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Ergneti market is unsafe?2013-02-04 15:24
In Georgia, they are discussing the feasibility of restoring the Ergneti market that existed not far from Tskhinval in the late 1990's and early 2000's. Experts are noting both the positive and the negative aspects of this decision. Local Georgians welcome the idea, but speak of the need to control the issues of their own security. Will the market in Ergneti, which was one of the largest markets in the South Caucasus, be recovered?
Ergneti market, or rather the area of the village of Ergneti, where the market was located, is very close, just a few hundred meters away from Tskhinval. Today, it vaguely resembles the huge market, one of the largest in the South Caucasus. Today, this place is heaped up with the skeletons of rusted tanks, trash is lying around everywhere.
Ergneti market existed since early 1990's. Particularly active trade was carried out from 1996. Russia imported all kinds of goods, while Georgia exported to Russia mainly agricultural products - tangerines, greens, apples. Georgian state budget got from this business not a penny, but the local population - both the Georgian and Ossetian sides - was happy. They had at least some income. And it was definitely a kind of a bridge between the parties. That time there was no problem to get to Tskhinval or Dzhavu from Tbilisi - just take a taxi. The road was opened in both directions.
Less than a year after of Mikheil Saakashvili and "United National Movement" came to power in 2004, Ergneti market was closed. Officially, this was done due to the fact that this route was used for bringing illicit goods to Georgia, which harmed the Georgian economy. According to the unofficial version, import of products via this way simply passed into other hands - to the then administration of the city of Gori and their patrons from Tbilisi.
"Ergneti market was to get a legal status", political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze told GeorgiaTimes. "We were not to lose those relationships and contacts that existed due to this market. Today it is difficult to restore the market, although I believe that is possible. This is not about the exact copy of Ergneti market of 90's, but about the establishment of a new structure. Regarding the danger of smuggling, this problem may occur in other places, unless there is no appropriate control. This concerns not only Ergneti. Generally, in Georgia there are no actively used free economic zone, and they could help in solving many problems, including conflicts", said Sakvarelidze.
But economists are more cautious in their assessments. Economic expert Alexander Tvalchrelidze says that possible recovery of Ergneti market has many advantages, as well as many negative elements. "This is a very complex issue that requires careful approach", Tvalchrelidze said in an interview to GeorgiaTimes. "In the event of recovery, there is a danger of an increase of the smuggling of weapons and drugs. I believe that it is possible to implement other joint projects, such as development of the lead mine in Kvaisi, the development of Java mineral water. So these issues require an integrated approach", said Tvalchrelidze.
Residents of the village of Ergneti are cautious in their assessments too. Manana Mchedlishvili traded at Ergneti market from 1996. Her home is the last before the checkpoint of the Russian border guards. She says if they decide to restore the market, it is necessary to think about the security of the local population, since this may lead to an increase in crime. Such is the opinion of almost all local residents who remember Ergneti market of the late 1990's.