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The News in Brief

Monday, March 25
MPs pass constitutional amendment with second reading

On Friday, the Parliament passed a constitutional amendment with 123 votes on its second reading. Parliament is expected to discuss the amendment, which strips the president of his current powers to sack the government and appoint a new one without parliament’s approval, with its third and final reading on Monday.

Georgia Rotates Troops in Afghanistan

Georgia started rotation of its two battalion stationed in Afghanistan’s Helmand province as part of NATO-led forces, the Georgian Ministry of Defense said on March 22.

The 33rd and 42nd battalions from the third and fourth brigades launched their six-month deployment, replacing the 12th battalion of the first infantry brigade and 32nd battalion of the third infantry brigade.

Georgia has almost doubled its contribution to the ISAF mission to over 1,560 last autumn.

Adm. James Stavridis, the commander of U.S./ European Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on March 19 that Georgia “is a terrific partner for NATO.”

21 March – World Down syndrome Day

Tbilisi hosted an information campaign dedicated to the 8th anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, to advocate for the rights of people with Down syndrome and to help ensure that they play an active role in our lives and communities.

The Our Children union organized the day’s activities with assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Open Society – Georgia Foundation, educational institutions and non-governmental organizations.

The information campaign kicked off early on March 21 with groups of volunteers, including people with disabilities, distributing information flyers in the streets of Tbilisi.

Open Gallery at Open Society – Georgia Foundation hosted an introduction of social videos “I want to work” and the manual “Teaching reading to children with Down syndrome”.
(The Messenger)

US and Georgian officials meet to discuss pressing policy issues in Georgia

US and Georgian government officials, as well as academics from leading universities, met to discuss Georgia’s most pressing post-election policy issues– prison reform, healthcare, agriculture and education, at the Radisson Hotel on March 23.

USAID Georgia Mission Director, Stephen Haykin, delivered the keynote address for this important and timely conference, where New York City Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and the Georgian Deputy Minister of Corrections, Archil Talakvadze, discussed prison system reforms in New York and in Georgia; Dr. Michael Sparer of Columbia University and Deputy Minister of Labor, Health and Social Affairs, Mariam Jashi, discussed healthcare priorities and Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Ilia Kvitaishvili, spoke about the Georgian Government’s agricultural plans.

Other speakers included experts from leading international organizations, Georgian CSOs, think tanks, universities, and representatives of the Georgian government.

The conference was organized as part of the MPA Program at ISU, which is a partnership between EWMI G-PAC, Columbia University and ISU. G-PAC is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by EWMI.
(The Messenger)

TBC Bank becomes best Georgian bank according to Global Finances

Global Finances magazine named TBC Bank as the best bank in Georgia in 2013, as Georgia’s largest bank by assets has showed innovation in adopting technology, dramatic increase in its deposit base and in the volume of real estate loans made to its customers.

According to the magazine’s editor Andrea Fiano, banks and their clients are facing different challenges in every country of every region– especially in the current harsh conditions for the global financial markets. This is why customers very much depend on the successful activities of their partnering banks and the quality of their service, while successful banks offer a high level of decisions to such markets.

Except from becoming the best bank in 2012, TBC also received an award from Global Finance in two other nominations across Georgia, as well as in Eastern Europe.

Vakhtang Butskhrikidze, General Director of TBC Bank, felt proud of receiving the prestigious award two years in a row. He said the global award reflects the strength and stability of the bank, its special approach towards people and the provision of innovative products.
(The Messenger)

Ministry: “Matrosov Prison” has subpar conditions

The Corrections Ministry has initiated a rehabilitation process for the N9 corrections facility, also known as "Matrosov Prison". The ministry announced that several facilities did not conform to international standards despite the maintenance work carried out several years ago.

According to the ministry, the building lacks the proper sanitary conditions.
(Georgian News TV)

6 citizens illegally detained in occupied Tskhinvali released

After intensive dialogue conducted by the Georgian Interior Ministry (MIA) with representatives of de-facto authorities from the occupied Tskhinvali Region, Georgian citizens have been released from illegal custody.

The interior ministry reports that on February 9 and March 14-15, the Russian military detained 6 Georgian citizens residing in the villages Kveshi and Artsevi, and in the vicinities of the occupation line on charges of "illegal crossing" of the so-called administrative border.

The 6 citizens were detained by the Russian military when they were on their way to their own fruit-gardens to carry out agricultural work there; while brothers-Jumber Dudashvili and Jambul Dudashvili- were detained on their way home after visiting their relatives.

Head of the Shida Kartli Regional Police Division, Gorgi Dvalishvili, transported the released citizens by his vehicle from Ergneti to Georgia-controlled territory.