Georgian Dream reintroduces Russian-style “foreign agent” law

On April 3, Mamuka Mdinaradze, the executive secretary of the Georgian Dream party, announced the re-introduction of the “Russian Law” at a press briefing. Mdinaradze stated, “We have decided to initiate and pass this law without rushing. This process will include committee reviews and sessions conducted in a timely and customary lengthy procedure. We invite everyone to present their arguments.”

In response, several opposition female MPs criticized Mdinaradze’s announcement. Ana Tsitlidze from the United National Movement, Ana Natsvlishvili from Lelo for Georgia party, and independent deputies Khatia Dekanoidze and Theona Akubardia issued a joint statement. They argued, “Georgian Dream’s actions are leading to failure, and in a desperate attempt typical of malevolent forces, it’s trying to drag the entire country down with it. This endeavour, however, has been unsuccessful. The primary aim of the Russian Law is to bind Georgia to Russia. Contrary to this, we have made a decisive choice to steer Georgia towards Europe, and we will continue on this path towards European integration.”

Speaker of the Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, accused the opposition of engaging in anti-Georgian propaganda. “This is anti-Georgian propaganda. I will not tolerate it in the Georgian Parliament. I will cut off the microphone of anyone who references Russian Law in such a manner. Stop misleading the Georgian people with anti-Georgian propaganda. You may have succeeded last year, but you will not this year,” he declared.

The Georgian Dream party has reinitiated the “Russian Law”, focusing on the “transparency of finances” of non-governmental organizations. The proposed draft law on the transparency of foreign influence will remain the same except for changing the term “agent of foreign influence” to “organization carrying the interests of a foreign power”. All other aspects of the bill will be unchanged.

The President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili said at a special briefing: “Everything is clear today, Georgian Dream made its choice, said No to Europe in every possible aspect, including EU Commission’s 9 recommendations and accession negotiations. Today, the Georgian Dream is busy sabotaging our [European] path and future.”

Following the initial approval of the Russian Law by Georgian Dream on March 7, 2023, large-scale protests erupted near the Parliament. The protests continued into the evening of March 8, with police using water cannons, tear gas, pepper spray, and other measures to disperse participants. In the early hours of March 9, special forces moved to clear the rally, breaking through barricades erected by citizens for protection. During this operation, protesters and journalists were subjected to physical assaults.

President criticises Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the polling stations abroad

The President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili criticised the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during a meeting with representatives from the Central Election Commission (CEC), the Public Defender’s office, NGOs and the EU Embassy. The meeting focused on enabling Georgian citizens living abroad to vote.

Zurabishvili highlighted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs fails to participate in these crucial meetings and shirks its responsibility. This absence is particularly perplexing since the process is deeply connected to the Ministry’s work. “A significant shortcoming is the Ministry’s non-participation in these meetings and its refusal to take responsibility, which is quite incomprehensible. The whole process is closely related to their work,” she stated. Consular registration, a prerequisite for establishing polling stations abroad, is managed by consulates, which should relay opening information to foreign countries. This information should then be communicated to the CEC.

Moreover, the Ministry is tasked with leading the election and registration campaigns, including disseminating this information via embassy websites. Zurabishvili noted, “We have checked, and nothing has been done in this regard yet. And we all understand the importance of registration now, not in four months.”

She further criticized the intertwined responsibilities of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the CEC in the electoral process. The lack of collaborative effort leads to a blame game, hindering progress. “If there is no joint willingness to work, it’s easy to play a blame game: ‘It’s not my fault; he didn’t give me the information,’ or ‘It’s not my fault; I’m not involved in this, it’s their responsibility.’ And we see the consequences today,” she explained.

“They do not tell us that they will open as many polling stations as possible, even partially. They categorically state that it is not possible, sometimes citing a lack of resources or refusal to open it in every district. The reasons given are quite incomprehensible to me, and no solutions have been offered,” she remarked.

The president mentioned that the diaspora is eager to assist Georgian agencies in addressing this issue, emphasizing that it is unjust to discriminate against Georgian citizens living abroad.

Papuashvili – The excerpts in the media regarding “Vetting” are attack on the judiciary  

Speaker of the Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, addressed the topic of vetting judges in Georgia through social media, amidst discussions around the integrity check procedure for judges. Papuashvili voiced his respect for the judges, particularly highlighting the Supreme Court Chairperson and all Georgian judges.

Papuashvili lamented the role of some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) aiming to gain political power, which he believes has led to foreign organizations being perceived as attacking the judiciary. This has resulted in hostile rhetoric towards judges and even moral terror against their families, actions he deems anti-European.

“In the media, I encountered excerpts from judges’ deliberations on the vetting issue during the Supreme Court’s plenary session. These discussions have solidified my opinion formed from recent talks with various groups. I wish to reiterate my respect for the Supreme Court’s Chairperson and all Georgian judges,” Papuashvili stated on Facebook.

He criticized the unjust portrayal of the judiciary, fueled by a few NGOs seeking political influence, which has unfairly associated foreign involvement in justice matters with hostility towards the judiciary and their families — a stance he considers contrary to European values.

Papuashvili assured that the Georgian Parliament would take measures to halt these unfounded attacks, which aimed to tarnish the court’s reputation and harm the Georgian state.

Following Georgia’s granting candidate status for European Union membership, the European Commission recommended scrutinising some judges’ integrity. This integrity check is intended to be a temporary measure targeting judges in significant positions in the judicial system.

Peter Stano, lead spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy of the EU, emphasized that a comprehensive judicial system reform, including the Supreme Council of Justice reform and integrity examinations for leading judicial positions, is essential for beginning EU accession negotiations.

Russian activist denied to enter Georgia

Egor Kuroptev, director of the South Caucasus department of the Free Russia Foundation, has raised concerns over Georgia’s decision to deny entry to Russian activist Igor Miglani. Miglani, who has been instrumental in aiding Ukrainian refugees through the “Emigration for Action” project, has been held at Tbilisi International Airport for over 15 hours without an explanation for the denial.

Kuroptev’s appeal to the Georgian authorities, specifically the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Security Service, emphasizes Miglani’s contributions since the onset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. With Miglani’s efforts, over 8,000 Ukrainian refugees have received medical care in Georgia, highlighting the significant positive impact of his work on humanitarian grounds.

Kuroptev argues that Miglani’s activities, far from opposing the interests of Georgia, align with the values of humanitarian assistance and international solidarity. He underlines that Miglani has not breached any Georgian laws and insists that his and his colleagues’ humanitarian efforts should be recognized as commendable, not penalised.

The refusal to allow Miglani into Georgia is part of a broader pattern where Russian opposition figures, journalists, human rights advocates, and activists face entry denials since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. These denials are often issued without clear explanations, raising concerns about the criteria used for such decisions.  

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