OSCE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY OBSERVER LEADERS ARRIVE IN GEORGIA AHEAD OF 8 OCTOBER ELECTIONS_
Leading members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s election observation mission to the 8 October parliamentary elections in Georgia arrived today in Tbilisi for final preparations of the observation mission. Ignacio Sanchez Amor (MP, Spain), who has been appointed by OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Frank-Walter Steinmeier as Special Co-ordinator to lead the short-term OSCE observer mission, and Guglielmo Picchi (MP, Italy), who serves as Head of the OSCE PA delegation of observers, held several meetings today, and are expected to be joined by dozens of other parliamentarians tomorrow.
Addressing short-term OSCE observers today, Sanchez Amor stressed the importance of the elections and the need for vigorous and impartial observation. “It is clear that this election is not only important in the eyes of Georgians, but also in the eyes of all of the governments that have sent us to be here,” he said. “As observers, we have a great obligation as the eyes and ears – and the voice – of the international community.”
Sanchez Amor and Picchi will tomorrow address observers from the four parliamentary assemblies participating in the international election observation mission – the OSCE PA, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, NATO PA, and the European Parliament.
Picchi echoed Sanchez Amor’s comments. “As observers, and particularly as parliamentarians who have competed in elections ourselves, it is our duty to bring our critical eye to this process, but to also be fair and to base our assessment on the broadest information possible,” he said today.
Picchi and Sanchez Amor conducted a pre-electoral visit  to Georgia last month, holding meetings with President Giorgi Margvelashvili, members of the Central Election Commission, representatives from major political parties, observers from the OSCE/ODIHR, civil society representatives, as well as members of the diplomatic community in Tbilisi.
They met with Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili for discussions on the situation in the country ahead of the elections. They also met with Ambassador Alexandre Keltchewsky (France), who is leading the OSCE/ODIHR long-term observation mission consisting of 12 international experts based in Tbilisi and 26 long-term observers deployed in teams of two around the country.
The OSCE PA has 29 members of parliament from 17 countries participating in this observation mission, which marks the 11th time the PA has observed elections in Georgia since 1995.
Remarks by EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell following the appointment of two members of the High Council of Justice
On 31 October, the Conference of Judges of Georgia elected two new judge members of the High Council of Justice. These appointments took place on the day after local elections and only four days after the publication of the Conference’s agenda. The appointees’ predecessors, two women, had unexpectedly resigned from their mandates whose terms had not expired. No announcement of candidates was made in advance of the appointments.
The appointments were hasty, non-transparent and non-competitive. They were therefore at odds with Georgia’s commitments aimed at increasing the independence, accountability, quality and trust in the Judiciary, in line with the EU-Georgia Association Agreement.
This is a fifth setback in the area of the judiciary and rule of law in Georgia, within only four months. It follows the further appointments to the Supreme Court on 12 July which lacked “integrity, objectivity and credibility” according to the OSCE/ODIHR, the failure to fulfil the necessary judicial conditions to receive an extra 75 million EUR in EU macro-financial assistance by September 2021, the non-adoption on 7 September of the constitutional amendments on the Prosecutor General’s appointment and the lack - so far - of credible investigation and prosecution of the organisers of the 5 July violence targeting over 50 journalists and activists.
These developments demonstrate yet again the urgent need to launch an ambitious judicial reform through a broad, inclusive and cross-party reform process, to which the Georgian political parties committed.
The European Union calls once more on the Georgian authorities to uphold their reform commitments, including in the justice sector, in the interest of Georgian citizens and of the future of EU-Georgia relations.
The European Union reiterates that, while it remains fully committed to support Georgia’s reforms in line with the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, the EU’s assistance to Georgia remains conditional on progress on key reforms.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia started preparations for the elections as early as in April and sent invitations to all international observers - David Zalkaliani
According to the Georgian Vice Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani, the local self-government elections scheduled for 2 October will be monitored by international observation missions.
