Jeanne CAVELIER: "Georgia is moving further and further away from satisfactory press freedom, and therefore from democracy and EU path"

23.15.2024 (Caucasian Journal). Our guest today is Jeanne CAVELIER, head of Eastern Europe & Central Asia Desk at Reporters Without Borders (
Jeanne Cavelier
Photo: RSF/Manon Levet
Reporters sans frontières, RSF). Previously Ms. Cavelier worked for renowned French newspapers such as L’Opinion and Le Monde.

 ქართულად: Read the Georgian version here.

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ:  Dear Jeanne, welcome to the Caucasian Journal, thank you for attention to our readers. This year's Press Freedom Day was not a proud moment for Georgia. According to the fresh edition of your World Press Freedom Index, our press freedom has declined by 43 positions in three years: From the 60th position in 2021 to 103 this year. Your Index has been shedding light on press freedom since 2002. How precise is it in general, and how alarming is Georgia’s decline, compared to other countries?

Jeanne CAVELIER: Georgia is moving further and further away from a satisfactory press freedom environment, and therefore from democracy and its path of the EU. It is now ranked 103rd out of 180 countries, and changed categories in our last edition, moving from a “problematic” situation for press freedom to a “difficult” one. The trend is worrying: No other country in the region (Caucasus, Turkey and Russia) has fallen as much as Georgia in the ranking for 10 years. RSF Index relies on a solid methodology to compare diverse situations in 180 countries and covers all areas of press freedom. It is based on an analysis of 5 indicators: political context, legal framework, economic context, socio-cultural context and security. The lowest scores of Georgia are political and economic ones. It shows a growing authoritarianism. Press freedom is being threatened by the very people who should be its guarantors - the political authorities. That’s a worrying trend we observe worldwide this year. The low score of Georgia for the economic context is in particular due to a lack of ownership transparency and editorial independence of the media outlets. 

The trend is worrying: No other country in the region has fallen as much as Georgia in the ranking for 10 years.

Thomas HACKER, Bundestag: “Candidate status was granted to Georgian people, not to the government” (watch video or read)

Thomas Hacker
21.05.2024 (Caucasian Journal). Mr. Thomas HACKER, a Member of the German Bundestag (Federal Parliament), gave an exclusive video interview to the Caucasian Journal.  He recently returned from a visit to Tbilisi with a German parliamentary delegation.

You may watch the video below or read the full text - further below.  This interview is also available in Georgian language version.

 ქართულად: Video subtitled in Georgian is here. Georgian text version is here.

To be the first to view exclusive interviews, please subscribe here to our YouTube Channel


The text version of interview is below:

THOMAS HACKER: “CANDIDATE STATUS WAS GRANTED TO GEORGIAN PEOPLE, NOT TO THE GOVERNMENT”

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ: Dear Mr. Hacker, welcome to the Caucasian Journal, thank you for attention to our readers. In the Bundestag you represent Bavaria, but it seems you have also a genuine interest in Georgia.  How did you become interested in our country?

Thomas HACKER: In the Bundestag, which I attend for almost seven years now, I'm member of Committee on European Affairs and I'm the spokesman of my parliamentary group. Therefore within my obligations are countries that are part of enlargement process.  Whenever I come to a country I try to not only to meet the politicians but also the civil society, young people especially. 

Georgia is an important country in a very difficult neighborhood.

In my first visit in Georgia I found a genuine interest, of younger people especially, in becoming member of European community. I also learned about Georgian life, food, wine with is long tradition, so I came back again and again to Georgia. And I hope that my recent trip will not be the last.  We are planning two more visits. Georgia is an important country in a very difficult neighborhood, and I fear that the pressure from Russia is very high on the government. But we - as Germany and the EU - have to show faith in Georgia.

Parliament told us that they could not  guarantee our safety within the Parliament building, so political talks could not take place.

AK: Can you comment on the results of your visit?

