Kobakhidze Praises Draft Law on Foreign Agents, Speaks of Threats from Foreign Financing

In an interview with Imedi TV on February 22, Irakli Kobakhidze, chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, spoke at length about the positive aspects of the draft law on foreign agents initiated by People’s Power and stressed the need to ensure financial transparency of civil society organizations. He also talked about Georgia’s solidarity with Ukraine and about the ruling party’s expectations regarding the February 24 rally planned by a part of the opposition.

Draft law initiated by People’s Power

·        Financial transparency

Kobakhidze noted that there is “excessive hype” around the draft law on foreign agents and that 99% of people “making critical remarks have not read it.” “In fact, the bill provides for one thing – this is transparency; if someone receives funding from foreign sources, it should be transparent not to us, but to society.”  

He rebuked his opponents for their general criticism and called on them to discuss the issue. “Let them take the norms and specify which norm they do not like, and let’s discuss it,” Kobakhidze said.  

He rejected the claims by the opponents that the civil society sector “works very transparently,” noting that “this is a lie” and “a complete falsehood.” “You can familiarize yourself with their reports, and you will see that the information related to the financing of certain organizations is absolutely unclear… different organizations are being financed from many sources, there is a variety of interests, and the information about their objectives will become clearer to the society.”  

The chairman of the ruling party made several critical references to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the European Endowment for Democracy (EED).

For example, Kobakhidze cited the “blocking” of the construction of the Namakhvani HPP, saying that “a political interest” had been revealed in the protest rallies against the project’s implementation. “There could be interests of importers; there could be interests of Russia,” he said. In this regard, the chairman of the ruling party noted that the civil society organizations funded by the NED and the EED participated in the anti-HPP rallies aimed at “weakening the country’s energy independence.”

“The EED is an official structure created by the European Union with former or current MEP Heidi Hautala as a board member. This person came out and supported the protests aimed at limiting energy independence in Georgia,” he said.

Kobakhidze also accused the EED of funding an “extremist” Shame Movement, which he described as “a youth wing of the National Movement.” He said that this organization has been “directly involved in destructive actions” since the day it was founded. Kobakhidze also said that the EED funds the Droa party, “another extremist organization, one of the branches of the National Movement.”

“Droa is also a political party. Our legislation prohibits the funding of a political party from foreign sources. It is categorically forbidden. It is a kind of trick – another Droa has been established as N(N)LE [a CSO], although both are one and the same… The main thing is that extremism and polarization are being financed,” he stressed.  

Kobakhidze also noted that such foundations fund CSOs which called for the resignation of the government a few months ago and “have positioned themselves as an appendage to the National Movement.”

According to Kobakhidze, he believes that specific organizations are misusing the funds received from EU sources to incite polarization. “This requires a public’s reaction,” Kobakhidze said, adding that “inciting polarization is not in the interest of Georgia and EU integration… we hope that our partners will deal with this issue properly and the whole process will become transparent for them as well.”  

·        A notion of an “agent

As for the notion of an “agent” mentioned in the law, Kobakhidze argued that it is “a recognized term” and was taken from the American version of the law. “Moreover, it was copied directly because in the American version, a relevant entity is called “a foreign agent,” which creates a serious risk of stigmatization, but an agent of foreign influence means something completely different,” he noted.

Kobakhidze also clarified that the draft law “regulates the issues of realization of foreign influence and in no way concerns espionage activities.” “I would like to reassure some people that it does not concern spies,” he noted, adding that “there are spies” in Georgian politics, but “I will not say who they are and who controls them.”   

“Let me say that there have been spies in our team who have played a very serious role at various stages and have caused great damage to our team, but we have managed to deal with the problem every time,” he said.  

Kobakhidze noted that former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili recruited certain people who later became members of the Georgian Dream. He named among these people Bidzina Ivanishvili’s former aide Gia Khukhashvili, former Georgian Dream MPs Eka Beselia and Kakha Okriashvili.

“Theoretically, I cannot rule it out, but today the team is free of agents and spies, and this is one of our main achievements,” Kobakhidze said.

Commenting on opponents’ criticism that the bill is identical to the Russian one, the chairman of the ruling party said that “it has nothing to do with either Russian or American laws and, unlike both, it meets human rights standards.”

Corruption in the European Parliament

Irakli Kobakhidze reacted to recent reports of alleged “corruption scandals” in the European Parliament by saying that “we are worried that these corruption problems will find a direct reflection” on Georgia. In this context, he referred once again to the funding given to the Shame Movement and the blocking of Namakhvani HPP, stressing that all this ‘clearly smells of corruption.’

“When it comes to taking money from Arabs, these investigations are carried out quite quickly there [in the European Parliament], but it seems that when the money comes from Georgian sources, the investigation is not so quick,” he said.

The chair of the ruling party also recalled what also referred to the allegations made by Bidzina Ivanishvili’s lawyers, that unnamed Western newspapers refused to publish his letters regarding the ongoing legal battle with Credit Suisse, and said “the large-scale censorship that is being carried out in the Western media is disturbing and it will also have an impact on us.”

Solidarity with Ukraine and Planned February 24 Rally

Kobakhidze also responded to the opposition’s criticism of the parliamentary delegation’s refusal to visit Kyiv in connection with the anniversary of the war with Russia, saying that unlike them, the ruling party “has strong solidarity with the Ukrainian people and our friendly country.” “However, the official positions of the Ukrainian government create certain barriers for it,” he argued.    

In this context, he accused Ukrainian officials of making “direct calls for the opening of the second front” and claiming that the Georgian government was “trying to torture Saakashvili to death.” “It does not mean that we have cut our links and communications, but, unfortunately, there are certain kinds of official formats in which we do not participate ,” he said.

Kobakhidze also recalled the Georgian government’s humanitarian and political assistance to Ukraine and said that opponents cannot answer the question, “what more could we be doing.” Kobakhidze concluded, “some people from the radical opposition assumed that we should have sent weapons to Ukraine, which is tantamount to joining a military conflict.”

Commenting on the rally in solidarity with Ukraine planned by a part of the opposition for February 24, Kobakhidze said that “it is doomed to the fiasco.” “There is no chance that this rally is successful,” he added.  

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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