Parliament Weekly: February 25 – March 3

Soviet Occupation marked-Sexual harassment laws to tighten - Parliament concerned by ethnic Georgians in Azerbaijan - Disinformation group chats with experts - TBC boss not allowed to testify - Is distorting maps a crime? - National Security Council bill moves ahead - More MPs leave GDDG - Opposition proposes tax breaks to small business - Visits

The Day of Soviet Occupation Marked

Flags were flying half-mast on Government buildings in Georgia on February 25, as the country observed the day when the Bolshevik’s Red Army entered Tbilisi on this day 98 years ago. President Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, and members of the parliamentary majority laid wreath at the memorial of Georgian cadets killed during the defense of Tbilisi in February, 1921.

Committee hearings

  • Sexual harassment bill clears the European Integration Committee

On February 25, the European Integration Committee discussed a legislative proposal initiated by seven Georgian Dream lawmakers, among them Tamar Chugoshvili, Tamar Khulordava and Dimitri Tskitishvili, regulating the issue of sexual harassment in labor relations.

According to the proposal, sexual harassment of an individual in public places is punishable by fine in amount of GEL 300; committing such action against a minor, pregnant woman, helpless person or a person with disabilities, or in the presence of a minor – will result in fine in amount of GEL 500 to 800. GEL 800-1000 fine will be imposed for repeat offense in aggravating circumstances. The committee endorsed the initiative.

  • Conditions of ethnic Georgians living in Azerbaijan discussed

On February 26, the Committees for Diaspora and Caucasus Issues, and for Education, Science and Culture held a joint session to discuss the problems of ethnic Georgians living in Azerbaijan and the ways of addressing them.

According to the Georgian Parliament’s press office, MPs discussed the ways for allowing ethnic Georgian population of Azerbaijan to maintenance their cultural identity, and specifically addressed the restoration of Georgian Culture Center in Kakhi region, as well as establishment of Georgian schools and inclusion of Georgian language in the syllabuses in Azerbaijan.

MP Mariam Jashi, chairperson of the Education, Science and Culture Committee, said at the session that “we are offering more substantial benefits to Azerbaijani citizens of Georgia [than Azerbaijan does to its ethnic Georgian citizens],” and “the rights of the [ethnic] Georgians living in Azerbaijan in education, as well as social services should be brought to the same level [as those of the Georgian citizens of Azerbaijani descent].”

These remarks were strongly criticized by Georgian civil society organizations.

  • Meetings of the Thematic Inquiry Group on Disinformation and Propaganda

On February 25, the Thematic Inquiry Group on Disinformation and Propaganda held its first working meeting.

The group consisting of eight lawmakers will analyze disinformation and propaganda challenges facing the country and submit a conclusion and recommendations to the Foreign Affairs Committee.

On March 1, the Thematic Inquiry Group on Disinformation and Propaganda with the Irish experts, whose visit was supported by the Westminster Fund for Democracy (WFD). According to the Parliament’s press office, the guests shared their own experience about the mechanisms of collecting, processing and analyzing information.

  • Committee hearing on TBC Bank ends without deliberations

On February 26, the Parliament’s Sector Economy and Economic Policy Committee convened to deliberate on the TBC bank case, but the hearing ended without case-related discussions. The President of the National Bank of Georgia, Koba Gvenetadze, who was to deliver a report to the Committee members, said he did not consider it reasonable to speak on the issue publicly, implying that he would not answer the politicians’ questions. Former Chairman of the bank’s Supervisory Board and his deputy, Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze, respectively, were present in the chamber as well, but could not take the floor.

  • Georgian map distortion to become punishable?

On February 26, the Legal Issues Committee discussed in its first reading the Bill on Making Amendments to the Criminal Code of Georgia, according to which distortion of the Georgian maps will become punishable.

According to the bill, “preparation, production, promotion, application, import, transportation, export, realization of the electronic or printed map of Georgia reflecting violation of the principle of territorial integrity of Georgia in view of distribution of misleading information about territorial integrity of Georgia shall be subject to the penalty or detention for a term of up to 2 years.”

