Cooperatives Europe General Assembly & Georgia
16 May, 2013
Cooperatives Europe General Assembly & Georgia
May 6, 2013 Dirk Lehnhoff, the 55 year old German lawyer with extensive international experience in cooperative legislation development and with the support of countries like the Russian Federation, Estonia, Serbia, South Africa and others was elected president of Cooperatives Europe.
The Cooperative Society of Georgia IBERIA participated in the elections. Two thirds of delegates voted for the new president as well as the new Board of Cooperatives Europe at the 2013 General Assembly of Cooperatives Europe in Istanbul. The
article in the previous issue of Georgian Journal was an attempt within our power to generalize on the current situation with the cooperative movement in Georgia. Georgian Journal talked to Dr. Roin Adamadze, the current president of TSEKAVSHIRI (Central Union of Georgian Consumer Co-operatives) and the founder of IBERIA (Agricultural and Industrial Cooperative Society of Georgia) who tried to elucidate the current status of Tsekavshiri and the role of Iberia in its functionality. The Cooperatives Europe General Assembly was also one of the points of the discussion.

GJ – We have heard that Georgia participated in the work of Cooperatives Europe General Assembly which took place in Istanbul in the beginning of May. How important is this for Georgia, and if it is, why was it not covered at all by mass media?
RA – Thank you very much for this question! Yes, we indeed participated in the European forum of great importance for Georgia. It is also true that mass media remained nonchalant to this consequential international event. And I think this happened only because the topic of cooperatives is still asleep in Georgia. We definitely need to bring it to surface . . .
GJ – Are you doing anything specific to resuscitate the idea of cooperative labor in Georgia?
RA – We are doing all our possible best to do that, although quite in vane so far. I don’t think the serious revival of the cooperative movement would be easy – if possible at all – without the governmental support, at least a moral assistance.
GJ – How can the government help specifically?
RA – I am not asking the government to do our job. I am just suggesting that it should be aware of what we are doing, and do this in actual recognition of our existence and efforts.
GJ – Fair enough, I would say, but I am confused about the title of your organization. What is the actual name of the national body which unites the efforts and the workers involved in the cooperative movement in Georgia? In other words, what the TSEKAVSHIRI and IBERIA have to do with each other?
RA – Again, a perfectly fair and timely question! The name of the mother organization is TSEKAVSHIRI (Central Union of Georgian Consumer Co-operatives), which was founded in 1918 in the newly born independent state of Georgia. It went through certain changes in the soviet period, but it functioned as one of the greatest money generators in the country. In 1990, its functionality was paralyzed following the breakup of the USSR because it lost all its assets and property, which was frittered away by former soviet bureaucrats. The assets of TSEKAVSHIRI at that time equaled 20 billion dollars, which accounts for much more in today’s pecuniary measurements due to the inflation processes. In 2006 the assets of TSEKAVSHIRI made the amount between 200 and 250 million dollars. This wealth has also disappeared. Actually, TSEKAVSHIRI had never been abrogated as a corporative unity. Formally, it is still alive, although its property has been squandered and wasted away. In addition to all that, TSEKAVSHIRI lost its membership in ICA – the International Cooperative Alliance. The process of destruction had stopped at this point in time, but we are not yet up and running as we should. On January 31, 2006 my authority as of the president of TSEKAVSHIRI was seized and was restored on January 31 of 2008. While I was left out of office, I thought that idling away the time was a bad idea and I created an alternative organization, naming it IBERIA, which became the member of ICA instead of TSEKAVSHIRI. I think this was a timely move on our part because thanks to this smart step, Georgia has not severed its ties with the International Alliance, thanks to which we took part in the recent Assembly in Istanbul.
GJ – And still . . . what are the relationships between TSEKAVSHIRI and IBERIA?
RA – IBERIA is one of the founders of the newly organized TSEKAVSHIRI – all legal documentation in place! When time comes and if the situation dictates it, Georgia’s membership in ICA could be changed back to the name of TSEKAVSHIRI without any difficulty whatsoever.
GJ – Are you trying to restore the lost property and assets to TSEKAVSHIRI? If not, why? If yes, how?
RA – As I said, our property and assets is equal to zero today. The potential possessions which we are going to bring back to TSEKAVSHIRI is broken up into three parts: a) taken away by the government – about $200 million worth; b) stolen by the former TSEKAVSHIRI staff members – $30 million ballpark; c) confiscated or lost because of the demurred registration – approximately 10 million dollars worth. To hit the target, we are using our legal system which I think is giving us a better chance now than it used to several years ago in terms of achieving fair and valid treatment by the powers that be.
GJ – I am surprised at your optimism. What makes you feel so driven?
RA – Our best asset at this right moment is our international relations which we have been supporting in the last several years, taking serious pains.
GJ – What is your aim which is worth fighting for that hard?
RA – Reinstatement of agricultural and industrial cooperatives in Georgia, and restoration of the Georgian product on internal and international markets.
GJ – What is the most rational and powerful way of reinstating TSEKAVSHIRI to its deserved format and power?
RA – Investments, both local and international.
GJ – How active are you on international arena?
RA – Quite active! Cooperatives Europe General Assembly in Istanbul is a vivid example of this. We need to talk to international community about our problems. Dissemination of information about us means a lot. And we are going to carry on in the same energetic and aggressive fashion.
GJ – I wish you well!
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