Official visit of the president of Congress to Georgia
22-25 February, Georgia – The President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Anders Knape, will pay an official visit to the country. Accompanied by Congress Secretary General Andreas Kiefer, the President will meet in Tbilisi with the Mayor Kakha Kaladze, the Deputy Chairman of Parliament Kakhaber Kuchava, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Lasha Darsalia, the Minister of Regional Development and Infrastructure Maya Tskitishvili, and the Public Defender Nino Lomjaria. Meetings are also scheduled in Gori with the Mayor of the city and the Governor of Shida Kartli region, as well as with the Georgian Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and with the members of the Georgian delegation to the Congress.
PACE to observe the parliamentary elections in Georgia
A 9-member delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), led by Tiny Kox (Netherlands, UEL), will travel to Georgia from 29 October to 1 November to observe the conduct of the parliamentary elections, alongside observers from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, NATO Parliamentary Assembly and OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
The delegation will meet, in particular, representatives of political parties, the Chairperson of the Central Election Commission, as well as representatives of civil society and the media, before observing the ballot on 31 October.
A representative of the Venice Commission – the Council of Europe's group of independent legal experts – will provide legal support during the visit.
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A joint press conference is scheduled in Tbilisi on Sunday 1 November (place and time to be confirmed).
Secretary General warns of humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh
Strasbourg, 01.10.2020 - The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, made the following statement today:
“As the armed conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh escalates with a growing number of civilian casualties, I mourn the deaths of the many people, including civilians, who are falling victim to the hostilities. No political considerations can justify the horror and suffering of these women, men and children. I implore all sides of the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and implement without delay the interim measures decided by the European Court of Human Rights. A peaceful solution must be found at the negotiating table to prevent a grave humanitarian crisis.”
The Secretary General reiterated her support to the work of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to this end.
The Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Szijjarto paid a visit to Georgia
The Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Szijjarto paid a visit to Georgia, on 6 July. He was hosted by his Georgian colleague, David Zalkaliani. The sides discussed issues relating to bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
Following the meeting, the two ministers made a joint statement. David Zalkaliani thanked his Hungarian counterpart for the solidarity demonstrated by him, personally, in the challenging times caused by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as for his visit, which is the first high-level visit to Georgia since the outbreak.
The Ministers took special note of the active and successful cooperation between Georgia and Hungary during the pandemic. The Hungarian Foreign Minister highlighted Georgia’s success in the fight against the virus. The ministers underlined the need to maintain a positive tendencies and to act carefully for the protection of public health.
“Georgia made considerable progress in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Georgia has the lowest infection rate in Europe, and I want to congratulate you on this success. Hungary too is successful in dealing with the pandemic. To maintain this achievement, both countries need to take careful steps as human health is first and foremost. Today we discussed the possibilities of opening borders. We quite understand Georgia’s motive for extending travel restrictions. As successful countries in the fight against the pandemic, we both take careful steps. Many Hungarians keen to arrive in Georgia. We agreed to create a working group to regularly exchange relevant information” - Peter Szijjarto said.
The Ministers highlighted that Hungary openly and unequivocally supports Georgia at both bilateral and international forums.
“Hungary is the firm supporter of Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration. I can recall no such high-level conference or meeting where the Hungarian Foreign Minister has not expressed his clear support for Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Quite recently, at the NATO and EaP ministerial meetings, he again made very clear messages in support for Georgia” – David Zalkaliani said.
During their meeting the Ministers discussed the situation in Georgia’s occupied territories. David Zalkaliani brought to his colleague’s attention the difficult humanitarian situation on the ground.
Special note was taken of the successful education cooperation between the two countries. Today, as part of the Hungarian Minister’s visit to Georgia, Georgia and Hungary will sign a memorandum and an additional protocol on cooperation in the areas of culture and education, including in terms of granting scholarships to Georgian students.
The Ministers also spoke about the Hungarian airlines Wizz Air operating flights from the Kutaisi airport to Europe. According to the Hungarian Minister, Wizz Air successfully cooperates with Georgia and once the airline is fully up and running again, Georgia will be its priority destination. “An increasing number of Hungarians want to visit Georgia. Up to 7000 Hungarians arrived in Georgia over the past year. Due to the pandemic, however, Vizz Air reduced its flights not only to Georgia, but also to many other countries. Your government has always been supporting Vizz Air activities in Georgia. I am sure Vizz Air will reestablish its position in the world soon” - Peter Szijjarto noted.
David Zalkaliani added that Vizz Air is one of the important Hungarian companies in Georgia. “It plays an important role in advancing Georgia’s close ties with Europe” – he said.
