MPs are back in the capital… On February 5, the Parliament renewed its work in the renovated halls of the iconic building on Tbilisi’s Rustaveli avenue. The biggest part of this building (on a title photo) was constructed in 1938, to house the Supreme Soviet of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. It was expanded in 1953, and – notably – acquired its trademark front colonnade.
In 2012 the Parliament moved to the city of Kutaisi in a glass-and-concrete building constructed as a part of the decentralization drive by the previous administration. After coming to power the Georgian Dream Democratic Georgia said the move was both inconvenient and expensive, and pledged to return the chambers to Tbilisi, which was accomplished with passing of the amended Constitution.
…as opposition protests the move: representatives of the opposition protested the relocation of the Parliament from Kutaisi to Tbilisi.
Akaki Bobokhidze of the European Georgia, elected from Kutaisi constituency said the government lied it promised “that the Parliament would not be relocated from Kutaisi to Tbilisi.” Bobokhidze belives that the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia’s (GDDG) “empty promises” are “never kept.”
“Undermining of the state institutions is currently underway in the country and that is expressed in relocating the Parliament from Kutaisi to Tbilisi as well as relocating the Presidential palace from Avlabari to Atoneli Street,” United National Movement’s (UNM) Roman Gotsiridze agreed.
New Rules of Procedure promise more oversight: As envisaged by the new rules of procedure endorsed by the Parliament last December, Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze submitted an annual report on the legislature’s performance and an action plan for the coming session.
“We are meeting the new parliamentary year with increased and more efficient possibilities of parliamentary oversight defined by the new wording of the constitution and the new rules of procedure,” Irakli Kobakhidze said.
Kobakhidze’s address was followed by the speeches of committee chairs, assessing the Speaker’s address and providing brief reports on the performance of their respective committees.
Vice Speaker Tamar Chugoshvili said in her address that “we want the Parliament to be strong and corresponding to the democratic country,” which “first of all it implies its oversight function.” UNM’s Gotsiridze disagreed, noting the Parliament’s role and function is frequently “neglected” in the process of sending questions by MPs to the government members.
Education Minister on the floor: Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, Mikheil Batiashvili reported to the Parliament at the plenary session on February 7, speaking about the planned reforms in education system and unveiling the novelties in the spheres of culture and sport.
Later in the evening the minister appeared before the Education, Science and Culture Committee, answering critical questions from lawmakers, mainly about the death of the director of public school No. 6 in Zugdidi, western Georgia, who – opposition claims – succumbed to pressure exerted over her due to sympathies towards opposition.
… Next in line: Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure, Maia Tskitishvili, was expected to report to the Parliament during the previous session week, but her address was postponed to the next session week.
Reverberations from Pankisi felt: The agenda also envisaged discussion of UNM’s initiative on setting up an interim investigative commission to probe into the case of Temirlan Machalikashvili, a 19-year-old resident of Georgia’s north-eastern Pankisi gorge, who was shot dead during the State Security Service operation in 2017; however, the discussion was postponed for the next session week.
MP Kiladze: “The occupying force tries to erase Georgian trace”
On February 7, Chair of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee, Sopo Kiladze (GDDG) participated in the event organized by the State Agency for Religious Issues, with Kiladze championing the religious rights in the occupied regions.
“Today, the occupying force tries to erase Georgian trace in all the churches and chapels on the occupied territories through vandalism: they destroy Orthodox monuments, icons, frescoes on a daily basis. It is deplorable, when the clergymen of other confessions are admitted to the occupied territories, and Georgian Orthodox Church has no such right,” Kiladze said, pointing out that “along with ethnic discrimination, we witness the discrimination on religious grounds.”
New Chair of Judicial Committee: MP Anri Okhanashvili of GDDG was elected to chair the Legal Issues Committee with 98 votes against 4 on February 5, replacing Eka Beselia, who quit the post last December.
Meetings and visits
- On February 6, European Georgia’s Gorgi Tsereteli, who is also the OSCE PA President, addressed a seminar organized by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. MP Tsereteli travelled to the United States as part of the parliamentary delegation’s working trip.
- On February 8, Chair of the Defense and Security Committee, Irakli Sesiashvili (GDDG) held an introductory meeting with Swedish Ambassador, H.E. Ulrik Tideström.
- On the same day, Sesiashvili met with Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia, Carl Hartzell. The parties stressed the importance of the EUMM performance, with Sesiashvili noting that the activities carried out by the mission in respect of the occupied regions are invaluable.
- On February 8, Tamar Khulordava (GDDG), chair of the European Integration Committee met with Swedish Ambassador, H.E. Ulrik Tideström, focusing on illegal migration and increased number of asylum seekers from Georgia to Sweden during last year.
- On February 8, Mariam Jashi (GDDG), chair of Education, Science and Culture Committee participated in the event marking the 101st anniversary of Tbilisi State University.
- Parliament’s Vice Speaker Ilia Nakashidze met with Director of the International Center for Tobacco Cessation, Martin Raw on February 8, with the latter providing technical assistance in developing the national strategy for tobacco cessation.
- On February 10, the Agrarian Issues Committee held a field session in Kakheti, eastern Georgia, where the committee members discussed the planned legislative initiatives. Committee Chair Otar Danelia presented the draft organic law of Georgia on ownership of agricultural lands, noting that “land is an important asset; it is a matter of national value, national security and it needs correct management.”