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Georgia’s Foreign Agent Law Live | Papuashvili: EU funding is opaque

23 April 2024
Protesters against the draft foreign agent law outside the Georgian Parliament on 23 April 2024. Photo: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

Protests against the draft foreign agent law are continuing in Georgia, as the ruling Georgian Dream party pushes ahead with the controversial legislation.

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23 Apr 2024, 18:11

Von Cramon: no chance for accession talks if Georgian Dream does not withdraw the law

At a joint press conference in Strasbourg with several MEPs and the co-founder of the opposition Ahali party, Nika Gvaramia, MEP Viola von Cramon said that there was ‘no chance [the EU] can open accession talks [with Georgia] if this law will not be withdrawn’.

‘You can not contradict the European values with this kind of law and then [ask to become] a member — that is, from my perspective, impossible. So I would ask for withdrawing the candidate status, of course.’

‘On behalf of my group, no way to start negotiations with such behaviour, with such laws, with such pro-Russian politics’, added MEP Rasa Juknevičienė.

MEP Anna Fotyga disagreed and urged Georgians to express their will to join the EU in October’s parliamentary elections.

23 Apr 2024, 17:22

Duma member calls on Russians in Georgia to refrain from protesting against the foreign agent law

Vasily Piskarev, the head of the Russian Duma’s Security and Anti-Corruption Committee, has criticised Russian émigré for ‘flaunting their massive participation in street protests against the law on foreign agents’.

He claimed that ‘Western experts’ were recruiting ‘defectors from Russia’ to ‘create a mass presence on the streets of Tbilisi’.

He urged Russians in Georgia to not ‘abuse the hospitality of the Georgian people and become a tool in the hands of external forces seeking to destabilise the situation in sovereign Georgia’.

23 Apr 2024, 16:20

Social Justice Centre: peaceful protester imprisoned by the court

Local rights group the Social Justice Centre (SJC) has released a statement criticising the sentencing of  Andro Chelidze to administrative detention.

They described Chelidze as a peaceful participant of the protests against the draft foreign agent law who was arrested during protests on 17 or 18 April.

The SJC claimed that police officers physically assaulted Andro Chelidze during his arrest, and published footage of the arrest filmed by a bystander.

The Special Investigation Service has opened an investigation into possible violence against Chelidze by Interior Ministry employees.

23 Apr 2024, 15:46

Mdinaradze denies civil servants being forced to attend government demonstration

Mamuka Mdinaradze, Georgian Dream’s parliamentary leader, has denied reports that civil servants are being pressured to attend the pro-government rally scheduled for Monday.

He said to the contrary, because of the planned demonstration, civil servants were being victimised by ‘pseudo-liberals’, the opposition United National Movement, and other ‘radical opposition’ forces.

He said he personally, as well as the party, had issued the task to their ‘party units’ to ensure that anyone who wanted to go to the demonstration could ‘get to Tbilisi to participate in the rally in an organised manner’.

‘If someone wants to come from [the regions] that day, for example, they will apply for leave and go and participate. If they don’t want to, from here, through the television, I appeal that our party activists should not try to convince even one person who does not wish to do so’, he told journalists.

‘The goal is to show who supports the correct, national politics, transparency, real democracy, real Europeanness.’

After the Georgian Dream announced their demonstration, screenshots of correspondences circulated on social media which appeared to show civil servants from outside the capital being ordered by their superiors to go to the demonstration.

Reports of public officials being forced to attend pro-government demonstrations have been prevalent for years, including during the previous government under the United National Movement.

23 Apr 2024, 15:01

Georgian Dream schedule counter-protest

The ruling Georgian Dream party called on people to attend their own demonstration on Monday,  29 April, from 18:00, claiming that the opening will start at 20:00.

The party has named the demonstration ‘the People’s Universal Assambly — Homeland, Language, Faith!’

Yesterday the ruling party announced they would hold the demonstration to counter the ongoing anti-foreign agent law protests. Since last week, demonstrators have held protests or rallies every day.

23 Apr 2024, 12:39

Demonstration scheduled for 19:00

According to local media, a demonstration against the draft foreign agent law will be held again today in front of the parliament at 19:00.

23 Apr 2024, 12:38

German Foreign Affairs Committee chair: ‘I support the protests’

The Chair of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael Roth, posted on X yesterday in support for the protests against the bill.

‘I support the cross-party protest of [Georgia’s] civil society: the law is incompatible with [EU] values + endangers [Georgia’s] path to the EU’, he wrote.

He also said he had invited Georgia’s Ambassador to Germany, Levan Izoria, to discuss the draft foreign agent law.

23 Apr 2024, 12:35

EU foreign ministers discuss

RFE/RL’s Europe Editor, Rikard Jozwiak, posted on X that during yesterday’s  EU Foreign Ministers meeting, the idea of sending the ministers to Georgia or inviting Georgian foreign ministers to Brussels was discussed.

Georgia is awaiting a decision on the opening of accession negotiations by the end of the year.

23 Apr 2024, 12:31

US ‘concerned’

Robert Gilchrist, Senior Bureau Official for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the US State Department, expressed the country’s concern about the reintroduction of the draft foreign agent law. 

‘If enacted, this draft legislation would harm civil society and civil society organisations that are working to improve the lives of Georgian citizens’, he said.

‘[It] will derail Georgia from its European path’, he added. ‘We are equally concerned this draft legislation would impede independent media organisations working to provide access for Georgian citizens to high-quality information.’

23 Apr 2024, 12:29

Shalva Papuashvili: Unfortunately, EU funding in Georgia is also opaque

Speaking to journalists, the Speaker of the Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, said that EU funding in Georgia was ‘opaque’, local media reported.

‘When we talk about the law on transparency [the foreign agent law], we should know that it is based on the interest of the Georgian people. This may not be in the interests of others, especially those whose finances come to Georgia non-transparently. Unfortunately, EU funding in Georgia is also non-transparent’, he said.

Papuashvili also responded to yesterday’s criticism by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, claiming he was sure Borrell hadn’t read the draft law.

23 Apr 2024, 12:23

Borrell: ‘I repeat, [the foreign agent bill] is incompatible with EU values’

At a press conference following a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg yesterday, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, repeated the EU’s objection to the bill.

‘I repeat, [the law] is incompatible with the European Union values’, he said.

‘It was a commitment by the Georgian government to withdraw this project of law and not to present it again. This hasn’t been fulfilled’, Borrell stated.

Borrell added that the European Commission would present a report about the bill’s reintroduction.

 ‘We are very much concerned about the fact that this law has been presented again to the parliament [of Georgia]’, he said.