The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), in cooperation with the Europe-Georgia Institute (EGI), hosted in mid-May a delegation of American and European journalists for a one-week study visit to Georgia. The trip provided journalists from prominent global media outlets a unique opportunity to explore the country's political landscape and engage with civil society activists, diplomats, government officials, journalists, political party leaders, and representatives of the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), who hosted the group at the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) between South Ossetia and the rest of the country.

The visit began with a program overview session by GMF’s Hanna Kovhan and Vassilis Ntousas, and George Melashvili (PDN ’20), followed by the alumni reception, at which the journalists could meet participants of previous GMF leadership programs. GMF Senior Vice President Laura Thornton spoke of the challenges facing and opportunities for democracy promotion in Georgia.

The first full day featured a working breakfast with think tank representatives who provided their expertise on Georgia's current political landscape and offered insights into the country's political dynamics. The group also visited the Orbeliani presidential palace and held a meeting with ambassadors from the EU, Germany and the United States, who discussed Georgia’s aspirations for integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic communities. The group later met, in the parliament, representatives from opposition parties to better understand the challenges on Georgia's path to Brussels.

The second day started with a guided tour of Tbilisi's old city, immersing participants in Georgia's rich history and culture. Next came a visit to Formula TV to discuss press freedom and challenges facing Georgian independent media. Subsequent discussions with local journalists focused on the Georgian media landscape, domestic politics and human rights, and a meeting with students at the University of Georgia offered the views of the country’s younger generation.

Returning to the parliament, the group spoke with the chairman and chief of staff of the foreign relations committee to hear the perspective of Georgia’s ruling party. A discussion with experts about Russia's war against Ukraine, countering propaganda, and good governance programs in Georgia followed.

The third day featured briefings from EUMM representatives, a visit to the occupation line in Khurvaleti, and discussions at the internally displaced persons (IDP) settlement in Tserovani. The group then traveled to Kutaisi for a working dinner on regional development and local democracy.

The final destination, Batumi, offered meetings with the mayor and local journalists. An exchange with a member of parliament addressed advancing democracy at the local level and diversity and inclusion, with a particular focus on Georgian Muslims.

The visit highlighted knowledge sharing and the creation of communities of practice. The importance of transnational alliances for addressing challenges facing democracies worldwide was a recurring theme. Discussions emphasized countering malign influences and sustaining democratic processes within the framework of Georgia’s EU membership aspirations.

The program was made possible with the support of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the KfW development bank.

Long in Russian orbit, Georgia tilts West

"The dynamic between these young Russians and the Georgian cafe owner is playing out throughout the former Soviet satellites of the Caucasus and Central Asia, where many of nearly 1 million Russians have self-exiled. Here, across the Black Sea from Ukraine, where Mr. Putin is prosecuting war, these people are reminders of the dangers of Russian imperial designs on states desiring democracy over dictatorship." By Anna Mulrine Grobe

Georgians dream of EU membership as their leaders move closer to Putin

"Despite that temporary opposition victory, press freedom continues to corrode in Georgia. The governing party refuses to talk to any media deemed to be critical. Parliamentary rules are now being enforced that strip accreditation from any journalists for repeating a question that an MP has previously refused to answer. Owners and senior journalists on opposition-aligned television channels have found themselves the target of a string of draining lawsuits." By Julian Borger

As Anti-War Russians Flock to Georgia, Tbilisi Warms to Moscow

"Warming ties between the ruling Georgian Dream party and Moscow sharply contrast with staunchly pro-Ukraine sentiments on the streets. Even as Georgia’s government claims joining the European Union and NATO are still firmly in its crosshairs — goals strongly endorsed by most Georgians—it is increasing economic ties with Russia. And analysts and critics say, drifting steadily from its EU dreams." By Lisa Bryant

Proteste gegen Direktflüge nach Russland: Georgien sehnt sich nach einer zweiten Rosen-Revolution

"Die große Mehrheit der Bürger glaubt weder der Regierung noch der Opposition. Sie reagieren genervt auf die polarisierenden Zerrbilder, mit der die beiden Lager für sich werben und den Gegner diskreditieren. Nur 19 Prozent würden „Georgiens Traum“ wählen, 34 Prozent sagen: unter keinen Umständen. Die oppositionelle „Vereinte Nationale Bewegung“ steht noch schlechter da: 14 Prozent würden sie wählen, 39 Prozent unter keinen Umständen. 78 Prozent wünschen sich jüngere Personen in der Politik." Von Christoph von Marschall

Photo Credits: Tagesspiegel

A Trip to Georgia

Vassilis Ntousas, Head of European Operations, Alliance for Securing Democracy, journaled his travels across Georgia for GMF through this video.

This program was made possible with the support of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the KfW Development Bank.

If you have any questions, please direct them to Hanna Kovhan at [email protected].

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