GFSIS Georgian Foundation For Strategic and International Studies - events. 4th South Caucasus Security Forum On April 20-21, 2017 the 4th South Caucasus Security Forum was held at the hotel "Holiday Inn", Tbilisi. The Forum was organized by the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) and Strategic Policy Institute (Stratpol, Slovakia). Conducted since 2013, the Forum became one of the top international security platforms in the South Caucasus, bringing together experts from the region and wider Europe. The South Caucasus Security Forum has proved to have a serious impact on the level of security debates in the region. It is a main forum for decision-makers, academics, think-tank representatives, experts and media representatives to discuss the most challenging issues of the broader region. On the first day Dr. Ekaterine Metreveli, the President of the Rondeli Foundation and Richard Turcsanyi, the Director of Stratpol, Slovakia welcomed the audience. The keynote opening remarks were delivered by H.E. Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the Prime Minister of Georgia who spoke of Georgia's security issues, the challenges that the region faces and emphasized the importance of peaceful conflict resolution. The second day of the conference was opened by Mikheil Janelidze, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, he discussed Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration, threats from Russia and security of Georgia and the Black Sea Region as a whole. During the two-day forum, consisting of eight sessions, the speakers discussed the following topics: Post-Obama era- game changer for wider European Security?; Security in the Black Sea region; South Caucasus security - old conflicts, new dynamics; Aspiration to the EU integration; Russia and the threats Georgian faces; Information Security and more. The strategic supporter of the 4th South Caucasus Security Forum was the International Visegrad Fund (IVF). Other conference partners included the Foreign Policy Council Ukrainian PRISM, Regional Studies Centre (Armenia) and Open Ukraine Foundation. The video about the forum is available on the following link. Fri, 21 Apr 2017 0:00:00 GMT Public Discussion “25 Years of UK-Georgia Diplomatic Relations: Looking to the Future” On April 13, 2017 the discussion "25 Years of UK-Georgia Diplomatic Relations: Looking to the Future" was held at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation). The keynote speaker of the discussion was British Ambassador to Georgia H.E. Justin McKenzie Smith. The event was moderated by Amb. Giorgi Badridze, the Senior Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation and Ambassador of Georgia to the United Kingdom in 2009-2013. The abovementioned presentation was dedicated to the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. H.E. Justin McKenzie Smith briefly overviewed the historical background of UK-Georgia relations emphasizing the permanent support of Great Britain towards Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations and talked about the perspectives of developing the cooperation between Georgia and the UK. The discussion was attended by the representatives of government, expert community and media, as well as students. The presentation was followed by an engaging Q&A mode. Watch the video about the discussion. Fri, 14 Apr 2017 0:00:00 GMT Parliamentary Elections in Armenia – The Triumph of the Governing Party Author: Giorgi Turmanidze Parliamentary elections were held in Armenia on 2 April 2017. These were the first elections held in Armenia after the constitutional reform, based on which Armenia will transfer from Presidential to Parliamentary model from 2018. The results of the election determine not only who is going to be in the Parliament or the Cabinet, but also the identity of the new President, as in 2018, after Serzh Sargsyan’s Presidential tenure expires, the Parliament will be the one electing the new President. Vague Electoral System The elections were held according to the new electoral system, which is quite complex and rather vague. For example, it was not clear how many MPs would be in the Parliament, apart from the minimum number of 101. According to the new electoral system, the MPs were elected from the unified national party lists, as well as the lists of candidates, which the parties presented in all electoral districts (13 in total). The main feature of these elections was that the candidates were running not only against the members of their competing parties, but against the members of their own parties presented in the same electoral district as well. Pre-Election Environment There were numerous examples of confrontations based on political reasons during the pre-election period, as a result of which, mostly the people connected with the opposition parties got physical injuries. There were accusations about buying the votes in the pre-election period as well and the governing party was accused of pressuring the school directors in order for them to hold