TH: Our delegation was one of the Committee on Culture and Media. For two years now we have a close connection to the Georgian Committee on Culture and Media. Of course we planned political talks as well, but as the demonstrations were every day,  the Parliament told us that they could not  guarantee our safety within the  Parliament building, so political talks could not take place. We had many contacts with people, NGOs and civil society. We also attended the Berliner Philharmoniker concert in Tsinandali. So it was also a visit of cultural cooperation, intended to deepen the relations between Georgia and Germany. But in result we could see with our own eyes what was going in the streets of Tbilisi. Though political talks could not take place, we tried to get our message right and tell what the German Bundestag was thinking of so-called “foreign agent law”.

Miloš MICHLOVSKÝ: “If Georgian winemakers want to be competitive in Europe they must diversify” (watch video or read)

16.05.2024 (Caucasian Journal). Our guest today is Dr. Miloš MICHLOVSKÝ - one of the leading Czech experts in the field of winemaking. He is currently visiting Georgia and kindly agreed to give us an interview.  You may watch the video discussion below, and read the full text - further below.  This interview is also available in Georgian language version.
 ქართულად: Video subtitled in Georgian is here. Georgian text version is here.

To be the first to view exclusive interviews, please subscribe here to our YouTube Channel


The text version of interview is below:

MILOŠ MICHLOVSKÝ: “IF GEORGIAN WINEMAKERS WANT TO BE COMPETITIVE IN EUROPE THEY MUST DIVERSIFY”

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ: Hello and welcome to Caucasian Journal video interviews! Today it is our pleasure to welcome Dr. Miloš MICHLOVSKÝ - one of the leading Czech experts in the field of winemaking. He is currently visiting Georgia and kindly agreed to give us an interview. We must also thank the Czech Embassy in Tbilisi for this opportunity and for the help in translation. Dr. Michlovský, welcome to Georgia. Is this your first visit to Georgia, and what brings you here?

Miloš MICHLOVSKÝ: I would like to greet by a Moravian greeting “Welcome in the vineyard!” It's not my first time in Georgia. My first visit was in 1970-s during my study and doctorate period. I used to come very often because I had a lot of friends here. In recent years we had bilateral cooperation projects between Czechia and Georgia, as we try to share our best experience regarding EU accession, and actually all the lessons learned.

I see there's a quite dynamic process in Georgia in relation to the EU accession; there have been many changes in legislation. Of course these processes are not easy to be implemented in reality, but they are necessary for the accession to EU.

Open letter from Chairman of ICC Georgia regarding "Foreign Agents Law"

01.05. 2024. Open letter from Fady ASLY, Chairman of the Georgian National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce, regarding the "Foreign Agents Law," also known as the "Russian Law".

I am writing this letter to inform society at large of all the consequences that Georgia will be facing after the implementation of the “Russian Law” in the country.

It is a fact that the enactment of this law by the Georgian Government will trigger a series of adverse consequences that will profoundly impact the business environment, the economy, and the overall prosperity of Georgia, as outlined in the following points:

1. Stifling Civil Society and Democracy
  • Impact on Governance: Civil society organizations (CSOs) are crucial for a healthy democracy as they hold government accountable, advocate for transparency, and fight corruption, therefore constraining their operations will lead to less oversight and more corruption, deteriorating the quality of governance.
  • International Perception: Implementing such a law will be perceived as an authoritarian shift, which will destabilize the democratic progress and image of Georgia on the international stage.

Martin SKALSKÝ on environment protection: “People must be active and demand changes” (watch video or read)

Skalsky Zoom
17.04.2024 (Caucasian Journal). Our guest today is Martin SKALSKÝ, chairman of the Czech non-governmental organization Arnika and leader of Centre for the Support of Citizens. He coordinates many projects in the countries of the former Soviet Union and Western Balkans in the field of environment protection.

You may watch the video discussion below, and read the full text - further below.  This interview is also available in Georgian language version:

 ქართულად: Video subtitled in Georgian is here. Georgian text version is here.

