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The News in Brief

Monday, March 30
Tina Khidasheli: Government members should attend President's address

I feel that government members should be present during the President's address, - said parliamentary majority member, Tina Khidasheli.

According to her, it is important for the state to observe symbolic events.

"I think that the government should be there. I am not talking about procedures or constitutional norms. What is written in the constitution is very important, but it is equally important for there to be at least one day, when all branches are together – at least visually.

I think it has a symbolic meaning and it is very important to the state. So, in my opinion, the government members should be in attendance during the President's address, although it is up to the ministers whether they come or not. No one can force or oblige them to attend the address,"- she said.

The President will deliver an annual report in the Parliament on March 31.

Usupashvili Calls to Intensify Work of Constitutional Commission

State Commission on Constitutional Reform has to “significantly” intensify its work, parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili, who also chairs the commission, said on March 28.

Speaking at a session of the commission on Saturday, Usupashvili said that working groups of the commission should hold their meetings on weekly basis.

The commission, which consists of representatives from broad range of political, civil society and academic circles, is made up of five separate working groups with each of them focusing on specific area: checks and balances between branches of government; human rights, courts, prosecutor’s office; territorial-administrative arrangement and local self-governance; general constitutional provisions and rules of making amendments to the constitution.

Mandate of the commission, which was launched in late December 2013, has been extended twice. Originally the commission was tasked to table draft of constitutional amendments by September 1, 2014; but the deadline was extended at first till March 1, 2015 and then again for further six months till September 15, 2015.

Usupashvili said that these extensions of deadlines were indicating on the willingness to produce amendments based on a thorough deliberation. No specific draft of amendments has yet been approved by the commission and the work of its working groups has been at times delayed by lack of quorum.

Approval of any constitutional amendment by the Parliament is a complicated process, which requires three-fourths majority (113) support of 150-seat parliament. GD parliamentary majority group, which in itself consists of seven factions, has total of 87 seats in the Parliament; UNM and Free Democrats opposition parties have 51 and 8, respectively, and there are four independent lawmakers.

Usupashvili said that achieving a consensus in the parliament, which is required for a constitutional amendment, may currently seem impossible.

“But I offer not to be pessimistic. Political process is dynamic,” he said. “2016 parliamentary elections are already on the horizon and it is not ruled out that these factors will make it possible to endorse those discussions, which previously seemed unlikely.”

He said that the commission’s work may also be viewed as “two-phased” – the one in which it will be possible to achieve consensus on some issues before 2016 parliamentary elections and the second one in which the commission will continue to work beyond elections.

“One serious issue, which is already becoming an acute one, is related to electoral system,” Usupashvili said, referring to disparity between single-mandate, majoritarian constituencies.

He said that consensus on electoral system may become a “key” to pave the way for carrying out other constitutional amendments.

But at the same time, he said, the electoral system “should not overshadow other important constitutional issues.”

“There are about 50-55 concrete issues that have been raised by working groups and if we find an appropriate solution to at least third of them, it will be a serious progress in the process of constitutional development,” Usupashvili said.

“The goal is to improve the existing constitution and not to adopt a new one,” he said.

Social worker arrested for bribery

Officers of the Anti-Corruption Agency of the MIA have arrested a social worker of the Marneuli Department of the Social Service Agency on bribery charges.

According to the Ministry, Levan Naveriani promised to assist a citizen in being grated the status of socially vulnerable and receiving a state allowance in exchange for 350 Lari.

The investigation is still in progress. If convicted, the crime carries a 6 to 9 year prison term.

Georgia Appoints New Envoy to NATO

Alexander Maisuradze has been appointed as Georgia’s new permanent representative to NATO, replacing Levan Dolidze.

Dolidze, who is brother of opposition MP from Free Democrats (FD) party Victor Dolidze, announced about intention to resign in November when the FD quit the Georgian Dream ruling coalition, he stepped down in late January.

Georgia’s new ambassador to NATO, Alexander Maisuradze, who has been serving in the Foreign Ministry since 1998, was deputy head of mission to Austria and Vienna-based international organizations.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili signed a decree on Maisuradze’s appointment, who was nominated by the government, on March 26. Maisuradze will take office from May 1.

Finland ratifies EU-Georgia Association Agreement

The Parliament of Finland has ratified the Association Agreement (AA) between Georgia and the European Union (EU).

The document was approved at its second hearing.

Furthermore, the Georgia-EU AA deal was also discussed and approved by the legislative body of Aland, the Swedish-speaking autonomous region of Finland.

Now, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto must sign the document for the ratification process to be officially completed.

The AA deal was signed by Georgia and the EU on June 27, 2014 in Brussels.

Georgia has already ratified the agreement. The ratification process is currently continuing in EU member states. EU Association deals need to be ratified by all 28 EU member countries before the agreement can be fully implemented.

European Parliament approved the EU-Georgia deal on December 18, 2014.

Finland was the 15th EU member state to ratify the EU-Georgia deal. Other countries who have already ratified the important deal are Germany, Poland, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Croatia, Romania, Hungary, Estonia, Slovakia, Malta, Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria.