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The News in Brief

Monday, September 28
Burjanadze Meets Russian Upper House Speaker

Nino Burjanadze, leader of opposition Democratic Movement-United Georgia party and former Parliament Speaker met the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, on September 24 in St. Petersburg

Burjanadze is in St. Petersburg to participate in the inaugural Eurasian Women’s Forum held on September 24-25.

This is Burjanadze’s second visit to Russia in the past two months.

“You are well-known not only in Georgia, but in Russia too as a prominent political and public figure,” Matviyenko told Burjanadze. “We appreciate highly your consistent commitment towards the idea of good neighbourly relations with Russia, which correspond to the national interests of both Russia and Georgia.”

“I am saying it sincerely that not because of our fault tensions have arisen in relations between Russia and Georgia and we were worried very much when it was happening. Saakashvili’s regime, full of Russophobia, was doing everything to destroy Russian-Georgian relations. We all know how it all ended,” she said.

“Russia has always been in favour of the normalization of Russian-Georgian relations. We have accepted positively those positive signals, which came after change of government [in Georgia] in 2012,” Matviyenko said, noting bilateral direct dialogue between Georgian PM’s special envoy for relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin.

Matviyenko said that these direct talks helped to improve ties in the areas where it is possible to achieve progress in the condition of absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries, specifically in trade and people-to-people contacts.

“But we are still concerned about some impenetrable position the Georgian leadership has, which does not allow us to restore full-fledged diplomatic relations. Obviously we are concerned that Georgia is getting closer to NATO, which creates instability in the Trans-Caucasus and which does not contribute to peace and stability in the Transcaucasus,” Matviyenko said.

Burjanadze responded: “The restoration of normal relations is important for both Russia and Georgia. From my resent contacts and visits to Moscow I have seen that there is a real vision among Russian leaders that these relations are important for the both countries and that there is a willingness of restoring normal relations.”

Georgia’s parliament may consider mandatory gender quotas

The human rights committee in Georgia’s parliament Thursday favoured a law that would guarantee that at least 25% of representatives are women.

The law concerns those representatives who are elected through the proportional system, who account for half of the 150 seats, and would make it mandatory for parties to name women as half of their candidates on the party lists.

The proposal, which was put forth by an eight non-governmental organizations (NGOs), will make it mandatory for parties to make every second person on the list of candidates a woman. Six committee members supported the proposal.

The committee will now ask parliament’s bureau to consider the proposal. If parliament adopts the bill there will be at least 25 percent of women (38 seats) in parliament, as this will only affect proportionate lists, not the majoritarian seats.

The proposal was submitted in parliament in the beginning of summer and will amend the law on the political union of citizens. It was put forth by eight local NGOs, among which are the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association, Women’s Information Cetner and Gender Justice.

Committee chairwoman Eka Beselia said the role of men and women in politics is special and having equal representation will have a positive effect.

“I hope that our future women colleagues will never have to go through the very difficult path through which our politician women went,” she said.

But the initiative also has some opponents. Gedevan Popkhadze from the committee thinks that it can be humiliating for women to get elected to parliament because of a quota.

He thinks that to look at the issue of rights there can be raised issues like ethnicity or other factors, which makes one person different from another and for him having quotas based on such criteria is unacceptable. Only professionalism should be the criteria for choosing MPs.

“Neither of those young women, whose future we are discussing now, [will be met by] closed doors to the Georgian parliament,” he said on Thursday.

“I don’t think that parliament will improve by [having] quotas,” he continued, adding that the legislative assembly doesn’t have to be differentiated by ethnicity or sex.

Flood-ravaged Mziuri Park brought back to life

The Mziuri Park in central Tbilisi that suffered severe damage in the June 13 disastrous flood is being brought back to life for public use, particularly benefiting people with disabilities.

This week it was revealed Tbilisi City Hall supported the New Mziuri project, initiated by local citizen and photographer Ana Goguadze, who founded the non-profit Sun Festival organisation.

Her idea was to revive the flood damaged area in a way that would allow the space to be easily accessible for people with disabilities. She also envisaged constructing an amphitheatre and establishing a cafe that will not be focused on generating a profit.

The facilities can be used by artists and other interested people ... for a small cost,” Goguadze said.

The Mayor’s Office special department has already begun discussing Goguadze's ideas with those responsible for initiating the project, and the search has begun to find companies and contractors who will help make Goguadze's vision come true.