Igor Kapyrin: “I’m really sorry if Georgians think of Russia as an enemy”

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Igor Kapyrin is a Deputy to the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe. 

By Nana Tabatadze

How would you evaluate situation in Caucasus region?

Right now not only Caucasian but all the post-soviet countries are undergoing hard political time, especially, Caucasian region with questions about territorial integrity issues. The democratic development of all our countries is a complex process. I’m very sorry that the relationships between Russia and one of the Caucasian states are complicated. I think that the President of Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili complicated the relationship between Georgia and Russia that were already difficult after the collapse of Soviet Union.


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Bestsellers For Officials

Within the Palais de l’Europe since 1992, the Council of Europe’s bookstore is a quality place for politics, lawyers and human rights professionals, wanting to discover the latest ‘it-books‘. The owner of the Librairie du Conseil, Aurélien Montinari, 30, says what it is like to sale books to officials.

by Elvira Abdullayeva & Rena Allahverdiyeva

http://www.librairie-du-conseil.com/

Strasbourg-kingdom of the bikers

In the French city of Strasbourg, everything is done for bikers. A very green attitude that contrasts with the situation of cycling in Caucasus.

By Ovsanna Bagamyan and Guler Mehdizade

The first thing that amazed us in Strasbourg was the lack of private cars we used to see in the streets of Baku and Yerevan, and the great quantity of bicycles instead. At first, we thought: “these people are crazy !”. We noticed special parking stations for bicycles,the ‘Velopark’, around 500 kilometers of cycling paths- the largest in France-, public bike rental service and interactive maps of bike routes like Bikely.com, to cycle throughout the whole city.

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Mamuka Jgenti : « It’s Easier To Work In Organizations Where Russia Is Not A Member State. »

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Mamuka Jgenti, 36, is Ambassador of Georgia to the Council of Europe. Graduated from law, married, two kids, he plays tennis and listens to classical music when he is not seating at the Council of Europe. He talks about its daily work, Russian-Georgian relations and European integration.

 By Sopo Mgaloblishvili and Mariam Jachvadze

It’s already one year you are representative of Georgia in Council of Europe, what is your main achievement while working here?

Step by step we are improving our relations and the position of Georgia within the Council of Europe. I can mention different positive achievements which we went through during this year, but I can’t really identify any concrete achievement, because doing that might somehow downgrade something else. At this stage, I think that Georgia’s voice is heard and taken into consideration.

What are your main goals and objectives while working in Council of Europe?

It’s very unfortunate, but the reality is that we have to concentrate on issues which we would prefer to be solved. For example, the restoration of Georgian territorial integrity. We are also trying to be actively involved in all the processes related to Georgia. My main objective is to move from the kind of benefiting country to a status where we are not only donating, but also sharing our experience and our culture to other countries. We are a European country, have an European culture, so we also have a lot to share with our European partners.

What obstacles do you face while working in Council of Europe?

The main obstacle is that Georgia is a member of the Council of Europe, as well as Russia. You know how Russian diplomacy is working; it’s called “Bulldozer Diplomacy” -aggressive diplomacy-. On a daily basis, I feel Russia’s presence with the same statute, rights and obligations as Georgia within Council of Europe. This makes my professional work much more difficult. It’s much easier for me to work in international organizations where Russia is not a member state.

What is the position of Council of Europe about Georgia –Russia conflict?

We know that the conflict between the Russia can’t be solved over night. The Council of Europe fully supports Georgia sovereignty, but it is not an institution that has to deal or solve security or military issues. Council of Europe is mostly oriented on human rights and humanitarian issues. The Assembly is regularly following the developments in order to evaluate the consequences of Russian invasion and ongoing occupation of Georgia.

Council of Europe was the first international organization that managed to make the action plan effective, in relation to occupied Abkhazian region of Georgia for example. Nowadays, other international organizations are able to follow this good example, so it was very important for us that the Council managed to be a pioneer in this cooperation.

Joining and improving relations with European institutions are one of the main objectives of the Georgian Government, what are the chances of Georgia in becoming member of European Union?

