Georgia – Italy; Khinkali - Ravioli, Khachapuri - Pizza
23 February, 2012
Georgia – Italy; Khinkali - Ravioli, Khachapuri - Pizza

Exclusive Interview with the Ambassador of Italy in Georgia

Italy is one of the most beautiful countries with ancient and extremely rich cultural heritage. Georgian Journal met with H.E. Mrs. Federica Favi, Ambassador of Italian Republic in Georgia who talked about the similarities between two nations in terms of  cuisine, affection to culture and even politics... 

 

G.J:  When did you arrive in Georgia?

F.F: I arrived here last September. After a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, on  September 16  I presented

my  credentials to President Saakashvili. Since that moment I officially became the Ambassador of Italy to Georgia. Before that I visited Georgia last Spring for a few days in order to get the first impression about the country.

G.J: What were your first impressions in Georgia?

F.F: I was really amazed by the beauty and the life of this country. I immediately felt at home. I believe that the slogan created for this Capital  (“Tbilisi - the city that loves you”) is really appropriate.

G.J: What can you say about this country in general as a person and not as a diplomat?

F.F: I am truly impressed by the sense of hospitality of the people. I knew it was characteristic of Georgians, but I did not expect such a friendly and easy environment in the contacts at all levels of Georgian society. Believe me, such a feeling is a great help when you work in a foreign country. I also find many other features that are in common with Italy: love for culture, music, nice food and good wines, family - which make things easier.

G.J: What can you say about Georgian cuisine?

F.F: It is impossible not to fall in love with Georgian cuisine; it is not only a gastronomic but also a cultural experience. Attending a Georgian ‘supra’ is like starting a trip back in time in European inner traditions. I would qualify Georgian food as part of the larger Mediterranean family: apart from the use of olive oil, there are many traits in common with Italian food: Khinkhali and Ravioli, Khachapuri and Pizza, Patrigiani (otherwise  – badrijani, i.e. eggplant) and Parmigiana di melanzane. I’d better stop here; I am starting to feel hungry…

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

F.F: For a newcomer who does not speak the national language, the most immediate impact is the one connected with music and ballet. Some prominent Italians have told me there is hardly  any people in the world who can measure up to with Georgians in terms of percentage of skilled musicians, singers, and dancers compared with overall population of other countries . I can confirm that the level of artists and performers of what I have seen so far is extremely high. This includes, of course, Georgian National Ballet.

G.J: Who is your favourite Georgian artist/writer?

F.F: It is still a bit early for me to voice an authoritative judgment, given that Georgia has such a rich body of artists and talented people as I’ve already said. To say nothing of (as we say in Italian, “mostri sacri”) Shota Rustaveli, you might be a bit surprised if I name Anita Rachvelishvili, a young but outstanding mezzo-soprano who was awarded a scholarship some years ago by our Embassy, and who after studying in Italy for some time became a true international star. I like her as an artist and I love her life story. She was really wonderful in performing Carmen at the opening of La Scala season in 2009 in Milan. I like recalling this example, because it shows what is the potential of developing cultural relations between Italy and Georgia. It is the sphere to which the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our Embassy are very committed.

G.J: Let’s talk about Georgian political culture. What are its main drawbacks and how would your recommendations sound?

F. F: Like its cuisine, Georgian politics looks quite... Mediterranean. One can easily feel how politics here is driven not only by reason but also by passion. Generally speaking, this is positive, as far as political competition among political forces remains fair and as long as it is conducted only by legitimate means. Although political leaders are often quite outspoken about their rivals; we do not systematically see public debates about different proposals about solving specific problems or facing concrete challenges. I am confident that this will come with improved awareness of public opinion and increased participation of civil society in the political processes.

G. J: What is your opinion about the Georgian media? What are its week points?

F.F: The situation of media in Georgia is constantly under the scrutiny of the international community, especially of International Organisations, such as the Council of Europe. It is no secret that there is still large room for improvements in terms of increased pluralism and more clarity on issues such as media ownership and a more competitive market in the field of advertising. Some recent reforms in these directions may bring positive results. In some specific cases, lack of professionalism and independence on the part of journalists can also be a problem. It goes without saying that an adequate media environment will be crucial in the context of next parliamentary and presidential elections.

G.J:  What can you say about Georgian judicial authorities?

F.F: In the recent past we have witnessed a wave of reforms aiming at the development of an independent judiciary system, such as the approval of the new Code of Criminal Procedure, which is now under scrutiny for further re-drafting. Still, the feedback at my disposal indicates that in this field there is some room for improvements, if the ultimate aim of Georgia is to achieve the standards of the European Union Member States. As in the case of media, International Organisations such as the Council of Europe and the United Nations’ relevant bodies are in a better position than individual countries to say to what extent the progress has been reached. Surely, Georgia can rely on a long list of friends, including Italy, in case it wishes to exchange experiences and compare problems and possible solutions.

G.J: Please, say a few words about the Georgian penitentiary system.

F.F: So far I did not have a chance to visit any penitentiary in Georgia. I know that some improvements have taken place; especially in the case of some new correctional facilities. Of course, the high number of convicted people in Georgia – which is one of the highest in the world per capita – does not help when it comes to providing them with better life conditions, and in some cases the situation can be extremely hard. In 2012 we should see the implementation of the Prison Healthcare Strategy. In this sector almost all countries, Italy included, face challenges and difficulties.

G.J: Last but not least, what should the Georgian authorities do first and foremost in order to set the development of the country in the right direction?

F.F: I think Georgians themselves know better than anyone else what the right things are to be done in order to develop their country. Foreign observers can offer some ideas, but only if you are the native of this country can you be really aware of what kind of constraints any good project may face. Seen from the outside, the most obvious thing to do would be sparing no efforts towards a peaceful solution of the existing conflicts. Everybody can see how having two territories cut away from the rest of the country seriously hinders the development of Georgia as a whole. This is not only linked to the dramatic conditions of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons which reside in Georgia today, but also to the perception of instability which is very difficult to eradicate outside Georgia, and which constitutes a serious obstacle for the development of sectors such as foreign investments and tourism. On the other hand, the existence of two conflicts must not become an alibi for evading shortening of the gap to European standards in different fields, and Georgia is doing its best in that direction.

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