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Parliament Weekly: 11-17 February

Solidarity pension flops – opposition wants to end obligatory pensions – Legal Committee gets new deputy – Special group to study disinformation – National Security Policy bill in the works – Economy minister grilled – MP Ethics are a hot topic – Opposition wants proportional polls in 2020 – Meetings, Visits, etc

Solidarity Pension Scheme voted down in Committees

On February 11, the Parliament’s Budget and Finance Committee approved the plan for 2019 and deliberated the amendments to the Law on Accumulative Pension Scheme submitted by MP Beka Natsvlishvili (Georgian Dream/Social Democrats).

Natsvlishvili proposes to create a new pillar of the pension savings, a inter-generational, solidarity saving scheme that will be mandatory for the employed and voluntary for self-employed Georgians. Should the amendments pass, the employers will transfer 2% of pre-tax salary to this scheme, which will be topped up by additional 2% by the state.

The Budget and Finance Committee voted down the initiative. No traction for Natsvlishvili’s initiative at the Sectoral Economy and Economic Policy Committee either.

…while opposition proposes to cut mandatory pension altogether

Speaking at a news briefing on the same day, the opposition European Georgia proposed to cancel the mandatory accumulative pension scheme – approved by the Parliament last summer – and to replace it a voluntary opt-in scheme, with flexible contributions.

Parliament launches inquiry group on disinformation and propaganda

The Foreign Relations Committee set up a Thematic Inquiry Group on Disinformation and Propaganda – the initiative introduced by the Committee’s First Deputy Chair, Nino Goguadze (GDDG).

The Group will study the key problems and challenges related to disinformation and propaganda against Georgia’s interests and is to propose recommendations for the executive.

New First Deputy Chair of Legal Affairs Committee elected

On February 12, MP Davit Matikashvili was elected the First Deputy Chair of Legal Affairs Committee. His candidacy was nominated by the committee chair, Anri Okhanashvili.

Bill on National Security Policy Planning and Coordination passes Committee

On February 13, the Defense and Security Committee discussed the Draft Bill on the Rule of National Security Policy Planning and Coordination submitted by the Government’s Parliamentary Secretary, Natia Mikeladze.

The President-led National Security Council ceased its functions as the new Constitution entered into force, putting the Government of Georgia in charge of national security policy planning and coordination.

The bill foresees a new National Security Council functioning under the Prime Minister,  responsible for national security policy planning and coordination, as well as for advising the Prime Minister on decisions affecting national security and state interests.

This advisory body will be Chaired by the Prime Minister and will have eight permanent members: the Ministers of defense, interior, foreign affairs and finance, heads of state security and intelligence services, and chief of the defense forces. One of the National Security Council members will serve as its Secretary. The committee supported the bill in its first hearing.

Economy Minister on the floor

Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Giorgi Kobulia reported to the Sector Economy and Economic Policy Committee on February 13 on the Action Plan of the Ministry for 2019.

Speaking about the key goals of the country’s economic development strategy, the Minister noted that his agency focuses on three main directions: creation of new jobs, export potential and innovation and technology development.

Minister Kobulia named poverty as one of the key challenges facing the country, noting that additional 50-70 thousand jobs should be created to overcome poverty by 2025.

Opposition lawmakers asked the Minister critical questions, mainly related to pension reform, poverty reduction and regarding the terms of planned agreement with Russian energy giant Gazprom on gas transportation.

The opposition MPs offered the Minister to report to the Parliament’s Confidence Group on the terms of the planned agreement with Gazprom in a closed session. Kobulia agreed, noting that the talks on gas transit with Russia will be finalized in late February.

Ethics on top

On February 15, the Committee on Procedural Issues and Rules discussed the legislative initiative on the Code of Ethics of the Members of the Georgian Parliament, as well as on establishing the Council of Ethics.

The Code of Ethics defines the rules of conduct for MPs, according to which the MPs are prohibited from using their status to serve personal or family interests, as well as from receiving any gifts. In addition, they should not discriminate or distinguish their staff members on racial, ethnic, gender, religious or other grounds.

The same code prohibits MPs from making degrading, sexist, discriminatory statements and sanctions the use of hate speech.

A 16-member Council of Ethics will get involved in case the Code of Conduct is violated. The draft decision does not show, who would sit on this proposed Council.

Opposition wants proportional polls

Later on the same day, a group of MPs underwent registration to initiate revision of the Constitutional Law, which – according to the Constitution – requires collection of 200 thousand citizens’ signatures. The group proposes to revise the Constitution, so that the elections in 2020 are held through fully proportional system, rather than a mixed one. According to the law currently in force, the fully proportional system is to enter into force in 2024.

Meetings

  • On February 11, Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze participated in the International Conference “Role of the Parliament in Security Sector”.
  • On February 11, Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze met with the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Minister of Foreign Relations and European Affairs of Slovakia, Miroslav Lajčák. The parties discussed Georgia-OSCE cooperation, as well as Russia’s occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region and the current situation in the occupied regions.
  • On February 12, Chair of the Defense and Security Committee, Irakli Sesiashvili met with the Political/Economic Chief, Elizabeth Zentos and introduced the Bill on the Rule of National Security Policy Planning and Coordination.
  • On February 13, Chair of the EU Integration Committee, Tamar Khulordava participated in a disscussion of the civil society report on implementation of EUAA agenda for 2017-2020.
  • On February 13, First Vice Speaker and Chair of the Gender Equality Council, Tamar Chugoshvili met with the participants of the project Women Empowerment Network – WEN to speak about the main directions of the Gender Equality Council (GEC). Speaking about the GEC legislative activity, she emphasized domestic violence, sexual abuse, women participation in politics and economic empowerment of women. Chugoshvili noted that the Parliament will soon debate the Bill on Sexual Abuse and will re-initiate the Bill on mandatory gender quotas for the proportional MP party lists.
  • On February 14, Chair of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee, Sophio Kiladze held a working meeting with NGOs to discuss the draft Code of Children’s Rights. The draft code was developed with the support of UNICEF.
  • On February 14, Chair of the Defense and Security Committee, Irakli Sesiashvili met Deputy Defense Minister, Nukri Gelashvili and discussed a working version of the draft Code of Defense aimed to unify the defense-related laws .
  • On February 14, the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee and UNHCR held a joint information session on “State of the IDPs, Refugees and Asylum-seekers in Georgia”.
  • On February 15, First Vice Speaker, Tamar Chugoshvili met with the new Head of GIZ Georgia Bureau, Carl Friedrich Taestensen to discuss Parliament-GIZ cooperation in various directions.

Visits

  • On February 12, the parliamentary delegation led by Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sophio Katsarava paid an official visit to Romania. The first meeting was held with the Chairs of the Foreign Relations Committees of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. The parties discussed political and economic cooperation between Georgia and Romania.
  • On February 12-14, Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze visited Turkey and met with his counterpart, Binali Yildirim, as well Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
  • On February 15, the Georgian parliamentary delegation led by MP Archil Talakvadze, leader of the parliamentary majority group, visited Kuwait and met with Prime Minister, Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah and Speaker of the National Assembly, Marzouq Al-Ghanim. According to the Parliament’s press office, the parties discussed bilateral trade and economic relations, as well as tourism issues and investment opportunities.

Field sessions

  • On February 13-15, the Education, Science and Culture Committee held a field session in Borjomi with the support of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), where the committee members approved the action plan for 2019.

This post is also available in: Georgian Russian

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