Georgian Journal and IPR Reveal Winning Ambassadors
07 March, 2013
Georgian Journal and IPR  Reveal Winning Ambassadors
Georgian Journal has revealed another winner at the awarding ceremony of diplomats for the year of 2012. The IPR Research under Media Palitra organized the survey that lasted for two months. Several hundreds of respondents were selected to name the popular ambassadors of the year. Unprecedented annual project set up by Georgian Journal, named its second winner. This time the range of interviewees was far wider than the previous one, to make the results as reliable and objective as possible.
In order to identify the winner, polls were conducted among the representatives of the Georgian political circles, as well as political scientists, media, civil sector including international organizations and NGOs, as well as publicly acclaimed figures – famous artists of different realms along with other reputable persons.
It is worth noting that all the ambassadors took part and 15 of them reached a certain level. Now, we will name the top ten. Richard Norland, Ambassador of the United States of America, followed the suit of his predecessor and like Mr. John Bass, who was the first winner of 2011, received the main title of the pageant. US Ambassador has been involved in all political events in the country. His political activeness, in spite of his newly undertaken ambassadorial post, was most vividly evident during the February 8 incident in front of the Georgian National Library, where a chaotic situation was created and people was rallying against Mikheil Saakashvili. The position and opposition were accusing each other of having staged a provocation. In those tense minutes Mr. Richard Norland was one of the first who appeared on the scene, exhibited public activeness and called on the two sides for the dialogue.
The survey conferred the second position to Ms. Judith Gough, former Ambassador of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to Georgia. Several months ago, she left the country and now Mr. David Moran is a charge d’affaires who will be reportedly substituted by the new ambassador in coming summer. I would daresay that after having interviewed almost all the ambassadors accredited in Georgia, Great Britain has been one of the most unassailable fortresses that we could not reach. Hopefully, with the new ambassador and goodwill of Georgian Journal, we will manage to establish closer relations with the said Embassy.
Polls have shown that the third place was won by Mr. Ortwin Hennig, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Germany. The number fourth was Mr. Philip Dimitrov, Ambassador of the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia. Philip Dimitrov has been quite dynamic during the pre-election period as well as in almost all crucial moments. According to the poll, Czech Embassy obtained the 5th position. Ambassador Ivan Jestrab, who is almost a naturalized citizen of Georgia, is the most skilled professional among all foreign diplomats,. He has been quite active and supportive in terms of politics as well as culture, having shown a lot of interest in different events, concerts and exhibitions that are so important for Georgia. Swiss Ambassador Geunther Baechler was on the sixth position, most probably because of the increasing role of a mediator between Georgia and Russia. His role was very important – Switzerland has once again proved that it is a pinnacle of neutralism and balance in the entire international commonwealth.
Brazilian Ambassador Carlos Alberto Lopes Asfora was named the holder of the 7th position. Georgian Journal discovered about the existence of a newly opened embassy – the only South American country represented to Georgia. The Italian Ambassador Ms. Federica Favi is on the 8th place, while China is on the 9th and Israeli Ambassador Yuval Fuchs is on the tenth Position.
Georgian Journal has been conducting the interviews with the ambassadors since November 2011. Parallel to our polls, a special group has been formed inside the newspaper staff and it decided to give special ‘cheerful’ nominations to five ambassadors, based on the articles that have been published in our newspaper. As they say during the Oscar Awards Ceremony, special list of Georgian Journal nominations has no hierarchy and looks like this:
The most sociable diplomat is …. Ms. Elita Gavele, Ambassadress of the Republic of Latvia. She gave us the new interview almost as soon as she arrived from the airport. Notably, this was her first interview as an ambassador too, as this is her first ambassadorial post in Tbilisi, Georgia. The article was titled “Fresh Diplomat with Fresh Impressions”. Notably, she is the first-ever Latvian Ambassador, as before that, we only had the Honorary Consul. So, in this case, everything was brand new. At the end, I commented: “I must add that the interview took place in an absolutely comfortable atmosphere. I did not even feel that I was talking with an Ambassador. I was utterly happy and pleased; then I realized that it was thanks to Ms. Elita’s professional background – she has the experience of working in the field of Public Relations. Georgian Journal hopes that it will be a satisfying and challenging mission for Ms. Gavele and it wishes all the best to her in fulfilling her goals of strengthening the links between our two countries. And of course, we wish her personal happiness.”
