The Georgian parliament has approved the draft amendments to the Forest Code with its third reading which allows Georgian Patriarchate to gain ownership of forest areas of 20 ha adjacent to orthodox churches and monasteries throughout the country.
Several NGOs have issued a number of statements, in which they criticise the amendments in the Forest Code of Georgia.
The Institute for Tolerance and Diversity (TDI) says that the Parliament of Georgia grants additional property and financial privileges to the dominant religious organisation.
Such steps of the government jeopardize the constitutional order and once again violate the principles of equality. The initiative violates the constitutional principle of the separation of the state and religion", reads the statement of the NGO.
TDI notes that funding and providing state-owned property to the Patriarchate is increasing in the pre-election period, that may be explained by the government’s desire for political support form an influential institution.
The Human Rights Education and Monitoring Centre (EMC) mentions in its statement that the amendment in the Forest Code runs counter to fundamental constitutional principles and creates an unfair practice of managing and allocating strategic natural resources.
The EMC also says that with this initiative the government tries to gain loyalty in the pre-election period.
Over 6,000 Georgian citizens signed an online petition yesterday, saying that by gaining ownership of forest areas the rights of every citizen will be violated. It creates unfair practices in managing and allocating strategic natural resources.