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The News in Brief

Tuesday, September 10
Georgia plans to sign association agreement with EU in early 2014

Georgia plans to sign an association agreement with the European Union (EU) by spring 2014, Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said after the meeting with Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet on the first day of his visit to Estonia. On September 9 the Georgian Prime Minister met with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, as well as the President of the Riigikogu (parliament) Ene Ergma and Minister of Economy Juhan Parts. According to Ivanishvili’s press service, the PM also visited the Estonian Centre of Information and Communication Technologies, where he attended the presentation of innovations in the sphere of promotion and use of communications. The Georgian delegation included Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Minister of State for Integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures Alexi Petriashvili and Director of the National Investment Agency, Georgi Pertaia.

13 Georgian citizens return from Syria

Deputy Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani said at a regular briefing on Monday that several Georgian citizens have returned from Syria to Georgia. According to Zalkaliani, 13 Georgian citizens have returned to Georgia, 4 are in Beirut, while one refused to leave Syria.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will do its best to protect the security of Georgian citizens,” Zalkaliani said.

Venice Commission to review registration of former Georgian FM as presidential candidate

Georgian Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani has applied to the Venice Commission to assess the situation in connection with the CEC's refusal to register the country's former foreign minister and leader of Georgia's Way Party, Salome Zourabichvili, as a presidential candidate.

Several days ago, Zurabishvili turned to the Georgian Minister of Justice in connection with this issue. Tsulukiani told journalists on Monday that the official position of the government and prime minister is to create favorable conditions for all candidates or for those who are interested in being such in the presidential election. "Salome Zurabishvili's address to me as a member of the government and to Eka Beselia as a representative of the legislative body has already been sent to the Venice Commission. "I applied to the Commission over Zurabishvili's issue in connection with two articles of the Constitution which states the Georgian president should be a Georgian citizen and if they are not a national, they cannot be a president and this would be quickly reviewed," the Justice Minister stated. Tsulukiani is waiting for a response from the Venice Commission in the coming days. The CEC refused to register Salome Zurabishvili as a presidential candidate due to her dual citizenship.

Merabishvili: “I am a political prisoner of Ivanishvili’s government”

I am a political prisoner of Ivanishvili’s government, Vano Merabishvili says in the statement posted on his Facebook webpage. According to him, he will do his best for proving his innocence. “I want to explain to society once again: my case was taken to the Kutaisi court because the Prosecutor’s Office had a guarantee from judge Akhalbedashvili, that he would deliver the ungrounded and illegal verdict about my detention. The government made unprecedented violations in order to keep me in custody,” Merabishvili stated, stressing that he was detained in order weaken “the main oppositional party” – the United National Movement (UNM). Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani has explained that if an unauthorized judge considered Merabishvili’s case, the judicial government should react to it. Tsulukiani said the above-mentioned issue had nothing to do with the executive government. “This issue belongs to the judicial government. If it turns out that the judge was not authorized, the European Court will consider this issue,” Tea Tsulukiani said.

Parliament overrides all the three presidential vetoes

The parliament of Georgia did not accept any of President Mikheil Saakashvili’s comments over his vetoed bills. Saakashvili had vetoed amendments to the law on higher education, amendments to the law on cultural heritage and the initiative on suspending the change of status of agricultural land.

According to the presidential objections, this proposal violates the right to ownership secured by the constitution and will have a negative effect on the economy as it will lead to reduction of investments.

President Saakashvili’s objections on the amendments to the law on higher education were mostly related to new academic ranking criteria, according to which doctoral degree seekers will no longer be able to hold assistant professor’s position that “will hamper the process of attraction of young scientists to universities”; presidential objections also concerned to a provision, which sets limits on the wages of state universities’ administrative staffs.

The law on cultural heritage after its enforcement will give the Ministry of Culture a leading role in assigning or revoking status of cultural heritage on various sites in the capital city Tbilisi. Currently, the Tbilisi Municipality is in charge of the matter. The Ministry of Culture will also assume the authority to issue permits on carrying out works on sites of cultural heritage in the capital.

Three NATO ships make port call in Batumi

Three NATO ships, assigned to Standing NATO Mine Counter-Measures Group 2 (SNMCMG2), arrived in Georgia’s Black Sea port of Batumi on September 6.

The group of visiting ships includes FGS Mosel and FGS Rottweil, both from the German Navy, and TCG Erdemli of the Turkish Navy. Before arriving in Batumi, the three NATO ships visited the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol.

“During the visit [in Batumi], the NATO forces will train together with Georgian Coast Guards, conducting personnel exchange and joint exercises,” SNMCMG2 said.

Firefighting exercises were held on September 7 and trainings with the participation of divers are also scheduled.

In parallel to this port visit, NATO Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) Deputy Chief of Staff Operations, Commodore Arian Minderhoud, is holding talks with the Georgian officials, including with the leadership of the Georgian Interior Ministry’s Border Police, which is also in charge of the coast guard.