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The News in Brief

Monday, January 18
EU representative Mogherini congratulates Kvirikashvili on taking PM’s post

The senior representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, has congratulated Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikahsvili on his appointment to the post and expressed her hope that the country’s new top official would continue comprehensive reforms for Georgia’s further integration into Europe.

“Based on the final conclusion of the European Commission, all the benchmarks of the action plan have been successfully achieved.

“This was the result of non-stop efforts and the reforms carried out by the Georgian Government that you were one of the members of. Now you chair the Government.

“Your leadership will be of significant importance in preserving the pace Georgia has shown on the path to visa liberalisation, as well as in the process of fulfilling the obligations revealed through the Georgian-EU Association Agreement (AA) and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement(DCFTA),” the EU top official wrote.

The letter - which was released by the Georgian Prime Minister’s webpage - also read that Mogherini expressed the EU’s support to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The EU also welcomed the current Georgian Government’s efforts to establish active cooperation and ensure peace with Georgia’s de-facto regions of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) and Abkhazia.

‘No to Gazprom’ Protest Gig Held in Tbilisi

Several Georgian bands and musicians performed at an hour-long outdoor concert outside government headquarters in Tbilisi on January 16, in protest against the authorities’ talks with the Russian energy giant, Gazprom.

The event, “No to Gazprom”, was organized by a campaign group, Defend Liberty, uniting over dozen of civil society organizations, think tanks and media outlets. It was launched last autumn with the purpose to counter “Russia’s aggressive propaganda campaign against the West in Georgia”.

“We are gathered here to defend our country… from our collaborationist government. We should tell very loudly to our government that we do not want Gazprom’s gas, because this is a political weapon of the Kremlin,” Nino Danelia, a professor of journalism at the Tbilisi-based Ilia State University, told the few hundred demonstrators at the rally before the concert.

According to the Georgian Energy Ministry, it held talks with Gazprom regarding the terms of the transit of Russian gas to Armenia via Georgia, and on the purchase of additional gas from Gazprom to fill the gap amid increasing gas consumption. Gazprom wants to pay cash as a transit fee instead of giving Georgia 10% of gas transported to Armenia. On top of the transit fee, Georgia was also importing relatively small volumes of gas from Russia over the past five years; an exception was 2013, according to Energy Ministry’s data.

Talks with Gazprom over a supply of additional gas volumes have become a source of criticism for the opposition, as they fear that it may lead to Georgia’s energy dependence on Russia and negatively affect ties with Georgia’s strategic partner, Azerbaijan, which supplies about 87% of Georgia’s annual gas needs.

Georgian Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze says that the further import of supplies from Azerbaijan is not possible because of “technical” reasons, especially during the winter period when gas consumption peaks in Georgia.

The President of the Azerbaijani state energy company SOCAR, Rovnag Abdullayev, visited Tbilisi and held talks with PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili and the Georgian Energy Minister on January 13. The chief executive of SOCAR’s Georgian subsidiary, Mahir Mammadov, said after the talks that “technical capacities of gas supplies, especially during peak period” and “how to fill the deficit” were discussed.

The Georgian Energy Minister said that “additional investments” will be required, specifically for a gas compressor station, in order to the increase volume of gas supplied by SOCAR. Kaladze, however, also added that it will not be possible to complete these works this year, indicating that Georgia will require an increased supply from Gazprom to offset the deficit.

PM discusses regional problems, infrastructure projects with governors

Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and regional governors held a working meeting in the governmental administration and discussed regional problems and infrastructure projects.

As IPN was told by the governmental administration, the meeting was focused on the investment potential of each region, regional development and attraction of investments.

Elementary needs of the region's population, including gasification, rehabilitation projects of roads and drinking water systems, were also discussed.

The Prime Minister said the government's goal is to provide safe drinking water to all families and significant steps should be taken in this direction.

Kvirikashvili also stressed the importance of taking care of the problems of the youth, and the need for youth involvement in important processes.

The Prime Minister listened to the opinions and suggestions of the governors about possible future plans.