During his visit Szijjarto will hold meetings with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, as well as the ministers of foreign affairs, economy, regional developments and education, as well as Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia.
Preventing COVID-19: Council of Europe supports prison systems in Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro and North Macedonia
In response to the emergency of COVID-19 pandemic and to the need of providing urgent support to inmates and prison staff, in the context of its cooperation programmes, the Council of Europe has donated protective materials to five member States: Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro and North Macedonia.
In Georgia, donations included 6,500 masks, 2,500 face shields and 500 litres of sanitizer and antiseptic liquid, 20 pulse oximeters; 5,000 disposable plastic shoe covers; and 3,000 medical disposable headcovers.
A total of 13,760 masks; 2,500 facial shields; 1,240 litters of disinfectant/sanitizer for hands and surfaces; 84,000 gloves; 99 infrared thermometers; 2 oxygen generators; 5 portable saturometers; 10 bactericide lamps; 50 medical uniforms; 100 protective glasses, 20 pulse oximeters; 3,000 head covers; 5,000 shoe covers were delivered to prison administrations in the mentioned countries. 850 pieces of disinfectants and 5,000 gloves are also under way of delivery in North Macedonia, and additional items are expected to be purchased in Montenegro and Azerbaijan until end of June 2020.
These donations aim at supporting the commitment of the Council of Europe member States and their national prison administrations to adhere to the CPT statement of principles for the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty (see the statement also in Georgian here), in accordance with the World Health Organization guidelines in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The donations were delivered following requests from the Ministries of Justice and prison administrations within the framework of the cooperation activities implemented by the Criminal Law Cooperation Unit, Action against Crime Department, Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law.
The donation to Georgia was possible in the framework of the project Enhancement of Human Rights and Health-Care Support to Penitentiary System (financed through CoE Action Plan for Georgia 2016-2019).
Stop jailing journalists: Turkey and Azerbaijan must uphold Council of Europe standards
Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), General Rapporteur on media freedom and the safety of journalists for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has today expressed concern over the detention of journalists, an appalling phenomenon which has been observed for many years especially in Turkey and in Azerbaijan.
The PACE recent report on “Threats to media freedom and journalists’ security in Europe” observes that Turkey is the country which has the highest number of imprisoned journalists, at present 95 according to the Council of Europe Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists. “Journalists are placed in arbitrary pre-trial arrest and detention, and are held for months, sometimes for years, before their cases come to court. Such detentions are the result of politicised targeting of journalists for their critical reporting; they are an obvious violation of freedom of expression and of journalists’ right to liberty and security”, said Mr Schennach.
Moreover, in the context of the current pandemic crisis, detention in penitentiaries constitutes an unjustified risk to health, and even to life. A recent bill proposes that approximately one third of 300,000 Turkish detainees be released, but it excludes those detained for terrorism-related offences, and therefore the majority of the 95 journalists in detention, as they are charged with or convicted of terrorism-related offences, although with no solid justification.
As for Azerbaijan – where there are currently 10 journalists in detention – several journalists are arrested on the ground of fabricated accusations. Elchin Mammad, editor in chief of the Yukselish Namine newspaper, was arrested on 30 March 2020 “for having stolen jewellery”. Since 2015, he has repeatedly been under judicial or police investigations, interrogations, house and office searches. Today, if convicted he faces up to seven years in prison.
Another Azerbaijani journalist and blogger with Kanal24 Internet TV, Ibrahim Vazirov, was arrested on 13 April 2020, days after police had demanded he delete online reports about the social and economic impact of Covid-19. In previous weeks, the journalist had been producing video reports critical of the government’s quarantine measures. A similar case happened to Mirsahib Rahiloglu, a journalist with the Reportyor.info, who had published interviews with citizens expressing frustration at the lack of financial support during the lockdown. He was arrested for “violating lockdown rules” and detained for 30 days. Natig Izbatov, a journalist with online news outlet 7gun.az, was arrested as he was filming interviews with people about the economic effects of the lockdown. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail for violating lockdown rules, despite having official documents which gave him permission to work as a journalist. Moreover, he was allegedly assaulted at the police station, his telephone had been searched and footage and recordings deleted.
“The current situation in Turkey and Azerbaijan is unacceptable. In both these member States, freedom of expression, including freedom of the media, has been violated for several years. Therefore, I call on both Turkey and Azerbaijan to urgently stop these attacks on journalists, in order to uphold the standards established by the Council of Europe and stick to the values promoted by our Organisation,” the General Rapporteur concluded.