election campaigns in favor of the government. Election Day There were 2009 polling stations open in 13 electoral districts, enabling about 2.6 million people to vote. According to the latest data, the voter turnout reached about 60.1%. Numerous international organizations, including the OSCE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States, were observing the election process. According to the preliminary assessments from the international organizations, overall, the election process was held in a calm and organized environment; however, there were some cases of interfering with the election process, bribing the voters and pressuring the media, mainly from the governing party. Distribution of Votes/Mandates According to the opinion polls conducted before the elections by the Gallup International Association and Russian Public Opinion Research Center, several political parties had chances of getting enough votes to overcome the barrier. Both opinion polls predicted the Tsarukyan Electoral Block to get the most votes with the governing party being a very close runner-up. The pre-election forecasts in terms of making through the election barrier turned out to be accurate and only four out of nine political entities managed to get enough votes. Barrier for the political parties was 5% whilst for the electoral blocks it was up to 7%. The following political entities managed to overcome the election barrier: The Republican Party of Armenia received 49.15% of the votes and obtained 58 mandates in the Parliament, with the Assyrian, Yezidi and Kurdish minority representatives getting single mandate each. Tsarukyan alliance received 27.35% of the votes (31 mandates, including one for the Russian minority representative). Yelk ("Way Out") alliance – 7.78% (nine mandates). Armenian Revolutionary Federation – Dashnaktsutyun (ARF) – 6.58% (seven mandates). The new Parliament will have 105 MPs, including four mandates reserved for the representatives of the ethnic minorities. The following parties failed to make it through the election barrier: Armenian Renaissance – 3.72% Ohanyan-Raffi-Oskanian (ORO) alliance – 2.07% Alliance of the Armenian National Congress and the People's Party of Armenia – 1.66% Free Democrats – 0.94% Armenian Communist Party – 0.75% The Winners The Republican Party of Armenia The success of the governing party was facilitated by the positive image of the party members. We can talk about two politicians more specifically. One is the former Gazprom official, Prime Minister of Armenia (since September 2016) Karen Karapetyan and the second one is the number one on the party electoral list, Minister of Defense of Armenia, Vigen Sargsyan. According to the pre-election polls, Mr. Karapetyan was one of the most popular politicians, whose name is closely linked with reforms. In addition, the success of the party was further facilitated by the state administrative resources, which were, traditionally, actively used by the governing party. Tsarukyan alliance The success of the Tsarukyan alliance was facilitated by the businessman and philanthropist image of the leader of one of the major parties of the alliance (Prosperous Armenia) Gagik Tsarukyan. Mr. Tsarukyan, who is also known as Dodi Gago (Silly Gago), is the richest man in Armenia. He has the experience of both cooperating with the government as well as opposing it. In 2015 Tsarukyan, following the pressure from the government, left active political life; however, he often used to appear side-by-side with Serzh Sargsyan on different events. Tsarukyan alliance may appear in the new Parliament as an opposition party or participate in the formation of the Cabinet at a certain stage. However, in the given situation, the governing party can form the Cabinet without Tsarukyan’s support as well. Yelk ("Way Out") alliance The Yelk alliance will be an opposition political block in the new Parliament. The alliance consists mainly of the MPs coming from three political parties (Bright Armenia, Republic and Civil Contract). The success of the alliance was due to the charisma of its leaders. They have been in politics for a long time and their names are not discredited. The Leader of the Civil Contract is a former journalist, Nikol Pashinyan, Edmon Marukyan leads the Bright Armenia whilst the Republic is led by Aram Sargsyan, who served as the Prime Minister of Armenia in the period from 1999 to 2000. The alliance is quite popular among the youth who are dissatisfied with the policies of the incumbent government. The Yelk alliance is the only political entity, which opposes Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union and supports approximation with the European Union. Armenian Revolutionary Federation – Dashnaktsutyun Dashnaktsutyun has its loyal voters, which enables this party with a very long history to always overcome the election barrier. During various periods of time the party has been in the opposition, as well as the member of the governing coalition. However, even during its office in the government the party