Georgian Person Is a Sort of Homo-Politicus!
22 December, 2011
Georgian Person Is a Sort of Homo-Politicus!

Exclusive interview with H.E. Mr. Ivan Jestrab ambassador of Czech Republic to Georgia

H.E. Mr. Ivan Jestrab, ambassador of Czech Republic to Georgia, arrived in our country on April 1, 2008. It’s almost four years since then, but he hopes that he will stay here at least one year more. 

 

G.J: What were the events that led to your arrival in Georgia?

I.J: Before coming to Tbilisi, I worked in Belgrade, Serbia where I spent four years. At the end of my mission

my superiors offered me to continue my mission in another country. One of the openings was Tbilisi, Georgia.

G.J: Consequently, you had an opportunity to choose?

I.J: Exactly, and I made my choice for Georgia. I am happy because I live and work in the country where things are happening. There were many countries which were much quieter, maybe more developed, and where perhaps living is easier, but for me as a professional diplomat, I feel satisfaction from accomplishing something here; when I live in the country where I can really see the results of my job. As for Serbia, there are similarities as both countries have Christian Orthodox confession but because of the geographical and historical differences, it’s difficult to compare them, except the fact that both countries had vibrant political lives. And that’s what makes my life much more interesting.

G.J: What is your impression of Georgia as a person and as a diplomat?

I.J: I will tell you a small secret. I substituted our previous ambassador, whom I know for a long time. When he was turning over his duties to me, he said: now when life in Georgia starts to be much more pleasant than it used to be in the beginning of its statehood, I have to leave. I had a feeling that he would not mind to stay here much longer. It was a confirmation of the fact for me that my choice was right. Here progress is very visible. As for a person, I have my private theory on how a foreign diplomat feels in the country where he comes to work: when you arrive in a foreign country, where you have not been before or have been a long time ago, you feel like a tourist. It means that you walk in the streets, like other tourists, who don’t usually look on the sidewalk, they are looking around. After a while, you start noticing not only those beautiful places which are completely new for you, but you start noticing things which are different from your previous experience, from your own country, which to some extent, annoy you. Only after this period is over, you start understanding the country in depth. It is only at that third stage when you are able to judge objectively.

G.J: What were these specialties that you encountered at your second stage of discovering Georgia?

I.J: Of course, it differs from other countries. There are a lot of differences. But the first thing, a foreigner would probably notice is the way Georgians are driving their cars. It is different. But it is not so different from some countries where I have worked before. Although it is different from my Czech experience. For instance, not so different from my experience in India and from Bangladesh, where there is a crazy traffic; where, like here, wherever there is an empty space, somebody pushes his car in. It catches your attention immediately. Although, I think, it has nothing to do with the developing countries, it’s more connected to people’s nature, their traditions.

G.J: What is your opinion about the Georgian cuisine?

I:J: First of all, I like to cook myself, so I have a very positive attitude to food. Georgian food is excellent. I usually joke with my friends that Georgia is very dangerous, because when you sit with Georgians at Supra, you are unable to leave before finishing and it lasts for hours. Well, it’s a joke. Food is really good and it is proved by the fact that there are more and more Georgian restaurants around the world; one of them was opened just recently in Prague in the very centre of the city. The cuisine is very good there. It’s owned by Georgians; the restaurant has Georgian chef and waiters. It’s called Tbilisi and is already very popular.

G.J: Approaching the embassy, we discovered that a lot of people are waiting to get visas. According to your information, is there a big Georgian Diaspora in Czech Republic?

I.J: I would not say it’s very big but many Georgians are successful there. Of course, as you know, Prague is a tourism hotspot too. Recently, we witnessed an increasing number of applicants for our visas. We want to change a system of receiving them so that people won’t have to wait for their turn. From the next year, it will be possible to go to internet and make a reservation for particular date and particular time.

G.J: What is your favorite sphere of the Georgian culture?

I.J: I was pleasantly surprised by a very high level of music here; first of all, classical music, as I am fond of it, and fond of jazz. There are so many classical concerts here, so many excellent performers, musicians be it Georgians or foreigners who arrive in Tbilisi. Frankly, me and my wife are frequent visitors of conservatoire, philharmonic and Music Centre on Aghmashenebeli Avenue.  We enjoy it very much and despite the fact that we are very busy, we always try to attend these excellent performances. As for literature, I think Shota Rustaveli is a must (he smiles); it is a kind of preparation for coming to Georgia. I have also read Vazha-Pshavela’s short stories – English and Russian translations, unfortunately not in Georgian as Georgian is a very difficult language and I did not have time and probably not enough power to learn it.

G.J: Your daily schedule must be very busy, yes?

I.J: That’s’ right.

G.J: Are your weekends very different from your weekdays?

