Ossetian army now Russian, Armenia vote, St Petersburg attack, cyanide priest on hunger strike, Misha at Euro Peoples Party, Norway def min, ski resort meeting, Ergneti IPRM, senators on territorial integrity, join Europole, new ambo to Swiss, Riga Tbilisi Square, Center Point prison terms including ex vice speaker of parliament, former deputy interior min attacked, Russian border guards abduct near ABL, rail line to Kutaisi airport, Metechi bridge non bomb, lions and tiger at zoo, littering fines, Narmania builds parking lots, sick kids in Sighnaghi, more tourists, wine export, Barcelona flights, new Freedom Sq Accor hotel, Georgian Kiwis to Japan, anti smoking law discussion, Rayfield

One thought on “TBLPOD6april2017

  1. The MEME this week is a picture of a Mimosa tree in Abkhazia. The tree turns from green to bright yellow, and has been renowned as one of the most beautiful trees in the world.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2ocufaI


    Lincoln Mitchell devotes his Georgia Analysis to visa liberalization. Mostly, visa-free demonstrates that the Georgian government is capable of achieving tangible results by implementing real policy reforms: ensuring border security and crafting and executing strong immigration and asylum policies. It’s a welcome change from the usual, where the government talks about vague policy goals like territorial integrity and economic development and where the EU makes vague, open-ended promises that never seem to bring any tangible benefit. Next up, the government needs to articulate its next step in relations with the EU.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2necdpu

    The ISET blog written by Eric Livny focuses on potential problems for Georgia from recently-signed logistics agreements between Iran and Azerbaijan. Last month, the two countries inaugurated a bilateral railway connection that will form part of the North South Trade Corridor linking South Asia to Europe through Russia–and bypassing Georgia. It also gives Azerbaijan a direct link to the Persian Gulf, another alternative to Georgia’s Black Sea ports. Also, Turkey, Iran, and Azerbaijan are planning another project connecting Azerbaijan to Europe with the Baku-Tabriz-Babak-Kars line, which will bypass Georgia and Armenia. Both rail corridors are expected to open in 2023. That doesn’t mean Georgia can’t or won’t be a major logistics hub, but it means Georgian Railways needs to seriously upgrade its operations in order to compete.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2oE3wFc

    Natalia Antelava writes for Coda Story about how journalists should cover stories saturated with disinformation. Russia’s annexation of Crimea is case in point: too many journalists made the mistake of presenting multiple narratives in a balanced manner, even though many of those narratives were blatantly false and designed by Kremlin propagandists to confused Western public opinion. In Antelava’s view, the first lesson to be learned is that in an era when information is a weapon, questions of who and why should take priority over questions of when and what. By asking who and why first, journalists can cut through the noise and lies to confront fake news head on.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2o0hmhK

    Emily Lush reviews Fabrika hostel. She’s most impressed with the way it blends the new and old: a hip, high-energy co-working and social space built on top of an old textile factory. Some of the remnants are still there: old industrial fixtures and salvaged furniture and black and white prints from the city’s archives that remind visitors of the space’s history as a Soviet blue-collar working space. She also echoes hopes that Fabrika can become a model for other projects that reclaim abandoned buildings to create space for business or social initiatives.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2ocztmT

    Misha publishes an op-ed in Politico, blaming the Obama administration for not providing Georgia and Ukraine with enough support during its eight years in office. He blames the reset policy for helping sink Ukrainian President Vladimir Yushchenko in 2010 and the National Movement in 2012. In Misha’s view, the Russian invasion of the Donbass could have been avoided if the US had provided lethal weapons to Ukraine in 2014. He also points to an interview Obama gave with The Atlantic in 2016 when he said that Ukraine will always mean more to Russian than it does to the United States, because of its geographic location–as another move that emboldened Russia. He addresses concerns that Trump is too cozy with Putin, but ultimately thinks they’re a bunch of hot air, and concludes that Trump’s policy in the post-Soviet space, whatever it ends up being, really can’t be any worse than Obama’s was.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2p4bZgQ

