President Giorgi Margvelashvili met on August 19 with several GD and UNM lawmakers, legal experts and political pundits, as well as some Tbilisi-based western diplomats to discuss role of the National Security Council (NSC).
The role of the NSC, which is chaired by the President, whose authorities have been significantly downsized by the constitution that went into force last November, was sidelined by the security and crisis management council, which was established late last year and which is chaired by the Prime Minister.
When on August 1 President Margvelashvili convened the first session of NSC under his chairmanship to discuss Georgia’s preparations for upcoming NATO summit, PM Garibashvili did not attend.
“We had an important and in-depth discussion and exchange of views on how one of the most important bodies, the National Security Council, should function within the existing constitutional framework,” President Margvelashvili said on August 19 after the meeting with lawmakers, experts and diplomats.
“It is of utmost importance for this constitutional institution, the National Security Council, to work efficiently and to be the venue where parliamentarians and members of the executive government discuss matters important for the country and where consensus will be built about what kind of decisions should be made,” he added.
U.S. ambassador to Georgia, Richard Norland, who was attending the meeting, said that it was a “very interesting discussion” about how Georgia should organize itself to deal with the national security crisis situations and indicated that “structures as they currently exist could lead to confusion.”
“This is set of issues that the United States embassy has tried to contribute through USAID-funded report that the Atlantic Council of Georgia produced,” Ambassador Norland said.
“I think we need to remember the context that we are in; this is not a theoretical exercise – Georgia could face a crisis any day and it’s clear that the structures as they currently exist could lead to confusion,” he said.
“So I think it’s very important that the government and all parts of the government are talking to each other about how to come up with the system that will best serve Georgia’s interests,” the U.S. ambassador added.
The meeting was also attended by lawmakers from Georgian Dream ruling majority Irakli Chikovani and the chairman of defense and security committee Irakli Sesiashvili, as well as opposition MPs from UNM party Pavle Kublashvili and Davit Darchiashvili.
After the meeting President’s office released a written document, titled “Vision of the Georgian President” on NSC, which, among others, also proposes expanding the council by admitting more permanent members in it, in particular the parliament speaker; chairpersons of parliamentary committees on foreign relations, and defense and security, as well as the chief of general staff of the armed forces.
President Margvelashvili says in his vision on NSC, released after the meeting, that in line with “the spirit of the constitution” the council should serve as a venue for reaching political agreements on defense and security matters.
He stressed that three key security and defense documents of the country – the national security concept; threat assessment document and the national military strategy, should be discussed and agreed upon within the NSC.
According to a draft law on defense, submitted by the government to the Parliament in May, development and approval of threat assessment document and the national military strategy should fall within the competence of the government with the President or NSC having no role; and the national security concept has to be approved by the Parliament after submission by the government.The Parliament has not yet started discussion of this draft law.
President’s statement also notes that the NSC is designed to elaborate decisions on matters of crucial importance for the country and to help coordination between the highest ranking officials on the issues related to defense and security.