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Parliamentary Committees Hold Joint Hearings of Candidates for Ministers

On February 5, parliamentary committees held a discussion on the new Government program “For Building a European State” and two joint hearings of minister-candidates. First one for the posts of Ministers of Defense, Justice, Interior, State for Reconciliation and Civic Equality and the second for the posts of Ministers of Education, Health, and Culture. During the first hearing, there was a verbal confrontation between the opposition and the ruling party representatives, which resulted in one of the opposition deputies being removed from the room.

On January 29, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili resigned. In his place, the leader of the Georgian Dream party, Irakli Kobakhidze, has already been nominated. With the change of the Prime Minister, the new government should be approved by the parliament.

According to the parliamentary schedule, on February 5-7 the joint hearings of the nominated Ministers will be held by the relevant committees. On February 7, the nominated Ministers will be presented to the MPs of the United National Movement faction and the opposition. The following day, the nominees will be presented to the faction of the ruling Georgian Dream Party and the parliamentary group “People’s Power”.

On February 8, a meeting of the Parliamentary Bureau will be held to discuss the conclusions from committees and factions, followed by a vote in the plenary session of the Parliament, where all Ministers, including the Prime Minister, will be officially appointed, thus giving confidence to the new Government of Georgia. Notably, only the nominee for Minister of Defense, Irakli Chikovani, is new to his post, replacing Juansher Burchuladze.

First Hearing of the Candidates for Ministers

During the first hearing today, four committees heard newly nominated Defense Minister Irakli Chikovani, Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri, Justice Minister Rati Bregadze, and State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Tea Akhvlediani. Committees on Legal Affairs, Human Rights Protection and Civil Integration, Defense and Security, and Procedural Issues and Rules were present at the hearing.

Tea Akhvlediani, nominee for Minister of State for Reconciliation and Civil Equality, emphasized the priority of achieving tangible results in the occupied territories through consistent policies and innovative tools. According to her, the agency’s vision focuses on strengthening peace and stability while promoting a democratic, culturally diverse, and just society. The aim is to prioritize confidence-building initiatives and joint projects, continuing efforts such as the “Step Towards a Better Future” peace initiative to promote trade relations across the dividing lines.

Vakhtang Gomelauri, nominee for Minister of Interior Affairs, outlined recent reforms and future plans, emphasizing the strategic goal of developing a dignified, modern and motivated police force. He focused on the efforts towards creating a safe environment and effectively fighting crime. Gomelauri also emphasized the Ministry’s priority in the fight against organized crime, with ongoing reforms in this area.

Rati Bregadze, a candidate for the post of Minister of Justice, said in his speech that the use of modern technologies will continue and that artificial intelligence will be used in the drafting of legislation, in the legal review of agreements to be concluded by the state and in proceedings before international courts and arbitration tribunals. Bregadze also mentioned the envisaged free of charge, replacement of laminated ID cards issued before 2011 with new electronic ones. The candidate also emphasized the Ministry’s commitment to harmonizing Georgian legislation with that of the EU, introducing a unified state platform to streamline the process and improve the quality and speed of alignment.

Irakli Chikovani, the candidate for Minister of Defense, underlined the priority of political and practical support through bilateral and multilateral cooperation, including partnerships with NATO, the European Union, and the U.S. Chikovani spoke about holding a trilateral event of the Ministry of Defense in 2024 and emphasized the importance of trilateral cooperation with Azerbaijan and Turkey.

Question and Answer Session

The opposition members’ questions were mostly directed at the new face in the Cabinet of Ministers, Irakli Chikovani. He was asked about his plans for bringing the Defense Ministry’s budget into line with NATO standards and how he sees Georgia’s path to EU membership. The candidate for Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri also faced questions, mainly on Georgia’s drug policy and what’s going on in and in the vicinity of the occupied territories.

When asked about his plans for cooperation with the President of Georgia and the Commander-in-Chief, Salome Zurabishvili, Chikovani criticized the President for “polarizing” actions, but noted that “as a candidate for the post of Minister of Defense, I would like to tell you that relations with the President and the Ministry of Defense are defined and regulated by Georgian legislation, and accordingly, I will also benefit from this”.

Notably, Chikovani was also asked if he shared the ruling party’s belief that the August War would not have happened if Bidzina Ivanishvili had been in power in 2008, to which Chikovani replied in the affirmative. He also made a point of thanking Bidzina Ivanishvili and spoke of his achievements in Georgia’s development.

Vakhtang Gomelauri addressed the investigation into the killing by the Russian occupation forces of Tamaz Ginturi in the village of Kirbali, highlighting the challenge posed by limited access to the occupied territories. He emphasized the inability to unilaterally change checkpoints to ensure future security, as it requires, as he said, the approval of EU monitoring mission and “third parties”. He noted that despite efforts such as mobile patrols, “it is physically impossible” to cover the 391-kilometer line. Gomelauri compared it to the U.S. challenge of controlling the Mexican border, claiming the difficulty of achieving full control even with an extensive police presence.

