Valeri CHEKHERIA: "We are shaping new Georgia and placing it on world map"

05.06.2020 (Caucasian Journal) Is Georgia prepared to welcoming foreign tourists next month? How does the big business coordinate actions with the government in hospitality sector, which is strategic for Georgia? Do corporations play a role in formation of civil society?

Our today's guest is Valeri CHEKHERIA, CEO of Adjara Group. His name is not only behind some of the Georgia's newest and most iconic hotels, but also in many board lists of important non-profit organizations.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of Caucasian Journal: Dear Valeri, welcome to Caucasian Journal. Last year we planned to talk about your success story of interaction between business and civil society, and the Democracy Frontline Center, and I hope we will touch this today. But now the whole world is turned upside down by the pandemic, which is the top factor everywhere – and especially in tourism-dependent businesses such as yours. How severely your hospitality projects have been hit by COVID measures? 

Valeri CHEKHERIA: The tourism industry was hit the most with hospitality sector experiencing extensive losses globally. Certainly, we are no exception and we have suffered severely from the effects of the pandemic. We had to close down all our hotels and put on hold the development of the ongoing projects. 

Dr. Laurence BROERS: "There won’t be Armenian-Azerbaijani Dayton*" (with video)

27.05.2020 (Caucasian JournalCaucasian Journal talks with Dr. Laurence BROERS, well-known expert on conflicts in the South Caucasus with over 20 years’ experience, both as a researcher and a practitioner of peacebuilding initiatives in the region. 
Dr.  Broers is the Caucasus programme director at London-based NGO Conciliation Resources. He is Associate Fellow at Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), author or editor of several books, including Armenia and Azerbaijan: Anatomy of a Rivalry, and co-editor-in-chief of Caucasus Survey.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of Caucasian Journal:  Dear Dr. Broers, welcome to Caucasian Journal. We’ve wanted to talk with you since a long while, and today we have this lucky possibility thanks to an important development – the release of a new documentary about the Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan (to watch video, scroll down to page bottom). You have agreed to introduce this film for our readers. Allow my first question – how do you visualize the target viewers group of the documentary?

Laurence BROERS: On 12 May we released online a documentary film called Parts of a Circle: History of the Karabakh Conflict. The film chronicles the disputed history of more than 30 years of this conflict, in an Armenian-Azerbaijani co-production. It is a locally led project, in which the scripts were written, interviewees selected and films produced by local teams of Armenian and Azerbaijani journalists. The project actually began in 2011 but for a number of reasons it has taken until now to be ready for the public release. The film we have recently released is actually a shorter version, at 76 minutes, of a longer 3-hour trilogy. The short film is in English, and it is intended for an international audience that is not necessarily familiar with the Karabakh conflict. The longer trilogy has considerably more detail and is intended more for a local and a specialist audience.

Caucasian Journal offers free advertising as support for businesses, calls for other mass medias to join

We know that many businesses – both small and big – are impacted by the outbreak of Covid-19. Many companies face a long road ahead as they try to rebuild themselves following the lockdown. In this difficult time, we believe that businesses must show maximum support to each other.

We’ve listened to businesses to understand how we can support them. Caucasian Journal and its sister business news sites decided to give companies struggling in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic free advertising.

Today we are glad to announce that from 22 May all the companies in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan will be eligible to apply free banner advertising to use across the Caucasian Journal and our sister business news sites. 

Professor Ramaz KURASHVILI: "Georgia is lucky to have world-class virologists with independent thinking"

20.05.2020 (Caucasian JournalProfessor Ramaz KURASHVILI is one of Georgia’s leading medical professionals, Director of Center for Diabetes Research in Tbilisi, Chairman of Union of Diabetic and Endocrinological Associations of Georgia, and a member of Caucasian Journal’s Board
We have asked Professor Kurashvili to share his views about Georgia’s response to COVID-19.

Caucasian Journal: You have large professional experience, not only medical, but also experience in the management and administration of medical institutions. How do you assess the medical and organizational level of the anti-pandemic activities in Georgia?

Ramaz KURASHVILI: The epidemic is far from over, however, we can evaluate the measures taken by the Georgian government and Georgian epidemiological virologists to date. We can say that the State Coronavirus Commission works highly efficiently: Epidemiologists, virologists, infectious disease specialists, family doctors, healthcare organizers, the police, military, media, television have actively joined in the fight against coronavirus infection; it should be noted that all television channels (in particular, Channel 1 of Georgian Television) and the media work smoothly, there are no cases of dissemination of false or panic information. Of particular note is the high authority, level of knowledge and experience of the Leading infectious diseases specialist prof. T. Tsertsvadze, Director General of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia prof. A. Gamkrelidze, Deputy Director of the Center prof. P. Imnadze, all the doctors of those centers that today are treating the coronavirus patients. We should thank the leaders and staff of the Ministry of Health of Georgia and the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Mr. D. Zalkaliani. Of particular note is the Prime Minister of Georgia, Mr. G. Gakharia, thanks to his efficiency, openness, and close mutually beneficial cooperation with doctors, it was possible to slow down the growth of the epidemic and to control the situation; time was used effectively to prepare healthcare for a pandemic, to create specialized centers, equip existing clinics and prepare them for patients, purchase and deliver the necessary number of tests, organize quarantine zones two-week quarantine, etc. - i.e. not to meet the blow unprepared.