To be the first to view exclusive interviews, please subscribe here to our YouTube Channel


The text version of interview is below: 

MARTIN SKALSKÝ: “PEOPLE MUST BE ACTIVE AND DEMAND CHANGES”

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ:  Hello and welcome to Caucasian Journal video interviews!

Our guest today is Martin SKALSKÝ, chairman of the Czech non-governmental organization Arnika and leader of Centre for the Support of Citizens. He coordinates many projects in the countries of the former Soviet Union and Western Balkans in the field of environment protection.

Dear Martin, welcome to Caucasian Journal. At the launch of our Journal we have installed an air quality widget right on our main page. So, no wonder that environment protection and especially air quality is our top concern.  Let me start with the alarming phrase from your website “Tbilisi is among Europe's top three most polluted metropolises”. How bad is it now, in simple words? And what are the other two cities?

Association "Wine Artisans" and artisan winemakers condemn "Russian Law"

14.04.2024 (Caucasian Journal). Georgia's Association "Wine Artisans" and artisan winemakers published a statement condemning the controversial bill on transparency of foreign influence, resubmitted by the parliamentary majority earlier this month. This statement is republished below. Association "Wine Artisans" is headed by Andro Barnovi, member of the Advisory Board of Caucasian Journal.

Association "Wine Artisans" and artisan winemakers condemn "Russian Law"
2024-04-14 
NO to the Russian law! NO to the traitor Government!

Although we do not represent political organizations, part of the Georgian artisan winemakers made it usual for the public that we are always one of the first to state our firm position on important political or social issues for the country.

Petr STUDNIČKA: “European integration will bring more tourists to Georgia, shorter stays, and higher requirements for quality”

10.04.2024 (Caucasian Journal). What EU integration will bring to people and industries in Georgia? In our new interview series, EU experts from various fields share their insights. Today's focus is on TOURISM and HOSPITALITY. 

Petr StudnickaOur guest is Dr. Petr STUDNIČKA, Head of the Hotel and Tourism Management Department at the University College, Prague. Being one of the leading Czech experts for the tourism sector, he is a member of the Society of Tourism Scientific Experts, Association of Hotels and Restaurants of the Czech Republic, Czech Gastronomic Institute, and other tourism-related associations and journal boards.

We wish also to thank Ms. Nino NEBIERIDZE,  Director at City Hotels, General Manager at Tbilisi Chambers Trademark Collection by Wyndham and City Avenue Hotel, for her comments and questions, which helped us to make this article even more valuable for the professionals.

▶ ქართულად: Read the Georgian version here.


Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ:  Dear Petr, welcome to Caucasian Journal! I know you have been to Georgia, which last year became a EU candidate country.  Tourism is a very important sector of economy for both our countries. That is why we wanted to devote this interview to the Czech experience, which becomes even more relevant for us with the view of future EU rapprochement. For a start, a general question: How do the tourism-oriented countries benefit from joining EU? 

Petr STUDNIČKA: Joining the EU has a positive impact on the economy. The free movement of people, goods, services and capital is beneficial for the development of tourism. This is about 450 million inhabitants in the single market. Access to the Schengen area has a very positive effect. The Czech Republic became an EU member state in 2004, we joined Schengen in 2007. What remains is the adoption of the euro and entry into the Eurozone. The Czech Republic will have to wait for that for some time, it will be a political decision. By joining the EU, the state also receives funds from European Union sources, which can be used in moderation to support tourism (e.g. development of tourism in threatened areas, digitization of processes in tourism).

Rolande PRYCE, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus: "We focus very much on people"

Rolande PRYCE at CaucasianJournal.org
02.04.2024 (Caucasian Journal Rolande PRYCE, World Bank Regional Director for the South Caucasus, gave an exclusive video interview to Caucasian Journal. 
The conversation with Ms. Pryce covered a wide range of World Bank's activities in the South Caucasus. She commented on Georgia's country portfolio, spoke about the Human Capital Program and Country Partnership Framework.  In particular, she is touching on the regional initiatives such as the Middle Corridor as well as the upcoming Black Sea Submarine Cable project (BSSC) supported by the World Bank.  
Watch the video talk below, or in our YouTube channel in high definition.


