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GD Chair Defends Foreign Agent Law, Attacks CSOs, Advances Demands

GD Chairman Irakli Kobakhidze gave a wide-ranging interview to Imedi TV, the ruling party mouthpiece, to explain and defend his party’s position supporting the Russia-inspired law on “foreign agents.” This came after the majority endorsed the two versions of the laws on foreign agents during the joint meeting of the committees on foreign affairs and defense and security. During the heated debate, MPs from the majority faction voiced similar arguments. These were further elaborated by Kobakhdize.

In addition, he leveled what seemed to be several specific demands towards the western donors to establish “honest rules of the game.”

Some of the key arguments follow:

CSOs fuel polarization – the law would have a “preventive effect”

Kobakhidze argued that the ruling party is doing all in its power to fulfill the EU’s 12 demands for candidacy. But, he said, “we can adopt all the laws that we want, and we have,” but the “radical opposition and CSOs affiliated with it” are preventing the majority from achieving depolarization and thus fulfilling the first recommendation by the EU. He went on to argue that the process of election of the public defender was scuttled by CSOs [in fact, the ruling party turned down the top candidates endorsed by CSOs even though they have been selected as front-runners by the commission that the parliament has created – Civil.ge].

Since some of these CSOs are funded by foreign donors who, in doing so, support polarization, passing of the law on “foreign agents” would “have a preventive effect, which is to say that those donors would abstain from financing polarization.”

Previously, Chairman Kobakhidze has named two particular donor agencies – the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) and the National Endowment of Democracy (NED). He argued that EED, which is affiliated with the European Parliament, and U.S.-funded NED are supporting the “Shame Movement” and “Droa” movement, which, Kobakhidze repeated, are “extremist organizations” and fuel polarization.

In conclusion to this point, Kobakhidze also said that MPs that protested the “foreign agent” laws at the committee hearing “were given orders” to fuel polarization and acted upon those orders.

Kobakhidze denied that the adoption of the law would create an obstacle to EU candidacy since “the only obstacle to EU integration is polarization” and the law, he argued removes polarization by “removing ambiguity” and “providing transparency”

Those who call it “Russian law” are “compulsive liars”

Kobakhidze repeated an argument that one of the draft laws was directly copied from the U.S. legislation and calling them “Russian laws” is like “calling Chrysler a Moskvich [Soviet car brand].” He said the opposition’s attempt to portray the drafts as “Russia-inspired” are “feeble attempts at stigmatization” and “laughable.” He said nonetheless that this “American” law was “catastrophic” and “very harsh,” while the initial draft, which Kobakhidze calls the “Georgian law,” is, in his words, “filtered and properly brought into compliance with human rights standards.”

CSOs are fighting our identity

Chairman Kobakhidze named specific CSO leaders and gave quotes from their social media posts critical to the Georgian Orthodox Church as proof that they were expressly fighting Georgian identity. He also said that comparing these “deformed organizations” to the “naturally formed civil society” of the late 19th and 20th centuries was “spit into the soul of the Georgian nation,” which “we should not let pass” or “our identity would end there.” He argued that a “targeted campaign of erasing our identity” is afoot.

Protesters at the Parliament were “detractors of the Church”

Kobakhize argued that the “absolute majority” of the people were “blowing whistles at the Parliament” in protest to the “foreign agent” law are the “detractors of the Church” and people should know “with whose funding these people are denigrating the Church” and society “would give its response.”

CSOs took part in the plan that would have Russian tanks roll into Tbilisi

Irakli Kobakhidze said that implementing the EU-mediated April 19 deal between the opposition and the Georgian Dream in 2021 would have triggered the “escalation spiral,” which would have “I can guarantee you” brought the Russian tanks to Tbilisi. He said CSOs – Kobakhidze named the leaders of the Social Justice Center, Women’s Rights Center “Sapari” and Transparency International – Georgia – were directly involved in that alleged plan. This shows, Kobakhidze, “who is the Russian force and who is the Georgian force, which side has patriotism on its side, and which side is servile to others.”

The list of concrete demands for “honest game” with the West

Responding to the question concerning the open criticisms by the U.S. and EU officials, Kobakhidze said they only “want to play by honorable rules” which do not “undermine the dignity” and “sovereignty.” He named several examples which, in his mind, illustrate such practices.

He also said that while the term “foreign agent” may be controversial due to its Soviet undertones, “we see that only those who really are foreign spies are reacting to it sharply.” Kobakhidze went on to say that while “hundreds of NGOs in Georgia fulfill their mission with integrity,” there are “ten or fifteen NGOs that are monopolizing 2/3 of the donor market” and are engaged in unwelcome activities. He named several such activities and some CSOs directly.

This can be interpreted as the “shopping list” of demands to Western donors.

Stop funding “Shame Movement” and “Droa”

Kobakhidze reiterated that these are “extremist organizations” whose financial support from western donors should cease because it illustrates double standards concerning polarization.

Stop funding “anti-state acts” against Namakhvani HPP

Kobakhidze said that specific foreign-funded organizations supported public protests against the construction of Namakhvani HPP. The failure to construct Namakhvani HPP goes against Georgia’s energy independence, therefore, against its independence in general, Kobakhidze argued. Therefore, organizations that support blocking Namakhvani HPP are engaged in “anti-state acts with foreign funding.”

Stop funding religious organizations

Kobakhidze claimed that an organization – which he said he would not name “because it is a bit of a sensitive issue” – is allegedly attempting “political intervention with religious lining” which “has, in reality, nothing to do with the freedom of religion and faith.” Sometimes, these “political interventions” are implemented with “traditional confessions” (the Georgian Orthodox Church refers thus to the Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish congregations) as well as “non-traditional confessions” and “sects” (the Georgian Church’s short-hand to all protestant and other creeds). Kobakhidze said “there is one particular organization with foreign funding” that supports such initiatives and that this matter “was raised several times privately in the meeting rooms,” but there has been no progress.

Stop funding ISFED

“When the parallel vote tabulation (PVT) is being falsified,” Kobakhidze said, the donors must “distance themselves” from such organizations. He directly named the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) as the organization that “falsified” PVT. He was referring to the error in PVT tabulation in 2020 that was disclosed by ISFED.

Stop supporting political activism

Kobakhidze said several CSOs “with specific foreign funding” had gone “on the stage and asked for the government’s resignation,” which should “have nothing to do with NGO work.” This criticism was referring to the statement at a public rally on June 24, where citizens and civil society actors, including several NGOs, decried the failure of the government to secure the EU candidacy and called for the creation of the “national unity government” of technocrats to fulfill the EU conditions.

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

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