Parliament Launches Discussions on “Foreign Agents” Amid Scuffles, Endorses the Draft Laws

A joint session of the Parliamentary Committees on Defense and Security and Foreign Relations to discuss two Russian-inspired draft laws on “foreign agents” endorsed by the ruling majority began two hours late on March 2 and was marred by scuffles.

MPs from the ruling party and the opposition engaged in physical and verbal confrontation before the joint session. Earlier, part of the non-governmental sector and media were not allowed to attend the session.

Later, representatives of the Parliament’s security service forced some opposition MPs to leave the hall.

Teona Akubardia, an independent lawmaker, told TV Pirveli, that a scuffle broke out among MPs after representatives of civil society organizations and the media were not allowed into the chamber. She also noted that the discussions were supposed to be held in a large hall, but were moved to a smaller one to prevent civil society and journalists from attending.

Levan Khabeishvili, the chairman of the United National Movement, and Giorgi Vashadze, the leader of “Strategy Agmashenebeli” announced a rally in front of the Parliament at 18:00 on March 2. “Georgia will never become a slave of Russia. That is why it is important to demonstrate the power of the people,” Giorgi Vashadze noted.

The Committee Hearing is Taking Place Amid Noise

The committee hearing of the draft law is taking place against the backdrop of the verbal confrontation between the ruling majority and the opposition MPs. The opposition MPs called on the majority to recall the law without examining its articles. At the same time, protests against the “Russian law” began near the Parliament building.

Nikoloz Samkharadze, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said at the opening of the session that the bill would also affect Russian funding. He also stated that “during the first hearing, neither the name of the law, nor the terms, the articles, the terms of its implementation, the limits, the coverage areas, or any of the specific aspects related to this draft law will be discussed”.

Samkharadze also emphasized that the initiative will go through these procedures only after receiving the conclusion of the Venice Commission. “… We are a guarantee that if this bill becomes a law, it will be in such a way that the law does not hinder European integration in any way… It is not true that we can hinder European integration in any way,” he said.

In response, the MP of the Lelo party, Ana Natsvilishvili, told the Parliamentary majority MPs that they are “blocking” and “blasting” the path to the European Union membership of Georgia. According to her, it will be on the conscience of all the MPs who “press the button” in support of this law. “If you cross this Rubicon, there will be no turning back,” she said.

According to Ana Natsvlishvili, “this is a Russian law, with Russian goals”, which “originates in the heads” of the ruling majority and is initiated by others on their order. “Either take back this initiative or we will face very serious consequences… This country was Sovietized once, but we will not allow you to Sovietize it for the second time,” – she added.

“As if there was no other problem in this country, you had to bring in this controversy,”- Aleko Elisashvili, MP for the Citizens’ Party addressed the majority of MPs.

“Why are you doing this?!! You are killing the prospects of this country… Come on, tell us that yes, we want Russia… Say: “We have such a feeling that we should bring this country into Russia,” he said, adding – “…this country will not become Russia, this is Georgia and it will not become Russia again!”

Independent MP Armaz Akhvlediani told the ruling majority MPs that the adoption of the law on “foreign agents” is “a step against the constitutional order of Georgia”. “Those who are ready to support it, go ahead, but know that it will put an end to this Parliament and this insolence, and you will not be able to pull this through!”

“This is a disgrace and a damage to the state interests of Georgia… We have listened to you, we have tolerated you, but we can’t tolerate you anymore, this is borderline, after this it means selling out the interests of my state and betraying it,” he stressed.

“This is a treacherous way to separate Georgia from the West. And this we won’t allow, it’s out of the question,” said independent MP Tako Charkviani to the members of the majority.

Update: In spite of the protests, from both the opposition MPs and from from civil society who rallied outside the Parliament building in parallel with the debates, the draft laws were endorsed by the ruling majority at the joint session late at night on March 2. 

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