Ambassador Ahmed ALNUAIMI: "I am fortunate to be posted to Georgia during this dynamic period of emerging relations between UAE and this strategically significant nation"

Ahmed Ebrahim Ahmed Taher ALNUAIMI
13.03.2024 (Caucasian Journal)It is an honour for Caucasian Journal today to welcome His Excellency Ahmed Ebrahim Ahmed Taher ALNUAIMI, the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Georgia.  

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of Caucasian Journal: Your Excellency, welcome to Caucasian Journal, and thank you for finding time for our readers. Your ambassadorial term in Georgia started about a year ago, if I am correct. Probably you have already got substantial local experience. May I start by asking about your brightest moments in Georgia – maybe something unexpected, emotional, or even funny?

Ahmed ALNUAIMI: Serving as the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Georgia has been a rewarding experience, affording me the opportunity to play a pivotal role in fostering collaboration between our two nations. My tenure so far here has been an extremely positive experience. The gracious hospitality extended to me by the Georgian people has made an indelible mark on my diplomatic mission.

Moreover, I have been impressed by the culinary delights that Georgia offers, and the scenic beauty of the country has been a continuous source of awe and inspiration throughout my work here. 

Johnny MELIKYAN: Armenian “Crossroads of Peace” initiative is a frank and peaceful approach to our neighbors and not only

J.Melikyan
05.03.2024 (Caucasian Journal)  Our today's guest is Johnny MELIKYAN, Senior Fellow at the ORBELI Research Analytical Center (Yerevan).

Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of Caucasian Journal: Dear Johnny, welcome to Caucasian Journal! As our name implies, we are especially interested in projects which are important for the whole South Caucasian region, and are about closer integration of our countries. That’s why we were looking forward to talking about the “Crossroads of Peace”, presented by the Prime Minister of Armenia in Tbilisi, when Mr. Pashinyan attended the Silk Road Forum last October. For a start, how can you summarize this project for our readers? And also, may I ask if your Center was involved in the development of this project?

Johnny MELIKYAN: First of all, I want to thank you for the opportunity to talk about Armenia and our approach to this wonderful, but at the same time, so complicated and divided region. Answering on the last part of your question, I would say “Yes” - Orbeli Center is working with our government on information support for this project. And this interview is yet another opportunity to speak with a large audience about the Armenian peaceful agenda in the South Caucasus.

Speaking about the situation in the region, I want to say that the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in the autumn of 2020 changed the status-quo, which was formed in the mid-90s, just after the first Nagorno-Karabakh war. It took the lives of thousands of people in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The wounds and pains of that war on families, towns and villages will take a long time to heal. Its outcome determined some issues, left others unresolved, and created some new ones. Later, in 2021-2022, on the Armenian-Azerbaijani state border and in September 2023 in Nagorno-Karabakh, we saw more blood and sufferings. As a result of September 19-20 Azerbaijani large-scale aggression against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, which took hundreds of lives, including among the civilian population, women and children. As a result of this ethnic cleansing, more than 100 thousand people became forcibly displaced.

According to Economic Freedom Index, Georgia performs better than the world and regional averages

Index
Click to enlarge
02.03.2024 (Caucasian Journal). Georgia ranks 32nd among 176 countries in the world, according to the Index of Economic Freedom, compiled annually by the Heritage Foundation, an American public policy think tank. Heritage Foundation evaluates the extent and effectiveness of government activity in 12 areas that have a significant impact on levels of economic growth and prosperity. 

Georgia's position is higher than those of its geographical neighbors: Armenia (47th place), Azerbaijan  (70th), Türkiye (102th), Russia (131th). 

