The European Commission for Democracy through Law (the “Venice Commission”) published today its new draft opinion on the draft Constitution of Georgia as adopted in the second reading in June 2017, as well as on the letter submitted by the Georgian authorities to the Venice Commission on 20 September 2017, in which they committed themselves to consider new amendments.
The Venice Commission in its draft opinion reiterated its previous positive assessment of the draft Constitution, but once again underlined that any major constitutional reform must reach the widest possible consensus.
A major obstacle to reaching consensus, the report says, is the postponement to October 2024 of the entry into force of the proportional system for election of the Parliament. The Venice Commission called it “undoubtedly highly regrettable” as the passage to the proportional system is “the most important aspect of the reform”. “However, the commitment of the parliamentary majority in the letter of 20 September 2017 to consider allowing party blocks, together with the reduction of the election threshold to 3% at the 2020 elections is to be welcomed, since those amendments aim to alleviate the negative effects of the postponement.”
The new complex system for the distribution of unallocated mandates adopted in the second reading reduces the effects of the bonus for the winning party, but still very much favours the strongest party in the country. The bonus system is also a main obstacle to the acceptance of the Constitution by opposition parties and civil society, and the Venice Commission therefore strongly welcomes the commitment of the parliamentary majority to consider abandoning the bonus system altogether and adopting the full proportional distribution system as from 2024. “Such a system would favour pluralism in parliament and be fully in line with European standards. The Venice Commission expects that this step will not only be considered but immediately adopted,” the document says.
The Venice Commission has also welcomed, inter alia, the introduction of the requirement of a qualified majority of 2/3 of the votes of the Election Board in a presidential election; the lifetime appointment for the judges of the Supreme Court; the abolition of probationary periods for judges as from 31 December 2024; and the election of the Public Defender for a longer term (6 years instead of 5) by a qualified majority in parliament.
Additional recommendations provided by the Venice Commission include removing the prohibition of “creation of political parties on territorial grounds”, reconsidering the rules limiting the role of the Constitutional Court in reviewing electoral legislation; and modifying the process of the appointment of Supreme Court judges to better guarantee their independence.
The President of Georgia, H.E. Giorgi Margvelashvili has not considered the request of the Chairman of the Parliament, Mr. Irakli Kobakhidze to convene the special session and called on the Parliament not to adopt uncoordinated constitutional amendments in the accelerated manner.
"My refusal has a political content. I call on the Parliament not to adopt uncoordinated amendments in the accelerated manner. I encourage the Parliament to return to the recommendations and remarks suggested by the Venice Commission and propose the improved version of the Constitution. Let us create a document of agreement; the document that will be based on consensus and the fundamental principles proposed by the Venice Commission. We should not cause problems for the development of the Georgian democracy.
I hope that in this difficult period, respected deputies, the Parliamentary majority will not get involved in this extremely accelerated regime and continue to discuss the Constitution according to the principles that I have proposed", - stated President Margvelashvili.
The President has also assessed yesterday's decision of the parliamentary majority regarding the constitutional reform as an amendment that aims at reducing the power of the President’s Institute.
"Refusal of a transition to the proportional system - this amendment entirely changes the proposed project of the constitutional reform, which has been discussed by the Georgian society and the Venice Commission.
The name itself - fundamental amendments to the Constitution - and our expectation imply that the Georgian society would have taken another step in improving the Constitution; however, the only fundamental change which was made, was reducing the power of the President’s Institute. This concerns to the indirect presidential election system, functions and rights of a commander-in-chief and abolition of the National Security Council, all included in the draft; overall, all issues that we have been discussing from the very beginning when the Constitutional Commission was formed. This is a version of the Constitution, which has been adopted as a result of the attitude, directed against the President’s Institute”, - pointed out the President.
Tamar Chugoshvili: I would hail if the Speaker of the Parliament and the President of Georgia jointly introduce the Constitutional Changes to the populationFriday, 05 May 2017 10:14
The Parliament invites the President of Georgia to participate in public consideration of the Constitutional Changes, as stated by the First Vice Speaker, Tamar Chugoshvili.
“Regarding the public consideration of the Constitutional Changes, we have offer to the President – we want to invite him to participate in public considerations. I would hail the fact if the Speaker of the Parliament and the President of Georgia jointly introduce the Constitutional Changes to the population, especially that the President and his Administration have already started this process for a certain period and we start it now deriving from the requirements of the Rules of Procedure. However, we can consolidate these two processes”.
“Rugby indeed is our game, Georgians’ game”, - the Speaker, Irakli Kobakhidze stated in Kutaisi Parliament where the Rugby World Cup was delivered on the occasion of the World Rugby Championship to be held in Georgia.
“I am glad that the Parliament hosts the World Cup. This event will play the greatest role in Rugby development in Georgia. I would like to thank every person and every organization contributing in development of Rugby in Georgia. “Rugby is our game” – it is not the slogan only. Rugby indeed is our game, Georgians’ game”, - he stated.
