Georgia submits part of the EU questionnaire
On May 2, the Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili handed over to the EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell the Georgian Government’s response to the first part of the EU membership questionnaire.
“Let me underscore the great moment for me to be a part of another historic step on this journey about civilisational choice,” Ambassador Hartzell told PM Garibashvili at the Government Chancellery as cited by Civil.ge.
Georgia has until May 13 to submit the second, sectoral and legislative part of the self-assessment questionnaire.
On April 29, the Georgian Government released the second part of its EU membership questionnaire to help the European Commission prepare the opinion on the country’s application.
The 239-page-long document, published on April 29, is divided into 33 chapters with about 2,300 questions inquiring about the compatibility of Georgia’s specific legislative frameworks for each sector of the national economy with that of the EU.
With a focus on the freedom of movement and goods, along with the rights of companies and persons, the topics covered by the questionnaire range from existing legislation on work permits and the freedom of movement of workers to anti-discriminatory laws.
Georgia and Moldova submitted formal applications to join the 27-member-bloc on March 3, following the suit of Ukraine, which has been fighting Russia’s invasion since February 24. The Georgian authorities originally planned to submit the membership bid in 2024.
Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova are EU-associated countries that make part of the bloc’s Eastern Partnership initiative. The three countries established the Associated Trio format in May 2021, seeking closer relations with Brussels.
Following the receipt of the filled-out questionnaire, the European Commission should deliver opinions on the membership applications by the three countries to EU leaders at the June 24-25 summit.
- Civil.ge, „Georgia Submits Part of EU Questionnaire“, https://civil.ge/archives/488420
- Civil.ge, „Second Part of Georgia’s EU Questionnaire Released“, https://civil.ge/archives/488453
Iconic Georgian mineral water Borjomi halts production
Production of Georgia’s iconic Borjomi mineral water will be suspended due to financial difficulties caused by the war in Ukraine, the water’s manufacturer has announced.
“The company’ IDS Borjomi Georgia’ has been in a difficult situation since the beginning of hostilities in Ukraine,” the company said in an April 29 statement released to Georgian media. “The difficult situation created in the main markets for the sale of the company’s products was compounded by the limited access to bank accounts, which did not give the company the possibility of receiving foreign exchange earnings and settling with creditors.”
The statement continued: “The company has continued to operate to this day in the hope of the situation improving substantially, which unfortunately has not been possible so far.” The statement said that production would cease that day. “We hope that the situation will improve in the near future, and we will have the opportunity to resume functioning,” the company said.
Borjomi is one of Georgia’s most recognisable brands across the former Soviet Union. However, despite its iconic place in the national imagination, the company has been majority-owned by Russia’s Alfa Group since 2013.
On May 5, mineral water giant IDS Borjomi sacked 49 workers over failed remuneration negotiation. In a statement delivered to Civil.ge, IDS Borjomi said it was “forced” to resort to a reorganisation after “a minor part of the employees” refused to settle on receiving 50% of their monthly wages while the factory doors remain shut.
One day earlier, Borjomi employees demanded a meeting with the General Director of the company, former official Ivane Machavariani and Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili. The PM said on April 30 that the Government would provide “good news” about Borjomi to the public “very soon.” Machavariani became the director of Borjomi in June 2021, after leaving the post of Minister of Finance of Georgia he had held since 2018, reminds Frontnews.ge.
In reaction to the situation, Russian-owned IDS Borjomi has offered the Georgian Government to transfer part of its shares free of charge.
- Eurasianet.org, “Citing war, Georgia’s Borjomi suspends production“, https://eurasianet.org/citing-war-georgias-borjomi-suspends-production
- Civil.ge, “Russian-Owned Borjomi Sacks 49 Workers Amid Sanctions Fallout“, https://civil.ge/archives/489043
- Front News Georgia, “Borjomi employees, demanding meeting with PM as plants stopped due to Russian stakeholder“, https://frontnews.ge/en/news/details/24046
- Civil.ge, „Borjomi Owners Offer Free Shares to Georgian Govt“, https://civil.ge/archives/491529
Director of pro-opposition T.V. channel Nika Ghvaramia sentenced to 3.5 years
On May 16, Nika Gvaramia, director of the most popular opposition Mtavari TV channel, was sentenced to three years and six months in prison for allegedly using a company car for family needs.
Gvaramia was on trial for crimes allegedly committed while the director of another T.V. company, Rustavi 2. The prosecution alleges that Gvaramia embezzled property rights, falsified documents, laundered money and engaged in commercial bribery during his tenure as the CEO of Rustavi-2.
In particular, according to the prosecutor’s office, Gvaramia unfairly disposed of the right to place commercial advertising on the channel. It is alleged that he sold the rights at a reduced price to Inter Media Plus LLC, in exchange for which he received two apartments from them. Then, according to the indictment, he sold these apartments and thus laundered the money.
According to the prosecutor’s office, Gvaramia used forged documents, stamps, seals, and forms to carry out this scheme. According to the first charge, in 2015, Gvaramia unfairly disposed of the right to advertise on the channel and, together with the company’s financial director, Kakha Damenia, squandered 6,763,509 Georgian lari. For this episode, Gvaramia and Damenia were fined 50,000 lari.