Over the year, the country rose two places in the Index, despite a decrease in the overall score - from 68.7 points to 68.4 points (This, however, is partly due to a global tendency, as the authors of the Index noted: "Regrettably, the global average score for economic freedom has fallen further from the previous year’s 59.3 and is now the lowest it has been since 2001: only 58.6). 

Georgia is ranked 19th out of 44 countries in the Europe region. The country’s economic freedom score is higher than the world and regional averages. Georgia’s economy is considered “moderately free” according to the 2024 Index. Armenia and Azerbaijan are in the same category. 

"Despite a challenging external and political environment, Georgia’s economy performs quite well in key policy areas. Reforms to enhance regulatory efficiency have been implemented, and open-market policies are maintained along with low tax rates. The economy has demonstrated a high level of resilience. However, institutional weaknesses still require much more committed reforms because marginal reforms have not generated much improvement.", - reads the Index of Economic Freedom.

Funding opens for cultural heritage protection projects in South Caucasus

Small Grants Scheme for heritage-related projects
01.02.2024 (Caucasian Journal). If you work in a museum or other institution related to cultural heritage protection in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, or other EU neighbouring countries, please read on - you might find this grant call relevant.

The European Heritage Hub project – co-funded by the European Union and run by a consortium of 20 partners led by Europa Nostra – has launched a Small Grants Scheme to support projects protecting cultural heritage in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Ukraine.

The scheme offers grants of three sizes: 
  • Small projects – grants ranging from €2,000 to €10,000;
  • Medium projects – grants ranging from €10,000 to €30,000;
  • Large projects – grants ranging from €30,000 to €50,000.

The Program supports the following types of activities:

Eastern Partnership Index 2023: "A dose of realism is needed"

EAP
25.01.2024 (Caucasian Journal). The new Eastern Partnership Index, published yesterday, grabs the reader's attention immediately with a stunning cover image - the famous photograph with a EU flag, taken in Tbilisi during the 2023's standoff in front of the Parliament building. 

The content of the 200-page report reflects important - and often alarming - tendencies in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus - the six Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries. 

Marking its 9th edition, the publication tracks the reform progress made in the fields of democracy, good governance, rule of law, policy convergence and sustainable development between September 2021 and November 2023. It shows how Russia’s war impacts reforms in the EaP countries, and the different levels of these countries' approximation of with the European Union.

"The pace at which Moldova, Ukraine as well as Georgia gained their EU candidate status has been breathtaking", - reads the Index. "Whilst this positive momentum should be celebrated, the results of the EaP Index indicate that a dose of realism is also needed."

For Georgia (ranked 3rd overall), the Index’ results sadly demonstrate "a significant downwards drift, if not a sharp plunge in many areas which reflects the country’s political polarisation".

Read more news from Caucasian Journal - and stay positive! 😊

Good News
As Caucasian Journal marks our 5th anniversary since launch, we thought that the best way to celebrate is to offer more news and information to our respected readers. 

That's why we have started Caucasian Journal GOOD NEWS, which, as we hope, is a useful addition to our main content. Here are some reasons why to follow our new newsfeed:
  • They save your time. The news are very brief, and well illustrated. In most cases you don't even need to read, as the images are self-explanatory;
  • They help to save your good mood. We do our best to emphasize the positive developments, arts, culture, and other fun sides of life;
  • We publish them on a daily basis!
The best way to read GOOD NEWS is in our social networks, such as our new WhatsApp channel and Telegram channel (please subscribe and share). After appearing in WhatsApp and Telegram, the GOOD NEWS show up in our Facebook and LinkedIn feeds, which you are also welcome to follow. And, if you prefer even shorter texts, you may subscribe to our X (former Twitter) or Instagram

We do not use bots, tricks, or commercial ads to build up our readership, so if you like our information, please take a minute to share and invite your friends and contacts to our channels. Thank you, we cover what matters - to you!

Andrew JEWELL: "We would like to see the IMF program back on track"

Andrew Jewell
17.01.2024 (Caucasian Journal) Our guest today is Andrew JEWELL, Resident Representative for Georgia at International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

▶ ქართულად:  Read the Georgian version here.


Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of Caucasian Journal: Dear Andrew, happy New Year, and welcome to Caucasian Journal! Thank you for finding time for our readers in your busy schedule. You were appointed IMF Representative in Georgia last August, but your previous place of work was Bosnia and Herzegovina – not too far from this region. Do you still feel “new” to Georgia? 

Andrew JEWELL: Although a lot has happened since I arrived, I still feel quite new. Besides getting up to speed on economic issues, I’m trying to better understand Georgia’s history, the political dynamics in the country, and the geopolitical context. I’m also trying to learn Georgian language, which I find fascinating and very difficult!

AK:  Indeed it is... With diplomas from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Sorbonne, and many years with IMF, you have a unique combination of knowledge – from computer science to political science to global finance. Can you tell a little bit about yourself, and your professional interests? And how did you get to Georgia? 

Up to €300,000 EU funding for literary translations – open to Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine

Translator
16.01.2024 (Caucasian Journal). The EU-funded Creative Europe programme has launched a call to support the translation, promotion and circulation of European literary works of fiction, including novels, poetry, comics etc. 

The scheme, with a total budget of €5 million, will provide funding for 40 projects.

Interested organisations can apply individually or as members of a consortium, with a minimum two eligible organisations. Works of fiction in languages from countries taking part in the Creative Europe programme, including Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine, are eligible. 

Applicants can apply with projects of different sizes, with these different ceilings for the number of books translated and funding received:
  • Small scale: projects proposing translation of up to 10 different books can receive up to €100,000;
  • Medium scale: projects proposing translation of up to 20 different books can receive up to €200,000;
  • Large scale: projects proposing translation of at least 21 different books can receive up to €300,000.

Sergei Parajanov at 100: Cult film director and symbol of Armenian and Georgian art fusion

Parajanov Yerevan
A statue of  Parajanov unveiled today in Yerevan 
09.01.2024 (Caucasian Journal). Caucasian Journal today joins in the celebration of 100 years since birth of Sergei PARAJANOV - world famous film director, who also symbolizes the interconnection and interdependence of  the Armenian, Georgian, and all Caucasian art and culture. 

"In the temple of cinema, there are images, light and reality. Sergei Parajanov was the master of that temple," - said Jean-Luc Godard, arguably the most influential French filmmaker.

Sergei Parajanov (1924–1990) was indeed a multifaceted and influential figure in the world of cinema, known for his unique artistic vision and a body of work that remains highly regarded. Born in Tbilisi, to Armenian parents, Parajanov's life and career were marked by a rich blend of cultural influences from both Georgia and Armenia.

The Parajanov’s anniversary is included in the UNESCO list of anniversaries of outstanding personalities, and is celebrated worldwide, including Yerevan and Tbilisi. A statue of  Parajanov was unveiled today in Yerevan, in the area adjacent to the Cinema House (see photo). Yerevan municipality is planning  to name the square where the statue is placed The Color of Pomegranates Square -  in honor of Sergei Parajanov’s film entitled "The Color of Pomegranates". In Tbilisi, IArt Gallery is organizing a special event in honor of the maestro. 

European competition welcomes performing art professionals from Armenia and Georgia

Perform Europe
08.01.2024 (Caucasian Journal) Are you - or a friend of yours - a performing arts professional living in Georgia, Armenia, or the rest of Europe? If yes, read on: This is an opportunity for you and your friends.  

Perform Europe, a European funding scheme supported by the European Union, has  launched an open call offering €2.1 million for performing arts partnerships to collaborate across borders within the 40 Creative Europe countries, including Armenia and Georgia.

The call is open to all performing arts professionals and organisations in Creative Europe countries. The applications should be submitted by partnerships with a minimum of three partners from three different Creative Europe countries. 

Applicants can apply for grants in three categories: €12,000, €32,000 or €60,000. The deadline for submitting applications is 31 March. To read full details and apply click here