Two years of Covid in South Caucasus at a glance

18.12.2021 (Caucasian Journal). As the world is approaching 2 years of Covid pandemics, Caucasian Journal is posting a comparison of Covid-19 situations across the South Caucasus region. 
The graphs are per capita, so they give an objective picture of success/failure in fighting the pandemics. We will also seek for expert opinions to comment on the trends, so this post is to be updated. 

University of Zürich offers paid fellowship opportunities for research on South Caucasus

17.12.2021 (Caucasian Journal). For the spring semester of 2022, the Center for Eastern European Studies (CEES) at the University of Zurich offers up to five residential fellowships to highly talented and innovative young or mid-career scholars from the field of social sciences or humanities. 

Applicants with research focused on South Caucasus are particularly encouraged.  "While we welcome research proposals on all topics related to the study of Eastern Europe and post-Soviet Eurasia, for the fall spring 2022 Fellowship Program, we are particularly interested in applications from scholars with an interest in geopolitical trends, economic connectivity and/or transnational social and/or cultural issues related to South Caucasus region", - reads the call for applications. 

Funding includes accommodation, health insurance, visa support, and a stipend for living expenses during the period of stay of up to four months.  The deadline of application is January 15, 2022.  Application details are here.

Nick BERESFORD: "We need to keep up momentum to achieve prosperity underpinned by democratic institutions and the rule of law"

13.12.2021 (Caucasian Journal) “This is a critical moment for the world, and for development”, - according to the head of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 
What is happening to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now? What is happening to the development of Georgia, and what place does the country occupy in the bigger picture of global development? 
Today Caucasian Journal is discussing these issues with Mr. Nick BERESFORD, recently appointed Resident Representative of UNDP in Georgia.  Previously he has served for the UN in Bangladesh, Somalia, East Timor, and at headquarters in New York.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ:  Dear Mr. Beresford, welcome to Georgia.  The SDG themes have been always in the focus of Caucasian Journal, as they were essentially our priority topics since launch. So I believe we are now ripe enough for a conversation with UNDP’s country representative, and let me thank you for attention to our readers. Before Georgia, you worked in some of the world’s poorest countries – it must have been a big challenge, but also a great experience for a development professional?

Nick BERESFORD: I have been very lucky to have worked in some amazing countries and with some wonderful people. In Bangladesh for example UNDP has a programme with women led community groups in one of the world’s largest slums. These women activists led their communities in proving a living, putting kids through school, and making political alliances with Mayors and local councilors to get services their families need. In Somalia I worked with coastal communities as they recovered from piracy, setting up local government and creating small businesses. You learn a lot as a development professional in these partnerships and even if progress is often slow or marginal, it’s wonderful to see some positive change where it’s most needed.

Caroline von POST: “Why do we dress babies in brand new clothes that are full of chemicals?”

06.12.2021 (Caucasian Journal). Does a “100% cotton” label always mean that the garments (or linens, towels, etc) are safe to use?  Are second-hand clothes better for a baby? How a business can use waste to manufacture top quality product and generate profit? Why is this relevant to hotels? What is ethical about recycling?

These are some questions which we have for our new guest - Caroline von POST (Sweden), a biologist, circular economy consultant, and head of an aptly-named company, Stormie Poodle.

▶ ქართულად: Read the Georgian version here.

▶ Հայերեն: Read the Armenian version here.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ:  Dear Caroline, welcome to Caucasian Journal, and greetings from South Caucasus. This region is known for natural beauty, rich history and hospitality, and it is small wonder that tourism is one of our main backbones. As you can guess, I’m about to ask about the hotels. Is it true that you know a “magic” way for hotels to become more environmentally friendly, reduce waste, and make profit?

Caroline von POST: Haha, of course, they could let me help them! No seriously, it’s a complicated thing, running a hotel. Positioning your brand, employing the right staff who can represent the hotel in a positive manner, cooking great food, decorating the rooms etc… so many things to think about. While I have helped hotels become more environmentally friendly prior to launching Stormie Poodle, my business now focuses on the textiles that are used by the hotel and “upcycling” those textiles to – as you say – reduce waste, become more environmentally friendly, and increase profits.

Your country seems like a very beautiful place with so much biodiversity and amazing mountains.  I hope I get the chance to visit it one day. 

