The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information, a local watchdog, said today the ruling Georgian Dream’s claims that President Salome Zurabishvili breached the country’s constitution by traveling to Paris and Brussels without the Government’s authorization “have no firm legal grounds.”
“The President’s competence in foreign policy is limited and mostly is implemented with the consent of the Government of Georgia,” the watchdog acknowledged. “But this does not mean that the President’s every action or inaction that affects foreign policy needs Government’s permission.”
The IDFI reckoned that in the competence dispute with the President, the Government will rely on Article 52 (1a) of the Constitution, which outlines the powers of the Georgian President with regards to foreign policy.
According to the watchdog, the article bars the President from signing international treaties or voting in international organizations without the prior consent of the Government, but does not prohibit her from “expressing her views on foreign policy inside or outside the country, especially during the informal meetings.”
The IDFI stressed that in terms of international cooperation, every action of the President cannot be dependent on the Government and considered an implementation of the foreign policy.
Any interpretation otherwise may contradict Article 49 of the Constitution, which says the President, as a head of state, shall serve as the guarantor of the country’s unity and national independence and represent Georgia in foreign relations, according to the watchdog.
Also, it added that President Zurabishvili’s recent visits to Brussels and Paris “did not result in imposing any new obligations on Georgia.”
The watchdog further argued that Article 78 of the Constitution obliged the President to “take all measures within the scope of her competence to ensure the full integration of Georgia into the EU and NATO.”
“The President’s statements in Georgia or outside the country did not go beyond the requirements of the Constitution of Georgia,” it noted, adding that “such actions taken by the President of Georgia can be perceived as a direct constitutional obligation of the Head of State.”
The watchdog also said that against the backdrop of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the President’s active role in domestic and foreign policy is a result of the “passive actions and the problematic views of the Parliament and the Government of Georgia.”
The IDFI said it has requested information from the Presidential Administration to “shed a light” on the ruling party’s allegations against the President.
The governing party has also accused the President of violating the Constitution by allegedly refusing to appoint an ambassador or diplomatic representative nominated by the Government “on multiple occasions.”
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