criticized Sargsyan’s government for certain issues, especially for the attempts of approximation with Turkey. Since 2016, the party was represented in Karen Karapetyan’s government by three Ministers. Given this, it is highly likely that Dashnaktsutyun will become the member of the new coalition government as well. After the elections, the speaker of the governing party and the Vice-Speaker of the Parliament, Eduard Sharmazanov, stated that the Republican Party is ready to cooperate with the Dashnaktsutyun. The Losers Five political entities failed to overcome the election barrier. As a result, many famous political figures were left outside the Parliament, including the former Chairman of the National Security Council, Artur Baghdasaryan whose Armenian Renaissance party came fifth. The first President of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosyan and his political block were also left outside the Parliament. Ohanyan-Raffi-Oskanian (ORO) alliance failed considerably. The leaders of the political block are the former Minister of Defense of Armenia Seyran Ohanyan and the former Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Vardan Oskanyan and Rafi Ovanesyan. The government waged a serious battle against them in the pre-election period. Not long before the election, the supporter of the alliance and the former Head of the Nagorno Karabakh Defense Forces, Samvel Babayan, was arrested. Mr. Babayan was charged with bringing anti-aircraft missile system Igla from Georgia to Armenia. Who Will form the Cabinet According to the election results, the Republican Party has received the so-called stable majority, enabling the party to form the Cabinet independently. The distribution of the votes excludes the necessity of forming a coalition government; however, given the past experiences, the governing party might resume its cooperation with the current coalition partner – Dashnaktsutyun. On 11 April 2017, Dashnaktsutyun also confirmed the on-going talks with the governing party about forming a new coalition government. The current Prime Minister, Karen Karapetyan, will most probably retain his office. During the pre-election period, the governing party promised to keep him as the Prime Minister in case of its victory in the elections. Mr. Karapetyan will most probably keep his position until April 2018 minimum, when Serzh Sargsyan’s presidential tenure is set to expire. What Will Change as a Result of the Elections Important changes will take place in the political life of the country after the Parliamentary Elections; however, these will only become noticeable from April 2018. Resulting from the constitutional changes after the 6 December 2015 referendum, the power of the President will be diminished after April 2018 and the country will move to the parliamentary model of governance. One of the main reasons for moving to the parliamentary model is believed to be the expiration of the second, and the last, tenure of President Serzh Sargsyan. Mr. Sargsyan, who is the most powerful politician in the country, does not appear to be planning to retire and is creating appropriate legitimation for retaining power. Given the fact that Sargsyan cannot be elected for a third term of presidency, and has refused to support changes to make this possible, transferring to the parliamentary model is the most legitimate way for him to stay in power. Mr. Sargsyan has a full year to plan his future political career. If he decides to stay in politics, he can occupy the position of the Prime Minister after his tenure as the President expires, supporting the election of someone close to him as the President. There is also a second option – he can retain the powerful position of the Chairman of the party and continue influencing the political processes in this way. What Will Change for Russia There are no parties in the Armenian political spectrum, which are decidedly anti-Russian. Given the security risks facing Armenia, the political elite of the country admits the need of developing strategic cooperation with the Russian Federation. In this sense, the positions of the government and opposition parties are quite similar. The only party, which opposes Armenia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union and supports approximation with the European Union, is Yelk ("Way Out") alliance, which does not have enough mandates in the Parliament to influence the foreign policy vector of the country. Thu, 13 Apr 2017 0:00:00 GMT Rountable Discussion “Agreement on Trade Corridors: Perspectives and Challenges” On April 13, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) hosted the roundtable discussion "Agreement on Trade Corridors: Perspectives and Challenges". The keynote speaker of the discussion was Samson Uridia, Head of Department for International Relations, Revenue Service, while the discussion participants included Zurab Abashidze, the Special Representative of the Prime Minister of Georgia for relations with Russia and Sergi Kapanadze, the Deputy Chairman of the Parliament and one of the