AK: You are a biologist, so obviously your business model has a scientific component in it. It is aimed not just on recycling the waste, but also on producing garments which are safer to use. From a biologist’s viewpoint, what’s wrong with ordinary textiles? Is it true that they may contain phthalates - chemicals, which are harmful especially to children? 

CVP: There are literally thousands of chemicals involved in the manufacture of textiles – from the cotton fields where fertilizers and pesticides are used to the dyeing and treatment to make the textiles look nice. We are constantly in contact with textiles in our environment – our clothes, bedding, carpets, furniture, towels, car interiors etc - and so safety and confidence in these products is vital. They can be made of natural or synthetic fibers but any allergic reactions or health implications are generally as a response to fiber treatments, such as dyeing and other chemical finishes, rather than the textile itself.

Textiles are treated with all sorts of chemicals to improve their look, function and wearability. Unfortunately, many of them are carcinogens, hormone disruptors and can cause allergic reactions – we can inhale the chemicals or/and absorb them through the skin. Often it’s children and expectant mothers who are most sensitive to these chemicals, so limiting exposure is important for their health. 

As of October 2020 the use of so-called CMR substances (carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction) has been greatly limited for 33 substances by the EU. This limitation affects textiles such as bedding, furniture fabrics, shoes and clothes, both made within the EU and imported. 

AK: Even the Nordic standards and labels, which we believe have the strictest requirements, are not good enough to ensure the safety of textiles?

CVP: There are labels and standards that are supposed to protect users of textiles, but there is also an indefinite amount of chemicals out there, and it’s very difficult to keep track of all. Certifications that help companies and consumers make better, more environment-friendly choices such as Oeko Tex, Nordic Swan Ecolabel and Global organic Textile Standard, differ in their criteria; ranging from needing to adhere to a certain chemical limit level, to the examination of the enter supply chain. 

Of course, with long global supply chains, it can be very difficult for a producer to know if the right levels are adhered to or not. 

AK: So, your concept is based on 3 pillars – scientific (to eliminate harmful chemicals), environmental (to reduce waste), and business (to generate profit, improve marketing). Is that correct? Can you tell us more about your work?

CVP: Stormie Poodle started out as a children’s brand with the aim of making nearly chemicals-free clothes for children. We wanted our products to be made in a way that actually contributed to someone else’s well-being. From the beginning, we wanted Stormie Poodle to be your go-to place for sustainable bathrobes. We’re now also making “upcycled” bathrobes, ponchos and bucket hats for adults and, come next summer, a sweater. 

We’re working mostly with businesses nowadays, upcycling their textiles and providing them with a great story – often in the form of a sewn label explaining where the material comes from and who has made the product. This helps build their brand. Internally it contributes to employee’s engagement and also strengthens the brand – the company stands out amongst its competitors, attracting better talent and positions itself as an environmental leader. 

Stormie Poodle still stays true to our values: upcycling discarded textiles, always with small-scale local manufacturers, making life better for many.

AK: Your approach sounds very much 21-century. But what about your potential counterparts – the business companies?  How many of them are responsive to your offer? Do you feel that they are mostly motivated by ethical considerations, or by “cold” business calculation?

CVP: I’d say that the consumers are very aware nowadays and many businesses realize that “there’s no business on a dead planet”, so they have to change the way things are done. Of course, money is still an issue, but businesses are educating themselves. More and more companies are working hard to limit the damage they do to nature and many companies have set ambitious science-based targets to reduce their emissions. 

AK: Your business counterparts are mostly from Scandinavia and Baltics. Perhaps there is some connection to the mentality and traditions of your region? We know about “lagom” (meaning "just the right amount, not more, not less”), which seems like a whole approach to life. Among other things, lagom mentality must be friendly to using second-hand clothes, to say nothing about the recycled clothes?

CVP: Actually, lagom is slightly different, but you’re right that on some level the concept of lagom shapes how Swedes think about and try to be prudent in our use of resources. For my company, we’ve chosen to operate as locally as possible across our entire supply chain, because transporting goods is not very sustainable. We source our materials in Sweden and ideally manufacture our products as close to these sites as possible; in addition to lower emissions and being environmentally friendly, it creates work opportunities locally as well.

