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We must be more energetic, discussion concludes

By Sopo Datishvili
Wednesday, October 8
On October 6 the Open Society Georgia Foundation and the Eurasian Partnership Fund organized a round table discussion on the subject of “Georgian energy safety and the perspectives of transit potential development after the August events.” Its aim of the meeting was to identify the positive and negative aspects of the situation which has emerged after the August war, the plans that the country had before it and possible changes to these that now need to be made.

The moderators of the round table were energy experts Liana Jervalidze and Temur Gochitashvili. Jervalidze discussed the problem from an international perspective. She is involved in a project financed by BP which is trying to decide what the next energy steps for Georgia should be after the August conflict. She outlined the international projects being undertaken in the region one by one, and spoke about the financial tremor that started about a year ago and created a huge increase in oil prices. She highlighted the regional situation and the challenges Georgia has to face after the Russian-Georgian war.

Both experts agreed that the main challenge for the country after the war is the restoration of safety and stability. “A country that has a transit function should have long term security and its Government should be greatly trusted by the energy receiving countries,” said Jervalidze.

As expected Russian gas transit interests in the region were the central theme of Jervalidze’s speech. The fact that the Russians didn’t bomb energy production sites or damage the gas pipelines seriously raised many questions. In the recent past the sabotage of energy production had been a standard Russian military tactic. Jervalidze is sure that by doing this Russia showed the EU who was the “big guy “in the region, and demonstrated that the energy supply of many European countries is entirely a matter of Russian good will.

Both experts tried to show that the challenges which have arisen after the August war appear to be very serious. Very quickly new transport possibilities have arisen for countries which until then used Georgian routes. Russia is trying its best to make Georgia appear a politically and economically unreliable country. That’s why Gazprom is negotiating with Azerbaijan to purchase its entire gas supply, a move which is also intended as a signal to the rest of the world that it needs to seek transit alternatives to Georgia as it lacks stability.

Neither expert touched on many political issues but they still tried to give some pieces of advice to the Government, and particularly the Ministry of Finance. Temur Gochitashvili spoke about the safety of the gas supply, and about the geological, market and political risks that always threaten international projects. “If we go on with confrontation after the war we might end up with Israelization, Lebanonization or at least Chechenization. Instead of this we should think about the liberalization of the market”, Gochitashvili suggested.

The discussion revealed that all those present, as well as the experts, believed that the biggest challenge for Georgia now is to make its energy transit projects work as soon as possible, to accrue the same financial profit for the next 25 years which was intended before the war.