Pro-Ukraine Rally in Tbilisi
The rally called “This is Georgia – Glory to the Heroes” took place near the building of the Parliament of Georgia and was linked with the anniversary of the beginning of the Russian intervention in Ukraine.
The demonstration was held in Georgian and Ukrainian languages since citizens of Ukraine in Georgia also attended the rally.
The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, as well as the leader of “Droa” party, Elene Khoshtaria, the leader of “Girchi – More Freedom” Zurab Japaridze, and representatives of civil society, addressed the people.
“What we have been watching for a year is a real miracle, we are watching what the Ukrainians are doing, how they stopped this evil empire, and, with a very high probability, I may witness the destruction of this empire for the second time in my life,” said Zurab Japaridze. As Zurab Japaridze pointed out, exactly one year ago, on this day, the whole civilized world believed that Ukraine would fall, Kyiv would fall in three days, and if Kyiv fell, it is clear what would have happened to Georgia as well.
George Melashvili, the president of the “Europe-Georgia Institute”, also addressed the rally participants: “Ukrainians had a choice – fight or slavery. Ukraine made this choice, they decided to fight, fight until victory. We believe in the victory of Ukraine and the European future of Georgia, and no one can take this future away from us.”
At the Ukrainian solidarity rally, the memory of the Georgian fighters who died in the Ukrainian war was honored with a minute’s silence.
The United Nations and the European Union criticize draft laws on agents of foreign influence
The United Nations, the European Union, and other international partners criticized the draft laws on “transparency of foreign influence” initiated by pro-Russian “People’s Power”.
“If adopted, such a law [on Transparency of Foreign Influence] is likely to impede the work of the UN to implement the Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, the country strategy that we have co-signed with the Government of Georgia,” the United Nations in Georgia said in a statement issued on 26 February.
United Nations in Georgia expressed “profound concern” over the draft Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence registered by the parliamentary majority, noting that its adoption “would risk impeding the work of civil society and media and the essential contributions they make to Georgian democracy.”
“The draft law poses risks to the full respect of freedoms of association and expression, the right to participate in public affairs, the right to privacy, and the prohibition of discrimination,” the statement noted.
According to their statement: “The UN has been a trusted partner of Georgia for over three decades, supporting the country’s development in line with Georgia’s own national priorities and assisting the people of Georgia together with all our local partners, including civil society and media.”
The Spokesperson of the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell made a statement on the draft Law on Foreign Agents on 24 February, joining the wave of criticism on the subject expressed by both domestic actors and international partners of Georgia.
The statement says that the proposed law raises “serious concerns”, underlining that “creating and maintaining an enabling environment for civil society organizations and ensuring media freedom is at the core of democracy”. The statement also says these are the key to the EU accession process and part of 12 EU priorities, namely on media freedom and the involvement of civil society.
The statement explicitly states that the draft law’s adoption “would be inconsistent with these aspirations and with EU norms and values”. It calls on the political leaders in Georgia to adopt and implement reforms necessary for joining the EU, as supported by a large majority of Georgian citizens.
The “People’s Power”, consisting of MPs who had departed from the Georgian Dream party but are in the parliamentary majority, proposed the draft law. Earlier this week the Georgian Dream voiced support for the bill. Georgian Dream has since been conducting an active campaign in support of the bill.
President Vetoes Law on National Bank of Georgia
President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili announced on 23 February that she had vetoed amendments to the Organic Law on the National Bank of Georgia, saying they may undermine the Bank’s independence.
As adopted by the Parliament, the law would have increased the number of executive board members and set the rules for appointing ad interim National Bank president, if the position is vacant.
President Zurabishvili believes that such amendments “are neither necessary, nor urgent, nor well-founded,” especially as the process of selecting the NBG’s President is still underway, and she is working to present two candidates for the NBG’s Board.
“Why do we need an additional vice presidential position, especially when one of the current vice presidents can perform the duties of the president?” President Zurabishvili said, adding: “The question arises whether the government is not satisfied with the candidacy of any [current] vice president and needs to create an additional position”
President Zurabishvili noted that “there are some doubts that if the Parliament does not support the candidates nominated by the President of Georgia, the law allows the First Vice President to serve as the President of the National Bank for an indefinite period of time.”
The Parliament adopted the amendments to the Organic Law on the National Bank of Georgia in an accelerated manner on 9 February, with 83 votes in favor and 8 against. According to the amendments, the First Vice President will be added to the three existing Vice Presidents of the Bank, who will deputize for President in the event of the latter’s absence. Previously, one of the three Vice-Presidents had performed the duties of the President. In addition, the number of executive members on the board will be increased from four to five.
The National Bank of Georgia spoke against the amendments, clarifying that the bank’s activities were never affected by the absence of the President. It also noted that in one case, a Vice President performed the duties of the President for 16 months.