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Parliament Weekly: April 15-19

Courts rules forced through - Tougher sanctions against sexual harassment pondered - Legal labour migration in Europe - Meetings and visits

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Parliamentary Bureau hearing

The Bureau meeting was held on 16 April to decide the agenda of 16-19 April plenary meetings. MPs agreed to discuss the “Children’s Rights Code” in its first reading during the session.

Public Defender, who attended the Bureau meeting, requested permission to address the chamber regarding the rule of selection of the Supreme Court judges, in accordance with the new rules of procedure.

Committee hearings

  • Diaspora and Caucasus Issues Committee

On April 15, the Diaspora and Caucasus Issues Committee discussed the issues of labor, legal migration of Georgian citizens and the challenges related to these issues.

According to the Parliament’s press office, International Organizations for Migration (IOM) Georgia National Programme Officer, Natia Kvitsiani briefed the committee members on temporary legal employment of Georgian citizens abroad within the framework of IOM programmes.

She focused on the pilot program implemented in Poland in partnership with the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia. She noted that Poland has a special labor migration regime with Georgia.

“51 migrants have already found jobs in Poland and intensive work is underway with the French government on implementing similar project there,” Natia Kvitsiani added.

  • Legal Issues Committee

On April 15, the Legal Issues Committee discussed the legislative amendments to the Law of Georgia on Common Courts in second hearing. The opposition offered to postpone the deliberations until the Venice Commission released its opinion, but the parliamentary majority rejected the proposal. Representatives of local civil society organizations also attended the committee hearing. Several independent lawmakers, as well as Head of Georgian Young Lawyers Association, Sulkhan Saladze walked out as a sign of protest. The committee members agreed to deliberate on the bill at the Parliament’s plenary session, but on condition that after familiarizing with the Venice Commission’s opinion, the deliberations would continue until its discussion at the plenary session.

Plenary sessions

  • April 16

The plenary session started with the statements of lawmakers. Tamar Khulordava, chair of the Committee on European Integration, presented the bills on making amendments to the criminal code of Georgia and on making amendments to the criminal procedure code of Georgia.

MP Dimitri Tskitishvili presented the legislative package on sexual harassment that was followed by discussions.

MP Irakli Sesiashvili, chair of the Defense and Security Committee, presented the bill on making amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia, that would clarify the procedures for setting up the “groups of confidence”  in case the parliamentary minority can not be formally constituted due to insufficient number of MPs in an opposition faction (which is currently the case).  Sesiashvili noted that this circumstance was not envisaged by current Rules of Procedure and therefore, draft amendments were developed following consultations with various political groups.

MP Gia Zhorzholiani presented the bill on making amendments to the Organic Law of Georgia on Economic Freedom. Zhorzholiani offers to remove a provision from the law, prohibiting a referendum on progressive taxes – presently all citizens of Georgia pay a uniform income tax.

  • April 17

During the plenary session on April 17, the parliamentary majority tried to launch discussions on the bill on common courts backed by the ruling party with its second hearing, but amid the opposition’s protest, the session was postponed for a day. The opposition demanded the ruling party to revise the bill according to the Venice Commission’s recommendations.

  • April 18-19

Eventually, discussions on the bill initiated by the ruling majority started on April 18 and lasted for two days. Anri Okhanashvili, chair of the Legal Issues Committee, who presented the bill to the lawmakers, noted that the proposed version reflected “almost all” recommendations given by the Venice Commission.

He said that the Georgian Dream compromised by omitting the requirement for qualification exams for potential judges and deciding that a High Council of Justice member wishing to compete for vacant Supreme Court seat will not be eligible to ask questions to and to assess the qualifications of another candidate.

The bill drew strong criticism from opposition, who slammed the ruling majority for expediting the discussions and creating an impression of meeting the Venice Commission’s recommendations, without making required adaptations to the bill.

Despite the opposition’s criticism, with 87 votes for and 31 against, the Georgian Parliament endorsed with its second hearing on April 19 the controversial amendments to the Law of Georgia on Common Courts, backed by the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria reported to the Parliament on April 19.

Meetings

On April 15, Parliament Speaker, Irakli Kobakhidze met with President of the Senate of the Parliament of Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Faisal Al-Fayez and the accompanying delegation. The parties discussed bilateral relations and issues of deepening cooperation in various spheres.

On April 15, Vice Speaker, Ilia Nakashidze met with Chinese Ambassador, Ji Yanchi to discuss bilateral relations and cooperation in trade, economic, tourism, education spheres, as well as people-to-people contacts.

On April 15, Chair of the Agrarian Issues Committee, Otar Danelia met with foreign diplomats accredited in Georgia. According to the Parliament’s press office, the committee chair presented the draft Organic Law on Ownership of Agricultural Land Parcels, which regulates the norms of land sale.

On April 16, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze met with the bipartisan eight-member delegation from the United States House of Representatives led by Congressman David Price. Speaking at a news briefing after the meeting, Kobakhidze noted that said the Congressional visit is “yet another demonstration of our countries’ special relations.” The Congressional delegation also held meetings with members of Parliamentary factions and committees.

On April 16, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze met with the UNICEF Regional Director, Afshan Khan and the UNICEF Representative to Georgia, Ghassan Khalil. According to the Parliament’s press office, the parties spoke about the protection of children’s rights.

On April 16, the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee held the round table discussion “Laws on Children in the country and regional context.” Chair of the Committee, Sophio Kiladze, Chair of the Health Care and Social Issues Committee Akaki Zoidze, and the Deputy Chair of the Regional Policy and Self-Government Committee, Merab Kvaraia participated in the discussion. According to the Parliament’s press office, the parties expressed their positions and discussed the novelties related to the Child Code.

On April 17, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze met with President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades, paying an official visit to Georgia. According to the Parliament’s press office, along with the cooperation issues, the parties spoke about Georgian diaspora in Cyprus and the challenges faced by them.

On April 17, Chair of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee, Sophio Kiladze met with the OSCE High Commissioner political advisor Marc Fumagalli and the legal advisor, Lawrence Hadirka to discuss the issues related to ethnic minorities.

Other events

  • Parliament Speaker holds news briefing on Venice Commission recommendations

On April 16, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze held a news briefing to assess the Venice Commission opinion on the selection and appointment of judges of the Supreme Court of Georgia.

‘The Venice Commission positively assesses the amendments to the organic law on selection of judges and as you know, the bill establishes unprecedentedly open and transparent procedure with no analogue even in the EU member states,” Kobakhidze noted.

He also noted that several basic recommendations have been given and the majority of them can be shared.

  • Gigi Tsereteli to lead OSCE observers in Ukraine presidential runoffs

Giorgi Tsereteli, a member of the Georgian Parliament and the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, was selected as the OSCE Special Coordinator and leader of the short-term OSCE observation mission for Ukraine’s presidential elections. The mission was composed of the OSCE, CoE, NATO and EP delegations.

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

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