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The News in Brief

Thursday, January 16
Hungary recognizes Georgia’s neutral travel documents

Hungary has become the 12th country to recognise neutral travel documents that allow residents of two Georgian breakaway regions to move freely to foreign countries.

The State Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality of Georgia announced that Hungary made the decision to accept neutral travel documents from Abkhazian and South Ossetian residents on November 29, 2013.

Bulgaria, Estonia, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, the Czech Republic and the United States have also agreed to accept these neutral travel documents.

But Russian authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia have openly criticized the neutral travel documents and said this initiative would further isolate these two regions.

The Russian Foreign Ministry believed that Tbilisi had tried to impose Georgian identification cards on residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, falsely portraying them as neutral documents.

Georgia issued the neutral travel documents beginning in July 2011 after the parliament approved the legislative change. Moreover, the identification cards were designed for people who "legally” live in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Only few dozen of the neutral travel documents have been issued by Georgia since it was introduced.

Issuing of neutral travel documents and identification cards is outlined in the Action Plan for Engagement, part of Georgia’s State Strategy on Occupied Territories, adopted in 2010. (Agenda.Ge)

McDonalds removes Abkhazia as independent country to enter

McDonald’s has removed Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia, from a list of independent countries where the company might be interested to develop franchise opportunities.

The move by McDonalds generated great criticism from society including politicians.

On January 12, the company expressed its desire to enter untapped markets and published a list of the countries that it wished to investigate, including Abkhazia.

Following the initial announcement, businessman Temur Tchkonia, who is McDonalds' representative in Georgia, spoke with the company’s head office in America and was told the company would remove the information from the website.

Minister of State for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Paata Zakareishvili called the McDonalds application a misunderstanding.

Zakareishvili told reporters this topic had been closed.

"There was some misunderstanding and as far as I know it has already been resolved. As far as I know there was no talk about launch of a business; it was only about the possibility for launch of a business production," said the Minister.

He said there were areas where Georgia's territorial integrity was protected, including by large companies and businesses.

In addition, Zakareishvili said that doing any kind of business in the occupied territories was banned under the Law on Occupied Territories. (Agenda.Ge)

President to appoint High Council of Justice member

The Georgian President faces the task of selecting one of 14 candidates to appoint as a member of the High Council of Justice.

The list of the candidates had been revealed.

All of the 14 people had been nominated by professors and researchers working at Georgia’s higher educational institutions, members of the Georgian Lawyers’ Association, and non-commercial legal entities.

The High Council of Justice of Georgia consists of 15 members. Eight of them are elected by the self-governance body of common courts judges of Georgia and five members are elected by Parliament. The President of Georgia is represented in the Council by one member appointed by him.

All members including the Secretary of the High Council, which is elected by the Judges Conference of Georgia, are in office for four years.

Selecting and appointing judges and organizing qualification exams for them are the main functions of the Council. (Agenda.Ge)

Georgian parliament speaker meets Estonian president

The speaker of the Georgian parliament David Usupashvili met with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves in Tallinn.

A concrete, detailed talk was held about what needs to be done in terms of integration into NATO, Usupashvili said after the meeting.

"We also discussed how to avoid threats that the country may face this year. There can be certain provocations prior to signing the association agreement and the NATO summit, to be held in September. I hope that we will successfully cope with all the challenges," Usupashvili said.

The Estonian president, in turn, said that Georgia's future is connected to Europe, and both the Georgian state and the European Union should make efforts to achieve this goal.

Ilves said Estonia supports decisions of the Eastern Partnership summit, held in November, 2013 in Vilnius, where the association and free trade agreement between the EU and Georgia was initialed. The summit also discussed the introduction of visa-free travel between Brussels and Tbilisi.

"This is a part of the democracy and openness development in the EU neighboring countries. This is a part of Georgia's path to get closer to the EU," Ilves said.

Eastern Partnership is an EU project, aimed at rapprochement of the EU and six countries of the former Soviet Union: Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Belarus. (Trend)

Baltic States’ ambassadors support destruction of communist symbols

Ambassadors of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia welcomed the amendments made by the Georgian parliament to the Freedom Charter, which are aimed at creating effective mechanisms for destruction of the communist, totalitarian and fascist symbols, according to the ambassadors' joint message to Georgian Parliament Chairman, David Usupashvili.

The ambassadors expressed their full support for establishment of the state commission.

"We are also ready to invite Baltic historians to the development of the concept of a new museum in Gori and share our experience with Georgian historians and scientists," their statement reads. (Trend)

Tbilisi Zoo welcomes a green python

The Tbilisi Zoo welcomed another newcomer - a green python. The original Greek name of the species translates into “dragon-like green snake”. The species can be found in Papua-New Guinea tropical rainforests, Indonesian islands and Australia.

The recently born zebra is in good health at the zoo, although the staff has not been able to find out its gender, as the mother prevents outsiders from approaching the foal. (Georgian News)

Large amounts of heroin found in Kutaisi

Interior ministry operatives arrested an adult male in Kutaisi after they found large amounts of heroin in his possession.

The ministry said its investigation said the suspect brought the drug – found in two packages amounting to 5.2 grams of heroin - over the Georgian border from Turkey. The individual was charged with the corresponding article of the Criminal Code of Georgia. (Georgian News)