Parliament passed on July 13 with 68 votes to 4 with second hearing a draft law on privatization of state assets, lifting restriction on sale of Georgia’s North-South Gas Pipeline.
The discussion with the second hearing triggered debates among lawmakers, which was similar to the one that took place during the first hearing.
The ruling party lawmakers were repeatedly stating during the debates that there was no intention to sell the pipeline to Russia, but the opposition said the verbal pledge was not enough.
Lawmaker from the parliamentary minority again insisted on including a provision in the draft, which would allow sale of no more than 49% of pipeline shares. But lawmakers from the ruling party again rejected the proposal.
During the debates parliamentary minority leader, MP Giorgi Targamadze of Christian-Democratic Movement, quoted President Saakashvili’s newspaper interview from 2002 -when Saakashvili was opposition leader – saying that selling of North-South Gas Pipeline to Russia was inadmissible as it would have shattered Georgia’s drive to Euro-Atlantic integration.
“Remarks made [by Saakashvili] in 2002 was quoted here, but [the parliamentary minority] does not see difference between Georgia of 2002 and Georgia now – at that time Georgia was solely depended on Russian source of gas supply and now we are no longer depended on that source, as we have diversified our gas supplies and you should see this difference,” MP Pavle Kublashvili of the ruling party, who is a co-sponsor of the draft, responded.
The North-South Gas Pipeline is used to transit Russian gas to Armenia via Georgia. It is currently operated by state-owned Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation (GOGC). The Georgian government said that it was considered initial public offering of GOGC’s minority shares at London Stock Exchange in several years, but not in next couple of years.
Georgia has undertaken a commitment before the U.S., in frames of Millennium Challenge Account aid program, not to sell or transfer the North-South Gas Pipeline or GOGC until April, 2011, when the aid program comes to the end. About USD 35 million has been allocated in frames of this aid program to rehabilitate this pipeline.
During the parliamentary debates on July 13, the parliamentary minority called on the ruling party not to hurry with adoption of the draft and to give more time for public discussions on the matter.
“No matter how much we will speak about this issue, there is single simple answer on that: the pipeline is not being sold to Russia,” MP Kublashvili of the ruling party said.