgian CSOs vying with each other for grants offered by Eastern Partnership Program. Many CSOs are distrustful of the governing bodies of the ...

Opinion

Georgian Labyrinth of Freedom of Information

by | December 20, 2011

Two weeks ago I decided to express in writing my humble personal opinion on the practice of freedom of information in Georgia. I did not actually have to think a lot, and why should have I anyways? As this year only I’ve witnessed so many problems and strange things about freedom of information that I concluded – getting information freely in Georgia is one big labyrinth. Therefore, if you manage to get the information you have requested completely and within the period of time prescribed by law, you are truly lucky. I remember that in a not so distant past, some of the public agencies could refuse to provide requested information only because that they were unaware of the obligation. There was another category of public agencies that were well-aware of the obligation but did not think it was necessary to provide requested public information. But it was a big deal if you pursued administrative or judicial action for the refusal, and gradually precedents here and there created by ordering public agencies to act, grew into a common practice. After public agencies ...

Opinion

Georgia and NATO

by | December 19, 2011

Georgia with all its successes and challenges, once again is becoming a significantly important case for the USA and the EU, especially in the foreground of the events, which are unfolding in Russia. Georgia’s democratic development, its success in formation of a modern, European and welfare state, will significantly influence the development of political process even in Russia, and will make Georgia a vitally important showcase not only for Caucasus but for the entire region of Eastern Europe and even Asia. We have been unlucky enough as Georgia's integration process into the West got frozen unlike the one of the Baltic countries. This, together with a number of very serious mistakes made by Saakashvili’s government, served as important factors for slowing down Georgia's democratic, economic, social and political development. We have always been thankful to the western world for the continues and unwavering support to Georgia and strongly believe that clear welcoming signs from NATO and the EU could become a serious encouragement for Georgia's further democratic and economic development. And failure to reward Georgia for its achievements could seriously hamper ...

Opinion

Impartiality and Georgian Courts

by | December 15, 2011

Almost a century ago an English judge, Lord Chief Justice Hewart, pronounced his famous aphorism: “… it is not merely of some importance but is of fundamental importance, that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.” (R v Sussex Justices; Ex parte McCarthy [1924]). Since then these words have become a symbol of impartial judgeship.  The key to impartiality is judge’s detachment in the course of hearing the case.  It is only at the end of session, when he/she leaves for his/her chambers to make a judgment, that he/she should start weighing up the evidence and arguments presented to him/her by the parties.   Any opinion that a judge may express concerning the case in question or even any behavior that may indicate that such an opinion has already been developed while the case is pending will be understood as a violation of the principle of impartiality. Here is another powerful quotation from the Anglo-American legal tradition that reinforces this principle: “The Due Process Clause entitles a person to an impartial and disinterested tribunal in ...

Opinion

Who is protected by the Georgian government – entrepreneur or the consumer?

by | December 15, 2011

According to the EU Charter of Fundamental rights, an integral part of European values is that the government protects the consumer’s rights. But while the Georgian government claims to be on course towards integration with Europe, it still manages to do this integration in a way so that the Georgian consumers’ interests are harmed. In 2010, within the frameworks of the preliminary negotiations with EU about ‘the deep and comprehensive free trade agreement’, the Georgian government produced three very significant national strategies in the spheres of competition, product safety (full name: strategy of standardization, accreditation, conformity assessment, technical regulations and metrology sphere) and food safety. The strategies were prepared during two years in a strictly confidential manner. Despite a number of attempts, our organization wasn’t able to obtain the documents, not only from the state body involved, but even from parliament. The way the preparation process of these documents was kept secret from civil society has given rise to a suspicion that the documents contained provisions which would have been unacceptable to society. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the case. The ...

Opinion

Civil Society – Fight for Resources

by | December 12, 2011

The entry of a new political force into the Georgian political landscape in the autumn 2001 has focused the spotlight on Georgian civil society organisations (CSO). There is an evident increase in demand for their services nowadays. The Georgian society has become more active in recent times and the CSOs have a potential to play an important role in the process. They also have enough capacity to carry out independent expert assessment of various problems. At first glance, the CSOs seem to have adequately responded to these new challenges – they formed different alliances and coalitions, and made serious political statements via mass media. But a closer look shows that the current Georgian civil society is not as strong as expected. Moreover, it itself is facing a lot of problems. Although the CSOs admit that the civil society is in crisis nowadays, they differ widely in explaining the reasons of the problem. It may seem that the decline of the Georgian civil sector began right after the 2003 Rose Revolution, when many activists and leaders of the CSOs took up various positions ...

