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'Special Status' for Planned New City Lazika
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 9 May.'12 / 13:53

An amendment in the constitution was initiated on May 8 to give proposed new city, Lazika, which the Georgian authorities plan to build from scratch on Black Sea coast close to breakaway Abkhazia, “a special constitutional status.”

Parliament voted on May 8 to launch a formal one-month process of public discussions, required for any constitutional amendment before its approval by the legislative body.

“We have initiated in the Georgian Parliament a constitutional amendment according to which new city, the new port city of Lazika, which we are building in Samegrelo [region], will be granted a special status,” Saakashvili told World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) seminar in Batumi on May 9.

“Special status means that of course the Georgian jurisdiction will apply to the city, but there will be special form of governance, special jurisdiction for civil adjudications in order to make this place especially attractive for investments,” said Saakashvili.

He first announced about the idea to build the country’s “second largest city” between Anaklia, close to breakaway Abkhazia and Kulevi in the north from port town of Poti, which, he said, would have “at least half a million” population in next ten years, in early December 2011.

“It is a strategic issue for us to give a special development status to this city, which is located in several kilometers from the occupied Abkhazia and… which has a very good climate and which is close to the railway,” he said on May 9.

“Lazika is of course an economic project,” he continued. “This city is not my fantasy; this project is based on the fact that the shortest trade route from northern China and Central Asia towards Europe runs through Georgian ports… Existing ports need supplementary points, new logistic centers.”

In the constitution Tbilisi has a status of the capital city and Adjara region on the Black Sea coast, as well as the breakaway region of Abkhazia – a status of Autonomous Republics. There is a separate law detailing the capital city’s status, as well as separate “constitutional laws” on Adjara and Abkhazia Autonomous Republics. It is expected, that a separate law on Lazika’s status will also be elaborated after constitutional amendment on the planned new city’s special status is passed by the Parliament.

In December Saakashvili said that “about 1-1.5 billion Lari” investment was required at the initial stage for the city to be built.

“In next four years we will spend about 200 million and the rest I think [will be filled] by private investments,” Saakashvili said in December. “I am very optimistic. This city is not a whim. In the condition when 45% of our population lives in rural areas, we now need new urban centers for resettlement of these people and for their employment.”

Giorgi Vashadze, Georgia’s deputy justice minister, told the New York Times, which run a story about the planned new city in April, that he was browsing on the Internet when he came across the idea of a “charter city,” with distinct regulatory and judicial systems that could attract foreign investors to build factories.

“This idea came to us — why can’t we do that in Georgia?” he said. “We looked out and we saw there is free space on the Black Sea coast.” 

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