SERIOUS THREAT TO GEORGIA’S CULTURAL HERITAGE
The Georgian Parliament is discussing a draft law on cultural heritage which has the potential to remove the protected status of 6,300 historical sites across the country. Among them could be Borjomi Park in southern Georgia; the Romanov Palace in Abastumani; the Narikala Castle, Opera, Rustaveli Theatre; Marjanishvili Theatre in Tbilisi.
Petition against the planned changes to the Law on Cultural Heritage
We the undersigned disagree with the Georgian government’s proposal to change the Law on Cultural Heritage. We call on parliament not to support the amendment which states that listed monuments can be delisted under vague and uncertain conditions – due to “exceptional circumstances, or in the interest (or necessity) of national importance.”
The drafted legislation fails to define the meaning of “exceptional circumstances”, or what “in the interest (or necessity) of national importance” means. As such this law would weaken the decision-making process and threaten Georgia’s ability to preserve its precious cultural heritage.
Additionally the parliamentary Rules of Procedure have also been violated. When the Parliament Committee of Education, Science and Culture discussed the bill three days after its drafting, the required pre-notice was only given one hour in advance. Furthermore the Parliamentary Committee of Economy and Economic Policy have as yet not published its conclusions. Due to these violations and untransparent procedures, the interested parties were unable to participate or express their opinions.
According to the bill, the legislative process involved in the delisting of a monument can be requested by organisations nominated by the government. The definition as to which organisations qualify is very broad – to the degree that it will be impossible to manage or control the process.
The initiator of this legislative change is the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development which prepared the draft bill without any public discussion or consultation of experts in the field.
We would like to remind the Parliament and the Government that the protection of Cultural heritage is a constitutional obligation of the State.
The main aim of the Law on Cultural Heritage is the preservation of cultural heritage, so any change in the law that works against this aim is unacceptable.
Over the last few years Georgia has lost a number of listed monuments even under the existing law’s protection, so we ask the following:
• Parliament should not support the government’s proposed legislative amendments to the Law on Cultural Heritage
• The Ministry of Culture and the National Agency of Preservation should be able to publish their statement on the draft legislation.
• The Ministry of Economics and Sustainable Development should explain to the public what sort of state interests will be served by the new proposed legislative changes and what is the meaning of “exceptional circumstances, in the interest (or necessity) of national importance
We ask that all relevant organisations should be able to discuss important issues and legislative changes dealing with cultural heritage openly and with the participation of professionals and interested public groups.
ON THE GEORGIAN PETITION:
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