Opinion

Brief Overview of Human Rights Problems in Georgia 2011

by | December 10, 2011

Human Rights Day is celebrated on December 10. In order to mark the celebration, I would like to offer the public a brief overview of human rights problems revealed throughout the year in Georgia. The human rights protection of which was the most problematic in Georgia during 2011: Right to a fair trial – the problem of violation of the right to a fair trial remained to be acute throughout last year. Cases that involved criminal and administrative violations were problematic. Use of restrictive measures are particularly noteworthy with regard to criminal cases, as frequently pre-trial detention was applied without any substantiation and in violation of legal requirements. Furthermore, administrative cases, and administrative imprisonment in particular, have also proven problematic. Generally, the right to defense is not ensured, courts’ decisions lack substantiation, frequently courts deliver their decisions on the basis of statements of police officers, without examining or upholding other important evidence;   Equality before law – during the year 2011, we witnessed unequal treatment by the authorities in the process of administration of justice. Frequently, criminal law policy is too strict and provides ...

Opinion

Trends of IDP Eviction and Resettlement in Georgia

by | December 6, 2011

Cases of Eviction of IDPs from different buildings by means of police have recently become rather frequent. With regard to each of such evictions, the government is referring to the State Strategy and Action Plan for IDPs and declares that IDPs are offered with rehabilitated apartments in return. On the other hand, IDPs consider that the process of eviction is unsubstantiated and housings offered are inadequate. What are the state’s obligations towards IDPs? According to the State Strategy and Action Plan, promotion of a dignified life for IDPs, their social and economic integration and improvement of their housing conditions as is one of its objectives, which also entails the obligation to provide adequate housing areas to IDPs. Evicted IDPS frequently express their concern over inadequate housings that they are offered and protest against relocation from one city to another city or a village, which they associate with destruction of the existing integrated environment. Certainly, the state is obligated to provide adequate housing for IDPs. Location of the housing may not even be decisive for evaluating its adequacy, as other criteria should also ...

Opinion

Is Georgia a part of, or apart from, the Open Government Partnership?

by | December 3, 2011

In September 2011,Georgiaopenly announced its aspirations to become a part of Open Government Partnership.  Unfortunately,Georgia’s population is not aware of what kind of commitmentsGeorgia’s government must make in order to become a member of OGP. It is, no doubt,  a positive step for Georgia if our government takes and implements obligations to open   our government for the wider public and  decides to be more accountable and transparent, which will allow  the public to influence the decision making process and be aware of information they have a right to know. Generally, the OGP has been in large part pushed forward by the USA. On his first day in Office, President Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, aiming to bridge the gap between ordinary people and the government. To do this his Administration was going to write the new ethics rules in order to prevent lobbyists from entering the government in order to pursue their interests. In other words, the administration was supposed to find ways to reduce the influence of special interests. In addition to this, the administration had ...

Opinion

Maestro – the channel that doesn’t lie

by | November 30, 2011

It might sound like stating the obvious when a TV company markets itself by saying 'we are the ones who don't lie to you'. But in Georgia, it is not a given that TV don't fabricate news. It is actually the easiest way to set yourself apart from the current national networks. Georgia has in recent years been criticized for the situation in the field of television. All three national stations are today widely seen as loyal to the government with a narrow style of reporting not covering the full range of what is happening in society. What more is, they sometimes air things that are simply made up. In such an environment, to not lie is the way to set you apart from the others. Maestro TV has been picking up on ongoing events in the capital, and gradually over the whole country, under the slogan that it is the station which doesn’t lie and is only controlled by its viewers. Journalists have vigorously defended the motto of being independent. It was for a long time run with little resources and showed the ...

