On 24 July 2014, at a plenary session of the Parliament, the Parliamentary Minority MP, Chiora Taktakishvili, made a statement: “We are talking about the statements according to which, from September, the Parliamentary committees will resume their work in Tbilisi. I would like to say that this is a violation of the Constitution of Georgia which says that the work of the Parliament, which is primarily legislative work and, therefore, includes the work of the committees, must be conducted in Kutaisi.”

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took interest in the accuracy of this statement.

On 26 July 2014, during his speech at the plenary session of the Parliament, the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, Davit Usupashvili, stated: “From September, we shall conduct proper committee work in the Tbilisi Parliament building.” The Secretary-General of the staff of the Parliament, Zurab Marakvelidze, clarified: “From September, the work of the Parliamentary committees will be conducted in Tbilisi. That is according to the schedule. The plenary sessions, however, will be held in the Kutaisi Parliament building. So, we have no intention of violating the Constitution.”

In order to prepare the legislative issues prior to the sessions, facilitate the implementation of the decisions and control the activities of the government and other accountable structures, committees are created in the Parliament (Article 56 of the Constitution of Georgia). According to Section 1 of Article 31 of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia, the Parliamentary committees are as follows:

a) Agrarian Issues Committee

b) Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee

c) Education, Science and Culture Committee

d) Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Committee

e) Sector Economy and Economic Policy Committee

f) Diaspora and Caucasus Issues Committee

g) Committee on European Integration

h) Defence and Security Committee

i) Legal Issues Committee

j) Regional Policy and Self-Government Committee

k) Foreign Relations Committee

l) Procedural Issues and Rules Committee

m) Budget and Finance Committee

n) Sports and Youth Issues Committee

o) Healthcare and Social Issues Committee

Chiora Taktakishvili talked about the decision to move the sessions of these committees to the former Parliament building in Tbilisi and said that it would violate the Constitution of Georgia.

According to Article 481

of the Constitution of Georgia, the Parliament of Georgia is to reside in the city of Kutaisi. As we already mentioned earlier, the plenary sessions of the Parliament will still be held in Kutaisi; however, the main question is whether or not moving the committee sessions to Tbilisi violates the Constitution.

The Parliamentary committees regulate the key areas of the Parliament’s work which are: preparing the legislative issues prior to the sessions, facilitating the implementation of the decisions and controlling the activities of the government and other structures accountable to the Parliament. As the Chairman of the Parliament, Davit Usupashvili, stated: “In order for the Parliament to do its work properly, the quality of the committee work should be five or ten times higher as the main work is conducted on a committee level. Discussing the issues in depth is almost impossible during the plenary session.” Mr Usupashvili underscored the importance of the committees for Parliamentary work. He also added: “As soon as the technical equipment of the Parliamentary building on Rustaveli Avenue (Tbilisi) is finished, the Parliament (meaning the Parliamentary committees) will conduct its work in Tbilisi as well.”

As expert Kakhi Kakhishvili stated: “The Constitution says that the Parliament is to reside in Kutaisi; however, it doesn’t say that all committee sessions must be held in Kutaisi and that two MPs cannot meet and talk to each other in Tbilisi.”

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contacted the Parliamentary Majority MP, Vakhtang Khmaladze, who said: “According to the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia, a committee session can be held outside Kutaisi.”

The statements of the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, Secretary-General of the staff of the Parliament and Parliamentary Minority MP, Chiora Taktakishvili, indicate that after September 2014 all sessions of the Parliamentary committees will be held in Tbilisi. The Parliamentary Majority is trying to present the matter as if moving the committee sessions of the Parliament to Tbilisi does not violate the Constitution and leaving the plenary sessions in Kutaisi serves its requirements. This is their main argument.

It should be pointed out that Section 14 of Article 49 of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia does indeed allow holding the committee sessions outside Kutaisi, although in the form of field sessions. The field sessions are one-time and have a symbolic meaning. Such sessions were held during the office of the previous government as well such as, for example, the 17 April 2010 Agrarian Issues and Regional Policy Committee sessions in Kvareli and the 9 June 2011 Diaspora and Caucasus Issues Committee session in Dedoplistskaro. The field sessions are often used by the current government as well. Such sessions are usually held in the Public Service Hall of Tbilisi.

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contacted Professor of Constitutional Law, Giorgi Meladze. He pointed out: “It is one thing to hold a one-time field session and quite another to do it permanently. I believe this would be a violation of constitutional principles.” We also contacted a constitutionalist, Vakhushti Menabde. He said that it is hard to determine whether or not the moving of the committee sessions to Tbilisi complies with the requirements of the Constitution as a particular constitutional norm leaves room for interpretation. Only the Constitutional Court has the discretion to ultimately resolve the issue.

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contacted the author of the statement, Chiora Taktakishvili, who told us that her statement was based upon her own judgment and expressed her personal opinion only. The MP also pointed out that, as of yet, there is no official document confirming that the committee sessions will be held in Tbilisi.

Conclusion FactCheck

verified the factual accuracy of the statements made and presented herein. The statement of Chiora Taktakishvili concerned the compatibility of the action planned by the Parliament to the Constitution of Georgia. We believe that it is impossible to determine whether or not this particular issue complies with the requirements of the Constitution. The majority of constitutional experts clarify that while discussing the subject they are expressing their personal opinion and that in this case it is impossible for a particular person to come to an objective conclusion. The constitutional norm, providing for the residence of the Parliament in Kutaisi, leaves room for interpretation. It should be noted that, as of yet, there is no official document confirming that the committee sessions will be held in Tbilisi. As Chiora Taktakishvili told us, her statement was based upon her own judgment and expressed her personal opinion only.

Based upon the aforementioned situation, FactCheck cannot rate the statement of Ms Taktakishvili. However, given the particular importance of the issue, FactCheck

deviated from its usual style and decided to publish the article.

As a conclusion, we would like to point out that the only body authorised to resolve this issue is the Constitutional Court and, if necessary, it will evaluate the constitutionality of the aforementioned action.

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