Georgia: Sex and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
Always with an eye out for international investment, Georgia had a national cringe moment last week when one lawmaker confused the acronym for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) with a crude Russian word for sex, telling a startled parliament that he “could never screw around” ["could never do the EBRD"] since he is “a faithful husband.”
Fifty-eight-year-old Soso Jachvliani, a Georgian film-star-turned-legislator, decided to make a clean breast of it in response to accusations that his majoritarian Georgian Dream bloc is nostalgic for the Soviet era, when some Georgian men traveled on cheap flights to Moscow for informal sex tours. The parliamentary opposition, the United National Movement Party, routinely accuses the Georgian Dream of flirting with Russia, and Mr. Jachvliani took it quite literally.
“I have never been to prostitutes,” he declared on July 22 to the assembly. “It was demeaning for me to pay 10 rubles [apparently, the Soviet-era prostitute rate]. I have handled those matters without the 10-ruble thing.”
“For your information,” Jachvliani went on, warming to the subject, “if there was any pretty lady in the Soviet cinema, I have had a relationship with all of them without paying those 10 rubles.”
In vain did Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Manana Kobakidze, a fellow member of the Georgian Dream bloc, try to stop this stream of consciousness. “Batono [Mr.] Soso, I beg you, this is parliament,” she began.
But Jachvliani had another accusation to parry. Earlier on, a member of the rival United National Movement, Eka Kherkheulidze, accused him of absenteeism. Kherkheulidze mockingly joked that Jachvliani, a regular source of entertaining or embarrassing gaffes, must have skipped parliament to attend meetings with a visiting delegation from the EBRD.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has an investment portfolio of over 2.29 billion euros ($2.5 billion) in the country, mainly in energy, financial institutions and infrastructure, but the only thing that Jachvliani picked out from Kherkheulidze’s comment was a remote phonetic resemblance between the acronym EBRD and a Russian obscenity for having sex.
“Ms. Kherkheulidze has tried to destroy my family,” he asserted, reading from a prepared text. In fact, Jachvliani observed, it was the United National Movement who “screwed around” (word for word, “was doing the EBRD”) all the time when they were in power.
Kherkheulidze, never wary of a fight, listened in bewilderment.
With his anti-EBRD diatribe, Jachvliani, who hails from the mountains of Svaneti, Georgia’s, and perhaps Europe’s, highest inhabited area, did little for his native region, whose inhabitants often are subject to light-bulb jokes in Georgia. He also incurred the wrath of Georgia’s small but vibrant feminist groups for his sexist comments.
News presenters are now having a hard time keeping a straight face when reporting on EBRD activity.
Even First Deputy Prime Minister Kakha Kaladze has struggled, saying, with a chuckle, when asked on Imedi TV about Georgia’s relationship with the EBRD, that “I am not that kind.”
Jachvliani, however, is not the only MP with a fuzzy grasp of international projects. Imedi this weekend quizzed a string of deputies in parliament about the meaning of MAP and Nabucco, as well as EBRD. Not all were pleased to give answers.
Jachvliani later tried to make light of his mistake, telling Imedi that, thanks to him, now everybody knows what EBRD means. The Bank, he joked, owes him for the PR -- a million dollars, "minimum."
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
Sign up for Eurasianet's free weekly newsletter.