    Freedom House publishes its Nations in Transit Report for 2017. Georgia is still listed as a hybrid regime, and its aggregate score of 4.61–one being the highest possible score and seven being the lowest–puts it on par with Ukraine and slightly more free and democratic than Moldova. That’s about where Georgia was in 2016 and a slight improvement over 2014 and 2015. The bad news is that 18 of the 29 countries surveyed saw their scores decline from last year, the highest amount since 2008.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2nedgpe

    The International Republican Institute, or IRI, publishes the results of its public opinion survey conducted between the 22nd of February and the 8th of March. They find that Otsneba has about 30 percent support among people who claim they intend to vote in the next parliamentary elections, followed by the National Movement with 15 percent and Movement for Liberty-European Georgia with eight percent. That shows support is slightly up for Otsneba and slightly down for the National Movement from where it was one year ago. President Margvelashvili is the country’s most popular politician according to the survey, and Nino Burjanadze is the most unpopular. Note that Misha and Bidzina were not eligible responses because neither holds public office in Georgia.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2nGLcGj

    Joseph Larsen, who also writes this podcast, co-authors with Kornely Kakachia a piece in EurasiaNet about the striking lack of opposition in Georgia’s political party system following the National Movement breakup. Most media attention has focused on Misha and his political downfall, but the real loser is Otsneba. With no one to oppose them in parliament the party runs the self-serving and self-defeating risk of becoming arrogant and unaccountable, like the National Movement did in its later years. Indications from the constitutional reform process are that that is already happening. For democratization to continue moving forward, Georgia needs a new opposition force that can play a constructive role in parliament and keep Otsneba in check.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2o0lzSN

    Marianna Grigoryan recaps the Armenian parliamentary elections for EurasiaNet. The outcome isn’t good, with the ruling Republican Party consolidating power through an election marred by allegations of vote-buying and intimidation. One analyst told Grigoryan that the Republicans were aided by the large number of Armenians who depend on the public sector for employment. The voting process was generally approved by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, however.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2oLPu0T

    The European Court of Human Rights, or ECHR, publishes its annual report for 2016, which analyzes the execution of its judgements by the Georgian authorities. The country currently has 39 pending cases, and six cases were closed in 2016. Overall, they assess Georgia positively.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2o03nsA

    Writing for DF Watch, Tako Svanidze covers the practice of child marriage among Georgia’s ethnic Azerbaijanis. An amendment to the civil code that went into effect on the 1st of January this year says 18 is the legal age to wed. However, that often fails to change practices in rural areas. As Svanidze reports, most ethnic Azerbaijanis in Eastern Kakheti know that child marriage is illegal, but many claim the right to do so on religious and traditional grounds.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2oenW7q

    Writing for The Clarion, Dominik K. Cagara analyzes the controversy surrounding South Ossetia’s former President Eduard Kokoity. Kokoity is a vocal opponent of Vladimir Putin’s aide on Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Ukraine, Vladislav Surkov. The implication is that Surkov has a lot of influence in Tskhinvali and doesn’t want Kokoity to make a comeback. Last year, a think tank close to Surkov published a report saying that Moscow is not interested in his return to politics. Regardless of how popular he may be in Tskhinvali, Moscow is calling the shots, and they don’t like him.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2mSpLGZ

    Chai-Khana profiles Rubaba Mukhtarova, an ethnic Azerbaijani who moved from Baku to Marneuli in 2014 after leaving Islam and converting to Protestantism. Georgia doesn’t seem like an obvious place for a religious refugee, but she’s found a welcoming community there. Marneuli has a Protestant community of about 50 people which includes people speaking English, German, Korean, Russian, and Azerbaijani.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2mSpLGZ

    Tom de Waal of Carnegie Europe writes about the potential of the South Caucasus to become an actual region, not just a trio of states stuck next to each other. It depends on resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia conflicts. While there are some encouraging signs coming out of Georgia with regards to its approach to its own conflicts, none of the three looks close to a real breakthrough. In de Waal’s view, the only option is to pursue incremental change and to see the protracted conflicts in the context of developments in the region as a whole.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2obWHKe

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