PM Garibashvili Links Tbilisi Protests to “Destructive, Anarchist” Forces

In an interview with Imedi TV on March 12, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili linked the March 7-9 protests in Tbilisi against the Russian-style “foreign agents” law to “destructive, anarchist and extremist forces” and said their purpose was to maintain “chaos and destabilization” in the country. The Prime Minister also spoke about EU membership, the European Parliament’s resolution on ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, the war in Ukraine and attempts to open a “second front” in Georgia.

“Destructive, extremist and anarchist forces” want to maintain “chaos and constant destabilization” in the country

Speaking about the March 7-9 rallies in Tbilisi, PM Garibashvili stressed that many young people who support EU integration participated in the rallies, but noted that the protests were orchestrated by members of the “destructive, anarchist” movement in coordination with the United National Movement, whose purpose was “to create chaos, maintain constant destabilization and unrest.” “They might have killed several young people themselves,” he added.   

“Let no one have the illusion that these young people who stood on the stage, and we know who they are, one by one, were all connected to the National Movement or its satellite organizations, be it “European Georgia”, “Girchi – More Freedom”, “Vashadze’s party” [Strategy Agmashenebeli] and others,” he said.

In this context, PM Garibashvili also mentioned the NGO Franklin Club, which is based at the University of Georgia and whose activities include educational and media projects, research, political discussions, civic activism and consulting. The Prime Minister noted that the organization “poisons” and “brainwashes” the youth. “I do not want to prejudge the events or hinder the investigation, but this is a direct anti-state, subversive activity,” he said.

The Prime Minister stressed that the young people of the “Franklin Club,” “these trained, destructive “Girchi” members of Zurab Japaridze’s movement were the most provocative and defiant.” “They had a direct task to enter into confrontation with the special forces, the police, to provoke them with Molotov cocktails, Garibashvili said, adding that “about 60 policemen are injured, several policemen were almost burned alive. All these people will be severely punished.”

“I saw some photos, I was dismayed, some people, young people, were wearing the uniforms of Satanists, I do not want to show their faces, but it is disturbing what is happening here,” the PM said, stressing that “the collective National Movement has turned into an extremist organization, they are a little short of becoming a terrorist organization.”

PM Garibashvili then thanked Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri and “every policeman” who “perfectly” planned and managed the situation, and denied accusations of possible abuse of authority on their part. “Our human face, our democracy, and at the same time the firmness and strength of our government have been demonstrated once again.”

Purpose of “foreign agent” law and reason for its withdrawal

Speaking to Imedi TV, PM Garibashvili reiterated that the purpose of the draft laws on “foreign agents” was “to register organizations of foreign influence” and “to ensure their transparency and accountability.” He also noted that similar laws have been passed in the United States, Great Britain and several EU countries. However, the Prime Minister said nothing about the local context and key differences.

The Prime Minister noted that many non-governmental organizations have been operating in Georgia for decades and their activities are opaque. “I would say that their finances and their activities lack transparency,” he stressed.

“A lot of money is transferred to the accounts of NGOs – they have received hundreds of millions of dollars since our country regained its independence. Their goals are unclear, we have very little information about their activities, and we demanded a minimum of transparency and a minimum of accountability to our public.”

As examples, PM Garibashvili cited the “Shame” movement, “known for its destructive actions and provocations,” Tbilisi Pride, an organization defending LGBTQI rights, the Social Justice Center and the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED). “Our task is to know, to inform our people about the purpose of their activities. That was the main motivation.”

The Prime Minister also added that the government’s decision to withdraw them was “the most correct and reasonable decision.” in light of the situation surrounding the draft laws. “Thus, we have demonstrated that we will not allow anyone to cause destabilization, unrest and chaos or unleash a “second front” in the country,” he added.

EU membership and candidate status

Speaking about Georgia’s EU integration, PM Garibashvili said that under the current government, “real progress” has been made on this path. He cited as examples the visa-free regime, the Association Agreement with the EU and the European perspective obtained last year. “Thanks to our government, our country has been recognized as a reliable partner,” he stressed.

Speaking about obtaining the EU candidate status, Garibashvili said that the Georgian Parliament, together with the government, has done its best to fulfill the 12 recommendations issued by the European Commission. He reiterated that Georgia was two and three times ahead of Ukraine and Moldova “in all areas” and that the two countries had been granted candidate status in advance.

“We should get the status by the end of the year. If we are talking about a decision based on merits, our country deserves the candidate status. If someone is going to sabotage, and wants to sabotage, it is again these destructive, anarchist forces again,” Garibashvili said, stressing that opponents “have mobilized their lobbying organizations, people associated with them to prevent us from getting candidate status.”

According to him, if anyone does not want the country to get candidate status. “it is the destructive, radical opposition.” “Why? Once we get the status, they will be deprived of all opportunities to accuse us of anything. We have done our best during this period. So they will try to sabotage in every way possible, to create even more chaos, to destroy the economy, to destroy tourism, so that instead of having a 10% growth, we have a minus 10% economic decline, because all of this will affect the people.”

“It was discussed whether this constitutional provision [on EU integration] was violated or not. The constitutional provision was made on the initiative of Georgian Dream. We were the initiators, we wrote down that the Euro-Atlantic path is the only irreversible path, which has no alternative for our country,” the PM noted.

European Parliament resolution on Mikheil Saakashvili

Prime Minister Garibashvili reiterated that with its “shameful resolution” on the health condition of imprisoned ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, the European Parliament “directly confessed that Saakashvili is their agent and that they are doing everything to save their agent.”

“This will not happen,” Garibashvili said, recalling “many crimes” committed by Saakashvili. “There is no legal solution, no desire to violate any law. We cannot violate the law, we cannot violate the constitution. Saakashvili is a prisoner today.”

“It would be better if the European Parliament minded its own business. 100 MEPs are involved in a corruption scandal. Why are they lecturing us?!” PM Garibashvili said, adding that “all those Europeans and foreigners who put an equal sign between Saakashvili and our country, do not recognize the sovereignty of our country, do not respect our country, the independence of our country, our institutions, our people. We should defend our name, our authority. We have thousands of years of statehood, culture and identity and no one should expect us to commit any illegality.”

Second front

Irakli Garibashvili once again drew attention to the attempts to open a “second front” in Georgia, citing the statements of top Ukrainian officials to prove it. He said that this was the purpose of Saakashvili’s return to the country.

He also accused members of the European Parliament and the “destructive opposition” of trying to open a “second front” in the country, noting that the opposition’s goal was to “overthrow the government by force” and then drag the country into a war. “They are insisting that Georgia join the war. Let’s imagine that there is a war in Georgia today, we all know what will happen here – our beautiful country will turn into a firing range,” he said, adding that “this is not an exaggeration, this is a real threat.”

“We are making progress in all areas. Of course, when we have such great progress in the face of such challenges, we get on the nerves of many people, and many had illusions and hopes that Georgia’s role should be to join the war,” PM Garibashvili said.

The Prime Minister also spoke about the humanitarian aid that Georgia provided to Ukraine, as well as the support expressed internationally, noting that “the only thing they are dissatisfied with is that we did not join the war.”

Note: On March 24, the Prime Minister will also answer questions from Georgian MPs. Amid the war in Ukraine, the opposition MPs are interested in the country’s national security issues and the reasons for the record reduction of the defense budget.

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