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The Daily Beat: 15 May

The Danish foreign minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen paid a working visit to Georgia and opened the Embassy in Tbilisi, voicing “merit-based” support for Georgia’s EU candidate status.  “I would like to take this opportunity to tell you that my country’s answer to the candidate status will be yes,” the Danish foreign minister said following the meeting with his Georgian counterpart, Ilia Darchaishvili, pledging to help Georgia meet Copenhagen criteria. During his trip, Lars Løkke Rasmussen held talks with the prime minister, foreign affairs, and economy ministers, focusing on activating bilateral ties in various fields. He also visited the occupation line near South Ossetia.

Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili is visiting Baku, where he is set to participate in a special session of Milli Mejlis, marking the 100th anniversary of the late local strongman, President Heydar Aliyev. While in Baku, Papuashvili met with his son and successor, Ilham Aliyev, highlighting the positive dynamics of Azeri-Georgian relations, especially in energy, transport, and trade. According to the parliament’s press office, Aliyev and Papuashvili emphasized the importance of energy security cooperation, committing to intensify cooperation to preserve regional peace and stability. Shalva Papuashvili is also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Ali Asadov and Speaker of the Milli Mejlis Sahiba Gafarova.

The quarterly newsletter on political donations released by Transparency International Georgia (TI Georgia) showed that half of all donations – GEL 300 thousand – went to the ruling Georgian Dream party. According to TI Georgia, Lelo for Georgia came second with GEL 201,000 added to its coffers; European Georgia third – GEL 84,299. The leading three are followed by the Conservative Movement – GEL 21,724 and the United National Movement – GEL 7.650. One of the Georgian Dream donors, a former member of Batumi City Council, Nukri Dolidze, appears a regular winner of public tenders worth millions of Lari, a TI Georgia report suggests.

The State Security Service announced another illegal detention of a Georgian citizen near the Tskhinvali occupation line, while one detained a few days ago was safely released and transferred to Georgia-controlled territory. As in previous cases, Security Service follows its routine practice of activating the hotline and informing the EUMM and other international partners to facilitate the prompt release of illegally detained citizens.    

National Statistics Office reported an increase in foreign trade by almost 22% in January-April 2023, compared to the same period of the previous year. Figures show that the country’s increased foreign trade amounted to USD 6.5. billion. Statistics Office indicates a substantial rise in exports and imports – well over 20% – with a negative trade balance of 39.6% of total trade turnover.  

Contention of the Day

Following Putin’s decision to lift the air travel ban, “Azimut Airlines” became the first Russian airline to obtain a license from Georgian aviation authorities to conduct direct flights between Russia and Georgia. The EU currently sanctions all aircraft that are registered in Russia, owned or operated by Russian citizens. Operators with EU licenses also shall not service these airplanes. The EU has asked Georgia to align to its sanctions.

Reports on “Azimut”’s first expected flight to Tbilisi, already scheduled for 19 May, sparked an outcry from opposition parties and civic activists. While some opposition parties like Lelo for Georgia call for introducing a visa regime for Russian citizens, others like Droa and its partner parties plan to rally at Tbilisi airport, opposing the arrival of the first Russian flight since 2019.

The government and the ruling party continue to welcome Russia’s decision to resume direct flights, arguing that it will ease the lives of millions of Georgians residing in Russia and accusing the opposition of ignoring the needs of the Georgian people.   


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