According to MP, veteran Rugby player and the former captain of Georgian National Team, Irakli Abuseridze, development of Rugby in Georgia started in 90s. “It is the greatest responsibility for Georgia. I am glad that we host the World Rugby Championship. It is the recognition at the world level. We have obtained approval to hold the Championship in Georgia as a result of two victories at World Cup 2015 and I hope that our country and our Team will achieve the goal we outlined”.
According to the veteran Rugby player, Lekso Gugava, witnessing the prestigious Rugby award is a unique opportunity. “According to the rule, when the country hosts the World Cup, the World Cup serves the pre-visit to the hosting country to start travel and see the representative areas of the country. One of the Cup stops is the Parliament. Today, the Cup was delivered to the Speaker of the Parliament, the Parliament also hosts the veteran Rugby players and everyone can take a photo and see the Cup. It is a unique opportunity”.
Within May 31-June 18, Georgia will for the first time host the World Rugby Championship. The World Rugby Cup arrived on April 17. It travels to the regions of Georgia and within the action, the Rugby Union and veteran players delivered the Cup to the Parliament of Georgia.
The Speaker, Mr. Irakli Kobakhidze, as commenting to media after the meeting with the Business Association member companies, stated that the Parliament and business sector will actively cooperate in various formats.
We had the meeting with Business Association representatives first of all regarding the Constitutional changes. We discussed the issues related to legislative norms regulating economic relations and agreed on various cooperation formats. The Parliament will be absolutely open for business cooperation. First of all, we shall establish an effective format to preliminarily consider all the initiatives related to business interests”.
Georgian citizens will be able to enter the Schengen area without a visa for short stays, under a new law passed by Parliament on Thursday.
The legislation still needs to be formally approved by the Council and will only enter into force once the visa suspension mechanism, which allows the temporary reintroduction of visas in the event of migration surges or risks to public security, is in place.
Parliament´s rapporteur for the proposal, Mariya Gabriel (EPP, BG), acknowledged the “broad and complex reforms” carried out by Georgia in order to get the visa waiver and thanked the country's authorities and citizens for their consistency and patience. She also congratulated them on the strength of their democratic conviction and noted that the visa exemption brings the country closer to the EU.
Under the visa exemption, endorsed in plenary by 553 votes to 66, with 28 abstentions, Georgians who hold a biometric passport will have the right to enter the EU visa-free for 90 days in any 180-day period, for business, tourist or family purposes, but not to work.
Tbilisi has complied with all the benchmarks of its visa liberalisation plan, the text notes, underlining that “continuous fulfilment by Georgia of such criteria, especially on the fight against organised crime, will be duly monitored by the Commission”.
The visa waivers apply to the Schengen area, which includes 22 EU member states (all except Ireland, the UK, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria), plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The legal change transferring Georgia from the list of countries whose nationals need a visa to enter the EU (the “negative” list) to the list of countries exempted from this requirement (the “positive” list) will have now to be approved by the Council of Ministers. Following its formal signature, the text will be published in the EU Official Journal.
The visa waiver for Georgia will enter into force on the same date as the revised visa suspension mechanism, approved by Parliament on 15 December but still pending finalisation of the official translation of the legal texts.
“The Parliament should adopt the veto of the President of Georgia” – Eka Gigauri, the Director of Transparency International Georgia said. According to her, the process should not be delayed in Parliament and it should be adopted soon.
“We have discussed the so-called third wave reform which is too important. But the other side, there are a lot of problems, for example the appointment procedures of judges and court chairman,”-Eka Gigauri said.
The parliamentary minority summons Kakha Kaladze, the Energy Minister at Parliament over the Gazprom issue. According to Gigi Tsereteli, the agreement was made at today’s meeting.
"We discussed to summon Kakha Kaladze, the Energy Minister at Parliament over the Gazprom agreement, and it probably will soon inform the government," - said Gigi Tsereteli.
The Parliament adopted the State Budget 2017 with 102 votes against 10, introduced by the Finance Minister, Dimitri Kumsishvili along with the new 4-point economic plan and expected outcomes.
He thanked the Parliament for confidence. “Today, it is my most important public speech for me, as for the Minister of Finance as I introduce the State Budget 2017, the document serving the guarantee for economic growth and is important not only in short-term period like one year but it is the basis for development of the country. It is the document to ensure welfare and stability of each of the citizens. In general, development of Georgia depends on sequence of steps to be jointly made by the Government and the society”.
The Budget is oriented to irreversible progress and development. “We are ready to accept the challenges the country encounters and continue our progress. We understand that the primary function of the Government is to create the conditions for development and opportunity of the citizens. That is why the Budget is oriented to irreversible progress and development. We all believe in the better future of Georgia and Georgian citizens”.
The healthy economic processes take place in the country and important steps are to be made in this regards. “We shall make important steps to create more local enterprises, expert-oriented manufactures, more open and free markets for substitution of import. Investments are also important. Local entrepreneurs shall make decisions on investments. It is the sphere of reforms I have mentioned and which is reflected in the Budget”. Export-oriented productions shall be facilitated in view of export development. The programs will be further financed facilitating export-oriented productions, including the state program “Produce in Georgia”.
