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The News in Brief

Tuesday, July 28
Vere Gorge received more than 100 mm in rainfall the night of June 13

A report on the 13 June disaster is now being discussed at a City Council meeting.

National Environmental Agency chairman Tamar Bagratia is presenting the report to the deputies.

According to the report, the amount of rainfall to hit Vere Gorge the night of June 13 was high, more than 100 mm. The rain led to a landslide; in addition, all forty streams of the Vere River became streams of mudflow.

According to Bagratia, the Vere River is 38 kilometers in length and construction is prohibited within a 20-meter radius of it.

She called the Vere River a problematic one, since it has swelled many times in the past.

She also discussed the necessity for an early warning system, noting that Georgia does not have any experience in this regard. However, foreign experts have recently installed warning systems in a few rivers.

An early warning system was also installed in the Vere Gorge, but Bagratia said it is not the most desirable one. She also recommended building the so-called Kherkheulidze wall, which will act as a barrier in case of mudflow or landslide in the Vere Gorge. As a result, blocking of tunnels will be prevented.

MEPs from Foreign Affairs Committee Sum Up Georgia Visit

A group of European Parliament members from the Committee on Foreign Affairs, which visited Georgia on July 25, said they consider that Georgia should be granted EU visa waiver “in 2016, once the relevant criteria are fulfilled.”

The eight-member delegation, which was led by chair of the committee Elmar Brok and included representatives from most of the political groups in the European Parliament, said in a statement after the visit that they are convinced that “visa free travel is the tangible short-term example of what the EU can offer to the population.”

“The Members welcomed the progress and efforts in the reform processes and in the implementation of the Association Agreement, as well as of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan,” MEPs said in the statement, referring to the plan, which lays out detailed requirements that have to be met by a country in order to get short-term visa free rules for its citizens in the Schengen area.

During the visit the delegation met President Giorgi Margvelashvili; PM Irakli Garibashvili; Parliament Speaker Davit Usupashvili, as well as representatives of opposition and civil society.

They also visited prison where former PM Vano Merabishvili; ex-defense minister and former prison system chief Bacho Akhalaia are serving prison terms on various criminal charges, which they deny as politically motivated. The delegation members also visited former Tbilisi mayor Gigi Ugulava in the prison, where he is in pre-trial detention facing number of criminal charges, which he also denies as politically motivated.

The delegation members said in the statement that they “reiterated their position that the justice system should be free of political motivation and welcomed the recent presidential pardon.”

MEPs said in the statement that “all prosecutions must be transparent, proportional and should adhere strictly to investigative procedures and due process and be conducted in full respect of principles of fair trial.”

They stressed importance of “carrying out a swift and thorough reform of the judiciary” and particularly “called on the authorities to follow the recommendation of the Venice Commission on the law on the Office of the Prosecutor, to ensure its full independence and de-politicisation.”

“The Members stressed the importance of improving the political climate and of respecting and strengthening of independence of the institutions. In that regard, they addressed the ongoing amendments to the legislation regarding the National Bank of Georgia and its financial supervision powers, reminding that that independence of the monetary policy from political influence should be safeguarded,” reads the statement.

The delegation, which was led by MEP Elmar Brok from the group of European People’s Party (EPP), also included Sandra Kalniete of EPP group; Andrej Plenkovic (EPP); Gabrielius Landsbergis (EPP); Richard Howitt from the group of Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D); Andrejs Mamikins (S&D), Marek Jurek from the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, and Paavo Vayrynen from the group of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

There are oil and other natural resources in Georgia - Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and Uzbekistan John Herbst has given some advice to Georgia - about confrontation between political forces and economic development.

Herbst assessed the situation of Georgia, in particular, the events at the occupation line, in his interview with the Voice of America Georgian Bureau.

According to him, the Kremlin's aggression against Georgia started long before the 2008 war, when Russian bombs were dropped on the Georgian territory without any reasons.

"In May I visited the demarcation line between Georgia and South Ossetia. International observers told me that Russian border guards were often moving in areas not belonging to South Ossetia. For me it was a sign that they examined how far they could move the boundary line.

The recent border re-relocation was a provocation. In my opinion, the world does not pay due attention to the Kremlin's provocative policy against Georgia. An example of this is the absurd agreement on "Mistrals", which was more a French reward to Russia for not intruding into the Georgian territory deeper after the Red Army seized Georgia's South Ossetia and Abkhazia. So, the international community has poorly responded to the Russian aggression against Georgia,"- says the former Ambassador.

He said that the Georgian government is trying to draw the world's attention to this issue.

"The only advice I can give to politicians concerns their relationships. Tension between two main groups – that of Ivanishvili and Saakashvili – should not be as acute as it is today.

I have more advice – I presume there are oil and other natural resources in Georgia. The Ministry of Energy should not hamper the process of detection and utilization of such resources," said Herbst.