Ambassador Per EKLUND: "COVID is unpredictable. I had a lucky escape"

12.05.2020 (Caucasian Journal).The Swedish response to COVID-19 is in the focus of the world's attention today. But how does it feel to recover from coronavirus in a Swedish hospital? And when the patient happens to be a former ambassador to Georgia, Caucasus Journal is especially keen about his comments.
Today we are honoured to introduce a very special guest – Ambassador Per EKLUND, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm, former EU Ambassador to Georgia – a person widely known and deeply respected in the South Caucasus. 

He planned to spend this May in Georgia and to meet with us in person, but as COVID interrupted, instead of Tbilisi he had to go to a Stockholm's hospital. Now, after the worst is over, Ambassador Eklund has got a very unique mix of experiences, which he is sharing with our readers.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ: Welcome to Caucasian Journal, Mr. Ambassador, and thank you for finding time for this interview. I am very glad to see you in good health after catching the notorious coronavirus infection. Allow me a somewhat personal question first. Earlier this year you celebrated your 75th birthday. Do you agree that senior citizens should follow stricter isolation rules? Should they be extra careful themselves, or is it a task for the authorities to establish different conditions for people over 60?

Per EKLUND: Well, persons who are 70+ should be careful, as we are, generally speaking, part of the risk group. And I was careful and yet got infected. And although I was in good shape, with no other diseases, no diabetes, no overweight and a non-smoker, I got severely ill. This was my second time in a hospital bed, the first was 1945, at my birth!

AK: Oh, really? And how does it feel to get through a COVID-19, especially in a severe case? Do you have a guess how you got infected?

Sebastian MOLINEUS of World Bank: "We've been working with the Governments of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia since day 1 of this crisis"

22.04.2020 (Caucasian JournalThe economies of South Caucasian countries will be severely hit in long time perspective due to global pandemic – from tourism decline and (in case of Azerbaijan) from oil price drop.  As World Bank is known for economic forecasting, Caucasian Journal asked for professional comment from Sebastian MOLINEUS -  WB Regional Director for the South Caucasus.

Caucasian Journal: How does World Bank assess the economic consequences of pandemic in the countries of South Caucasus?

Sebastian MOLINEUS: The COVID-19 pandemic is presenting an unprecedented economic challenge for the world and is certainly having an impact on the economies of all three countries in the South Caucasus Region.

Indeed, the pandemic is occurring at an already fragile time for the Europe and Central Asian region, including the South Caucasus. Growth in Europe and Central Asia had already decelerated to 2.2 percent in 2019. And since February 2020, the region has faced an increasingly uphill battle to cope with the pandemic as it interrupts daily activity, puts further downward pressure on commodity prices, disrupts tightly linked global and regional supply chains, reduces travel and tourist arrivals, and decreases demand for exports from and within the economies in the region.  As a consequence, most forecasts, including the WB’s Europe and Central Asia Economic (spring) Update, project a contraction in global and regional GDP in 2020.

By how much?  The projections this time around are subject to significant uncertainty. How long the recession will last, and its severity will depend on the duration of the pandemic. The scenarios in the ECA Economic Update suggest regional GDP could contract by 2.8 percent in case the outbreak is largely contained by the second half of the year and measures to stop the spread of the virus are lifted, but the contraction could reach as much as 4.4 percent in case efforts to contain the outbreak spill into the third quarter of 2020.

COVID update: Georgia follows Japan trajectory, for now

As COVID-19 infections in Georgia continue to grow slowly but steadily, it is time to take a closer look at how this development compares with the outbreaks in other countries. While Georgia is on the same trajectory as Japan, it currently falls short of the benchmark set by some other wealthy east Asian countries. 
14.04.2020. This is the  conclusion made by Dr. Lorenz HILFIKER, a Swiss mathematician based in Tbilisi. With his kind permission, Caucasian Journal is publishing the findings he posted in his blog, which provides data-focused coverage of the COVID-19 crisis in Georgia.

The first cases in Georgia were confirmed around the same time as in many European countries. Yet, the virus has so far spread considerably less than in most of the Western world.

For example, my native country Switzerland recorded its first case on February 25, just one day before Georgia. Today (April 10) the tally for Switzerland stands at about 24 thousand confirmed cases and one thousand fatalities, while Georgia has recorded merely 230 cases and three fatalities to date.

