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The Daily Beat: 23 March

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has arrived in Tbilisi. In her pre-arrival tweet, the ministry said despite attempts to steer Georgia away from the pro-European course, the majority of citizens support Europe and they have the backing of Germany. FM Baerbock did not mince her words, saying “there can be no shortcuts or discounts” regarding the commitment to European values. The visit comes amid growing international criticism of the democratic backsliding in Georgia, the GD leadership’s mounting anti-western rhetoric, and following the mass protest rallies in Tbilisi against the Russia-inspired law to neuter civil society and media. A senior representative of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Tbilisi city mayor Kakhi Kaladze, responded to FM Baerbock’s criticism by saying, “this person is clearly out of touch with reality.” GD MP Archil Talakvadze, a former speaker, said “this statement shall be directly understood as support of Georgia’s [EU] candidacy and other speculations shall be brushed aside.”

Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze welcomed the prospect of resuming direct air link with Russia. The Russian state news agency TASS quoted a Russian State Duma lawmaker yesterday saying that Russia was “on the verge” of reversing its 2019 decision to suspend the direct air link.

Highly controversial TV host and propagandist at the ruling party’s mouthpiece-PosTV, Shalva Ramishvili, is facing allegations of sexual harassment. Three women accused him of sexual abuse and harassment while conducting job interviews some years ago. PosTV controlling stakes belong to MP Viktor Japaridze, a member of the sovereignist spinoff of the ruling Georgian Dream party – “People’s Power,” which was behind the foreign agent’s bill, sparking mass protests. Ramishvili was convicted of sexual harassment in 2018, and two levels of courts upheld the charges. The Tbilisi City Court fined Ramishvili 2,000 GEL.

In an open letter to the European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, 15 NGOs welcomed the European Commission’s decision to prepare an interim assessment of Georgia’s implementation of 12 EU conditions for candidate status in the spring, calling for the evaluation to be made “public and accessible to stakeholders, including the country’s civil society.” The NGOs argued that publishing the European Commission’s midterm assessment would ensure transparency and effective monitoring of the implementation process.

Three GD MPs that did not vote for the “foreign agent” law were ejected from their seats. MPs Vladimir Chachibaia, former chief of staff of the army, MP Nino Iobashvili, and MP Giorgi Khelashvili, deputy chair of the foreign relations committee were eased of their mandates. Chachibaia and Iobashvili were confirmed to have been appointed as PM’s advisors. Khelashvili’s appointment as Speaker’s advisor was rumored but could not be confirmed at the time of publication.

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