The Dispatch

The Dispatch – June 16/17: Pride and Prejudice

Landmark Ruling Addresses Children in Poverty Problem – Knight Vasadze Chasing Rainbows – Gakharia in Brussels – Bookstore Chain Loses in Court – Average Earnings: Good News with Sad Truth? – Why, genacvale?! Georgia on Russians’ List of Unfriendlies

While children and their right to dignified family life have attracted much attention lately, those awovedly guarding the sanctity of the family are busy chasing and threatening minorities. But this does not come without its funny slips. Here is Nini with our updates from Georgia.

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HOMECOMING

In a landmark ruling, the Tbilisi court found taking children into state custody because their families can’t provide for them is illegal and ordered to pay GEL 35,000 (USD 11,000) in compensation for moral damages to three children plaintiffs. The groundbreaking lawsuit was presented by Partnership for Human Rights, local CSO through the special, child-oriented court complaint form, allowing the minors to draft the document themselves and plead their case before the court.

The ruling comes amid the Ninotsminda foster home controversy, which also brought problems of children under the state guardianship to the surface. We quoted earlier Public Defender Nino Lomjaria pointing out that some 12-20% of children under the state care were removed from homes precisely because their families could not provide for them – instead of the state compensating the families to provide for children. In this context, the Court ruling may pave the way for improved policy.

PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT

The Ultimatum. Of course, it is easy for some to overlook intricacies of the social compensations. Much easier to chase the “baddies”. The uber-hater Levan Vasadze went on chasing rainbows – the Pride week is planned in the July 1-5 period.  On June 15, Vasadze gave the Georgian authorities ten days to “cancel this so-called announced Pride”, threatening “escalation and confrontation”. He also said holding the Pride Week is risking discrediting Georgia in its “immediate neighborhood” – and we – sadly – have to concede the point. Georgia’s immediate neighborhood is not the one where tolerance prevails these days. Vasadze also wants the government to – surprise! – prohibit “depravity”.

The ‘Ultimate’. As for his political plans, Vasadze said that “broad discussions” are underway over his ERI political movement participating in upcoming local elections, adding that the victory in the next parliamentary polls is their “ultimate” goal. The funny part is that the nativist-in-chief, anti-globalist warrior in shining armor, Vasadze pronounced the word “ultimate” in English while speaking in Georgian. Now, sounding like a downtown boy back from the exchange semester to the US, does not help if you want to play a tough guy with “ultra” credentials.

Here’s our long-read: Levan Vasadze’s Quest to Consolidate Georgia’s Extreme Right

OPPOSITION’S WESTERN JOURNEY

Gakharia in Brussels. As United National Movement leaders continue their Washington D.C. visit, neither are other freshly-minted opposition figures resting in the homeland: Giorgi Gakharia, ex-PM leading the newborn For Georgia party, traveled with his party colleague Kakha Kemoklidze to Brussels to hold meetings with MEPs, officials in the European External Action Service, the European Council President’s Office, NATO, and think tanks. Gakharia already met with Michael Siebert, the Managing Director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia, Regional cooperation, and OSCE, as well as MEPs Sven Mikser and Marina Kaljurand. He reportedly spoke about his party’s plans and the upcoming local elections in October. Prior to heading overseas, on June 12 Gakharia – again flanked by Kemoklidze – met Philip Reeker, Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

Also:

BOOKSTORE CHAIN LOSES 

The Supreme Court of Georgia has quashed the defamation lawsuit filed in 2017 by Biblusi, the country’s leading bookstore chain, against staffers who publicly accused the company of poor and unfair working conditions. According to Social Justice Center, a CSO representing the employees, the Court held that part of accusations brought by staffers constituted true facts, while the rest were their personal opinions protected under the freedom of expression. Two of the staff that leveled the accusations were fired back then. They won the lawsuit in the first instance court, but the case is still pending in higher instances of the judiciary, SJC noted.

GOOD STATS, BAD STATS

Mean data. The National Statistics Office (Geostat) broke joyful news on June 16 that the average monthly nominal earnings of employees in the first quarter of 2021 jumped 4,4% year-on-year, reaching GEL 1,256 (USD 400). Things, however, look far less optimistic when taking into account the 4,5% average year-to-year inflation for the same quarter (January – 2.8%, February – 3.6%, March – 7.2%). This means that even after the increased average earnings, Georgians can afford slightly less than in the year before. Also, a common criticism is that average
calculation distorts the real picture in a country with significant income inequality. Observers propose to use the median value instead, for a more accurate understanding of the current state of affairs. Also of note: women are paid less, with their average salary comprising GEL 1,022.9 compared to men with a 1,473.4 average salary.

Unfriend request. Levada-Center, Russia’s top independent research institution, published on June 15 survey results about the most “friendly” and “unfriendly” countries according to Russians. Georgia landed amongst the unfriendlies – trailing the U.S., with Ukraine and the United Kingdom – at eighth place.  As for the “friendliest” countries, Russians love Belarus the most (careful, Mr. Lukashenka!) followed by China and Kazakhstan.

That’s the full lid for today. Celebrate the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics with us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!

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