Here is a chart of all countries which have reached 100 cumulative confirmed cases at least a week ago (thin grey lines).

Сlick to enlarge.    Image (c) Lorenz Hilfiker
A straight line in this chart corresponds to exponential growth with a fixed transmission rate. The steeper the slope of a line, the faster the spread of the virus. The four dashed lines indicate exponential growth where cases double daily, every third day, every week and every two weeks, respectively.

Laura THORNTON: “How does democracy work six feet apart?“

The corona virus has disrupted virtually all aspects of our lives and there is much speculation about both the effectiveness of democracy to handle the crisis and the impact the virus will have on democratic institutions and processes in the short and long term.  

11.04.2020 (Caucasian Journal). For an expert opinion on this subject Caucasian Journal has turned to Laura THORNTON, Director for Global Programme at Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Until recently Laura has headed National Democratic Institute in Tbilisi, and is well known in our region. She is also a frequent guest of СJ (see her other interviews here).

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ: Much has been said about autocracies being “better equipped” to handle corona due to their ability to take draconian measures. How would you respond to this? 

LT: Yes, there is plenty of bemoaning the inability of democracies to quickly adopt the tough measures, including limiting freedoms, to address the virus, the assumption being that non- or hybrid- democracies do this more effectively as they are not hindered by checks or bureaucracy, like China and Singapore. This position is, of course, swiftly countered by those pointing out the successes of democracies like Germany, Taiwan, and South Korea, where immediate and efficient actions – including large scale testing, tracking, and isolating cases – have proven effective. There is also evidence of established democracies crippled by incompetence and bureaucracy. Successful responses reflect mostly the competence and efficacy of states and, in my view, provide a more compelling case than ever for good governance – efficient, nimble, responsive, transparent, and organized.

Anita LINDAHL TROSDAHL: "Citizens can raise any question at "speed dates" with Oslo government including Mayor"

08.04.2020 (Caucasian Journal). Caucasian Journal continues its new program of interviews with high-level practitioners from Western Europe who share knowledge in areas most relevant to our region.  Today we talk about big city problems.

How quickly an industrial city can transform into a leader in environment protection and clean hi-tech? Which secret city management mechanisms are needed? How do citizens participate?
Raymond JOHANSEN, Governing Mayor of Oslo - European Green Capital 2019, kindly agreed to give interview to us, but due to COVID crisis it was postponed. We are thankful to Anita LINDAHL TROSDAHL, Project Manager of Oslo European Green Capital 2019 at the Mayor's Office, who proposed to answer most of our questions.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ: In 2019 your city - Oslo - was awarded the title of Europe's Green Capital. Congratulations! Do you think that greening of Oslo is your most important achievement?

ANITA LINDAHL TROSDAHL: I am very proud of Oslo’s European Green Capital title. This is a result of a long-term effort from citizens, companies and public sector. I believe that politicians in Oslo have made many good decisions over two-three decades. Recently we continue to see good environmental results. The buses run more frequently, the car traffic is going down and the air is cleaner. Greenhouse gas emissions are going down, and investment are made to ensure that they continue to go down. In addition to green policies, I am very proud that Oslo is home to every fourth new green job created in Norway. A true sustainable city must be green, socially inclusive and economically viable.
Click to enlarge

AK:  Air quality is a very important concern for big cities in South Caucasian region. In the chart you can see how Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan rate in Global Environmental Performance Index (EPI) in comparison to each other and to Norway. Do I understand correctly that your Municipality is legally responsible for keeping good air quality in the city? If air pollution reaches a certain level, it means you commit a crime? 

ALT: Norway is legally responsible for keeping in line with the EU air quality directive. The municipalities are the implementing body for many of the measures relating to air quality. In 2015 the EFTA Court ruled that Norway has failed to comply with its obligations. There’s not a punishment as such, but the Government has to step up its actions to improve the situation. Since 2015, the combined national and local efforts have helped to improve  the air quality in Oslo significantly.

Norway is responsible vis-à-vis the EU/EFTA system, but the national law is applicable for all municipalities. Therefore Oslo is responsible to keep within the EU limits, but it will be Norway who has to answer to the EU/EFTA system is there is a breach. If Oslo’s air quality is getting too bad, the municipality breaks the law – but ultimately it is the state that has to answer for all breaches in Norway. Does that make sense?

AK:  Yes, it does, thank you. Could you summarize what exactly does it mean to be a green capital? What was done to win this title?

COVID-19 situation in South Caucasus

Caucasian Journal has added a special COVID Page to our main menu. On that page the readers can find real time statistical data on corona virus situation in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan.


You are welcome to use this COVID widget for your page. Contact us to get embedding code.

We will be adding more tools to visualize the COVID data, as well as links to useful resources.

Our COVID Page can be found at https://english.caucasianjournal.org/p/covid.html.