Opinion

Reasons Behind Unjustly Low Monetary Compensation for Victims of Soviet Era Repressions

by | November 29, 2011

Monetary compensation, awarded to victims of Soviet political repressions and/or their heirs through national court proceedings, has remained one of the most widely discussed issues in Georgian society for more than a year. Not long ago, even “Rustavi 2,” Georgia’s most watched TV network, dedicated a special report to the subject during one of its popular news programs - “Kurieri.” The report reflected the reparations programs in a largely positive light by emphasizing the generosity of the State towards the victims of soviet era repressions. According to the “Kurieri”, victims (or their heirs) are granted between 200 and 500 Georgian Lari in reparation by domestic courts. However, in reality the decisions of the national courts have caused vast frustration among potential beneficiaries and questions remain as to what is the reasoning of the courts in defining the appropriate amount of monetary compensation. It must be mentioned, from the outset, that the right to monetary compensation for these victims remained illusory for more than 10 years, until the February 2, 2010 decision of the European Court of Human Rights (the ECtHR hereinafter) ...

Opinion

The new political centre and the new chance

by | November 25, 2011

The autumn of 2011 was marked with increased political activity in Georgia. It would not be an exaggeration to say that a wealthy Georgian businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili’s emergence on the Georgian political scene as a major opposition figure was widely regarded in Georgia as an event of the same magnitude as the Russian-Georgian war of 2008. The fact that Ivanishvili, a businessman turned politician, has suddenly become a focus of media spotlight and heated public debate – no matter what people think of his actions – speaks for itself. How he is characterised by supporters and opponents is another thing. Part of his supporters view him as a "savoir" of the nation. According to others, his emergence signals the arrival of a new type of leader. For the opponents he is a Russian spy, a cunning enemy on a mission to ruin Georgia, a smart crook and, at the same time, a stupid and narrow-minded man. Besides, parallels are often drawn between Ivanishvili and another Georgian oligarch, Badri Patarkatsishvili, who led the opposition in previous years. It is obvious, however, that the ...

Opinion

Neo-patrimonial Society and Hybrid Regime in Georgia

by | November 22, 2011

On Monday, November 21, 2011, in the conference hall of the Georgian Parliament Library, I was to hold a presentation on the topic: “Government’s Dilemma in a Neo-patrimonial Society: Institutionalisation of Democracy or Destruction of Clientelism?“ The presentation was blocked by an invisible hand phone call - one of three invited members of parliament or the head of parliament, in the administration of the Parliamentary Library. There was a paradoxical coincidence, a presentation in which one of the issues should be consideration of democratization and its component - the freedom of speech, freedom of media, the rule of law after the Rose Revolution, one of the creators of revolutions, a member of the Georgian parliament without breaks Appeal. The article which is the basis for the presentation can be read in full in Georgian and English language at the Caucasian Institute of Economic and Social Research Online (www.ciesr.org). The presentation addresses the problem of democratization in Georgia after the “Rose Revolution”, during the transformation of the patrimonial oligarchic hybrid regime of Shevardnadze. The eight post-revolution years have seen a lot of initiatives and ...

Opinion

Guarantees of Impartiality for Georgian Juries

by | November 21, 2011

Nowadays, in Georgia jury trials are the hot topic. The first ever jury trial in Georgian legal history has returned a guilty verdict in an aggravated murder case in Tbilisi City Court. Even this first practice with jury trials has revealed some legislative flaws relating to outside influence on the jury, which most definitely comes from both, media-related unbalanced laws and the lack of safeguards in the Georgian Criminal Procedure Code. Considering the fact that a juror is not a legal professional and he or she can be very easily swayed by information obtained outside of the trial, all these sources of information have to be regulated or else an impartial Jury in criminal justice seems to be delusional and not feasible. The crucial problem in the legislation regulating jury trials is that there are not sufficient safeguards for the jury to be protected against improper information from outside the trial, while Georgian media and television have given a full swing release to all the information about the crime, the accused, witnesses and all the circumstance around surrounding the trial. Unfortunately, ...

Opinion

Election-year budget or election budget?

by | November 20, 2011

An election year budget is seen by economists is significantly different from a non-election year budget. In this regard, the budget expenditure is very interesting, which represents the government expenditure policy in the forms of various activities. In the budget expenditure part we see expenses, which can be directly or non-directly considered as to increase the level of voter satisfaction; which can bring additional election votes to the governments. To determine and analyze all above-mentioned is possible only if budget expenses are represented transparent and in details. It means writing out expenses due to the financing activities and directions. Georgian budget 2012 is significantly weak in this regard. To compare with the 2011 budget – expense details are only formal part of the new budget. If there were 3000 different detailed records in 2011 budget, it is decreased to 1500 records in 2012 budget project. The project prepared in program form gives information only on the general activities and doesn’t represents financing range due to the specific activities. Some projects that have been separately represented in 2011 budget are merged and ...