AK: This brings me to a more general question about “lagom” attitude, typical for many Swedes and other Nordic peoples. We see its manifestations in the Scandinavian furniture, design, fashion.  What’s the connection between “lagom” and sustainable living, recycling, etc? What’s the role of “lagom” thinking in Nordic lifestyle in general?

CVP: Well, I’m not so sure we’re very lagom in our doing nowadays as we’ve become so influenced by other cultures where it’s more accepted to be extravagant or “a bit too much”. I do agree with you that a lot of the furniture, design and fashion that comes from Sweden is very elegant in all its simplicity. We use a word for it: “avskalat” which literally means “peeled”, as in a peeled orange or banana, nothing extra.  Basically, well-thought through minimalist designs, which are timeless. There is definitely a great deal of awareness of the importance of sustainable design and production among Swedish designers.

AK: My next question is connected. We see mentions about being ethical time and again in Stormie Poodle website, but also in many other Nordic documents, including the governmental and other official texts. Do you think the importance of “ethical” argumentation is growing in your society? 

CVP: Absolutely. Today we’re used to “fast fashion” hardly costing us anything, but more and more people are waking up and asking how can this garment only cost 5€? The Rana Plaza incident in Bangladesh [A garment factory collapse killing 1,134 people in 2013 - CJ] really made many realize that our cheaply bought clothes means that someone else far away is paying the price. Also, the pandemic has shown us that manufacturing far away can be costly when transportation costs increase. The cost of shipping goods in a container from Asia has gone up 7 times since 2018 – who is going to pay for that? In Sweden we’re seeing more and more brands searching for local production.

 I really believe that production can be ethical without having the label. It means workers are paid a living wage –  not just a minimum wage.

AK: Going back to your practical work… How would you define “ethical upcycling”? 

CVP: Well, there is an internationally well-known ethical certification called Fair Trade that has standards for sustainable sourcing and production – so in a way nothing is ethical unless it has their label. Of course, one would wish that every ethical manufacturer was Fair Trade labeled, but they’re not.  I really believe that production can be ethical without having the label.

To me it means that the workers are paid a living wage –  not just a minimum wage – the one that allows them to send their kids to school, buy medicines, clothes and food, pay rent etc. It also means that workers are allowed to organize themselves and be members of a union without being punished in any way. At Stormie Poodle we work with the organization Dzīvesprieks in Latvia which doesn’t have the Fair Trade label but it stands for so many good things – such as providing scholarships for about 100 underprivileged youths so that they can pursue high school and university studies. Ethical manufacturing costs more than sweatshop labor because it reflects the true value of what you are buying. Working with upcyling of textile waste is in itself a very labor intense process.

Ethical manufacturing costs more than sweatshop labor because it reflects the true value of what you are buying.

So how do you know if a manufacturer is treating their workers fairly or not? Well, for me, working with very small organizations meant building long-term relationships with each and every one of them – all the way through the organization: the seamstress, the managers to the owners. Obviously, it’s much more difficult if it’s a very big factory. It’s important to visit the site, speak to the workers yourself and get a feel of the place. I used to source textiles from one laundry and I got the feeling that the workers there were somehow uncomfortable with my presence.  I didn’t know why, but when I did some digging I found out that the manufacturing site had a long history of issues with how their workers were treated. We stopped sourcing our material from them, of course.

AK: If you could provide some vivid examples, or success stories from business world, that would be especially interesting.

CVP: We’re very proud of the project that we did together with a laundry company and one of their customers which was a hospital. This time we didn’t work with towels but with work-wear. The work-wear was to be incinerated but there was still a lot of “life” left in them. We managed to save the garments from being destroyed and created several new products out of them instead. One of these was actually a new insulated vest for the staff. This vest now circulates between the laundry and the hospital – in a way you can say that the laundry is making money off its former waste.

Another example is when one retailer who sold our bathrobes and ponchos at a summer resort also started to rent them out to vacationers. This is exactly the kind of thing we must start doing in order to save resources. Not everyone is in need of a bathrobe year round but when you visit a summer village by the sea where bathrobes are part of the dress code it’s nice to be able to rent one.

AK: Can you share a bit about your company Stormie Poodle? What do you consider as important achievements, and future prospects? And, of course, what’s in the name?