leaders of the political party "European Georgia". The discussion was moderated by Shota Utiashvili, the Senior Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation. The speakers briefly overviewed the importance, content and technical aspects of the "Agreement on Trade Corridors" as well as the working process between the parties. The event was attended by the representatives of governmental, non-governmental, academic circle as well as students. Thu, 13 Apr 2017 0:00:00 GMT Current Foreign Policy of Georgia: How Effective is it in Dealing with the Existing Challenges? By Amb. Valeri Chechelashvili, Senior Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation On 8 January 2017, commenting on the US intelligence community’s (Central Intelligence Agency – CIA, Federal Bureau of Investigation – FBI and the National Security Agency – NSA) joint report Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections during one of his last TV interviews as the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama pointed out: "Part of the reason that I ordered this report was not simply to re-litigate what happened over the last several months, but rather to make sure that we understand this is something that Putin has been doing for quite some time in Europe. Initially, in the former satellite states where there are a lot of Russian speakers but increasingly in western democracies…" This marks the admission of reality and waking up from the slumber; however, it only describes the tip of the iceberg. The main condition here is that, in principle, given its nature and the state philosophy, Russia is outside the confines of the world political mainstream. More accurately, it is opposed to the mainstream. This is well documented in the conclusion of the aforementioned report. As it turns out, the fact, which the Georgian diplomats have been trying to explain to our partners for the past several years, is already well understood, at least in the United States. The main idea goes like this: Russia’s occupation policy towards its neighbors is not a mere exception to the rule but rather a more extreme manifestation of its general political nature in the given conditions. In addition to this, the norms and principles of the international law, laid down in multilateral and bilateral documents are quite easily disregarded by Russia. There are a lot of examples for this, including practically throwing the documents, ratified by the Russian State Duma, into the garbage can without even denouncing them first. Georgia – 2008, Ukraine – 2014. Who is going to be next? This question becomes very important and not only for the immediate neighborhood of the Russian Federation. The situation at hand poses a major challenge to the Georgian diplomacy and there are, in principle, three main approaches for tackling this challenge: Exercise policy under the Russian umbrella, opposing the main Western political mainstream (example – Armenia, with certain reservations); Become an organic part of the general political mainstream, exercising principled policies towards Russia, which will have certain costs for us, for example joining the sanctions against Russia (example – Ukraine, with certain reservations); A middle foreign policy vector, which can be called "burning neither the meat, nor the skewer," when the course of approximation with the West is compatible with the attempts of establishing more cooperative relations with Russia. Today we are exercising the third option of the foreign policy vectors listed above. After the Georgian Dream coalition’s victory in the 2012 Parliamentary Elections in Georgia, this was definitely a rational approach. However, today, after five years, we can already draw some conclusions and learn some lessons as well. Here we shall draw the attention to two specific results. First, when the Western leaders talks about the sanctions against Russia today, only the context of Ukraine is visible in the discourse. This means that if we theoretically imagine that Russia stops its military operations in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and returns Crimea to Ukraine, it will once again become a full-fledged member of the international community, even with Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region being occupied by its forces. Nobody will impose sanctions on Russia because of this, especially when Georgia itself is not currently participating in the sanctions. On the other hand, what have been the results of our new policy towards Russia? The tensions in bilateral relations have been lowered, exports of our wine and mineral water have increased; however, imports from Russia have increased as well (negative trade balance with Russia reached USD 468.7 million in 2016 (USD 674.9 million – USD 206.2 million)) as opposed to USD 430 million in 2012 (USD 476.8 million - USD 46.8 million), increasing by USD 38.7 million. Russia has regained its place among the top three trade partners for Georgia. Whether this is a good thing, given the political problems in our