Nice sponsor

So I met them at the conference I was at in Athens in May and they said, can you speak at a conference for us in Serbia mid-July? and I said, sure.

But they called and said the July date was off. Then they called again last week and said, could I do Montenegro, last week of September? And I said yes, but I was planning to go to a science fiction convention that weekend, so I couldn’t stay for the whole thing.

Then I thought again and emailed them and said, if it’s that big a deal, is there any problem with my asing a speaker’s fee? And they said, well we can’t quite do that, but we can fly you to Dublin from Montenegro and back to Brussels at our expense after you’ve spoken at our conference.

It’s a deal.

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Serbia report finally published; Bosnia report going out today; Moldova report undergoing final editing by me; only three others to do before going on holiday in eleven, count them, eleven days.

Can’t come soon enough.

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Look, when I said I wanted the damn thing trimmed from 100 pages to 50 pages before I started editing it, I did not mean that it was OK for you to increase it to 120 pages before demanding that I devote the next week to cleaning it up. Why is this difficult for you to understand?

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More Georgia

At the French Embassy reception for Bastille Day on Monday I bumped into my old friend Pete. I knew him in Bosnia five years ago where he had a variety of jobs in the international community and fell in love with my landlady’s daughter. (Lots of people fell in love with her, but she didn’t reciprocate.) Then last November when I went back to Bosnia for a weekend I saw Pete again, also back for the weekend. The landlady’s daughter was away, studying in London. But on Monday Pete looked blissfully happy with a Georgian lady on his arm, who he hopes to persuade to come back to the UK with him in the winter. Good for him.

My work email is completely screwed. The systems guys were migrating to a new system over the weekend but one of the consequences seems to be that I can’t read it from out of the office as I normally can. Apparently yesterday afternoon there were 260 unread messages waiting for me. I bet it will be 400 by the time I get back tomorrow.

Great exchange of the day yesterday:

Me: So what can you tell us about the peace process in South Ossetia?
Senior international official: Apart from the fact that we have achieved nothing since April 2000?

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I was talking to a young American colleague last week before coming out to Tbilisi. He asked me casually if Eduard Shevardnadze had been at all well known in international politics before he became President of Georgia.


I mean, he is a bright kid, has done a degree in political science and is doing a master’s in international relations. But it brought home to me forcefuilly something I first realised back in 1989; that some day I will be telling my children what Communism *was*.

Apart from that, Georgia is charming, and a little threatening. Most memorable exchange yesterday:

Me: Aren’t you a little worried by the apparent climate of political violence in this country?
Senior government official: What do you mean? I have no such information about political violence.

Shades of Claude Rains: “I am shocked! shocked! to discover that gambling going on in here!”

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Going to Georgia for the first time in my life on Sunday, and I’ve been trying to learn the alphabet. საკართველო is sakartvelo, meaning “Georgia”. შევარდნაძე is Shevardnadze.

I think it will be a long haul.

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Latest from the battle-front

Thanks to for linking to the previous entry! Our man got a fax from the Interior Ministry this afternoon saying that his visa has been extended for a year. So all is well. Apart from my toe which is still throbbing.

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Ow ow ow

I just had an ingrowing toenail out. A minor problem for years, and then it flared up again last week, so I went in to the local hospital (same one where U was born) on Thursday afternoon for a bit of surgery. I was looking forward to a day of sitting quietly at home with my throbbing foot up on Friday. But it was not to be.

Just as I was setting off to get my toe done, I got a call from my head of office in Belgrade. I began by reassuring him that I was sending him my revisions to his latest draft report on the dodgy activities of the new Serbian government. He then informed me that the Interior Ministry had just given him three days to leave the country; his application to renew his visa and work permit had been rejected because he is the subject of an investigation by the secret police. We were not particularly surprised by the last bit but it was the first time we'd had it officially confirmed.

We pulled out all the stops of course, and the manoeuvre I was most pleased with was one I pulled off by remote control. The Interior Minister is the leader of a small political party which was actually applying to join the European Liberal grouping at a meeting in London yesterday. I primed the former and current leaders of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland with the news, and they forced the Minister to make a public commitment in front of all the European Liberal party leaders that he would rescind the decision.

Though this had not yet been formally notified to our man in Belgrade by close of play last night, I now feel fairly confident that we'll get it reversed and he can stay. The Serbian Prime Minister went on TV last night to say that it was a simple administrative error, that our man had been registered as the head of a business not an NGO, and he was sure it could all be sorted out. Of course the bit about his being registered as a businessman was not true; but let us charitably assume that the Prime Minister was misinformed and not just making things up to save face.

Meantime my foot had been throbbing away all day. And I am planning a quiet Saturday, to make up for the quiet Friday I should have had yesterday and missed.

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