Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said that the new transit terms with Russia’s energy giant Gazprom “worsen the country’s energy sector” and “harm Georgia’s political and economic interests.” He also called on the Parliament of Georgia to present a plan on “minimizing” the associated “risks and threats.”
Georgian Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze said on January 11 following the third round of talks with executives of Gazprom Export that the Georgian government made “an optimal” decision on agreeing to Gazprom’s proposal on terms of Russian gas transit to Armenia via Georgia, according to which, during the first year of the two-year contract, Georgia will partially maintain the commodity payment scheme and move to full monetary reimbursement in the second year.
“The issue of Gazprom is more than just a business agreement, this is security, foreign policy and geopolitics first and energy and economy after that,” Eka Mishveladze, the president’s press speaker said on January 17.
“Therefore, the head of state calls on the parliament to fulfill its constitutional duty and strengthen the supervisory function, as well as present a plan on minimizing and insuring against the risks and threats,” she added.
She also noted that the president has been stressing the importance of Gazprom-related issues since 2015 and recalled the president’s recommendation from last year to hold the negotiations “transparently.”
The government’s decision to agree on the new terms has raised questions in Georgian CSOs and political parties as well.
80 civil society organizations of the Georgian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, issued a statement on January 17, saying that the government-endorsed agreement “worsens” Georgia’s standing with respect to economic and energy security.
“We believe that the new transit agreement with Gazprom Export is not an energy-related matter only; it is part of the wider national security. Therefore, [we think that] during its preparation, consultations should have been conducted with Georgian, as well as international experts and academic community, the process should have been done in a transparent manner and the government should not have decided without considering the public opinion,” the statement reads.
The Georgian National Platform urged the authorities to disclose the agreement details and hold a special parliamentary hearing on the issue.
United National Movement lawmakers called on the authorities to disclose the agreement details as well and added that they will propose a parliamentary resolution on the matter. “We are preparing the draft parliamentary resolution on [the new transit deal with] Gazprom. This is a harmful agreement, which goes against the country’s political and economic interests,” MP Roman Gotsiridze stated on January 17.
Parliamentary minority factions - European Georgia and European Georgia for Better Future - invited Energy Minister Kakha Kaladze to the parliament to answer their questions on the Gazprom deal.
“With the money [that we will receive from Gazprom], we will [be able to] buy fewer gas volumes than we are receiving today … therefore, this contradicts our national interests,” MP Zurab Chiaberashvili, member of the European Georgia faction, said on January 17.
The new transit deal has met criticism earlier as well.
The Republican Party of Georgia criticized the government on January 11 for its “obscure” statements about the agreement, which, according to the party, “is financially unprofitable and politically dangerous.”
The Coalition for Euro-Atlantic Georgia, which gathers 23 civil society organizations, watchdog groups and think tanks, issued a statement on January 12 saying that the new transit terms with Russia’s energy giant Gazprom “worsen the country’s energy security” and calling on the government to disclose the agreement details.