The same questions was asked in 1993-1994, whether Georgia would be able to join or not the Council of Europe. It took some years but in 1999, we have joined the Council of Europe. European Union is not only values; the process of integration is much more complicated, even countries declared as candidate countries took years to prepare themselves for becoming members. It is not only about human rights or democracy, but also about economical, financial criteria, which all countries have to comply.

We are working hard on European integration in order to join the European Union. It is very difficult to say an exact date, but we are moving very fast. Currently, we are mostly dealing with comprehensive and deep free trade agreement, at one stage we might also get the visa free agreement, but you also should consider what is going on at the moment within the European Union -financial crisis-. EU should also be ready to accept new members. I cannot predict, but it will take some years.

If you could define Europe in three words?

Space of free people.

Catherine Trautmann: “No country in Europe is out of the consequences of the crisis.”

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We are in a systemic crisis. No country in Europe is out of the consequence of the financial crisis, even France and Germany“, – says Catherine Trautmann, former mayor of Strasbourg and French euro-deputy. She speaks about Greece, Europe’s crisis and how it might affect South Caucasus countries in their way towards European integration.

By Hrant Mikaelian and Arshaluis Mghdesyan

“Europe is facing worst crisis since the Second world war”, – said Germany’s prime minister Angela Merkel a couple of days ago. The eurozone has appeared on the verge of a collapse when Greece, Ireland and Portugal became unable to borrow money on free debt market and were forced to ask money from the international creditors.

Being one of the fastest growing economies of Europe in 2000s, Greece now became the most affected by crisis economy in the eurozone. Greece’s average budget deficit in 2001-2008 consisted 6.2% while the maximum level, which is accepted for Eurozone countries is 3%. Now Greece’s debt is more than 300 bln euros, which makes a risk for the Euro stability. But the crisis signs are also seen in other countries: Italy, the third economy of an euro area also faces threat of debt crisis.

Catherine Trautmann, 59, is a former Minister of Culture of France and now Member of the European Parliament for the East of France. Member of the Socialist Partyn part of the Party of European Socialists, she was elected as mayor of Strasbourg in 1989, re-elected in 1995, then defeated in 2001.

2011 LUX Cinema Prize Goes To “Les Neiges Du Kilimandjaro”

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Awarding ceremony

On November 16th, the 5th edition of LUX Prize was attributed by the European Parliament to the French movie “Les neiges du Kilimandjaro” (“The snows of Kilimanjaro”). The prize of €90,000 will sponsor the subtitling of the film into the 23 official EU languages.

By Nino Gelashvili

LUX prize is given by the European Parliament since 2007. Parliament’s support for European cinema includes specific legislation to promote the diversity of, and access to, cinematographic works.

The panel includes producers, distributors, cinema operators, festival directors and film critics. Three finalists are annually announced for the prize. Only the 736 Members of the European Parliament are entitled to vote.

In competition this year was Greece’s political drama from Athina Rachel Tsangari’s « Attenberg », France’s “Les neiges du Kilimandjaro” by Robert Guédiguian and “Play” by Ruben Östlund – a Swedish, French, Danish production.

As director of the movie Robert Guédiguian said, its movie is about “faithfulness, solidarity and morality“. ‘Les neiges du Kilimandjaro’ tells the story about Michel and Marie-Claire, whose happiness is shattered when two armed and masked men violently attack them and steal the money for a trip to Kilimandjaro, and the impact of their discoveries about the perpetrators.

Previous winners were “Auf der anderen Seite in 2007, “Le silence de Lorna” in 2008, “Welcome” in 2009 and “Die Fremde” in 2010.

Beyond the stories they tell, these films explore and question European shared values, look at the level of support for the project of building Europe and address cross-border concerns such as immigration, justice, solidarity, public freedoms and fundamentals rights. Each film offers a glimpse into the lives of Europeans, their convictions and doubts and their quest for identity.

Armenia & Me

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«If you want to foresee the people’s future, have a look at the youngsters », once said Garegin Nzhdeh, the famous Armenian politician.

