General Ben Hodges: Georgian government makes the same mistake with the New Digital Corridor as it did with the Anaklia project
General Ben Hodges, former commanding general of the United States Army in Europe writes about the development of the new digital corridor between Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia.
In a post on his Twitter account, Hodges said that the Georgian government is making the same mistakes with the new digital corridor as it did with the Anaklia port project.
Disappointing to see @GovernmentGeo making the same mistakes from the #Anaklia Project again w/ the #Digital route between #Europe & #Asia. I urge the GNCC to prioritize what’s best for Georgia & respect the country's digital independence from #Russia https://t.co/hE6GfA0Ky9— Ben Hodges (@general_ben) August 19, 2020
In a Tweet, Ben Hodges has shared a Forbes Georgia article about this project. In the article, former US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker points out that becoming the member of a new unified fiber optic corridor should be in the interests of Georgia, because it can decrease the country's digital dependency on Russia. As Kurt Volker told Forbes Georgia, new regulations imposed in the communications sector have the potential to damage the country's investment climate. According to Volker, there is an assessment that the purpose of the adoption of new law was to sanction a "Caucasus Online", who’s new shareholder, NEQSOL Holding plans to create a new digital route that will connect Europe with Central Asia.
“Disappointing to see Georgian government making the same mistakes from the Anaklia Project again with the Digital route between Europe & Asia. I urge the GNCC to prioritize what’s best for Georgia & respect the country's digital independence from Russia,”- Hodges tweeted.
Caucasus Online and the new digital route initiative:
In 2019 one of the largest private holdings of Azerbaijan, NEQSOL acquired Caucasus Online and paid $61 million. This deal was followed by a sharp response from the Georgian Communications Commission and the government. The commission indicated that the deal was not pre-arranged with them, which should have resulted in a tough sanction for Caucasus Online.
However, according to the representatives of NEQSOL Holding, they have kept Georgian government fully informed about their plans prior to the deal and got blessings for the transaction.
This case was one of the reasons why Georgian Parliament amended the law and set the new regulations for the communications companies. The private sector was opposing the changes, and as a result of tense hearings in Georgian Parliament, the draft was amended and the rights of special administration that Communications Commission can appoint in the companies was reduced.
The dispute between NEQSOL and Georgian communications regulator has not been solved yet, and NEQSOL Holding with support of the leading international law firms has already launched preparations for international arbitration.