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The News in Brief

Monday, July 20
Georgia’s team achieves success at Davis Cup

Georgia’s tennis team has achieved success at the Davis Cup. As Georgia’s Tennis Federation has informed InterPressNews, the men’s team of Georgia has successfully participated and moved to the second European zone.

The crucial match was held with Estonia’s team. Sandro Metreveli beat his Estonian rival with the score 6:3, 7:6. Nikoloz Basilashvili won the crucial game with the score 3-6 6-2 6-4.

According to the federation, there were four sportsmen in Georgia’s team: Nikoloz Basilashvili, Aleksandre Metreveli, Giorgi Javakhishviil and Giorgi Tsivadze.

The team coach is Vova Gabrichidze.

Bundeswehr internet TV prepares video on Georgian troops in Afghanistan

The Internet TV of Germany’s Armed Forces has prepared a video about a Georgian troops participating in the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

As Georgia’s Defense Ministry has informed InterPressNews, the video is about the Georgian military servicemen operating in Mazar-I-Sharip while subordinated to the German sub-division.

“Their working area is Afghanistan, their motherland is Georgia and the country where they were prepared for taking part in the mission is Germany. Georgia fulfils international commitments by taking part in the mission and thus Georgian-German cooperation also becomes steady. Georgian troops patrol a 30km2 area every day,” the statement says.

The Georgian unit’s head General Vakhtang Begoidze, has elaborated on their mission there:

“One of our duties is to patrol the area intensively, which we do round the clock using different vehicles,”- he said.

130 Georgian military servicemen have completed the preparation course in Germany, according to Begoidze:

“We spent a lot of time at Wildflecken military base. After several weeks in Hamelburg, our last days there were spent at the combat training center. We assess the training we underwent in Germany as very important, intensive and interesting.”

General Andreas Hannemann, head of the German troopers stationed in Afghanistan, puts an emphasis on Georgian and German soldiers’ cooperation.

“They receive military experience together and the level of their compatibility increases. Joint training is very significant – for example, Georgians have just recently become acquainted with the infrastructure of German military bases.

Germans and Georgians are on a mission in the Mazar-I-Sharif province, Marmal military base. The territory is located in North Afghanistan and its security is important.

As the head of the Georgian company says, the environment is very complex but pleasant at the same time; on one hand this is a challenge but on the other, it is a very pleasant process,”- Hannemann said.

Ozurgeti City Council member and governor’s representative detained for accepting bribes

Employees of the MIA anti-corruption agency have detained Shota Artmeladze, member of the Ozurgeti City Council and Tariel Antadze, representative of Ozurgeti governor, on charges of corruption.

As the Interior Ministry has informed InterPressNews, the detainees accepted 2000 USD and 1000 GEL as a bribe for allowing Turkish and Georgian citizens to use a school building in Nasakirali for a year without the corresponding permission and procedures.

Both Artmeladze and Antadze were detained in Kobuleti, western Georgia.

Investigation of the case is in progress; if convicted, both detainees face from 7 to 11 years of imprisonment.

Georgia reinvestigates first president’s death as premeditated murder

A renewed investigation into the death of former Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia has been launched.

This time Georgia’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office is treating the case as premeditated murder.

Gamsakhurdia was the first president of independent Georgia and the only Georgian president who died while in office.

He died in unclear circumstances in Jikhashkari village in the Samegrelo region of western Georgia on December 31, 1993. A variety of reasons have been speculated as the cause of his death, among them suicide.

Last week the Chief Prosecutor’s Office told a local news agency a special fact-finding commission had been established and the group had been investigating the case for several months.

The agency said investigators now treated the case as premeditated murder committed in connection with the victim's official activities.

A request for international legal assistance was sent abroad. Meanwhile the scene of the incident was analysed, witnesses were questioned and forensic and biological examinations were carried out.

The Chief Prosecutor's Office also said the investigation was being carried out in close cooperation with the late president’s family, who had access to all materials obtained in the investigation.