The Vice Prime Minister said that the Georgian government started preparations for the elections as early as in April. Formal invitations were sent to all international observer missions, including the OSCE/ODIHR EOM, as well as to all international organizations and partner countries. "Two invitations were sent, one in April, before the election date was announced, and the other – immediately after the election date was officially announced" - Zalkaliani added.
According to him, the leaders of the OSCE/ODIHR EOM are in Tbilisi and a meeting with them has already been held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "We help them address all organizational matters and provide them with all conditions for normal functioning, including amid the pandemic. The experience we gained from the previous elections also helps us in this" said the Foreign Minister.
The OSCE/ODIHR EOM will assign 350 short-term observers to monitor the election process in Georgia, “however, it is expected that the number of observers this time will be much higher than in previous elections, as the Foreign Ministry sent official invitations to the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe, NATO and OSCE, as well as to various international organizations” – said the Minister.
“We’ll do our utmost to ensure that international observers do their work safely and in normal conditions” – added the Minister.
MFA of Georgia
Georgia: Reform for elections, political associations and parliament rules should be “reconsidered”, according to Venice Commission
Strasbourg, 24.03.2021 – In a joint opinion, requested in December 2020 by the Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia and adopted at the latest plenary of the Venice Commission (19-20 March 2021), the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission call on Georgia to reconsider several amendments to the Election Code, the Law on Political Associations of Citizens and the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia.
With regard to the Election Code, proposed changes would infringe the rights of political parties to equal opportunities by denying them free airtime if they do not receive public funding. The denial of free airtime to those parties is both “disproportionate and unfounded”, as it is exactly these parties with less funds at their disposal that would need access to free airtime in order to voice their opinions and present their programmes to the electorate, according to the opinion.
Furthermore, not only is there no evident connection between allocating free airtime and receiving state funding that would justify such a step, but also such a restriction is not in the public interest, as it would reduce access to information that the public needs in order to make an informed choice in elections.
The Venice Commission also is concerned by proposed amendments to the Law on Political Associations of Citizens that would deny state funding to a political party or electoral bloc that did not take up at least half of the parliamentary mandates that it won, and would deprive the party or bloc of state funding for the next six months, if half of the members of parliament of any party or bloc did not attend without good reason more than half of the regular plenary sittings.
Sanctioning political parties – and not individual MPs – by depriving them of funding, if the respective MPs do not attend most sittings during a parliamentary session, appears “disproportionate” and at odds with the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, which already regulate such matters in a clear and balanced manner, according to the opinion.
Similar considerations apply to the proposed amendment to the Rules of Procedure of Parliament, which would result in the full deduction of the salary of an MP who does not attend without good reason all plenary sittings during a calendar month of the regular session, both for the period of the parliamentary session and for the ensuing recess period. This latter proposal also likely would not be compliant with the Constitution of Georgia, which makes salaries for Members of Parliament mandatory.
The opinion proposes considering “more proportionate and appropriate means” to achieve the goal of the amendments, which could involve imposing direct consequences on individual MPs for their actions. This would be more in line with the Georgian Constitution and international standards, the Venice Commission notes. “Such broad sanctions against parties not taking part in the Parliament’s work were not found in any other Venice Commission or OSCE/ODIHR member/participant states,” the opinion reads.
In a separate joint opinion, also requested last December by the Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia, the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR call on Georgia to reconsider adopting a proposed new provision – Article 791 – to the country’s electoral code, as related to the participation by an alien acting as party leader in pre-election campaigning. Adopting this amendment could lead to an unduly restriction of political pluralism, the Venice Commission warns, listing several concerns.
The proposed amendment does not clearly define which criteria would be used to determine who is considered to be an electoral list’s or party’s political leader. Besides, while the right to vote and stand for election may be subject to some conditions, including the respective individual’s nationality, restrictions of aliens to participate in domestic political life should be limited to the establishment of political parties, but not to their membership. Furthermore, the sanction of deregistering a party list due to the foreign nationality of a person acting as its political leader seems a disproportionate measure that targets the party rather than the alien in question.