By Armine Narinyan

Youth people in Armenia are representing 17,5 percent of population, an average comparable to many other European’s countries. But because of the Karabakh’s conflict and the economical crisis, lots of them are going abroad.

Armenia is affected by migration’s issues and the ‘diaspora’ concerns around 8 millions of Armenians living in foreign countries -on a population of 3 millions-. Some though are thinking differently.

Narineh Sarkisian: «I always dreamt about returning to Armenia»

Narineh Sarkisian ©Armine Narinyan

Originally coming from Iran, she came to Yerevan, five years ago. Like many emigrated people, since her childhood, she dreamed about returning to Armenia. She is now working as a designer in a magazine in the armenian capital. «Designers nowadays have a great influence on society. Sometimes, people even do not notice it. But a big billboard in the street, a good advertisement can affect people. » Now that she feels home, she does not even think about living abroad.

Azatuhi Simonyan : « To be Armenian means three important thing : a way of living, a way of thinking and a strong national spirit»

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War Generation In Georgia

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After Georgia-Russia war in 2008, thousands of children suffer from stress. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a result of strong emotions they experienced during the war.

By Sopo Mgaloblishvili and Mariam Jachvadze

If you had a magic stick what would you wish?”

This question was asked to IDP children from Eredvi by Tina Norakidze and other psychologists who held trainings for children in 2009.

Most of them named big house surrounded by huge fence and lots of bodyguards. Fear of future and feeling of insecurity also appeared in other exercises. For instance they had to describe the feelings of swan swimming in the lake. All children had question – “Where is it going?  How it will be there? Maybe some threat  is waiting for it”.

These examples show that these children need secure environment and stability in the future” – says Tina Norakidze, psychologist

 „ I only see my house in my dreams, exactly the same as I left it. I don’t want to believe that there is nothing there”; “Most I remember is my mother’s voice crying – “Everyone hide in the basement”; “I strongly miss every single thing what I left in my village.”  

These are the memories of schoolchildren from the war 2008. What they   saw and what they heard had strong influence on their behavior. Far from their villages they started new life with new relations. Parents are also stressed after war, but the children are the ones who are mostly in the center of attention. Government, non-governmental organizations as well as society care about them, trying them not to think deeply about the war results.

“After Georgian-Russian war, IDP children were taken to the seaside. You can’t imagine how aggressive they were. Everything was broken and damaged in the hotel”– remembers Merab Oniani, art therapist who together with psychologists accompanied team of children at the seaside, Ureki (West part of Georgia).

Aggression, nightmares, myth plays, no willing to learn, drawings in dark colors, repetitive play  are main symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in children coming from the war, natural disasters, serious accidents or injuries.

According to Merab Oniani’s observation on IDP children the way they were playing was most recognizable for him. In playing children repeat the same situations what they had seen before

 “Often we saw, how children were burying each other in the sand, playing with guns, shouting and fighting with each other.”

Ana Jgenti, psychologist of children together with her friend was working with IDP children as well. She tells us what kinds of methods are used to help children who suffer from PTSD. One of them is reframing nightmares.

“We used to meet them every day and on each day we asked them to tell their dreams. Mostly dreams were connected to the war so the task was to draw these dreams in a way that the ending would be happy. I can say that this method really works”.

Anna says that IDPs have different emotional experience; some of them worry about losing close people, some about their houses, but children she met mostly worried about pets they lost during the war.

In psychology these symptoms have its explanation: “For children house is a part of their identity. Pets help them to give and get warm, that’s why children have such emotions about losing them” – says Manana Gabashvili psychologist.

Sopo Tabatadze 15 years old believes to be good diplomat in near future. She thinks that, she already knows the value of war and peace and will do her best for peace – “I don’t wish other children to feel the same I experienced”.

Practice show that after some years past post traumatic symptoms decrease, people try to overcome the stress and step by step they adapt to new social environment.

Karabakh Conflict: 18 Years Of Expectations For Refugees

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After Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, thousands of people were displaced from their homeland. In Baku 216 000 IDP, for Internally Displaced Person, were recensed, living in hostels, half-built buildings and other public places. One of those IDP,  Zarifa Aliyeva displaced from Jabrail lives now in student hostel with her family.

