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Government not enacting own anti-monopoly legislation

By Salome Modebadze
Wednesday, April 4
Gia Tsagareishvili, of the parliamentary faction Unity for Georgia, criticized the draft Law on Free Trade and Competition at a meeting on Tuesday. The legislative package is aimed at improving Georgia's business environment by fighting monopolies, and although it was initiated by the government over eight months ago, has yet to be adopted.

Calling it possible precedent, Tsagareishvili suspected that the government has been trying to adjust legislation to suit business, not vice versa. According to the opposition MP, monopolies oppress business development through secret agreements, in violation of most European standards.

As Tsagareishvili told The Messenger, it was in November 2006 when Georgia signed an agreement with the European Union (EU) about cooperation within the umbrella of the South Caucasus Neighborhood Policy. “Georgia has taken on a lot of obligations but none of them have been followed so far,” he said.

No government representatives attended the meeting with experts and EU representatives. But according to Tsagareishvili, the EU's special attache working on trade-related issues expressed criticism towards the draft law because of the imbalance between Georgian and European standards.

Although President Mikheil Saakashvili has been actively promoting a free business environment, Tsagareishvili believes that Saakashvili is all talk and no action. He said the law presented by the government is a way of deceiving the EU and the Georgian public, because in reality it strengthens the monopolists’ position in the market.

Hoping debates would continue in Parliament, Tsagareishvili said he would do everything to make the government consider adjusting the legislation to meet European standards, while the EU would continue to monitor implementation of the law.

Organizations presenting at the meeting stressed a need for “healthy competition” in a market economy, in order to develop free business, raise economic efficiency, and protect the rights of consumers. However, Natia Kutibadze, a representative of Transparency International Georgia, said an anti-monopoly law alone will not ensure effective execution of the principles of a competitive market.

As economic analyst Gia Khukhashvili told The Messenger, tools of application are necessary in order to carry out even the best law. Preventive mechanisms against monopolies to avoid secret agreements and define economic margins are dynamic processes which, according to Khukhashvili, need systemic change in Georgia. Otherwise, this law will exist only on paper, giving the EU the illusion that Georgia is meeting their standards.