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The News in Brief

Tuesday, December 19
Nine MEPs Call for Vano Merabishvili’s Release

Nine members of the European Parliament, including Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman David McAllister, urged the Government of Georgia to respect the “final landmark” judgment of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on the case of former Prime Minister Vano Merabishvili, and called on the authorities to release him “with no delay.”

The letter, addressed to President Giorgi Margvelashvili, Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili and Parliamentary Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze, was signed by five European People’s Party (EPP) members, two members of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), and one MEP each from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D).

“We, the undersigned members of the European Parliament, have been strong supporters of Georgia, its sovereignty, territorial integrity and the European choice of its people … Today, Georgia is viewed as one of the most advanced in the context of democracy among Eastern Partnership countries,” MEPs said in their letter. For this progress to continue, MEPs added, “it is important that the Georgian Government addresses some outstanding issues.”

The parliamentarians touched upon other issues as well, including the role of the Parliament of Georgia and the media landscape in the country.

“The role of parliament, but especially parliamentary scrutiny of the executive is a fundamental principle in every democracy. Prime Minister and ministers should not be avoiding parliamentary scrutiny. Opposition, including its ability to fundraise and compete, should be treated in line with standards to which Georgia aspires,” reads the letter.

The MEPs also emphasized that “It is important Georgia preserves the pluralistic media landscape that offers diversity of views to its citizens.” “We have followed the effort to change its ownership of Rustavi2, the country’s most popular TV channel, and taken note of concerns expressed by interlocutors such as the OSCE Representative on Media Freedom.”

“We remain committed supporters of Georgia and its democratic, European future. However, the responsibility of ensuring that Georgia’s progress continues primarily rests on those whom the Georgian people elected to govern their country,” the parliamentarians concluded.

MP Giorgi Kandelaki of the European Georgia party, which published the letter on December 16, expressed his hope that the Government of Georgia would “treat this important signal from Brussels with respect.” “MEPs write in the letter that it is in Georgia’s interest to close this chapter of history and think together about the future and not about the past,” Kandelaki noted.

2,000 Russian troops conducting military drills in Georgian breakaway regions

Abkhazia’s export of mandarins and other produce has plummeted by 2.7 times, dealing a heavy blow to the breakaway republic’s economy.

Local media blame the bad harvest on the spread of brown marmorated stink bug, which has devastated crops also in Georgia.

The separatist agriculture ministry estimates the citrus harvest this year to about 16,000 tons. Compared to last year’s 27,000 tons, this is nothing short of a catastrophic yield on produce that is mainly exported to Russia. With the emergence of pests, next year’s harvest will likely be even smaller.

Russian media cite data from the customs service in Sochi indicating that in the beginning of the season, tangerine imports from Abkhazia to Russia dropped 2.7 times compared to the same period in 2016.

According to the customs press service, about 1,500 tons of tangerines have been registered at the Adler motor checkpoint this year, while the same period last year this figure reached 4,000 tons.

However, mandarin demand is especially high during the New Year holidays and Sokhumi hopes that demand in the middle of December will increase.

Exports of other subtropical fruits, like feijoa (pineapple guava) and persimmon have both also reached rock bottom after tumbling by about two thirds, local state news agency Abkhazin form reports.
(DF watch)