The most important factor for further growth of export is DCFTA with EU and Free Trade Agreement with China. “However, we shall also at maximal extent support our entrepreneurs to enter the markets and the state program “Produce in Georgia” and the preferential agro-credits serve for this purpose”.
The Budget 2017 envisages extra 6.0 ml GEL for export facilitation. Export development and facilitation directions as well are attraction of direct foreign investments in export-oriented sectors, creation of industrial clusters and conduct of favorable trade policy to facilitate to elimination of non-tariff barriers and development of high quality infrastructure.
The state program will be supplemented with some components important for petty and average business. D. Kumsiashvili spoke about infrastructural projects: significant constructions on Rikoti Pass, Samtredia-Grigoleti Section, Batumi Detour and Red Bridge-Rustavi Section. 50 ml GEL is allocated for construction of Devdorak Tunnel. Annually ravaged land mass in Devdoraki Gorge entails up to 1 ml GEL loss per day. “This land mass impedes transit function and entails up to 1 ml Gel loss per day according to calculations. The decision is made envisaging provision of the stabile road”. Road construction and rehabilitation will significantly increase the tourist potential and will allow tourists visiting the sites and traveling for free. The Budget envisages construction of modern standard multifunction Sports Palaces in Batumi, Kutaisi, Gori and Telavi. “These are important infrastructural projects to facilitate to healthy life-style in four cities and which are important for the tournaments. We plan to restore the Football and Rugby stadiums in Tbilisi, Rustavi and Kutaisi”.
The Budget also envisages gas supply, development of e-transmission lines and construction of melioration systems. The Minister spoke about 4-point plan events. “The plan envisages: economic reform oriented to maximal encouragement of private sector; education reform to ensure development of human capital and effective and maximal engagement in development of the country; spatial arrangement plan covering planting regulation plans. Correct spatial arrangement will convert Georgia into the 4-season tourist country. We plan the transport network country wide. The highways will become attractive for transits and will facilitate to tourism development; public administration reform, providing development of state service policy and improvement of service quality”.
The Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, Irakli Kovzanadze estimated the draft. The objective reality is that Georgia encounters economic challenges in short and mid-term perspective. The economic growth pace has been drastically reduced in the world entailing devaluation of currencies, deflation processes, reduction of prices on raw material etc. The situation on international financial market is fragile and unforeseeable. “In this situation the State Budget will become the milestone of financial stability of the country and along with the Monetary Policy conducted by the National Bank, is purposed to facilitate to macro-economic stability, inclusive and rapid economic growth, increase of employment and social improvement of the population”.
The Government cherishes the healthy political ambition in long-term perspective. The Governmental plan is based not the populist and superficial steps or solution of existing problems but envisages priorities to be creation of sustainable and long-term economic foundation. “This is why, our international partners, Ambassadors, IMF support our Government and the draft Budget confirmed with the statement by the IMF made today”.
According to the President of the National Bank, Koba Gvenetadze, despite increase of excise fees to entail increase of prices of some goods and services, the direct impact of increase will not be higher than the annual inflation index. Development of the state equity market is the necessary pre-condition for development of capital market facilitating to acceleration of long-term economic growth. Next year it is necessary to start emission of high-liquidity securities preliminarily announced.
According to the Deputy Chairperson, Irma Inashvili, the Alliance of Patriots will not support the draft. Today, the Alliance initiated to set up the Ad Hoc Governmental Commission on Mortgagers and Old Soviet Depositors. The Faction Member, Ada Marshania addressed the PM: Mr. Prime Minister, we shall urgently set up the Ad Hoc Commission on Mortgagers and Old Soviet Depositors as it is a significant issue”.
As the Majority MP, Zaza Gabunia stated, IMF has already made the statement hailing to the approaches of the Government and concentrated in the draft Budget. “It is one of the best indicators when we speak about positive impacts of the Budget”.
Minority MPs criticized drastic fall of GEL rate. The Majority MP, Mamuka Mdinaradze echoed with comparison of data for 2010 and 2016. Not only GEL but Azerbaijani Manat, Russian Rouble, Armenian Drams and EURO are devaluated towards USD. Minority MP, Irma Nadirashvili criticized the initiative of conversion of USD credits into GEL. Majority MPs gave the positive estimation to the draft.According to the Deputy Chairman, Zviad Dzidziguri, implementation of the spatial arrangement projects shall create 200 000 job opportunities.
The Majority MP, Paata Mkheidze initiated to create the free industrial zone in Rustavi to unload Tbilisi. The Parliament adopted the draft Resolution on Parliamentary Delegations. MPs adopted the draft State Budget with 102 votes against 10.
The Chairman spoke about announced Constitutional reform and the format of the Constitutional Commission.
“We had a dialogue concerning the format. We had even speculations. However, I might reiterate that the format we offer is the optimal and leads to the respective outcome”.
Particular challenge for Georgia is economic development. Despite of unfavorable situation in the region, Georgian Government has an ambitious plan. “I believe the plan allows real increase of economic growth pace in Georgia. In terms of economic development, cooperation between the Government and NGOs, Parliament and NGOs is very important”.