CVP: You know, it’s been nearly thirteen years since I started my company and when I did no one understood what on earth I wanted to do. Luckily, times have changed. In 2015 all United Nations Member States adopted the Agenda for Sustainable Development. Citizens, companies and states have woken up to the challenges we’re facing, and many have realized and are acting upon the need to drastically change the way things are done.

When Stormie Poodle first started, we only made products for small children, but in 2017 we started to make bathrobes for adults too, which were a great success. That year we also started to collaborate with a hotel chain and made some new products for them out of their discarded textiles.

We take textile waste and turn it into premium products.

Love that you ask about the name! Have you seen the logo? If you know your dogs then you can see that the dog in the logo is not a poodle. Stormie is actually a woman’s name and Poodle is her last name. We want to question the way you look at things, like, don’t judge a book by the cover and give everybody a second chance. Most people wouldn’t want to touch textile waste but we take textile waste and turn it into premium products. If you didn’t know better you’d think our products had been made out of brand new material.

AK: Can you tell us about yourself, how you became a business owner starting from a scientific education? 

Why do we dress babies in brand new clothes that are full of chemicals? I came to conclusion that the used clothes felt better in so many ways.

CVP: When I grew up in Southeast Asia, I saw a lot of hardships and it opened my eyes to how much inequality there is in this world. It made me very aware of how fortunate and lucky I was. I feel very strongly that if you have an opportunity to make a difference, it’s your moral obligation to at least try. 

I also very much like putting theory into practice. For a long time I worked at an organization where our job was to spread information about the state of the planet to the general public, authorities and businesses. We did this through lectures, reports and exhibits to name a few ways. However, I often felt that information wasn’t enough, that a transformation on the inside was needed before people would act and that people needed tools to take the right steps. Basically, I was frustrated that things were moving so slowly around me, and when I in 2008 found myself at home with a baby I got an idea that I just couldn’t let go of: Why do we dress babies in brand new clothes that are full of chemicals? I started to analyze baby clothes, comparing new and used clothes and came to the conclusion that the used clothes felt better in so many ways: they were soft on both the inside and the outside, all plastic labels had been removed and most importantly: they’d been washed so many times that most chemicals had been removed.

I realized that if I could find a high quality fabric that had been washed many times then new clothes could be made for children and that, in my way of looking at it, was a healthier option. I found my material quite fast – the hotel linen, made some drawings and found a manufacturer that shared my values. The rest is history!

AK:  If there is anything that you would like to add for our readers, the floor is yours.

CVP: Actually I would like to share with you that I am setting up a new business together with an upcycling designer, Susanne Beskow. We will be focusing on another kind of textile used by hotels: workwear. Can’t tell you much more about it yet but I’ll let you know when we launch. Thanks so much for this interview Alexander, it’s been a pleasure talking to you today.

AK: Thank you very much!

Read the Georgian language version here.  Read the Armenian language version here

Caucasian Journal appreciates kind support of Estonian Embassy in Tbilisi in preparation of this interview.

Photo credits: Johan Larsson

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Ambassador Kirsti NARINEN: "Finland is a constructive and flexible partner, a peace-contributing international actor"

25.11.2021 (
Caucasian Journal). The majority of Georgians are aspiring to fully join the European family of nations, but how is this process viewed from the Europe’s side? We discuss this and other questions with Her Excellency Kirsti NARINEN, the new Roving Ambassador of Finland for the South Caucasus. We are delighted to add that today Caucasian Journal is launching our Armenian language version,  and this interview is the first one translated to two South Caucasian languages - Georgian and Armenian. 

▶ ქართულად: Read the Georgian version here.

▶ Հայերեն: 
Read the Armenian version here.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ:  Dear Kirsti, welcome to the Caucasus and to Caucasian Journal! Though just several weeks ago you had a chance to officially present your credentials in Georgia, you were involved in South Caucasian affairs as a Roving Ambassador for a long time; and now you are back from Rustavi where you observed the elections. So, we have a lot to discuss. But let’s start with explaining your position to our readers. What does it mean to be a Roving Ambassador?

Kirsti NARINEN: I would like to start with warm thanks to Caucasian Journal and you, Alexander, for keeping Nordic-Baltic themes high on your agenda! Nordic-Baltic countries have strong societies, even stronger civil societies and share many societal processes - which you have reported on. Those themes could act as well-working examples to other small European countries, within and outside the European Union. I feel honored to be able to continue your sequence and have this conversation with you.

