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The News in Brief

Thursday, February 20
Officials discuss ethnic minority issues in Georgia

Georgia’s Public Defender Ucha Nanuashvili and the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Astrid Thors, discussed the problems facing ethnic minorities in Georgia.

"We talked about the situation of ethnic minorities in Georgia as well as the situation in the breakaway regions," Nanuashvili said, adding that the OSCE representative was familiarized with the information about the public defender’s office’s intensification of relations with the Abkhazians and Ossetians.

He said language issues are among the major problem facing ethnic minorities in Georgia.

"In particular, ethnic minority groups do not have the means to gain information from the media in their own language and they often used Russian language and other media outlets. There are also problems in terms of education and other services,” the Ombudsman added. (Agenda.Ge)

Georgia creates new agency for religious issues

The government in Georgia is planning to create a new agency that will work on religious issues.

Minister of Reconciliation and Equality Paata Zakareishvili on Tuesday explained that the new body will implement a recent initiative by the government to finance four religious groups in Georgia in addition to the Orthodox Church.

“No such body existed in Georgia before,” Zakareishvili said. “It is necessary to have special body which will work regularly on religious problems.”

As an example, he recalled the conflicts in Chela and Tetritskaro, two villages where the local Muslim population had problems with praying or having a minaret installed at their mosque.

In these cases, Zakareishvili’s ministry was instructed to work on these conflicts after the incidents had taken place. If there is a body to work specifically on religious issues, it will be more effective, the minister explained.

“There are many issues about religious communities, like property rights, education and financing issues,” he continued.

Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili will appoint the head of the religious agency, which will file under his office. (Democracy & Freedom Watch)

National Movement might boycott president’s address

United National Movement members of parliament might not attend the Georgian president’s state of the nation address, which takes place in parliament in Kutaisi on February 21.

UNM members say they have not yet made a decision about whether to sit through the speech, which their leader, former President Saakashvili, used to hold every year until now.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili is expected to speak for 40 minutes and outline his values and vision for the country.

“He will speak about his views on challenges which Georgia faced in 2013 and how Georgia will respond to these challenges in the future,” said Davit Pataraia parliamentary secretary for the president.

Challenges include security, sovereignty and foreign affairs, as well as economic issues, Pataraia continued.

The president’s annual address was used by former President Saakashvili to further the National Movement’s views, which contrasted with how other parts of society saw reality, and were performed in a celebratory style with little room for criticism.

Margvelashvili has said that he will change the format of the annual address, and that this is because the role of the president has changed in Georgia. A constitutional amendment enforced last November tilted power toward the prime minister.

If the UNM MPs do attend Friday’s speech, they plan to ask questions about the country’s security and economic changes took place in the country after the government changed.

Gia Tevdoradze, UNM member said that economic situation gets worse each day, and that is why they want to get information about this issue from country’s president.

Giorgi Vashadze, also from the UNM, said on Tuesday in an interview with Maestro TV that they are still discussing within the party what to ask Margvelashvili about. (Democracy & Freedom Watch)

Georgia’s Foreign Minister addresses European Parliament

Georgia’s Foreign Minister reconfirms the country’s European integration aspirations at a European Parliament Foreign Committee meeting in Brussels.

In her recent speech, Maia Panjikidze highlighted Georgia’s top priorities on its way to integrating with Europe.

A statement by Georgia’s Foreign Ministry’s statement read: "The Minister stressed the readiness of the Georgian Government to support inculcation of European values and continuation of democratic reforms.”

When speaking, the Minister briefly described the reforms recently implemented in Georgia, including protecting human rights and supporting business and social welfare, the statement claimed.

Committee members also heard Panjikidze speak about Georgia’s security-related issues, and the important role of the EU in maintaining stability in the country.

This was Panjikidze’s first address to European Parliament members. (Agenda.Ge)

NGO: former PM’s trail complied with Georgian law

No procedural violations have taken place during the trail of ex-Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili and former Health Minister Zurab Tchiaberashvili.

Head of the non-governmental organization Transparency International-Georgia released their assessment of the verdict rendered by Kutaisi City Court.

"When it comes to procedural violations and whether the parties had the opportunity to present their arguments, no violation has taken place in this regard, and procedurally, everything is in order,” TI Georgia’s Executive Director Eka Gigauri said.

However she noted Merabishvili’s statement claiming he was threatened should have been investigated.

"Our position is that an effective investigation should have been carried out [in response to that statement] and it's too bad that it did not happen. We do not have any complaints regarding the trial itself and we think everything was held in a transparent manner and in full compliance with the law,” Gigauri claimed.

She said if the judge really exercised pressure the chairman of the Supreme Court will make the relevant statement.

Gigauri believes that in general, Georgia’s court system was "much more independent” following the 2012 parliamentary elections.

Kutaisi City Court has recently imposed a 50,000 bail bond on Tchiaberashvili, while Merabishvili was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment in the case of the so-called fictional employment program. (Agenda.Ge)

Gia Gachechiladze leaves the parliamentary majority

MP Gia Gachechiladze has notified his colleagues of his decision to abandon the parliamentary majority. “February 19 is a red letter day for the Green Party as today its members are officially leaving the parliamentary majority,” Gachechiladze announced at the session.

A rift between Gachechiladze and the members of the majority was incited due to financial reasons. The majority appears to have refused to meet their requirement on financing their party. It would also be interesting to note that Gia Gachechiladze is an individual member of the Coalition – the “Green Party” is not integrated within the body.

Along with the parliamentary majority, Gachechiladze withdrew himself from the Georgian Dream too. (InterPressNews)