Dispatch | June 26-28: Maneuvering

After stormy days replete with rallies, the latest days have seen a period of lull – albeit one pregnant with anticipation. Will the civic opposition manage to create a momentum for the transitional government they plan to announce on June 3? Will the ruling party budge and create space for wider compromise? In the meantime Tbilisi Open Air festival has briefly occupied social media headlines by good music and Woodstockesque mud-bath. This is the Dispatch, from Georgia where not all music is equally divine.

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RYTHM DIVINE Georgia is (still) the place where divine is often political. Hence, there can be no better match for it in Europe than the Holy See. Fittingly, a concert of the Georgian Trinity Cathedral’s Choir in the Sistine Chapel has become eminently political, especially as the chants composed by the Georgian Patriarch Ilia II were also reverberating under the vault of Michelangelo’s genius. President Salome Zurabishvili, who attended the concert and also met the Pontiff, waxed lyrical: “His Holiness, Chatholicos Patriarch Ilia II has brought Georgia into Europe” she posted on her Facebook page. Truly, with its prominence of the Church, and its murderous political intrigues, if there is Europe that Georgia belongs to immediately, that would be the one of the Crusades… Yet, apparently not all clergymen are convinced even medieval Europe is their home: “Witch Bash in the Sodomite Popes Capella” – that was the title of one of the sermons, and apparently there were several that made it to social media (and probably more we don’t know about), condemning that visit to the venue of “ecumenical and heretic” Catholic faith.

CHOPPY SAILING Mtavari TV – a strident critic of the government whose chief is currently imprisoned – broke the news that an oil tanker flying the Turkish flag, ESEN KA, moored off Batumi port, laden with crude from sanctioned Russian companies. After brief silence from the government’s side, Georgia’s Minister of Economy Levan Davitashvili said the country applies the sanctions regime and the ship won’t be able to get the customs clearance, which was later confirmed by the revenue service. David Arakhamia, chief of the presidential faction in the Ukrainian parliament (of Georgian descent) was not convinced: flying away to the United States, he posted an angry message on Telegram messenger, saying Bidzina Ivanishvili would have to pay for sanction-busting “in favor of the terrorist state”. Clearly Kyiv and Tbilisi do not see eye-to-eye these days…

ANGLING FOR PROGRESS? After organizers’ calls to protect several closed-door events that mark the Pride Week in Georgia from violence, the police seems to have reacted appropriately – at least in words. The official statement statement declared intention to uphold and protect the right to gather. True, this protection does seem to apply to outdoor events yet, but still sounds like a measured step in the right direction, especially as some homophobic hotheads were brought in for questioning for their hateful posts. With one of the hate group leaders claiming they “have higher purpose than law” there is a long road to travel though…

NO RUSH As Georgians continue to wonder, whether there is a will to jump onto the departing train and bag the European Union candidacy by the end of the year, Chairman Kobakhidze seems tranquil – “there is no rush” he told the media, we don’t do it this year, we will do in the next, but it will happen, he argued. And while he disperses the pledges to follow the European Commission recommendations as quickly as possible, the controversial re-appointment of a judge particularly implicated in following the political orders to the court of appeals does make this commitment ring hollow. Not that anyone is surprised.

These were the updates for today, the Dispatch will be back on Friday!