Opportunity for Georgians to study in Norway: Scholarship Program for Master of Science in hydropower development

Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate, through the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, offers four scholarships to Georgians who want to study Hydropower development at the master’s level at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim/Norway. Scholarships are tenable for the two-year master programme starting in 2022.

▶ ქართულად: The Georgian text version is here.

Georgia and Norway – two hydropower countries

About 80 percent of Georgia’s electricity demand is covered by local hydropower plants. The construction of hydro power plants in Georgia has a long tradition, which has been reactivated in recent years. Both large power plants with reservoirs and small hydropower plants are under construction or being planned. Read more: Bjorn BRANDTZAEG: "As Georgia develops, it needs more domestically generated electricity".

Norway has a long tradition in developing hydropower. Hydropower is the mainstay of the Norwegian electricity system. Norway has 1660 hydropower plants, which accounts for 31 837 or 96 % of total installed capacity. Norway and NTNU has developed competence at the highest international level within environmentally friendly development and operation of hydropower plants. 

Caucasian Journal to host first Georgian-Norwegian Nordic Talk on hydropower education

09.11.2021 (Caucasian Journal).  If you are interested in clean energy, hydropower, SDG, or international student exchange programs, we have the pleasure to invite you to the first Georgian-Norwegian Nordic Talk. You are welcome to attend our two Zoom sessions on November 15-16 (details are below). 

Our discussion focusing on clean energy education is entitled "How to make maximum of Nordic clean energy knowledge? Case of Norway and Georgia – two “hydropower nations”.

What is a Nordic Talk? Nordic Talks is a series of live talks and podcasts addressing the biggest global challenges. "Through conversations with some of the brightest minds in the Nordics and their counterparts from around the world we want to inspire each other to act – for a better, more sustainable future", - reads the official description. 

The  first Georgian-Norwegian Nordic Talk, organized by Caucasian Journal,  will consist of two Zoom sessions with open attendance. The agenda and speakers are as follows:

How to make maximum of Nordic clean energy knowledge? Case of Norway and Georgia – two “hydropower nations”

Talk 1  –  November 15, 14:00 Oslo time / 17:00 Tbilisi time.
Clean Energy: A fundamental UN SDG, and its importance for economies and sustainable development of Norway and Georgia – two “hydropower nations”. 
How to attend: Zoom linkFacebook event linkMeeting ID: 920 2531 3281.

Petter SVAETICHIN: “Georgians are traditionally strong in the main AI subjects of mathematics and physics”

30.07.2021 (Caucasian Journal). Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the most advanced fields of IT, the core of many innovations that are changing our everyday lives. Can Georgia be a significant player in hi-tech? “Yes, it can”, - says our today’s guest Petter SVAETICHIN, CEO at Tbilisi-based artificial intelligence company Neiron. The Swedish business executive with a huge professional experience in Georgia is sharing some valuable insights with our readers.

▶ ქართულად: 
Read the Georgian version here.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ:  Dear Petter, welcome to Caucasian Journal!  You are one of the most prominent Swedish businesspeople working in Georgia for quite a while - since early 2000-s, if I’m correct. So, for our series of interviews with Nordic and Baltic experts you are a priceless speaker, with your vast experience of life and work in South Caucasus – from traditional industry such as wine-making to absolute “cutting edge” such as artificial intelligence.  But first of all, how a Swede with a diploma from a prestigious American private school finds oneself in Georgia?

Petter SVAETICHIN: Thank you. Yes, you and I have crossed paths over the years and it seems that our interests often coincide. My being in Georgia was from the beginning a stroke of luck and coincidence but later a matter of appreciation and love for the country as well as an interest in the various possibilities and opportunities present. After graduating from ESSEC University in Paris and Cornell University in New York, I started working on projects for a private Swedish investor and one of his challenges was the revival of Chateau Mukhrani vineyards, and to restore this  Royal heritage to its former glory and make it a “must go and must taste” destination for visitors. When I started it was just a ruin with a few hundred visitors a year. In 2019 Chateau Mukhrani received in excess of 60,000 guests. After having been a member of the board since 2005, I moved here in late 2010 and was running the development. GWS vineyards in Telavi and Marussia Georgia later formed a group with Chateau Mukhrani. Some years ago I completely changed direction when my cousin, who is another Swede living in Georgia, asked me to assume the leadership of his Artificial Intelligence company Neiron. Since 2019 I am therefore working on developing AI in Georgia and from Georgia.   

