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The Daily Beat: 28 February

The U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price repeated concerns over Russia-inspired draft law on foreign agents. He said the draft already endorsed by the ruling party leadership would harm the freedom of speech and democracy in Georgia and undermine its Euro-Atlantic future. According to the spokesman, the Georgian government has been well informed of the U.S. concerns.

The National Bank of Georgia publicized the information that Cartu Bank was fined on several counts of non-disclosure of potentially risky transactions under money laundering and prevention of financing of terrorism laws, as well as on one case of non-disclosure of political interest. Cartu Bank is known to be one of the central elements of the business empire of Bidzina Ivanishvili, a reclusive oligarch and a patron of the ruling Georgian Dream party. The development comes as NBG has complained about the new law, saying it dilutes the central bank’s independence. President Salome Zurabishvili has vetoed the law, but the Georgian Dream has enough MPs to overrule that veto.

In an open letter addressed to the speaker of the Georgian parliament, the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović urged the parliament to reject the draft law on foreign agents, warning of incompatibility of this legal initiative with the Council of Europe human rights standards. Commissioner also reminded the speaker of the European Court of Human Rights case law, finding the violation of the provisions on freedom of assembly and association of the European Convention on Human Rights in connection with similar legislation in Russia.  

Following the outcry from civil society and Georgia’s international partners, the ruling majority is set to send two drafts of the Russia-inspired foreign agents’ law to the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe. The ruling party chair, Irakli Kobakhidze, hedged against the probable opposing conclusion of the Venice Commission and pledged to adopt one or another draft anyway. “No one can say that transparency is not good,” Kobakhidze said, signaling that the ruling party would only consider technical aspects of the criticism that is likely to come from the Venice Commission.

50% of all political donations went to the ruling Georgian Dream party, a quarterly report of transparency international Georgia (TI Georgia) revealed.  In the last quarter of 2022, all political parties in Georgia received a total of GEL 742,230 in donations, of which GEL 370,000 (50%) went to the ruling party, according to a local watchdog. The ruling party is followed by the Conservative Movement, an ultra-nationalist and ultra-conservative party, and Lelo – the political platform of TBC bank founders Mamuka Khazaradze and Badri Japaridze. TI Georgia reported that business groups and people close to the ruling party, winning multi-million worth state tenders, are identified among the Georgian Dream sponsors.

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Georgia has reneged on its open government commitments for the second consecutive year, the letter by the Chief Executive Officer of the Open Government Partnership/OGP reads. The failure to deliver the promised action plans has put Georgia under review by the OGP. To rectify the situation, Georgia must submit a new action plan by December 31, 2023. Georgia has been an OGP member since 2011, was considered one of the innovative frontrunners of the process, and proudly hosted the Fifth OGP Global Summit in Tbilisi in July 2018.

“The terrorism situation in Georgia in 2021 remained quiet and stable,” the US State Department’s country reports on terrorism notes. The report highlighted Georgia’s efforts in arresting five Georgian citizens in the Pankisi Gorge region who were charged with membership in ISIS and prevented from traveling to a terrorist camp in Syria. Special attention is also devoted to the July 5 violence at the Tbilisi Pride event, stressing failed riot control measures by the police. The report generally describes Georgia as a strong and committed US security partner.

Comings and Goings

Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili bid farewell and instructed the newly appointed Georgian ambassadors to Poland, the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Norway. All the new ambassadors are career diplomats.


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