The second charge on which Gvaramia was arrested, the so-called ‘car episode’, involved the placing of T.V. commercials on Rustavi-2 in exchange for Proesco Media LLC retaining formal ownership of a luxury vehicle (Porsche Macan S worth 76,000 EUR) used by Gvaramia and his family, reports JAM News.
As the OC Media stressed, while not a member of the formerly ruling United National Movement (UNM) Party, Gvaramia held a number of senior positions during their rule and has remained one of the party’s most outspoken supporters. He also legally represented former president Mikheil Saakashvili in court.
In its turn, the Georgian opposition decried Ghvaramia’s Imprisonment. Nika Melia, Chair of the United National Movement, the largest opposition party, argued that Gvaramia had fallen victim to “oligarch” Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire founder of the Georgian Dream.
He claimed that in the fight “to justly take back a captured state, our distinguished fighters” are periodically unlawfully imprisoned. “But the aim to become a full-fledged member of the free world is so large that for the goal, it is worth it to sacrifice the most precious thing a person has,” the UNM chair argued.
Opposition Lelo party meanwhile stated that Gvaramia’s sentencing was a “message of [Georgian Dream Government’s] establishment of total control over free media.”
It argued that the GD Government is “intolerant” of critical media outlets and “afraid” of media pluralism in the country.
The U.S. Embassy said the ruling “calls into question Georgia’s commitment to the rule of law and further demonstrates the fundamental importance of having an independent, impartial judiciary in Georgia.” “From its inception, this case has raised questions, including about the timing and the charges,” the U.S. Embassy stated. “Particularly at this time, when Georgia has an unprecedented opportunity to advance its Euro-Atlantic integration, even the perception of politicised prosecution is detrimental,” the Embassy added.
Acting British Ambassador to Georgia Claire Albles as well said she was disappointed with the arrest of Nika Gvaramia. “The UK is the watchdog of the free media. Without free media, citizens will not be able to exercise their democratic rights”, Olbles said in a statement.
- Kincha Shota, OC Media, “Director of pro-opposition TV channel jailed for 3.5 years in Georgia“, https://oc-media.org/director-of-pro-opposition-tv-channel-jailed-for-3-5-years-in-georgia/
- JAM News, „Why the head of opposition Georgian TV channel was convicted and what we know about his case“, https://jam-news.net/why-head-of-opposition-georgian-tv-channel-was-convicted-and-what-we-know-about-his-case/
- Civil.ge, „Opposition Decries ‘Political Sentence’ Against Gvaramia, GD Denies“, https://civil.ge/archives/490357
- Civil.ge, „U.S. Questions Georgia’s Commitment to Rule of Law“, https://civil.ge/archives/490460
Georgia’s wheat stocks have run out, and mills will stop operating soon
Wheat stocks in Georgia are exhausted, and in the coming days, all mills in the country will stop operating. This was stated by the Executive Director of the Georgian Association of Wheat and Flour Producers, Levan Silagava, as reported by JAM News.
The Ministry of Environment and Agriculture confirms that wheat stocks have been reduced but does not specify how it intends to address this problem.
At the same time, the ministry hopes that wheat will become cheaper and the Government will act accordingly in July-August. According to them, “imports of wheat have been largely replaced by imports of flour. We have more than enough stocks today, but we have them in the form of flour, not wheat”.
According to Levan Silagava, the UN recommends that the country have a two-month wheat supply, not flour. “Unfortunately, the current situation in our country does not comply with the UN recommendations, there are no wheat reserves in the country at all, and how much flour there is remains up to bread producers and the government”: “Although wheat has been replaced by flour, the price of bread has risen by at least 24% last year, despite flour imports starting in July last year. Bread prices have gone up this year as well”.
“When wheat is imported, Georgia produces not only flour but also bran. In Georgia, prices for bran have also increased significantly, which negatively impacts flour imports. We want to avoid this and save jobs. As a result of the work of the mills, all taxes – from electricity, water, and income – would go to the budget of Georgia, and today, when we are dependent on imports, they go to the budget of the country from which we bring flour.
Another issue is that there will be carryover stocks of wheat in the country, which will give us more security. There is also a topic that will arise in a few months – shortly, there will be a local harvest of wheat, and the mills will not work”, Silagava said.
Malkhaz Dolidze, the Head of the Georgian Bread Manufacturers Union, on Monday, said the price of the product in Georgia is not expected to increase until the end of May, following a recent particle increase.
Dolidze said the Union had announced an increase of 0.2 Georgian lari in the month, with a 0.1 lari increase already observed. Further increases are not expected to take place this month, he noted, adding a two-month supply of flour was ensured for the local market. He also said the flour stock would be filled with Georgian wheat after that.
The Head of the Union also said the country was in a pre-harvest period and pointed out “wheat-related problems” had arisen across the world, pointing at the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine as a factor and noting the floating customs tax imposed on wheat and not on flour had created “some problems” with the former.
Georgian Agriculture Minister Otar Shamugia said in March Georgia had the resources to increase its wheat self-sufficiency to 50 per cent.
In 2021, Georgia purchased 367,000 tonnes of wheat worth $93.5 million, including 338,000 tonnes worth $87.4 million from Russia and 24,400 tonnes worth $4.6 million from the United States.
Last year, Georgian wheat production increased by 32.9 per cent, amounting to 136,100 tonnes.