Constitution changes still anti-proportional anti-president, four miners killed in Tkibuli, EU special rep hangs with Bibilov, PM with Trump and Estonia, Luzhkov visit, US Congress singles out Nauru, Georgians with NATO exercises in Estonia, Georgian fighter killed in Donbas, Abkhaz no US visa for prayer breakfast, new SO cabinet head, Russia pays SO pensions and gov salaries, new DC lobbyist Trump guy, IDAHO day Patriarch on Dads, Red Cross graves, top auditor attacked, road workers unpaid, healthcare changes, China trade deal, ADB more cash, EBRD GDP, Fitch GOGC, Liberty Bank fines and fees, tons of new flights Aktau Tehran etc, Tsalenjikha tea, CineDoc Didube, youth gambling, Aerosmith, Tsopi, Hep C, Misha and Trump, Georgians not ok with the gays, press and court trouble, Alcatraz mental health swim, Junior Lelos

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  1. The meme this week is a video by GeoFolk Band. The vocal group performs a polyphonic version of Dream on by Aerosmith, who are performing at Black Sea Arena on Saturday.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2rxuTOr


    Onnik Krikorian writes for Stratfor’s Worldview about relations between ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Georgia. Governments in both Yerevan and Baku have put out the narrative that members of either nation are ethnically incompatible wherever they live, including in Georgia. Fortunately, in this country, the situation isn’t all that grim. Co-inhabited villages such as Tsopi near Marneuli show that Armenians and Azerbaijanis can coexist. Most of the village’s residents speak both Armenian and Azerbaijani, and the only visible difference is that the Tsopi’s Christian residents raise pigs, while its Muslims do not. The problem? Tsopi is home to only about 200 families, and economic conditions are poor. The village and others like it in Georgia haven’t received any of the international donor money committed to bridging the divide between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. If Tsopi and other multi-ethnic villages such as nearby Khojorni fail, it will be because of economics, not ethnic strife.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2r3MBJg

    Giorgi Lomsadze writes for EurasiaNet about Georgia’s hepatitis C elimination program. Under the program, about 130,000 people are being treated free-of-charge with medications donated Gilead Sciences Inc., a US-based company. The program launched in 2015, and the government hopes that by 2020 hep C will be almost entirely eradicated in the country. About 30,000 people have been treated so far, and doctors expect nearly 90 percent of them to make a complete recovery. The medication, Sovaldi, is manufactured by Gilead. In the US, a 12-week treatment program using Sovaldi can cost up to 84,000 dollars. The company’s investment in Georgia isn’t charity, it’s an investment: if the project works, Gilead hopes to convince governments around the world to invest in elimination programs, significantly raising demand for their product.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2pBaIOe

    Tamar Chugoshvili, a member of Otsneba and of the Constitutional Reform Commission, has an opinion piece in DF Watch in defense of the constitutional reforms. She frames the reforms as finishing the work that was started in 2010–moving the country from a super-presidential system to a full-fledged parliamentary system. In her view, reforms are needed to settle questions about distribution of power between the president and parliament. She also defends banning electoral blocs and maintaining the five percent threshold for entering parliament, things that she says prevent stability among parliamentary parties. She also defended the provision about distributing unallocated seats to the winning party–again, in the interests of stability. It’s worth reading in full, even though Chugoshvili is wrong–the reforms won’t make Georgia’s parliament more stable, they will make it less pluralistic.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2r3MsFw

    EurasiaNet has an interview with Misha, who defends US President Donald Trump, saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin sniffs out and preys upon weak people, but Trump isn’t one. Misha is also optimistic that the US government will continue to support Ukraine’s government. The only problem is that Ukraine currently looks like a failing asset.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2pnWchA

    We missed this one last week, so we’re covering it this week: Olga Tanas and Helena Bedwell for Bloomberg provide an update on the state of the Lari. As the US Federal Reserve plans to continue raising interest rates and the dollar is expected to gain strength, emerging markets are scrambling to prepare for outflows of capital. Georgia could be at risk for more exchange rate volatility. However, Central Bank Chairman Koba Gvenetadze is confident that Georgia is ready to deal with a stronger dollar. He’s also confident that the floating exchange rate will help the country adjust to shocks, as its economic performance doesn’t depend on maintaining a fixed rate, something that would be more difficult to do with a strengthening dollar. Still, Gvenetadze said, dollarization in Georgia’s economy is still more prevalent than the authorities would prefer.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2q5RBzQ

    Pew Research publishes its study on Religious Belief and National Belonging and Central Eastern Europe, and there are lots of interesting findings about Georgia. Overall, Orthodox countries tended to be more conservative than Catholic countries, and Georgia is case in point. Ninety-nine percent of Georgians believe in God, 89 percent identify as Orthodox Christian, 90 percent think homosexuality is morally wrong–only Armenians and Moldovans were more likely to feel that way–and only three percent think same-sex marriage should be legal. Both those under 35 and those over are extremely opposed to same-sex marriage, with almost no variance. Also interesting–52 percent of Georgians think a strong Russia is needed to balance Western influence, and 62 percent think Russia has the responsibility to protect Orthodox Christians about its borders. When asked whether they recognized the Patriarch of Moscow or the Patriarch of Constantinople as the highest authority in the Orthodox Church, 93 percent of Georgians said neither; that spot is reserved for Ilia.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2pCvGNp

    Freedom House publishes its Nations in Transit report for Georgia, 2017. The report is by Michael Cecire. Its overall democracy score is 4.61 percent, unchanged from last year and leaving it in the partly free category. The country scored worst on national democratic governance and local democratic governance. However, according to Cecire, the areas of greatest concern for Georgia’s democratic consolidation are the independence of its media and judiciary. While the media landscape is broadly pluralistic and transparent, ongoing legal issues surrounding Rustavi2 put the integrity of the entire sector in doubt. Similarly, guilty verdicts in the so-called cable case were strongly criticized by independent judicial observers. Both cases raise serious questions over the continued independence of the judiciary and media sector.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2qvDq89

    Writing for The Diplomat, Grant Wyeth covers the so-called recognition game, focusing on the case of Nauru, a small island nation in the Pacific that faces a hard choice over its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Nauru received nine million dollars from Russia in 2009 in exchange for recognizing the breakaway territories, and since then Russian money has come in for a variety of infrastructure projects. However, Nauru was able to double-dip, also getting money from US-backed institutions such as the World Bank and IMF. That could stop due to the new budget passed by the US Congress, which says American tax dollars can’t go to any country that recognizes either breakaway territory. It’ leaders now face a tough choice: pull recognition and lose access to Russian aid; or stick with Russia and be isolated from a number of US-funded institutions.
    Link: http://bit.ly/2pZt6kP

    The White House published its press release of the meeting between Prime Minister Kvirikashvili and Vice President Pence. The Vice President reiterated America’s commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and pledged continued support for Georgia’s efforts to integrate with NATO.
    Link: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/05/08/vice-presidents-meeting-with-georgian-prime-minister-giorgi-kvirikashvili

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