Jānis IKSTENS: “Interest from Georgian students in studying in Riga is very high”

25.07.2021 (Caucasian Journal). Caucasian Journal’s guest today is Dr. Jānis IKSTENS, Acting Rector and Chairman of the Board at Riga Graduate School of Law.

▶ ქართულად: 
Read the Georgian version here.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ:  Welcome to Caucasian Journal – we are pleased to greet you as our first speaker from Latvia; it is even more symbolic that you are the first representative of higher education sphere.  You have been the head of Riga Graduate School of Law since 2017, if I’m correct. Would you like to introduce RGSL, by highlighting what you consider most important?

Jānis IKSTENS: Riga Graduate School of Law (RGSL) was founded in 1998 in cooperation between Latvia and Sweden in order to assist Latvia in preparing for work in the European institutions. RGSL was inaugurated in 2001 by President of Latvia Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga and Crown Princess of Sweden Victoria, who also awarded diplomas to the very first graduates. 

At the beginning, RGSL offered only Masters degrees, two Bachelor programmes – “Law and Business” and “Law and Diplomacy” were introduced in 2014. Since then, they have gained popularity among young people in Latvia and also abroad – we have students and faculty from more than 30 countries studying and teaching in Riga. 

Ambassador Gert ANTSU: ”At times reforms sound like a tired buzzword that has lost its luster”

18.07.2021 (Caucasian Journal).  The today’s guest of Caucasian Journal is Mr. Gert ANTSU,  Director of the Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership and Special Representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Eastern Partnership. 

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is a joint policy initiative which aims to deepen and strengthen relations between the European Union and its six Eastern neighbours: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. EaP was inaugurated in 2009.

▶ ქართულად: 
Read the Georgian version here.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ:  Welcome to Caucasian Journal, thank you for attention to our readers. We often talk about successful European reform experiences and best practices, and whether they can be used in our region. But our today’s theme is a special case: We discuss the Eastern Partnership, which is in fact all about applying the EU approaches in our neighborhood. Let me start with a conceptual question: Who is the main driving force in this process – in theory it must be the Eastern side, not EU? Or, is it different for each EaP country, which are so dissimilar? 

Gert ANTSU: It is a conceptually interesting question. If we talk about partnership, then by definition it needs a strong interest from both sides to work. At the same time we can see that there is more urgency on the side of the EaP countries, especially those who have declared their European ambitions – people want better livelihoods, better governance in their countries and they understand that closer relations with the EU are a key to reach those ends. Then again, these countries do not stress as much the multilateral Eastern Partnership as their own bilateral relationship and integration with the EU. However, viewed from the EU’s side, everything one does with EaP countries, bilaterally or all together, is Eastern Partnership, so there is no contradiction here.

Inka HOPSU, Member of Finnish Parliament: “I'm happy I was able to participate in politics as a woman with small babies”

Photo: Hanne Salonen / Finnish Parliament
14.07.2021 (Caucasian Journal). Caucasian Journal’s guest today is Ms. Inka HOPSU – Finnish politician, member of Parliament for the Green League.

▶ ქართულად: 
Read the Georgian version here.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ:  Welcome to Caucasian Journal! Your career is remarkable in so many ways.  Being a mother of four, you managed to become a parliamentarian. You were a teacher and now you are a “green” politician. You seem like a role model for everyone, who wants to make life better in his or her city or community.  We are delighted to get such as a guest as you for an interview, and have prepared many essential questions. Let me start with this: Have you ever thought about yourself as a role model? Maybe your teaching experience has prepared you for such a role long time ago?

Inka HOPSU: Even before teaching, I was a scout leader for many years, first responsible of smaller groups, then working in the board of national organization and in international tasks. I think these prepared me to take responsibility and to be an example of a good and motivating leader for many young people. I think the role of civil society in preparing for leadership tasks in politics is very essential.

