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”.
The Chairman of the Parliament, Mr. Irakli Kobakhidze, the Majority Leader, Mr. Archil Talakvadze and the Chair of the Education, Science and Culture Committee, Ms. Mariam Jashi visited the National Library of the Parliament.
The Director of the Library, Giorgi Kekelidze introduced the rehabilitation works in the I Block and the planned projects. The Chairmjan and MPs visited the restoration and conservation laboratory, digital photo chronicles, the hall of the Georgian Literacy Society, media library of French institute of Georgia, Georgian emigration hall, Chabua Amirejibi cabinet and other halls.
In the S. Paolini Italian Library the Chairman was hosted by the Ambassador of Italy, H.E. Antonio Enrico Bartoli.
As the Chairman stated, the Parliament will fully support the Library.
“We had the meeting a week ago. We considered the initiatives envisaging enhancement of the National Library, further development of the resources thereof and we can promise today that the Parliament will support all the initiatives. Each of the initiatives are important for us, for future generations, starting from e-catalogues up to the rural libraries. It is important for constant progress of our country”.
The Sector Economy and Economic Policy and the Budget and Finance Committees discussed the candidates for three members of the Board of the National Bank.
The President of Georgia has nominated Archil Mestvirishvili, Murtaz Kikoria and Robert Hendry Singleter Jr. to the positions due to expiration of the term of three members of the Board. The Deputy-Parliamentary Secretary of the President, Zurab Macharadze introduced the biographic data and working experience of the candidates.
MPs heard the candidates introducing their views and approaches. The main challenge for the NB and the country was named to be reduction of dollarization. “It is a complex issue and the National Bank powerless here. NB, the Government and financial sector are all involved in the issue as reduction of dollarization would be beneficial for everyone”, - A. Mestvirishvili noted. We have the plan of 10 points, which is one of the most important step forward to once and forever defeat dollarization problem. “It is not an easily solvable problem. It requires efforts and concentration of us all and we, the NB, as one of the leading bodies, will be involved in the issue”.
M. Kikoria named protection of consumers’ rights as another challenge. “In this term, we shall enhance the normative base and establish the principles to ensure stability of the sector”. According to R. Hendry Singleter Jr., protection of the population is possible through establishing the upper ceiling on interest rates. The state shall establish the higher limit for interest rates of the loans issued by the online loan and micro-financial organizations. “In my opinion, the state shall make effective steps and shall establish the upper ceiling of interest rates for the loans. The population has no financial knowledge and information unable to see the essence of the problem. Hence, their protection is possible with establishment of upper ceiling of interest rates”.
The candidates answered the questions concerning development of stock exchanges, upper ceiling of interest rates of the loans by online loans and micro-financial organizations , regulation of financial sector and involvement of banks in non-profile activity. MPs, with majority of votes through secret ballot, supported the candidates. Minority refused to participate in ballot as plans to consider the candidacies.
The members of the Parliament of Georgia late on Saturday night issued a resounding vote of confidence in the new government, following a full day of hearings with the Prime Minister-designate Giorgi Kvirikashvili and his proposed cabinet. The new government, which retains 13 ministers and brings in five new faces following the elections which returned the ruling Georgian Dream with a strengthened mandate, presented its programme for the coming term. President Margvelashvili confirmed the appointment of PM Kvirikashvili with a decree this morning. The Prime Minister has two days to appoint the ministers.
The ministerial changes and four-year governmental plan were approved by 110 votes in favour, 19 against and 21 abstentions.
Prime Minister Kvirikashvili thanked his team, the MPs and the people of Georgia for the smooth but intensive process of the elections and government confirmation. Following the vote he made a call for unity, saying: "We are given today a historic opportunity to make over the coming years an enormous contribution to the future positive development of our country. I urge you all to put anything personal aside and focus on the tremendous effort ahead of us."
The new government brings together a team of experienced and well-qualified ministers. In an effort to ensure stability, 13 ministers serving in the previous government will continue in their functions, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikheil Janelidze, Minister of Defense Levan Izoria and Minister of Justice Tea Tsulukiani.
Among the new names, Victor Dolidze will serve as State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration. The Prime Minister praised the incoming State Minister as "an experienced and good diplomat" and "constructive partner" for Georgia's European path - Dolidze has extensive experience in EU and international affairs having served as Permanent Representative to OSCE and Parliament speaker for European affairs. His predecessor David Bakradze has been appointed Ambassador to the US.
Former Minister of Economy Dimitri Kumsishvili will take up the post of Finance Minister, retaining his role as first deputy prime minister, while Georgian Dream party secretary General Kakha Kaladze will be deputy prime minister, returning to the post of Energy Minister he held before a temporary leave to run for elections. The Ministry of Economy will be led by Giorgi Gakharia, the former business ombudsman and Chairman of the Economic Council, while Zurab Alavidze will become Minister for Regional Development and Infrastructure. In an effort to streamline policy-making the Diaspora Issues portfolio has been merged with the Foreign Ministry.
