The messenger logo

The News in Brief

Friday, June 16
CSOs: Parliament Must Consider All Recommendations of the Venice Commission

A group of nine Georgian civil society organizations (CSOs), including the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, the Georgian Young Lawyers Association and Transparency International - Georgia, released a statement on June 14, a day before the Venice Commission’s final opinion on the recently drafted constitutional amendments.

The organizations said that despite Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze’s pledges that the ruling party would be ready to consider all recommendations of the Venice Commission (the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs), following the release of the Commission’s preliminary opinion, Kobakhidze and individual ruling party MPs “stated that they do not share some recommendations of the Commission”

The CSOs noted that the Parliamentary Chairman “does not share” several recommendations of the Venice Commission, including the recommendation on requiring a qualified parliamentary majority for electing the President in the first round and on electing the Supreme Court judges.

The organizations also pointed out that ruling party MPs “are periodically making statements” on intra-party disagreements over the proposed transfer to fully proportional electoral system and the postponement of indirect presidential elections to 2023.

These statements, the CSOs argued, “create suspicions that the government is trying to come up with ways to avoid full consideration of the Venice Commission’s recommendations and makes it seem like the authorities are trying to diminish the importance of some of the recommendations of the Venice Commission.”

The organizations called on Parliament to adopt all the recommendations of the Venice Commission and “not to conduct parliamentary readings of the constitutional amendments in a hasty manner and to allocate reasonable time for discussing revised amendments with relevant stakeholders”.

Speaking before her departure for the Venice Commission’s 111th Plenary Session, Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Tamar Chugoshvili said the ruling party would “fulfill its pledges” and would adopt all recommendations of the Venice Commission. “The constitution that the Parliament of Georgia will vote on will be in full compliance with European standards, will be a coherent document and a very good constitution for Georgia,” she added.

The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body for legal affairs, will discuss the proposed constitutional amendments at its 111th Plenary Session in Venice, Italy on June 16-17. Along with Chugoshvili, Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze and the President’s Parliamentary Secretary Anna Dolidze will also be present at the Commission’s session on Georgia. (

Senate approves new Russia sanctions

On Wednesday, the US Senate voted overwhelmingly in favour of enacting new sanctions against Russia and made it difficult for President Donald Trump to lift them, CNN reports.

In a rare moment of bipartisan unity, the Senate voted 97 to two to approve the sanctions, with only Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky voting against.

The Russia sanctions amendment was added to an Iranian sanctions bill on the Senate floor after a deal was struck earlier this week between the Republican and Democratic heads of the Senate Foreign Relations and Banking Committees.

The vote was overshadowed by Wednesday's shooting at a congressional Republican baseball practice — at which Senators Rand Paul and Jeff Flake of Arizona were present — but the Senate kept on its schedule, and the bill is expected to be passed by the end of the week.

The new Russia sanctions would create a congressional review process if the executive branch eases current sanctions. It also imposes new sanctions in a number of categories, including those "conducting malicious cyber activity on behalf of the Russian government" and "supplying weapons to the Assad regime."

Democrats and many Republicans have been pushing for the Senate to adopt a new Russia sanctions measure in response to Russia's interference in the 2016 US elections and after reports the Trump administration is considering easing sanctions on Moscow.

"This bipartisan agreement to stiffen sanctions is a significant step forward," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat.

"We need this amendment because we have no time to waste," said Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona. "The United States of America needs to send a strong message to Vladimir Putin and any other aggressor that we will not tolerate attacks on our democracy." (IPN)