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.
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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 

Noubar Afeyan talks about his company's COVID-19 vaccine at webinar held by Armenian organizations

Global mass medias have reported the good news about the first coronavirus vaccine developed by Moderna Therapeutics, a Cambridge-based biotech company. The company also became the first to start human trial testing of its novel vaccine. We are pleased to find a strong “Caucasian connection” at the very frontline of global struggle against COVID-19: Moderna’s founding father and chairman, Dr. Noubar Afeyan, is also co-founder of the Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST), and an active participant of other Armenian projects related to science.

On March 28 Dr. Noubar Afeyan participated in the online webinar “COVID-19: Challenging General Fear”. Caucasian Journal is pleased to present the video of his presentation. The webinar, moderated by well-known entrepreneur and venture philanthropist Ruben Vardanyan, was co-organized by a number of Armenia-based organizations including, IDeA Foundation, Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, UWC Dilijan College, Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST).

Below is the full version of webinar “COVID-19: Challenging General Fear”. The speakers include:

Bjorn BRANDTZAEG: "As Georgia develops, it needs more domestically generated electricity"

09.03.2020 (Caucasian Journal). Our journal continues its new program of interviews "BEST NORDIC AND BALTIC PRACTICE" with high-level practitioners from Western Europe who share their knowledge in areas most relevant to our region. 

Our today’s guest is not only highly competent in his area – renewable energy – but also has many years of hands-on practical experience in Georgia. 

Bjørn BRANDTZÆG (or Bjorn Brandtzaeg on devices without Norwegian characters) is founder and CEO at Clean Energy Group, the biggest Norwegian investor in Georgia. He has been involved in Georgia’s hydropower projects since the early 2000s.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ:  You have a rare experience as a Westerner who has started a successful large-scale business in Georgia “from zero”, and worked under several different governments. Do you sometimes feel that your experience is a very valuable asset, sharing which may be beneficial to many people, and to the country in general? 

Bjørn BRANDTZÆG: I have been working with the development of the Georgian hydropower resources for many years, first as a government adviser funded by the Norwegian government and later as a project developer. I have seen the sector and projects evolving. As we have experienced in the Shuakhevi project [Shuakhevi Hydro Power Plant (HPP) is a run-of-the-river plant in Adjara, completed in 2017 - CJ], large hydroprojects are very challenging to develop and it is not possible to predict all the challenges a project will face when you start them. You need a very strong commitment to see them through.
AK: If yes, what are the most important lessons, which you would like to “teach”?

BB: The key lesson is that sustainability aspects have to be incorporated from the start in the project development. Unless people affected by the project development and the environment are taken good care of from the start, it is very challenging to progress with a project.

Gunda TIRE: "Estonians believe in education, and this belief has been essential for centuries"

Caucasian Journal is starting new program of interviews "BEST NORDIC AND BALTIC PRACTICE" with high-level practitioners from Western Europe who share their knowledge in areas relevant to South Caucasian region, which can be used to improve quality of life in our countries. We welcome comments and will publish all views.

22.02.2020 (Caucasian Journal). It is symbolic that the first interview which we publish under this program is about education - something which is basic for achieving progress in other directions. How South Caucasian students compare with peers? How well can they read?

It is our pleasure to introduce Ms. Gunda TIRE, PISA National Project Manager at Foundation Innove. PISA is the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment, and Innove is an education competence center in Estonia. The reason why we invited an expert from Estonia is simple: Because Estonian students are the best in Europe

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ:  Indeed, according to recent PISA worldwide student assessment results, the Estonian 15-year olds have the Europe’s highest scores in all disciplines. First of all, please accept our sincere congratulations to Estonian friends with this excellent achievement! I know it was not unexpected, since Estonia’s results have been going up for some time, but anyway how was the top achievement perceived - by ordinary people and by professionals?

Gunda TIRE:  Thank you very much for the kind words, and we really appreciate your invitation to share the Estonian PISA experience with your readers!

Before the PISA data is released, it is very difficult to predict in what direction to expect the results. Our hope was not to show a decline to our prior results. As PISA is very poplar and well known in Estonia, the new data for 2018 was expected with certain amount of curiosity.

According to poll, 59 percent do not believe Georgia is a democracy

16.01.2020. With less than a year before elections, poll results released today by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and CRRC-Georgia show that Georgians continue to lose faith in the direction of their country, with 53 percent believing the country is going in the wrong direction and only 19 percent saying right direction. Further, 59 percent do not believe Georgia is a democracy now, a significant increase from 46 percent just one year ago in December 2018.

“It is alarming to see such low public approval of democratic institutions, and it does not bode well for the country’s future growth and stability,” said Laura Thornton, senior director. “It is incumbent upon all political leaders, but particularly those in power, to rebuild the public’s trust in the country’s governance and ensure the legitimacy of the upcoming election process, which is currently under question given the failure to adopt promised election system reform.”