During the question-and-answer session of the first hearing, a verbal confrontation took place between the representatives of the opposition and the ruling party. Salome Samadashvili, the deputy of the opposition party “Lelo”, called Bidzina Ivanishvili an oligarch, after which the Chairman of the committee hearing, Anri Okhanashvili, cut off her microphone. Samadashvili also questioned Gomelauri’s candidacy, pointing to corruption allegations against the Minister candidate by local watchdog TI-Georgia, prompting Okhanashvili to ask her to leave the room.

All four of the candidates and the Government program were supported by the committees present at the hearing.

Second Hearing of the Candidates for Ministers

During the second hearing, four committees (committees on Education, Science and Youth, Culture, Sports and Health and Social Affairs were present at the hearing) jointly heard the Minister of Culture Tea Tsulukiani, the Minister of Education Giorgi Amilakhvari and the Minister of Health Zurab Azarashvili.

Giorgi Amilakhvari, candidate for the Ministry of Education, Science and Youth, discussed reforms and future plans, including increased funding for education and salary increases for teachers. He highlighted initiatives in early education, school autonomy, bilingual programs for regions with high ethnic minority populations, and updating professional standards in educational institutions. Plans also include joint degree programs in higher education, increased funding for science, and the development of a youth policy.

Tea Tsulukiani, candidate for Minister of Culture and Sports, announced plans to increase support for hosting international sporting events in Georgia and to increase financial support for athletes, coaches and medical staff. On the cultural front, Tsulukiani outlined upcoming festivals, exhibitions and ongoing rehabilitation projects for key venues such as the Leuville estate and theaters in Dmanisi, Kutaisi and Meskheti.

Zurab Azarashvili, candidate for Minister of Labor, Health and Social Defense of Georgia, highlighted the government’s priorities for health and access to quality services. He cited achievements such as the universal health care program, improvements in oncology care, and reforms to lower drug prices. Azarashvili also mentioned salary increases for medical staff and plans to improve dialysis services and rural clinics, as well as the construction of a new university hospital based on the N. Kipshidze Central Republican Hospital that will meet international standards.

Question and Answer Session- More opposition MPs thrown out for asking uncomfortable questions

Tea Tsulukiani, when asked about the rehabilitation process of the Gelati Monastery, stated that after the Patriarchate took over the rehabilitation works, the Ministry of Culture is no longer responsible for it. Moreover, during the hearing at the joint session of the committees, Tsulukiani said that she will sue anyone who says that “currently they [Ministry of Culture] are spoiling something” in Gelati.

Opposition MP Armaz Akhvlediani was expelled from the meeting for asking questions about the huge delegation chosen to attend Berlinale festival, to which Tsulukiani responded that they are not funded by the state. She continued to mock Akhvlediani as he was leaving the room.

The Georgian National Film Center is sending a 34-member delegation to the Berlin Film Festival. According to the website of the film festival, the members of the Georgian delegation are 5 active employees of the center, including the acting director, Koba Khubunaia, and the head of the film production department, Bacho Odisharia. Of the remaining 29 people, 12 are registered as film export specialists/managers. Five journalists from the pro-government TV channels “Imedi” and “PosTV” are also attending the Berlinale on behalf of the Cinema Center. Local experts were quick to point out the inadequate composition of the delegation, which was made up of people who had little to do with cinematography, as well as its unusually large size (34 members) compared to other countries’ delegations, such as the 8-member delegation from France, Czech 5-member delegation, and Armenia 3-member delegation. 

Another opposition MP, Tamar Charkviani, leader of the Law and Justice party, first had her microphone cut off because of her questions to Health Minister candidate Azarashvili about Georgia’s unemployed doctors and low salaries for medical staff. She was also asked to leave the room after asking Culture Minister candidate Tsulukiani about the reconstruction of Gelati.

Notably, parallel to the hearing, the representatives of the cultural and scientific spheres held a protest rally near the Parliament. In the letter sent to the Parliament before the rally, the protesters called on the committees not to support Tsulukiani’s candidacy, stating: “By leaving Tea Tsulukiani in the system, you will sign the irreversible destruction of the country’s cultural identity, the declared terror for honest professionals and the complete cultural isolation of the country.”

When asked about the protest, Tsulukiani said that her actions are being protested by a “small group” of representatives from different artistic fields, and that it “broke out because of money, not values”. According to her, the boycotting artists don’t support her attempts to depoliticize the cultural industry because it doesn’t benefit them, and they continue to write both personal and official letters asking for funding.

All three of the candidates and the Government program were endorsed by the committees present at the hearing.

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

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