Mr. Sandor Szabo, Ambassador of Hungary to Georgia became the most sporting ambassador. “I was in Georgia in 1979 but only for one day. I am very much connected with football, as I used to be a professional football player and I helped the Hungarian delegation with football team during the match between Hungary and the Soviet Union that was scheduled to take place in Tbilisi.” Later on, to the question, what is his favorite pastime, the Hungarian diplomat answered: “It’s football. When I have free time, I train goalkeepers. I was a goalkeeper-coach in Budapest and here I do the same. In every country where I have worked, I was involved in local football sphere. Here in Tbilisi, I sometimes help train the reserve teams of DynamoTbilisi and Gagra. I have the UEFA license for coaching goal-keepers and when I came here, I was searching and I found some contacts with these clubs. Now, whenever I have time, I go there; if it were possible, I would go there every week and every day, but unfortunately, it is impossible. Football is very much about practice, so I have to show them; the young goal-keepers have to practice; I show them what to do and how to do it.”
“Mr. Friendliness” became Mr. Chen Jianfu, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China. “My first impressions were that Georgia has a lot of mountains, lot of trees, plenty of fresh water, and a picturesque landscape. When I was flying over the Caucasus there was a moment when my heart sank and I felt disappointment, as the Caucasus was so different from the Alps which was familiar to me. But as the plane drew closer to Tbilisi, suddenly the totally different landscapes, such as beautiful mountains and ancient buildings unfolded before my eyes. The Kura (Mtkvari) River was flowing through the city like a huge dragon, and the bustling streets were filled with the Caucasian scenes, and the truth dawned on me in a flash. So I told myself, why couldn’t this place be “a garden of God”, as the legend has it?” These are Mr. Jianfu’s words.  
Italy, a country of ancient culture, beautiful cities and people and quite alike Georgians, is among the list too. Another ambassadress Federica Favi is in Georgian Journal’s so-called “top five”, though all of the five are equal, received the title of the best respondent. She dared to meet us during the pre-election period, when nobody else did, including men. Her first interview was called “Georgia – Italy, Khinkali –Ravioli, Khachapuri – Pizza,” once again highlighting our similarities. “I find many features Georgians have in common with Italy: love for culture, music, family, nice food and good wines, which makes things easier for me”, Ms. Favi noted in her interview to GJ. To the question, what she thinks about Georgian political culture, she answered: “Like its cuisine, Georgian politics looks quite Mediterranean. One can easily feel how politics here is driven not only by reason but by passion as well. As a matter of fact, it is a positive phenomenon, as far as political competition among political forces remains fair and as long as it is conducted by legitimate means.”
The list of Georgian Journal nominees is capped by Carlos Alberto Lopes Asfora, who has become the most trouble-free ambassador. It was no problem at all to get in touch with him privately, in his office, and agree an interview with him directly, without all that pomp and circumstance, in exactly 2 hours’s time. “Georgians and Brazilians – Both fond of Football, Music and Parties” – it was the title of the article. “The feature that impressed me most is how some people are helpful and friendly. It’s really amazing. I have served in many other countries. My first post was in the Brazilian mission to UNESCO in Paris. Then I went to Mexico City, then to New Delhi, then, The Hague, Beijing in China, then Santiago Chile, then back to The Hague, Netherlands and then to Tbilisi. So, I had many different experiences and I’m sure that in Georgia people are the most helpful of them all – it’s really remarkable how nice people can be in this country. Actually, I find many common traits between Georgians and Brazilians. Georgians like to be informal, Brazilians too, they are both fond of music, Georgians like football and Brazilians also like football, it’s easy to find connections between the two nations. They are both open-hearted, they like to party, we have many things in common,” Mr. Asfora confessed one year ago in the exclusive interview with us.
The main goal of the project is to make the diplomatic corps more active in supporting country’s development as well as refining Georgia’s foreign policy. Besides, the project aims to contribute to the strengthening of relations between media sector and diplomats accredited in Georgia.
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