The appeals process regarding such deregistration as defined by the proposed amendment is "worrying" because deregistration of a party or electoral block can be made up to two days after elections: a decision may be taken after votes have been cast and voters might in good faith vote for a party which may then end up being deregistered.
Finally, the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR believe that the amendment could be perceived, in the strict sense, as ad hominem legislation, i.e. directed against a particular individual, a legislative technique previously criticized by the Venice Commission.
The opinions were prepared under the Quick response Mechanism in the framework of the EU/CoE joint programme Partnership for Good Governance”, co-funded by the Council of Europe and the European Union and implemented by the Council of Europe.
COE MEDIA RELEASE
DETAILS RELEASED OF GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT’S CAMPAIGN TO STRANGLE ANAKLIA PORT PROJECT
Ruling Georgian Dream Party Reversed its Support for Vital Project,
Wiping Out Economic Benefits for Georgia
TBILISI, GEORGIA, 9 September, 2020 – The Anaklia Development Consortium (ADC), the company originally selected by the Government of Georgia to develop the strategic Anaklia Port Project, today shared additional details of the Government’s campaign, directed by the ruling Georgian Dream party, to undermine the project by dissuading potential project investors, lenders, contractors and suppliers from joining the project in order to kill it.
The following statement is issued on behalf of the ADC Supervisory Board:
“All infrastructure projects of such scale require government support; namely the encouragement of lenders and investors, the assistance in permitting, regulatory approvals and a favorable tax regime, and providing any ancillary support; in this instance, the provision of land and the construction of road and rail infrastructure. For a government to actually oppose an infrastructure project that it had itself approved is highly unusual in the global economy.
“The Georgian Government’s campaign to strangle ADC’s ability to develop the Anaklia Port Project represents a self-inflicted wound for itself and considerable injury to Georgia’s economy and its role in the region.
“Taken together, the Georgian Government's specific actions are part of a deliberate and well-orchestrated campaign to destroy a project which the Government itself originally sponsored and endorsed, but subsequently chose to destroy as a result of what appear to be the political and economic self-interests of the Georgian Dream Party and its principals.
“The Government manufactured all sorts of excuses for not wanting to see various investors, lenders and partners involved in the project, but the Government really only had one purpose: to choke the project to death by scaring away everybody who might have an interest in supporting it.
“Also, is it beyond coincidence that government ministers – including two Prime Ministers -- who voiced support for the project or otherwise expressed concern about the growing controversy with the project were tendering their resignations shortly after such comments were made?
“The damage to Georgia caused by the Government goes well beyond the potential loss of the Anaklia Port and the associated Special Economic Zone. The conduct of the Government is scaring away investors at a time when Georgia cannot afford to lose any more foreign investment. According to the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the amount of foreign direct investment in Georgia has fallen from nearly US$ 2 billion in 2017 to just over US$ 1.3 billion in 2019, and in the first quarter of 2020, stood at only US$ 171.8 million - a catastrophic decrease even before the Covid crisis began to take effect. As Retired U.S. Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges of the Center for European Policy Analysis said, ‘the government only has itself to blame.’”
Some examples of the Government’s efforts to strangle ADC and the Anaklia Port Project include:
- Georgian Dream party leader Bidzina Ivanishvili requested to meet with ADC to discuss the Anaklia Port Project and asserted that the expansion of Poti Port could achieve the same objectives of the Anaklia Port at a far lower cost.
- During a June 12 meeting of the Georgian Dream party, attended by more than 100 party officials, Party Leader Bidzina Ivanishvili personally blamed Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili for his actions in support of the Anaklia project and for having close ties to ADC investor Mamuka Khazaradze. Mr. Kvirikashvili resigned the day after that meeting.
