“People’s Power” tables Draft Law on Agents of Foreign Influence
The representatives of the “People’s Power” movement formed by the deputies who left “Georgian Dream” but remain in the parliamentary majority, announced that they have already developed a bill on the activities of foreign-funded organizations and registered it in the parliament.
The pro-Russian “People’s Power” cites ensuring transparency as the reason for preparing the draft law. The changes themselves envisage the registration of such non-entrepreneurial (non-commercial) legal entities and media outlets, whose income (more than 20%) is received from abroad, as agents of foreign influence.
According to the draft law, everyone who is considered to be an agent of foreign influence must be registered in the public registry in a database with the same name. At the time of registration, it will be necessary to report the received income.
In addition, according to the draft law, the organizations will have the obligation to fill in the financial declaration every year.
Moreover, the bill authorizes the Ministry of Justice to investigate to identify an agent of foreign influence. Penalties are also included in the changes. In particular, for avoiding registration as an agent of foreign influence or not filling out the declaration, the organization will be fined 25 thousand GEL. If the organization does not fill out the application form within 10 working days from the entry on the website of the Ministry of Justice, a fine of 10 thousand GEL will be provided. Also, 10 000 GEL will have to be paid in case of non-correction of the defects in the documents within the specified period. Committing an offense stipulated by law after one month will result in a fine of 20 000 GEL.
Mikheil Sarjveladze, chairman of the Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Civil Integration, said that the public has the right to see who is being funded, how, and with what money. “The problem of transparency is real. In any case, not everything is really known to the public about who is financed with what funds, where and how and what these funds are used for”, – he said, adding that the legislative initiative “implies that this area will also be subject to similar regulations.”
Speaking in a late-night talk show, Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of the ruling party, said that while the party did not yet meet to elaborate their joint position on the draft law, “as a lawyer” he only sees the interests of transparency reflected in it.
MP Davit Usupashvli, “Lelo” member, noted that the “bill is not submitted by People’s Power but by “Bidzina power,” referring to Bidzina Ivanishvili, the ruling party’s patron. He also said that the main aim of the bill was not to make the funding of NGOs and media transparent but to have a chilling effect on people that are “getting on the government’s nerves” and to “portray them as enemies.”
“They want to copy this law directly from Russia… If you look around, in the 21st century, in the age of the internet, if you try to do what they are doing in Russia, why would you want to do it?” This is very incomprehensible to me,” said Aleko Elisashvili, MP for “Citizens”, adding that “this is very worrying.”
“We are aware of the draft legislation in Georgian parliament and are deeply concerned about its implications for freedom of speech and democracy in Georgia. We have expressed these concerns [directly] to [our interlocutors in] the Government of Georgia,” Ned Price, spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State, said on 16 February while commenting on the draft law.
At a special briefing, the ruling party spokesperson Mamuka Mdinaradze announced that the party will vote for the draft law, which would label all civil society organizations and media that receive at least 20% of their funding from foreign sources as “agents of foreign influence.”
The Administration of the President of Georgia reacted to the draft law on foreign agents initiated by People’s Power saying that “the President of Georgia cannot support such legislation.”
Prime Minister Garibashvili attends Munich Security Conference
Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili took part in a panel discussion at the Munich Security Council on 18 February. He spoke about Russia’s occupation of Georgian territories, European integration, the war in Ukraine, and the health of former President Mikheil Saakashvili.
“We have ensured peace and stability,” said the Head of the Government of Georgia.
According to him, “people need prosperity, stability, peace, and this cannot be achieved through the war”.
“So, I think, what experts have been saying to us is that in 2-3 months we will have a clear picture of where we are. So, you know about Georgia, It is partially occupied, as 20% of our territory is occupied by Russia. We experienced this war in 2008. We had an indirect – let’s say so – war at the beginning of 90’s when separatists from Abkhazia and South Ossetia were backed by the Russians. So, we have a good experience. So, therefore, it is hard to say what will happen. I think time will show us where we are now, and where the world, the region, and Europe will be after Ukraine. I would like to repeat what I said in my opening remarks: there is no alternative to the peaceful negotiations and talks because we have witnessed that the nuclear war rhetoric has come back, which is catastrophic for the entire world, not only for Ukraine and Europe but for the entire world and entire planet, right? So, therefore, we must expect that the United States, China, Russia, and the European Union will sit down and talk about the future of this planet. Because, once again, war is not a solution”.
“Georgia is a small country, with only 4 million people. Again, we have our own challenges, but what we have managed to achieve in the last decade is the only peaceful period – this 10-year period – when we have been in power and ensured peace and stability. This is what people need! We need peace, stability and prosperity! So, by war we cannot achieve prosperity, we cannot achieve stability” concluded Irakli Garibashvili.
The opposition criticized the speech of the Prime Minister of Georgia.
“We have heard the messages of a Putin-like, bad commentator. We did not hear a single message about why Georgia is important for the West… Betrayal is nothing but not using such a platform for the interests of our country.” Said Giga Bokeria, Chairman of the party “European Georgia“.
Former PM Giorgi Gakharia slams Georgian Dream, UNM, speaks of personal responsibility
Former Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia released a video address on 17 February, exactly two years after his resignation, in which he slams the ruling Georgian Dream party, its founder Bidzina Ivanishvili and the opposition United National Movement and speaks of his own responsibility for the current situation in the country.
At the beginning of his approximately five-minute video address, Gakharia talks about the reasons for his resignation, saying that he left his post because “this path led to a dead end of hopelessness, where we remain today.”
“I could not convince the Georgian Dream at the time that we were distancing ourselves from democratic values and the West,” he said.
Gakharia noted that much has changed for the worse since his resignation and “we are living in another Georgia”. “Young people are leaving the country out of hopelessness and moving to where they see their future. They do not want to stay in their homeland, which is rapidly returning to the past.”
The former Prime Minister said that there is no institution in the country that is independent of the ruling party, and “anyone who fights for European and democratic values, or simply for the expression of free opinion, is called an agent.”
Gakharia also focused on Georgia’s “unprecedented opportunity” to become a member of the European family as a result of the heroic struggle of the Ukrainian people, saying that “at this decisive moment, instead of uniting around a common European goal, Bidzina Ivanishvili opened a discussion through his puppets – do we really need Europe?”
He also said that Bidzina Ivanishvili rejects “the multi-century choice of the Georgian people” only because he “does not want such a Europe that will limit his uncontrolled and illegal power.” “He forgets that the Georgian people shed blood for the European future.”
Gakharia also criticized his former teammates for their “pseudo-peaceful and cautious policy,” stressing that they were actually exposing the country to “a great danger” and “leaving us unprotected, without real friends, vis-à-vis Russia.” “There is no peace without European future and there is no European future without peace, we deserve it,” he added.
The former Prime Minister also mentioned the United National Movement, saying that if Georgian Dream is trying to convince the public that “the state is Bidzina Ivanishvili,” the National Movement “is telling us that the state is Mikheil Saakashvili and nothing is important but his health.”
“In the end, both sides link Georgia’s future to Ivanishvili or Saakashvili,” Gakharia said, adding that “this state is neither Bidzina nor Misha – this state belongs to the Georgian people who made their choice a long time ago and this choice is linked to a European future.”
Giorgi Gakharia also spoke of his personal responsibility for the current situation in the country, admitting that he had contributed to strengthening the power of Bidzina Ivanishvili and Georgian Dream. “This is my mistake,” he noted.