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Honorary Consuls speak on ‘unprecedented’ restrictions

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, December 2
Special legislative norms with regard to Honorary Consuls acting in Georgia came to power in September of 2014. The consuls stress that the new restrictions that envisage the removal of moving, parking and some other benefits, provided poor conditions for their jobs. They claim that no developed countries have ever introduced such unfavorable amendments in terms of honorary consuls as Georgia’s Foreign Ministry did under Maia Panjikidze.

Temur Tchichinadze, Philippines Honorary Consul to Georgia told The Messenger that the restrictions over diplomatic vehicles' number plates and the scrapping of separate parking lots at the airports, as well as the delay in the new accreditation cards and other restrictions, have created serious problems for the honorary consuls that represent various foreign countries in Georgia, having no embassies in Georgia.

Unlike career consuls, who are professional, salary-paid diplomats, honorary consuls are not professional diplomats. Mainly they are related to the business-economic field. They are usually asked to perform their duties by their native country. However, in some cases they might not be citizens of the country they represent. The native country usually assigns them to the states where they do not have embassies. The country where they are acting might be their homeland where they have to deal with various economic, trade and some other issues the two countries have.

Tchichinadze says that through the new restrictions he has already faced problems concerning meeting with delegations and dealing with various diplomatic issues.

“For instance, when I have problems in meeting delegations in the airport, regarding parking or some other related issues, I will not be able to fulfill my obligations appropriately,” he said, adding that Georgia’s Consul to the Philippines does not face such obstacles.

“If the Pilipino government decides to introduce the same resections responding to the actions of the Georgian side, the situation will definitely damage relations between the two countries,” he says

“It was an anti-state approach and the decision was made on a personal level by a certain official against a certain consul that can spoil bilateral relations with a number of countries which have so far no diplomatic representations in Georgia, but are ready for mutually beneficial cooperation,” he said.

Spain’s Honorary Consul to Georgia Mikheil Akhvlediani said that 17 honorary consuls out of 22 appealed to the Foreign Ministry to hold a meeting regarding the issue. “However, they did not even try to meet us. We had no information whether they planned to make some amendments,” Akhvlediani said.

“Through the Venice Convention career and honorary consuls enjoy the same privileges. It is surprising why the ministry made such a decision that worsens diplomatic relations,” he said, and hoped that the new leadership of the ministry would pay more attention to the issue.

Tchichinadze said that parliament might hold a committee hearing soon with regard to the topic.

Speaking with The Messenger Georgia’s former Foreign Minister Panjikidze called “absurd” Tchichinadze’s accusations. According to her the consuls have never addressed her to meet.

“I had met several of them at various meetings. However, none of them raised the issue of the meeting with me. The topic of honorary consuls was settled in compliance with the international legislation,”Panjikidze said.

In her previous statement Panjikidze admitted that there should have been differentiation between the career and honorary consuls and stressed that the division met the Venice model. She also admitted that the consuls would have used all the privileges only when they fulfilled their professional obligations.

“It should be noted that, until now, honorary consuls enjoyed the same privileges as career diplomats; the Venice concept differs them in the rights and benefits they receive,” Panjkidze said. Moreover, the ministry emphasized then that the new regulations would have helped honorary consuls carry out their duties within the field of their competences by regulating technical issues relating to their rights.