- In February 2019 ADC learned that during an October 2018 meeting with senior U.S. State Department officials in Tbilisi, Mr. Giorgi Gakharia (then Minister of Interior) advised the U.S. officials that the Anaklia Port project was not in Georgia’s interests.
- SSA Marine, which was selected as the Anaklia Port operator and was a potential investor, alerted ADC of its concerns about what seemed to be the Government’s support of an expansion of the Poti Port. (Following detailed studies sponsored by the Government back in 2013-14, it had been determined that Poti Port could never meet Georgia’s needs for a Deepwater Port, which is why the government itself selected Anaklia for development at that time. The Government’s subsequent expressions of support for expansion at Poti was a clear signal to the lending and investment community that the Government was no longer supportive of Anaklia.)
- A sovereign European development bank advised ADC that it had decided against supporting the project because of the negative actions of the Georgian Government, and the possible shift of support to the Poti Port.
- Another sovereign European development bank advised ADC that it was withdrawing its support because one of its counterparts had just done so (above) due to the state’s apparent shift of support from Anaklia to Poti.
- It has been reported that Infrastructure Minister Maya Tskitishvili, in ministerial hearings before Parliament, undermined SSA Marine as a potential investor and as the port operator, claiming the company lacked experience and financial capacity. These assertions were not true. In the process of her speech, the minister also breached legal obligations of confidentiality that were associated with the investment agreement.
- SSA Marine advised ADC that it was suspending its activities related to the Anaklia Port project.
- Mr. Giorgi Kobulia, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, told “Forbes Week” that the negative public discussions and media reports of the Anaklia project were having a negative impact on the business climate within Georgia. He subsequently resigned within days of the interview.
- A major U.S. private equity firm which was in advanced negotiations with ADC to join the project revealed to ADC that Government officials warned the firm to stay away from the project.
- Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, in a trade visit to the U.S., met separately with SSA Marine, the leadership of the U.S. private equity firm that were interested in investing in the project, and with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, D.C. Secretary Pompeo expressed support for the Anaklia project with the prime minister standing next to him, saying it would “strengthen Georgia’s ties with free economies and not allow Georgia to be under the economic influence of Russia or China.” Upon his return to Georgia, Mr. Bakhtadze resigned, and this again put the project in unchartered waters.
- At a meeting in Tbilisi, a large Hong Kong-based private equity group with significant Central Asian transportation synergies that was considering joining the project was told bluntly by Infrastructure Minister Tskitishvili that the Government did not desire their participation in the project. At this same meeting Ms. Tskitishvili reaffirmed the Government’s seeming opposition to SSA Marine’s involvement in the project.
- Giorgi Volski, Vice Speaker of Parliament, falsely claimed that the Hong Kong private equity group mentioned above is a “Russian” company, with the intention either of disparaging it or sowing further confusion about the government's position in respect of the project.
- In a meeting between Prime Minister Gakharia and an Anaklia Supervisory Board member, Mr. Gakharia stated that “things had to get quiet” before he could reassure the major potential U.S. investor of the state’s support for the Anaklia Project, which the board member understood to be a condition that ADC and Mr. Khazaradze stop criticizing the government publicly on its opposition to the Anaklia Project, and the government would stop criticizing ADC.
- Also, the Supervisory Board was promised a letter of support to a U.S. investor from the highest levels of the Government, but this never materialized, even though ADC did comply with the Government’s request.
- A delegation from the U.S. (in Tbilisi to participate in the 5th annual Tbilisi International Conference sponsored by the McCain Institute) met with new Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, and subsequently with Mamuka Khazaradze. Representatives of the delegation told Mr. Khazaradze that Prime Minister Gakharia told them the Anaklia project was not commercially viable when this was patently not the case.
- Fadi Asly, chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce in Georgia, is quoted in the media saying, “No one will invest in Anaklia project as long as Bidzina Ivanishvili wants to destroy it.”
Taken together, these are only a selection of the instances where the Government of Georgia actively undermined the project in an effort to prevent ADC from developing the project. ADC intends to present evidence during the upcoming arbitration proceedings to demonstrate the degree to which the Government took such steps.