bilateral relations, is very hard to say and there can be no simple answer to this question. As for Russia’s attitude towards Georgia, it has not changed for the past couple of years, even becoming more extreme in certain components – wire fences on the dividing lines, kidnappings or murder of Georgian citizens, pressuring the Georgian language, closing down Georgian schools, destroying Georgian churches and so on. The comparison of the two Foreign Policy Concepts of the Russian Federation (those of 12 February 2013 and 30 November 2016) reveals that Russia’s attitude to Georgia has not changed even slightly. It is absolutely identical. The 12 February 2013 document, page 20, point 52: Россия заинтересована в нормализации отношений с Грузией в тех сферах, в которых к этому готова грузинская сторона, при учете политических реалий, сложившихся в Закавказье. The 30 November 2016 document, page 19, point 59: Россия заинтересована в нормализации отношений с Грузией в тех сферах, в которых к этому готова Грузинская Сторона, при учете политических реалий, сложившихся в Закавказье. The translation reads: Russia is interested in normalizing relations with Georgia in the spheres where the Georgian side is ready to do so, taking into account the political realities which have been established in Transcaucasia. We should not focus on the utilization of politically and geographically incorrect term – Transcaucasia as the attempts of establishing Soviet terminology in the official Russian documents are not new. The only change that can be found is that in the new document the words "the Georgian side" have been honored with capital letters. Russian diplomats also did not bother to note the existence of the new Abashidze-Karasin cooperation format and the advances achieved in the fields of economy and culture, through this format. There are no new messages, given the new foreign policy approaches exercised by Georgia – nothing at all. The obvious message from this, however, is that Russia does not consider the steps taken by Georgia towards cooperation with Russia to be worthy of note. It is already clear that Georgia cannot normalize its relations with Russia without making concessions on principal issues. The cost of these concessions is either forgetting the issue of territorial integrity altogether, or accepting the principle of limited sovereignty. No government will be able to do this, even if it has a constitutional majority in the Parliament. The Russian government understands this rather well and formulates its policies not only towards Georgia but other neighbors as well based on this understanding. The philosophy is simple – the more complicated the situation in the neighboring countries, the easier it is for Russia to implement its agenda in the resulting murky waters. We have failed to prove a simple truth to Russia – that European and democratic Georgia is not a threat to its interests. Perhaps, this is even impossible. Otherwise we would have seen some kind of positive changes in this regard after five years of consistent attempts to do so. We cannot forcefully place the glasses on Russia’s nose in order to make it see the objective reality; however, we can do what we consider needs to be done. Mon, 10 Apr 2017 0:00:00 GMT Call for Applications - Training Program in National Security and Public Policy The Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies is pleased to announce a call for applications for a professional training program in National Security and Public Policy. The program is designed to prepare analysts for national security community for careers as government policymakers in defense/security agencies, diplomats, non- governmental policy analysts and business leaders. It offers training in analytical methods and approaches to national security and public policy and focuses on skills and knowledge necessary to participate in the national security policy process and shape its future. The emphasis will be on giving students the analytical tools to effectively address critical public policy and national security issues thereby enhance public policy debate and capacity of making effective and better informed decisions. The training program is implemented by GFSIS and supported by the U.S. Government. The training curriculum includes courses on National and International Security, European Integration, Strategic Communication, Policy Analysis, Energy Security, Economics and International Finances, Post Soviet Space, Defense and Security Policy, Regional Conflicts; Totally around 200 hours of class instruction. The courses will be delivered by the U.S. and Georgian instructors. Working language is English and Georgian. The courses will be offered in the evening hours. The program starts on May 8th, 2017 with the graduation in April 2018. Who can apply: Georgian mid level public servants along with the civil society representatives. Program Selection Criteria: University level education, English language proficiency, relevant work experience, interest in the field of study. Application