  • Bill on National Security Policy Planning and Coordination in second reading

On February 28, the Defense and Security Committee discussed with its second reading the Bill on National Security Policy Planning and Coordination submitted by the Government’s Parliamentary Secretary, Natia Mikeladze. During the committee session, MPs from opposition factions again pushed the issue of the President’s involvement in the National Security Council; however, Irakli Sesiashvili, chair of the Defense and Security Committee explained that since the NSC is a consultative body at the Prime Minister, the President cannot be engaged in capacity of a permanent member.

More lawmakers quit GDDG

MP Gedevan Popkhadze said at a press briefing on February 25 that he would quit the ruling Georgian Dream party. Later on February 27, MP Zviad Kvachantiradze, chairman of the Diaspora and Caucasus Issues Committee, also announced his decision to quit the ruling party.


The Chairman of the Parliament

  • On February 25-26, Georgian Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze paid a working visit to Austria and held his first meeting with the Federal Minister of Justice, Reforms and Regulation, Josef Moser. The parties discussed the current political and economic relations between the two countries, according to the Parliament’s press office.
  • On February 25, Irakli Kobakhidze met with the President of the National Council of Austria, Wolfgang Sobotka and discussed the issues of deepening cooperation in bilateral and multilateral formats. Later, he also met with the President of the Federal Council of Austria, Ingo Appé, and the Chair of the Finance Committee of the National Council of Austria, member of Austria-Georgia Friendship Group, Karlheinz Kopf.
  • On February 26, Kobakhidze met with Secretary General of the Ministry of Interior of Austria, Peter Goldgruber. Later on the same day, the Georgian Parliament Speaker held talks with OSCE Secretary General, Thomas Greminger. According to the Parliament’s press office, the parties discussed Georgia-OSCE cooperation and the situation in the occupied regions of Georgia, as well as the importance of Geneva International Discussions and OSCE engagement in the process of peaceful resolution of conflicts.
  • On February 27, Parliament Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze left for Warsaw, where he addressed the inaugural plenary session of the Polish-Georgian Parliamentary Assembly.
  • On February 28, Kobakhidze met with the OSCE/ODIHR Director, Ingibjörg Gísladóttir. The parties discussed the electoral law and OSCE/ODIHR recommendations, expressing commitment for close cooperation in view of fulfillment of the recommendations.

Other visits

  • On February 26, First Vice Speaker and the Chair of the Gender Equality Council, Tamar Chugoshvili paid a working visit to Belgium and delivered a speech at the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. According to the Parliament’s press office, Chugoshvili focused on five key aspects: domestic violence and violence against women; discrimination and sexual harassment; women’s political participation; women’s economic empowerment and current gender equality institutional mechanisms in Georgia.
  • On February 25, Georgian MP Ramaz Nikolaishvili visited Moldova to observe the parliamentary elections there.

Local meetings

  • On February 26, upon the initiative of Guram Macharashvili, majoritarian MP from Lagodekhi and Kvareli single mandate constituency and member of the Georgian Dream – for Development of Regions faction, members of the Lagodekhi Municipality City Council visited the Parliament of Georgia. According to the Parliament’s press office, the meeting was dedicated to novelties and challenges in self-government.
  • On February 27, MPs Eka Beselia and Gedevan Popkhadze met with the representatives of international organizations, trade unions and NGOs to discuss judicial reform.
  • On March 1, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sophio Katsarava met with the President’s Parliamentary Secretary, Dimitri Gabunia. The parties discussed cooperation between the Committee and the President’s Administration and agreed to work actively to intensify effective communication and coordination.

Roman Gotsiridze’s news briefing

Speaking at a news briefing on February 25, MP Roman Gotsiridze of the United National Movement, unveiled his legislative proposal on introducing tax privileges for small entrepreneurs.

He explained that all legal entities or natural persons, whose incomes are less than GEL 100,000, do not pay VAT; according to his legislative proposal, this limit will increase up to GEL 165,000. If approved, the bill will enter into force on January 1, 2020. The proposal was not supported by the Sector Economy and Economic Policy Committee on February 25.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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