Further details of the Anaklia Port project and ADC can be found at http://anakliadevelopment.com
Prime Minister of Georgia Congratulates Azerbaijanis with 100th Anniversary of First Democratic Republic
"It is my honor to cordially congratulate this most important national holiday of the Republic Day personally to you, Ambassador and to the friendly nation of Azerbaijan. This date has a special significance this year. Our countries celebrate a centenary jubilee from the creation of the first democratic republic. It is symbolic that we have gathered today within the historic walls that served as a venue for our nations to choose their path of progress and prosperity a hundred years ago. Exactly one century ago, on May 28th 1918 National Council of Azerbaijan announced the independence of the First Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan right in this building. Two days prior, National Council of GGiorgieorgia unanimously endorsed the Independence Act in the same building" stated Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia in his address to the guests gathered at the 100th Anniversary of the First Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan.
Head of Government noted that it is unfortunate that in the beginning of 20th century independence of Georgia and Azerbaijan turned out to be short-lived, though these spells of liberty left an irremovable trace in the history of statehood of both countries.
"Recently, on 26th May we celebrated the Jubilee of our Republic together with Mr. Ogtay Asadov, Speaker of the Parliament of Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, our independence turned out to be short-lived. Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan existed for only 23 months, while Georgian - almost 3 years, though these spells of liberty left an irremovable trace in the history of our statehood. Within these hundred years, our countries overcame many obstacles and challenges. Friendship of our people and kind neighborhood counts many hundreds of years. Today we are building a better region with shared efforts to create more peace, stability and prosperity for all. Peaceful and stable region is the primary aim of all of us nowadays" noted the Head of Government in his address.
According to Giorgi Kvirikashvili, peaceful and stable region is most important for the strategic projects that are jointly implemented by Georgia and Azerbaijan. Prime Minister focused on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway project and Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP). According to him, relationship between the two countries is an outstanding example of the kind neighborhood.
"Azerbaijan is one of the largest investors and trade partners of Georgia. This trend is constantly rising. Close economic and cultural links further solidify the foundation of our cooperation. Today our countries are working together on implementing large scale and ambitious transit and energy projects, which will completely change the dynamics in the region and its international significance. We officially launched the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway last August in Baku. Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP) will be launched in June this year, which also evidences our regional cooperation this time between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. Friendship existing between our countries is priceless and we take a special care of it. Azerbaijan was always standing by Georgia, be that during energy challenges over decades, as the Ambassador has mentioned in his address or - massive fire-led natural disaster last year. Georgia will never forget this support. I believe that our links will further strengthen and deepen to serve as a basis of a far wider and successful regional cooperation with the active engagement of other participants and partners" noted the Prime Minister of Georgia.
Head of Government congratulated Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan and his family, as well as the people of Azerbaijan with 95th Jubilee of late Heidar Aliyev. Giorgi Kvirikashvili wished peace, prosperity and success to Azerbaijan.
"I hope that with shared efforts and engagement we will manage to carry out this greatest mission and leave a peaceful, stable and affluent region to future generations. When we talk about building the state of Azerbaijan, we forget the name of Heydar Aliyev, whose contribution in this mission is tremendous. Recently, 95 years were celebrated from his birth on May 10. I wish to use this opportunity and express my slightly belated, but most cordial congratulations to Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, his family and the people of Azerbaijan. I want to wish a much greater success to the President of Azerbaijan in the building of statehood. Once again please accept my congratulations with 100th Anniversary of the First Republic of Azerbaijan and I wish peace, prosperity and success to the people of Azerbaijan" concluded Giorgi Kvirikashvili.
Jubilee reception held at the Youth Palace of Georgia marking the 100th Anniversary of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan was attended by the Government Members, representatives of the diplomatic corps and other invitees, who were also addressed by Dursun Hasanov, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Azerbaijan to Georgia.
Prime Minister's Press Office