Process: To apply, please submit the following documents in English: (1) Motivation Letter, (2) Recommendation letter and (3) CV electronically to no later than 18:00 April 28, 2017. Shortlisted applicants will be required to pass an interview. For additional information about the program, please contact the Program Coordinator Ms. Ketevan Emukhvari:; 2 47 35 55; Thu, 6 Apr 2017 0:00:00 GMT Awareness-raising Seminars in Guria and Mountaneous Adjara On April 4-5, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) organized the series of seminars on Nation-wide issues for the local youth in Zoti and Khulo with the support of the resource centers of Chokhatauri and Khulo Municipalities . The seminars were delivered by Amb. Giorgi Badridze and Mr. Shota Utiashvili, the Senior-Fellows of the Rondeli Foundation. Amb. Girogi Badridze discussed the history, development and enlargement of the NATO as well as touched upon the NATO-Georgia relations and the future cooperation. Mr. Shota Utiashvili introduced the main challenges and threats facing Georgia; He made a brief overview of the regional conflicts and discussed the existing alternatives and ways of confidence-building. The seminars were in the framework of the project "Raising Awareness of Youth Representing Religious Minority Community of Georgia on the Issues of Euro-Atlantic Integration" which aims to equip the local youth with necessary and objective information on the foreign policy priorities and Euro-Atlantic direction of the country, as well as to demonstrate the short and long-term economic and social effects of integration with the West. The project is implemented with the financial support of the NATO Liaison Office (NLO). Tue, 4 Apr 2017 0:00:00 GMT Public Seminar “Political Economic Discussions with Vladimer Papava” On March 28, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) hosted a public seminar "Political Economic Discussions with Vladimer Papava". The topic of the seminar was "Georgia's Economy: From Optimism to Primitivism". The seminar was delivered by Professor Vladimer Papava, Director of the Center for Applied Economic Studies at the Rondeli Foundation. The speaker discussed the current economic situation of Georgia; He touched upon the issues of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area), the Social-economic Development Strategy of Georgia – "Georgia 2020", the Program on Larization of the mortgage loans and other related issues. Prof. Vladimer Papava also emphasized the importance of engagement of international financial institutions and civil society in the development process of the economy of Georgia. The presentation was attended by the representatives of governmental, non-governmental, academic circle as well as young researchers and students. Tue, 28 Mar 2017 0:00:00 GMT Roundtable Discussion “The Future of Information, News and Media” On March 28, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) and the U.S. Embassy in Georgia jointly organized a roundtable discussion "The Future of Information, News and Media". The key-note speaker was Nicholas Kralev, Executive Director of the Washington International Diplomatic Academy and the former "Financial Times" and "Washington Times" correspondent. The speaker discussed the role of social media, information technology and innovation in the future of news-gathering, content-creation and disseminating information. On the other hand, he addressed the challenges misleading information creates for legitimate media organizations and the public, as well as its impact on such sacred journalistic values as objectivity, credibility and trust. The discussion was moderated by Kakha Gogolashvili,Director of the EU Studies Center at the Rondeli Foundation. The representatives of expert community, former diplomats and researchers attended the event. Tue, 28 Mar 2017 0:00:00 GMT Discussion with Dr. Theresa Sabonis-Helf on being a Transit State On March 23, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) hosted a discussion "Who Wants to be a Transit State? The advantages and disadvantages of Georgia's growing role in regional energy transit". The presentation was delivered by Dr. Theresa Sabonis-Helf, Professor at National War College, Washington D.C. Dr. Ekaterine Metreveli, President of the Rondeli Foundation made the welcoming remarks and introduced the distinguished speaker to the audience. Dr. Theresa Sabonis-Helf discussed the main advantages and disadvantages of the energy transit state, the opportunities of Georgia’s energy cooperation with the countries of wider region as well as overviewed the current state of the energy security of Georgia. The speaker also talked about the importance of the role of Azerbaijan in Georgia’s energy policy. The presentation was followed by an ardent Q&A session. The discussion was attended by the representatives of civil society, academic community, governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as the diplomatic corps. Watch the video about the discussion. Fri, 24 Mar 2017 0:00:00 GMT