Gamsakhurdia was described as a passionate, nationalist, educated and highly cultured person. However his presidency was followed with ethnic and civil conflicts resulting in destruction and economic crisis in Georgia.

Along with the crisis following the collapse of the Soviet Union, his policy resulted in emergence of the breakaway regions of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) first, then Abkhazia.

With his nationalist line aimed to make Georgia an independent country, he became the first democratically elected president of Georgia on October 28, 1990 with over 87 percent of the votes.

But soon after the elections, the president got involved in a conflict with parliament. Since he refused to compromise, he and his military forces were opposed by other groups, resulting in armed conflict in Georgia.

Controversial Bill on Banking Supervision Gets Final Approval in Parliament

Parliament passed with its third and final reading on July 17 bill removing banking supervisory functions from the National Bank of Georgia (NBG) and transferring them to a separate agency.

The bill, which was passed with second reading a day earlier, got its final approval on Friday with 80 votes to 19.

The proposal has drawn criticism from international financial institutions, business associations, opposition parties, a group of civil society organizations and from the central bank itself.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili has indicated in late May that he would veto the bill.

If vetoed the GD is well placed to override it as the ruling coalition holds 86 seats in the legislative body; at least 76 votes are needed to overturn a presidential veto.

Although the bill has been amended, as Parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili said on July 16, to put it in line with international financial institutions’ recommendations, the key principle of removing banking supervision from the NBG remained unchanged.

In a joint letter late last month to PM Irakli Garibashvili and Parliament Speaker Usupashvili the International Monetary Fund (IMF); European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the World Bank said in “Georgia’s case, moving banking supervision out of the NBG does not seem prudent.”

“Our best advice is to keep banking supervision inside the NBG,” reads the letter.

The bill envisages setting up of the Financial Supervisory Agency, which will be in charge of monitoring and oversight of banking sector and other financial institutions; these functions are currently carried out by departments, which are part of NBG.

According to the bill, the planned Financial Supervisory Agency will be governed by a seven-member board. President of NBG and one more member of central bank’s board will take two seats; five other seats will be occupied by candidates nominated by the government and confirmed by the Parliament. The head of the agency will be nominated by the board members and confirmed by the parliament.

The co-sponsor of the bill, MP Tamaz Mechiauri, who chairs the parliamentary committee for finance and budgetary issues, said during the debates on July 16 that the proposal would help to increase “confidence” towards the central bank. Mechiauri, a fierce critic of central bank president Giorgi Kadagidze, also said that after the new system is introduced “fluctuations in lari’s exchange rate will no longer depend on one man’s wishes” – a reference to his suggestions that the central bank’s policies should also be blamed for lari depreciation along with external factors.

One of the main reasons of criticism of the bill is that, according to opponents, the proposal is motivated by political rather than economic reasons. The bill was initiated last month amid attacks from the GD senior politicians against NBG president Giorgi Kadagidze. The central bank chief, whose seven-year term in office will expire in February 2016, has been a frequent target of attacks from GD politicians after the national currency started to depreciate in November 2014 due to the strengthening of the U.S. dollar and the decline of external earnings in the form of reduced exports and remittances.

The lari was mostly stable for about a month till mid-July, hovering around 2.25 per U.S. dollar, 28% weaker than in November 2014, when lari started depreciating.

Lari fell to 2.2718 per U.S. dollar over the past few days.

“We were expecting this [further depreciation of lari],” MP Mechiauri said on July 16, again pointing finger at the central bank.

“After the current board of central bank exhausted all the chances to influence co-sponsors of this bill and to achieve withdrawal of this bill through pressure from various international organizations and various forces, and after they saw that we engaged in consultations with them [international financial institutions] and after taking recommendations from them adoption of this bill became irreversible… they [the central bank leadership] announced that insufficient budget spending cut would cause lari depreciation and in parallel they actually did bring fall in lari’s exchange rate. And now they [the central bank] want to shift the blame for this on the government and on this bill,” MP Mechiauri said.