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Parliament Weekly: March 18-22

Committee hearings

  • Education, Science and Culture Committee

On March 18, the Parliament’s Education, Science and Culture Committee discussed the amendments to the Law on General Education initiated by the majority, including MP Mariam Jashi, chair of the committee on education, science and culture . According to the amendments, use of the school primer created by the Georgian educator Iakob Gogebashvili and first published in 1876 will be prioritized by legislation. The proposal was hotly debated, and it is to be voted on in the committee during the coming week.

The committee also deliberated on the initiative proposed by MP Gia Zhorzholiani, which extend the right to postpone military conscription to the students of vocational training institutions.

The amendments initiated by MP Emzar Kvitsiani on development of mountainous regions were also discussed at the committee sitting. The lawmaker noted, that the intent of the proposal was to halt the process of migration from the mountainous regions and improve well-being, as well as social and economic conditions of the local population. The MPs supported the provisions the bill, envisaging increase in salaries of teachers working in mountainous regions.

The lawmakers also deliberated on the Bill on Countering Crime against Sexual Freedom and Inviolability presented by Deputy Interior Minister Natia Mezvrishvili. She explained that the persons convicted for committing sexual crimes against both minors and adults will be prohibited from working in educational institutions.

  • European Integration Committee

On March 18, the Parliament’s European Integration Committee has endorsed the Forest Code of Georgia and 22 associated bills and amendments.

The package was presented by Deputy Agriculture Minister, Nino Tandilashvili, who said the amendments which were in works for the past four years represent “yet another step towards the fulfillment of obligations under the Association Agreement” linked to sustainable management of forests.

“The Forest Code is a voluminous draft and it involves all the aspects of forest management. A number of issues which were previously omitted by the legislation will now be regulated,” she added, noting the importance of both preserving country’s forests and allowing for their exploitation based on explicit standards and rules.

  • Legal Issues Committee

On March 18, the Legal Issues Committee deliberated on the Bill on Common Courts initiated by the majority lawmakers. The package of legislative amendments was presented by Chairman of the Legal Issues Committee, Anri Okhanashvili. “The main essence of the bill is to ensure unprecedented transparency of the process to ensure public monitoring on the process as much as possible.”

Representatives of civil society organizations, who also attended the committee sitting, slammed the bill as “tailored to serve the clannish interests” of politically connected judges. The same position was expressed by the parliamentary opposition. Despite strong criticism, the committee has endorsed the bill to be reviewed during the plenary session.

  • Sector Economy and Economic Policy Committee

On March 18, the Sector Economy and Economic Policy Committee deliberated on and endorsed the bill on ownership of agricultural land, presented by Chairman of the Agrarian Issues Committee, Otar Danelia. He said that the bill defines the principles of property rights on agricultural land and regulates mechanisms for transfer of land ownership. MP Danelia said the land is “a national treasure of Georgia, endowed with special political, economic, social and cultural value for meeting state objectives and realisation of basic human rights.” Since it is a finite resource, MP stated there is a need for clearly defining the rules ensuring citizens’ access for land ownership.

The committee also discussed a legislative proposal submitted by MP Akaki Bobokhidze of European Georgia – Regions faction foreseeing amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses of Georgia. The amendments would defer till 2025 the obligation to pass technical control of the motor vehicles for those citizens that use local roads only. MP Bobokhidze explained, this proposal is aimed at protecting farmers from extra costs linked with technical controls.

MP Gia Zhorzholiani presented a package of amendments to the Law on Economic Freedom, formulating paragraph 5, Article 1 of the law as follows: “Tax methodology or taxation regime may not become a subject of referendum.” He explained, that this amendment is required to make operational the Constitutional provision that prohibits levying higher rates of the state taxes (except excise tax) without a referendum.

  • Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Committee

On March 18, the Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Committee heard the report by the National Environmental Agency at the Ministry of Environmental Protection on its performance in 2018 and the action plan for 2019. Representatives of local civil society organizations also attended the committee sitting.

  • Healthcare and Social Issues Committee

The Healthcare and Social Issues Committee discussed and rejected the bill on Accumulative Pension initiated by European Georgia and presented by MP Zurab Chiaberashvili. The proposal differs fundamentally from the current law, by making participation in the pension scheme voluntary, rather than obligatory. MP Chiaberashvili said that the proposal is also more sensitive to the needs of vulnerable citizens, as it allows citizens with lower incomes, to accumulate higher share of pension payments. According to European Georgia, their system is also foreseeing lighter burden on the budget and does not shift taxation burden on employers.

The lawmakers also deliberated on the Bill on Countering Crime against Sexual Freedom and Inviolability presented by Deputy Interior Minister Natia Mezvrishvili.

  • Joint Sitting of the Committees on European Integration and on Healthcare and Social Issues

On March 18, Tamila Barkalaia, Deputy Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, reported to the committees on European integration and on healthcare and social issues, speaking about employment, social policy and equal opportunities, as well as EU Association Agenda implementation action plan for 2018.

Plenary sessions

On March 19, the Parliament’s plenary session was opened with political statements. The lawmakers discussed the issue of dismissal of Chair of the Diaspora Committee, Zviad Kvachantiradze.

The proposal by ruling party was unexpectedly voted down, as only 67 lawmakers voted in favor. After the plenary resumed following a break, MP Zviad Kvachantiradze filed for resignation himself.

