Cops frame Birja Mafia so protests, gov wants to ban land sales to foreigners in constitution, State Security BSes about Mukhtarli abduction, Gvaramia quits Rustavi 2, Surkov visit to breakaways, Linkevicius in town, Abkhaz drop murder charges on Kanjiogli, new NATO NRF company, Russia refuses agreement on trade via Roki, Lithuania Geo support, Russian cash to Abkhaz increase, boxer Khurtsidze arrested in NYC, R2 Udumashvili may run for mayor, Congo pilot killed, Sakvarelidze talks Misha extradition, rain, Rostomashvili mugging, police increase, Chinese container scanner, interest stays at 7, FDI numbers, poultry farm, Jr Lelos beat Argentina, Warriors NBA champs Go Zaza, electric motorcycles and mopeds no VAT maybe, 5K tons cherries, marathon

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  1. The MEME this week is a photo of Zaza Pachulia celebrating the championship with his teammates. He’s wearing a Georgian flag, which is pretty cool. Zaza has been an informal ambassador for Georgia during his time in the NBA.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2s3Olp5


    Misha gave an interview with Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty praising the volunteers from Chechnya and Georgia who are fighting against the Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine. Roughly a dozen Georgians have been killed fighting there. He assured them that their sacrifice has not been in vain, and said that he and his reformers will change Ukraine, put an end to Putin, and save the Caucasus.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2tpdWH3

    Writing for EurasiaNet, Qiyang Niu explores whether engagement with China can help the GUAM countries–Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova–deflect Russian pressure. The author thinks there’s a good chance, for two reasons. Firstly, Russia is a junior partner to China in Eurasian economic affairs, and it needs to respect Chinese interests. If China makes major economic and strategic investments in the GUAM countries, Russia will need to refrain from disrupting them. Second, China’s Belt and Road initiative is giving the GUAM countries more incentive to cooperate and even integrate on economic policy. That’s strengthening the multilateral format, and a stronger GUAM is better able to withstand Russian pressure. There are two big questions, though: Moldova has very little economic importance for China, and vice versa; and both Moldova and Azerbaijan prefer to hedge their bets by keeping the door open to Russia at all times. Either country could potentially squash the entire format, regardless of China’s role. Currently, Georgia and Ukraine are enjoying deepening economic ties with China.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2tpe4q1

    Also writing for EurasiaNet, Josh Kucera and Emil Sanamyan investigate whether the diplomatic spat between Saudi Arabia and Qatar will spill over into the Caucasus. Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia all have close ties with various gulf states. In Georgia, the United Arab Emirates is a major economic partner–the country’s sovereign wealth fund has a lot of interests here, and until recently owned the Poti Free Industrial Zone. Also, an Emirates-based company owns the Biltmore hotel. Azerbaijan has very close ties with Saudi Arabia especially. So far there are no indications of gulf states putting pressure on their Caucasus allies to get in line against Qatar, but the risk is always there.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2svbbYm

    Deputy Managing Director of the IMF Tao Zhang spoke at TSU on Monday about the challenges of building a modern economy in Georgia, and we have the transcript here. He spoke a lot about more inclusive growth, which hinges on building the country’s export base. Georgia needs more investment in export industries. Also, the education system needs to be upgraded to reduce the skills mismatch, which is partly to blame for the chronically-high unemployment rate.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2rtsQ2B

    Social Science in the Caucasus looks at food security in Georgia. According to their data, in 2015, 19 percent of people said they had to go without necessary food items at least once per month because of a lack of money. Nine percent said they had to go without every week or every day. Overall, a majority of people reported having this problem at least some of the time. The responses have been pretty steady since they started asking this question in 2011, and there isn’t a lot of variation between urban and rural people, although rural Georgians are a bit more likely to report the problem.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2tpjVvn

    The Media Development Fund publishes its Kremlin Influence Index 2017, together with a number of international partners. The index looks at four countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Georgia, and Ukraine, assessing to what degree each country is susceptible to Kremlin influence. The higher the score, the more susceptible it is. Hungary is the most susceptible with a score of 61, Georgia is second at 54, and Ukraine and the Czech Republic bring up the rear, at 49 and 48, respectively. The index considers three components: political, media, and civil society. In Georgia, the media sector is most susceptible to Kremlin influence.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2srMVoZ

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