By Elvira Abdullayeva and Rena Allahverdiyeva

“If Jabrail were given back, I would go there barefoot”- says Zarifa Aliyeva, 60, displaced from Jabrail, a region in Azerbaijan. She lives in Baku State University’s student hostel with her family-husband, daughter, son, granddaughter and grandson. They live here together since 1993, date of the occupation of Jabrail.

Sixteen years ago, on 23rd August 1993, Azerbaijani regions of Fuzuli and Jabrail were occupied by Armenian Armed Forces. There were 72 secondary school buildings, eight hospitals, five mosques, two museums, 129 historical monuments and 149 cultural centers left in the occupation.

As Zarifa recalls, she used to live in the center of Jabrail, where her and her family had a big house with 6 rooms. But the day of the occupation, they couldn’t take even one cap from their house and had to leave immediatly.

During the Nagorno-Karabakh war (from February 1988 to May 1994) between Armenia and Azerbaijan territories, constituting former NKAO region of Azerbaijan and the seven adjacent regions (some of them partly) were occupied. As a result, about one million people had to leave their homes.

Azerbaijan now has one of the highest numbers of IDPs per capital in the world. The IDPs are presented in all of the 76 administrative districts in Azerbaijan. Initially, most of them lived in tent camps and public buildings such as schools, hostels, and dormitories.

Since 2001, the government increased its efforts to solve IDPs’ problems. In 2002, the construction of new settlements started in Baku, and by the end of 2007, all tent camps were abolished. On the 61 100 IDPs from the Jabrail region, nearly half of them, about 31 000, decided to settle in Baku.

“At first, we went to Sabirabad and lived there for three months, then we moved to Baku. And that time we didn’t know where to stay and came accidently to this hostel. At that time in this room were staying a young family displaced from Agdam region, but when they saw that we are six and haven’t any money, so they decided to leave this room for us and went to rent house”.

Zarifa Aliyeva is now working as a cleaner at the municipal concert hall, her husband works as gardener for a bank, although he had two operations on heart. Her daughter and son don’t work and her grandchildren are studying at school. They were baby when family displaced.

“With our salary and our pension, we get approximately 400-450 AZN per month. It is too little to compare it with our necessity. Our room is 15 m2 and we haven’t any other choice. It is already 20 years we are waiting to go back to our village, but there is not any result…We are just waiting.”

After war in May 1994, Armenia and Azerbaijan signed ceasefire and peace talks, mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group, have been held ever since by Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Parviz Asgarov is the responsible of Baku State University’s student hostel. He says that now there live 7 000 people- and around 750 familys and the Azéri government had accepted a new program moving them from hostels to new buildings. “We had listed to all people who live here and gave this list to the State Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan On Deals of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. From 2012n IDPs will get new home. Now they have many problems here, rooms are very narrow, they have to sleep together in one room, most of them are unemployer”.

Student hostel of BSU

In Baku are living around 216 000 IDPs and they have placed in 262 hostels, 75 pansionat, 40 half-built buildings and other public places.

On February 2011, President signed a Decree on Additions to the “State Program on improvement of living conditions and increasing employment refugees and internally displaced persons”, approved by Decree 298 of the 1st of July, 2004 issued by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The government is already organising the relocalisation 210 families of IDP’s, temporarily settled in 2 hostels out of Baku State University.

Although the Armenian Azerbaijani Nagorno Karabakh conflict still remains unsolved, EU president Herman van Rompuy thinks that this conflict mustn’t be added to the list of “hopeless conflicts“. In his reports, Peter Semneby – EU’s ex-special Representative for the South Caucasus also notes that “EU is now more intensively engaged in the South Caucasus than ever before“.

With the launch of the Eastern Partnership in May 2009 and the launch of the negotiations on the Association Agreements with the three countries of the South Caucasus. Nowadays, mediation efforts are made by a troïka consisting ofRussia,France and theUS, butRussia is increasingly taking a leading role, in particular through meetings of President Medvedev with the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents.

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