Video: Kristina KALLAS and Arnold STEPANIAN discuss national minority policies in Estonia and Georgia

11.07.2021 (Caucasian Journal). Today at Caucasian Journal we are talking about the national minorities policies in Georgia and Estonia. Our guests are Arnold STEPANIAN, Chairman of Public Movement “Multinational Georgia”, and Kristina KALLAS, Research Fellow at Tartu University Narva College, and leader of political party “Estonia 200”.
The interview is available in video format with Georgian subtitles, and as text version - in two languages.  You may view the video discussion below. 

The full text of this interview is also available in English and Georgian:
▶ ქართულად: The Georgian text version is here.
▶ English text version is here.

To be first to view all our exclusive video interviews, please subscribe here to our YouTube Channel.

Kristina KALLAS and Arnold STEPANIAN discuss national minority policies in Estonia and Georgia

11.07.2021 (Caucasian Journal). Today at Caucasian Journal we talk about the national minorities policies in Georgia and Estonia. Our guests are Arnold STEPANIAN, Chairman of Public Movement “Multinational Georgia” (PMMG), and Kristina KALLAS, Research Fellow at Tartu University Narva College, leader of political party “Estonia 200”.
Our  interview can be watched or read in two languages. Below we present the full English text version of interview. 

▶ ქართულად: The Georgian text version is here
▶ For video version, click here.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ: Hello and welcome to Caucasian Journal’s video interviews! Our guests today are well-known experts in national minorities issues from Estonia and Georgia: Arnold STEPANIAN, Chairman of Public Movement “Multinational Georgia”, and Kristina KALLAS, Research Fellow at Tartu University Narva College, and leader of political party “Estonia 200”, who joins us online from Estonia. Dear Arnold, is it true that “Multinational Georgia” is one of the oldest NGOs in Georgia?

Arnold STEPANIAN: Hello first of all, yes we are one of the oldest NGOs - we were established in 1999. If I remember correctly, there were not more than 20-25 NGOs at that time.

Anne LIDGARD: “We are interested in attracting talent and can offer a very vivid startup scene”

30.06.2021 (Caucasian Journal). Caucasian Journal’s guest today is Anne LIDGARD, Director, Ecosystems for Innovative Companies at Vinnova – the Sweden’s innovation agency.

Read the Georgian version here.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ:  Welcome to Caucasian Journal! Let me explain first, that one of our aims is to spread some of the world’s most advanced reforms experiences in our region, and to assist in using those best practices here. As Sweden is often called the Silicon Valley of Europe, it is no wonder we’ve got interested in your country’s achievements in the field of startups and other innovations. Is it true, that it all started with Stockholm City Government’s decision to subsidize people’s home computers in the 1980s? Quite a far-sighted and exceptional decision, wasn’t it?  

Anne LIDGARD: Yes, indeed, that was one of the key contributors, but I also want to mention the very early mobile adoption thanks to Ericsson – the world leader in the field then – and its collaboration with state-owned Telia. Also the early and wide-reaching broadband deployment, another important policy decision, has played a huge role. Thanks to our proficiency in English, people started interacting very early on the web, not least the younger generation of gamers that later turned innovators.

Senator Rob PORTMAN on NATO membership for Georgia: "It is time to fulfill promise made in 2008"

U.S. Senator Rob PORTMAN: 
I strongly support full NATO membership for Georgia... and it is time to fulfill the promise made in the 2008 Bucharest Agreement

23.06.2021 (Caucasian Journal). Caucasian Journal has asked U.S. Senator Rob PORTMAN to share his comments on the recent visit of American Congressional Delegation to Georgia. The Senator's press secretary provided the following statement by Rob Portman:

"I strongly support full NATO membership for Georgia – their commitment to free and democratic values are in line with NATO’s and it is time to fulfill the promise made in the 2008 Bucharest Agreement.”

The NATO's "promise made  in the 2008 Bucharest Agreement", to which Senator Portman was referring, is the decision adopted at NATO Summit in Bucharest, Romania. 

It reads: "NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO.  We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO... Therefore we will now begin a period of intensive engagement with both at a high political level to address the questions still outstanding pertaining to their MAP [Membership Action Plan] applications" (Bucharest Summit Declaration issued by the heads of state and government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Bucharest on 3 April 2008, paragraph 23)