Opinion

Proactive Transparency in Georgia

by | November 18, 2011

The “Institute for Development of Freedom of Information” has been conducting monitoring the level of informational transparency of the official web-pages of public institutions of Georgia for already a few years, starting from 2009. The results of the 2010 study, the evaluation parameters and the methodology are placed on the web-site of the institute:  http://www.idfi.ge/?cat=monitoring_2010_new&lang=en It should be noted that a study of this type is quite innovative and refers to the 21st century trend - institutionalization of E-democracy and E-transparency; especially as internet globally has become one of the most accepted forms of direct communication between the government and the citizens. The same trend is observed in Georgia, where the number of internet users is growing annually. According to World Bank data, there were 1.3 million internet users in Georgia in 2009, or 30% of the population – http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IT.NET.USER). The electronic accessibility of public information is one of the most crucial components for the development of electronic transparency. The State Authorities possess significant public information regarding different social, economic and financial issues. At the same time, the release of such kind of ...

Opinion

We and the conflict regions population

by | November 16, 2011

"Disobedient Satellites" First tour of the presidential elections was held in the former South Ossetia on November 13. Kremlin candidate Bibilov, who was openly supported by the Russian Presidential administration and Prime Minister Putin, not only failed to gain a convincing victory, but gathered only 25% of the votes. Not even a speech of Konstantin Kasachov, chairman of the Russian Duma's International Committee helped him, which took place during his special meeting in Tskhinvali to show support; neither did the appeal to the Ossetian people by Vladimir Putin, chairman of the United Russia party and Prime Minister. In their speeches they both unequivocally supported Bibilov's candidacy. Despite this unprecedented interference, Bibilov wasn’t able to show the desired results to the Moscow Protégés in the presidential elections of a ‘sovereign state’. The Russian pro-government political technology and the  exit poll system in Tskhinvali also failed. They had been busy bolstering Emergency Situation Minister and they had been predicting a decisive victory and 70% of votes to Bibilov before election day. As expected, Bibilov received the highest percentage of votes in the Akhalgori (Leningori in ‘Ossetian’) ...

Opinion

Employment and Unemployment Trends in Georgia

by | November 15, 2011

In order to assess the economic condition of a country, economists look at a various number of statistics. Besides the level of real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that measures the country’s economic output, one statistic that attracts attention from the economists as well as the general public is the unemployment rate in the country. Unemployment imposes a number of costs for a nation, such as economic, physiological and social. Unemployment in Georgia Since 1998 level of unemployment has been rising in Georgia, from 12.4% all the way up to 16.3% as of 2010. According to the research methodology of the National Statistics of Georgia, this 16.3% represents: “persons at the age of 15 or above, who was not employed (even for one hour) 7 days prior to the interview process, was looking for a job for the last 4 weeks time and was ready to start working within the next 2 weeks time” . If we consider these prerequisites, the unemployment rate is even more alarming. Furthermore, according to the survey conducted by National Democratic Institute (NDI), out of 16,161 questioned, 67% ...

Opinion

Judiciary’s Inadequate Level of Transparency as an Intended Governmental Policy

by | November 14, 2011

The judiciary’s inadequate level of transparency remains both a main issue and challenge in Georgia. Though the judicial system has undergone numerous reforms in recent years, these reforms did not preserve or promote a more open judiciary, and in fact, judicial transparency was targeted most effectively by the establishment of a closed court system. As a result, Georgian courts formally operate on the principle of openness, though the reality is a strong tendency towards being closed. Transparency International Georgia noted transparency as the weakest part of Georgi’a judicial system in its latest report, Georgia National Integrity System Assessment, which was published in October, 2011. According to the report, legislation aimed at judicial transparency was assessed with 50 points from a possible 100 and the application of such reform was rated at a mere 25 points. Georgia legislation states that court sessions are to be open, although, an opportunity to fix the data by using technical devises and spread the information is significantly restricted. Additionally, the letter of the law ensures that court rulings must be announced publicly, but in practice court decisions ...

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