The lawmakers also discussed the bill on amendments to the Law on Common Courts initiated by European Georgia and the ruling majority. On March 20, the Parliament endorsed the bill initiated by the ruling party.

Ministers on the Floor

On March 20, Minister of Justice, Tea Tsulukiani reported to the Parliament. The hearing lasted for two days and it triggered heated debates between the opposition and the minister.

On March 21, Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure, Maia Tskitishvili also reported to the Parliament on the Anaklia deep sea port construction. In her speech, the minister focused on non-fulfillment and postponement of obligations by the Anaklia Deep Sea Port Consortium. She also noted that it is a common desire of the government to complete the Anaklia port project successfully.

Prime Minister and Education Minister on the Floor

On March 22, the Parliament of Georgia convened to hear a report from Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze on what the opposition has described as “dramatically increased” crime rates in recent months. This marked the first time the parliament used a procedure of interpellation introduced by the Parliament’s new Rules of Procedure. This is an instrument obliging government officials to respond to lawmakers’ pre-submitted questions from the Parliament rostrum.

In his 13-minute speech, the Prime Minister focused on the crime rate in the country, saying in response to the opposition’s claims that “arguing that there is catastrophic situation in terms of crime, is just not true.” Bakhtadze also noted that the government has changed its approaches to recording crime statistics, making it “more concrete, accurate and transparent”, which  has led to the growth in rates of recorded crimes.

Later on the same day, Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, Mikheil Batiashvili also reported to the Parliament on situation in the country’s education system.

Visits

  • The Georgia-Japan Friendship Group members, Gela Samkharauli, Gocha Enukidze and David Songulashvili attended the Japan-Georgia Business Forum in Tokyo. According to the Parliament’s press office, the forum was attended by 30 Georgian companies. The participants said cordial political relations between the two states must be reflected more on economic relations. On the sidelines of the business forum, the lawmakers also attended an exhibition dedicated to Georgian wine culture and history in Tokyo.
  • Deputy Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Dimitri Tskitishvili held bilateral meetings in Washington as part of his two-day visit to the United States. According to the Parliament’s press office, the meetings were held at the U.S. Congress, Department of State and U.S. Trade Office. Tskitishvili met with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as well as representatives of AFL-CIO and U.S. Solidarity Center.
  • On March 19-21, Secretary General of the Parliament, Givi Mikanadze paid a working visit to Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey and held meetings with his counterparts. According to the Parliament’s press office, the visit aimed at deepening bilateral relations with the NATO member states from the Black Sea region, as well as discussing regional cooperation prospects.

Meetings

  • On March 18, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sophio Katsarava met UNICEF Representative to Georgia, Ghassan Khalil to discuss the UNICEF priorities emphasizing challenges in education sphere and education reforms in Georgia.
  • On March 20, Vice Speaker, Giorgi Volski hosted the Marshal of the Lower Silesia of Poland, Cezary Przybylski and the accompanying delegation. The parties discussed bilateral relations and future cooperation plans, according to the Parliament’s press office.
  • On March 20, Chair of the Health Care and Social Issues Committee, Akaki Zoidze held a farewell meeting with Head of WHO Georgia Office, Marijan Ivanusa. According to the Parliament’s press office, the parties discussed the WHO activities in Georgia and hailed bilateral cooperation as productive.
  • On March 20,  Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sophio Katsarava met with Ambassador of Belgium (with Residence in Baku), H.E. Bert Schoofs to discuss efficiency of the parliamentary oversight and its role in capacity building of the Parliament, close Georgia-EU cooperation and EU integration progress of the country.
  • On March 20, Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, Irakli Kovzanadze met with EBRD Georgia Office Director, Natalia Mouravidze. She presented the EBRD projects and future plans in Georgia.
  • On March 21, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze met with Head of OSCE/ODIHR Observation Mission for the Presidential Elections of 2018, Geert-Hinrich Ahrens and  ODIHR Advisor, Oleksiy Lychkovakh. The parties discussed the recommendations by OSCE/ODIHR Offices regarding the elections and the future plans.
  • On March 21, Chair of the Education, Science and Culture Committee, Mariam Jashi met with UNICEF Georgia Representative, Ghassan Khalil and discussed education reforms. Mariam Jashi noted that UNICEF hails the decision on setting education as Georgia’s key priority in terms of economic development.
  • On March 22, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sophio Katsarava met with Director of the Romanian Diplomatic Institute, Dan Petre and discussed bilateral cooperation.

Other events

  • On March 19, Parliament’s Education, Science and Culture Committee hosted Vladimir Apkhazava, Civic Education teacher at Chibati Public School in Guria region in western Georgia, who was named among top 10 finalists of the Global Teacher Prize 2019. “Lado Apkhazava has become the symbol of success of Georgia educators,” Chair of the Committee, Mariam Jashi said.
  • The Parliament traditionally joined the World Down Syndrome Day on March 21 with a colorful socks campaign.
  • On March 22, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze participated in the conference “Presidential Elections of Georgia of 2018: Lessons Learned and Future Steps.” He again criticized civil society organizations, noting that one of the problems affecting the election environment is “a weak civil society.” He also noted that several CSOs were directly involved in the election campaign.

This post is also available in: Georgian Russian

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