The government's action plan for 2016-2020 - "Freedom, Rapid Development and Welfare" - will be based on earlier offered Four Point Reform Agenda, which prioritises new tax benefits, infrastructure plans, governance reforms and an overhaul of the education system. The aim of the government's economic policy will on the one hand develop private sector and on the other hand ensure to help the Georgian people in most need of state support.
The Agrarian Issues, the Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, the Sector Economy and Economic Policy, the Regional Policy and Self-Government and the Budget and Finance Committees discussed the Governmental Program “Freedom, Rapid Development, Welfare” for 2016-2020 and the composition of the Government introduced by the PM candidate, Mr. Giorgi Kvirikashvili.
MPs heard the candidates for the Minister of Finance, Dimitri Kumsiashvili, Minister of Energy, Kakha Kaladze, Minister of Agriculture, Levan Davitashvili, Minister of Environmental Protection, Gigla Agulashvili and the Minister of Regional Development, Zurab Alavidzespeaking about implemented activity and the future plans.
The priority of the Government still remain – facilitation to petty and average business, encouragement of entrepreneurship and start-up business, agricultural development and integration of the country into the world economic system. Simultaneously, the Government will further improve state social programs, ensure new job opportunities and overcome poverty. Ministries will be guided under the 4-point Governmental plan envisaging economic and education reforms, special arrangement plan and public administration reform.
Mr. Dimitri Kumsiashvili spoke about main principles, tasks and plans serving the basis for activity of the Finance Ministry. “We have come with concrete promises and we will reflect it in the budget. Hence, incomes to the budget will be distributed in fair manner”. Financing of rapid economic development and economic stimulating projects will be the main priority along with social responsibility assumed by the team. He emphasized tax policy and foreign and domestic debt. The overall debt towards GDP constitutes 41.2% where 39% is the foreign debt. The debt structure is as well important where 78% is the foreign and 22% is the domestic debt. The average weighted interest rate constitutes 2.1% and coverage area – more than 10 years. The domestic debt shall be increased which shall be jointly considered when discussing the state debt strategy. The debts have pros and cons and we shall find the balance between the currency reserve supply and currency risk reduction”. Georgia recently has become the only country with no reduced rating by the international rating organizations, “which means that our economic policy was correct”.
As the candidate of the Minister of Economic and Sustainable Development, Giorgi Gvakharia stated, Georgia has the best results in economic growth despite of challenges of rapid economic growth, increase of employment, reduction of trade deficit. These are the challenges that shall be converted into economic opportunities. The private sector shall be enhanced to contribute its mite in rapid economic development. The Ministry will strictly adhere to the 4-point plan.
Kakha Kaladze spoke about energy as one of the main direction for economic development. He emphasized implemented and future projects in energy sphere and stated about 3 billion GEL to be invested in energy for infrastructural development, for gas storage which is particularly important and for increase of transit role of the country. All the villages will be further supplied with electricity and gas.
The candidate for the Minister of Agriculture, Levan Davitashvili spoke about policy and main directions in the sphere. The primary target is to increase self-provision and production of export-oriented goods. He spoke about solution ways for the challenges the field encounters. As he stated, all the state programs and international projects onset will be maintained, including state programs on cooperative enhancement, agriculture development strategy will be developed and particular attention will be attached to harvest technology development as 20% of loss of harvest is related to unavailability of technologies.
Mr. Gigla Agulashvili spoke about the mechanisms and reforms to reduce environmental degradation. He spoke about update of the legislative base. The reforms concern waste management, forest and mineral issues, air quality improvement, protected areas etc.
The candidate for the Minister of Regional Development, Zurab Alavidze spoke about the 4-year priorities envisaged under the 4-point plan of the Government, one of the points of which concerns special arrangement, which is the main framework of development of the country. He overviewed highway and road projects. The Ministry also plans development of tourist infrastructure, rehabilitation of the roads leading to the cultural heritage, implementation of water supply and sewerage systems etc.
The Chair, Mikheil Kavelashvli spoke about the activity and the priorities of the Committee. He hoped that regardless of different views of the majority and minority, the constructive cooperation will result in the decisions beneficial for the country. The Committee shall do its best to make sports the field number one, to increase the volume of the sphere and ensure active involvement of adults therein. Committee members stated that sport can bring benefits for the country in terms of economic enhancement.
The Committee supported the Regulation and elected Shota Khabareli as the First Deputy Chair, Irakli Abuseridze from majority and Zaza Kedelashvili from minority as the Deputy Chairs. The Committee is composed of 13 members:
Mikheil Kavelashvili – Chair of the Committee
Shota Khabareli – First Deputy Chair
Irakli Abuseridze - Deputy Chair
Zaza Kedelashvili - Deputy Chair