I.J: We try to make them different. Of course, when we are lucky to have one free day, me and my wife try to travel. Living in Tbilisi does not mean living in Georgia. Tbilisi is fine, but we also want to see the countryside. During the years of living here, we have visited almost all corners of the country. We share our Georgian experience with our friends. Traveling is my favorite pastime, which also includes talking to people, as communicating with ordinary folks gives you much more in-depth understanding of the country. People in Samtskhe-Javakheti have different problems, and people in Tusheti – quite different ones from the dwellers of Tbilisi. As I said before, Tbilisi is not entire Georgia.

G.J: What do you think about the Georgian political culture?

I.J: First of all, I would say that Georgia is a very political country. People are talking about politics all the time. When we sit with our friends, drinking Saperavi, Tsinandali or whatever, eating excellent Georgian food, people keep talking about politics! A Georgian person is a sort of homo-politicus! It’s interesting, because you get some opinions meeting officials, reading newspapers or whatever, but talking to ordinary people is great. I like their stories. Generally, Georgians are very open in expressing their ideas. It’s extremely important to have this feedback from various sides. As the old Romans say, Vox Populi Vox Dei (voice of people, voice of God).

G.J: What do you think about Georgian media – what are its week points?

I.J: I can see that the situation is improving. There are media sources that are really frank and they try to be objective. As for the shortcomings, I think there is insufficient level of professionalism of journalists and editorial staffs. The problem is that they mix the information and their personal point of view.  You have to write something objectively and then maybe say what you think about it.  Otherwise it’s difficult for a reader to make out what is happening actually and what is the viewpoint of the journalist.

G.J: What can you say about the Georgian juridical system?

I.J: It is a part of the Georgian life, and European countries and European Union (Czech Republic being its member), pay great attention to it.  It’s extremely important that juridical system is clear, fair and transparent; and  that it permanently develops. I think that in this respect Georgia has made a big progress in recent years. Sometimes it happens that people forget what the situation was few years ago. It’s not only about the juridical system.  it’s about everything in general. People quickly forget about the past. A big progress has been made here. But, of course, you cannot say that this is the end of the road, that everything is perfect. Life of the country in every aspect is a continuous development, it’s a never-ending process. A progress in juridical system is a process that must be continued. There are the issues that have to be addressed much deeply, but it does not mean that we have to forget what has been done. It’s very important to see the tendency – either for improvement or for regress; and I still think that the tendency for improvement in Georgia prevails. The progress may be slowing down, or accelerating, but you should always keep in mind where the country was and where it stands now and try to push along the right direction.

G.J: What is your opinion about the Georgian penitential system?

I.J: I had read a lot of analysis from independent sources, and they are very critical. Coming here, I had a chance to visit the prisons, some of them are really on a high level, responding to the world standards, some of them are less comfortable, but I know there is a very distinct attempt to move this issue ahead. At the same time, as with the juridical system, there is still much to be done and Georgian Ministry of Legal Assistance and Corrections will have a number of things to do in this respect. It’s necessary to improve health care inside the penitentiary establishments. Quite recently, your Ombudsman Tugushi delivered a speech in connection with the celebration of the Human Rights Day on December 10. He focused on health system inside the penitential system.

G.J: What are your recommendations for the Georgian authorities?

I.J: Very frankly, I am here in the capacity of a diplomat and I am not entitled to give the recommendations through media, but I must tell you frankly that there are so many discussions with Georgian authorities that they of course know our attitude. They understand what our concern is. The exchange of views goes very actively and they are extremely open. We are lucky enough being Czechs in Georgia, as our relations have been so informal and so deep for quite a long time, that we don’t have to ‘play diplomatic games’. Czech Republic in Georgia has a privilege of extremely good relations. It helps being really frank, open and friendly with each other.

G.J: What are the main priorities of the embassy?

I.J: First of all, Czech Republic sees Georgia as an important country on the political map of the world. We support Georgia’s integration into Euro-Atlantic structures and we would like to see Georgia as their member country as soon as possible. This is our main goal for the time-being, and we’re providing proper information and assistance so that your country moves in this direction. In the economy, we feel the same. ‘Energo-pro’ has done a lot of good work here, which we support definitely. Skoda cars have also arrived here, they were chosen my Patrol Police and I know that they are satisfied with them. There are many projects that must be realized in the months and years to come; for instance Tkibuli Coal Mine reconstruction (Imereti region). We have a lot of development assistance projects, be it support of agriculture or health sector. For instance, prevention of cancer. We also support hillside areas; for instance in Tusheti we have provided the population with electricity. They were without it for decades or even longer. It points to our interest in Georgia. We see this country as a very important part of international community as a transit country – because of its very important pipelines. We want to see this country as a third part of this economic international cooperation.

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