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The Daily Beat: 24 March

German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock had a busy Friday schedule in Tbilisi, signaling Germany’s support for Georgia’s European choice. She started off with meeting NGOs and went on to encounter the foreign minister, the President, and students of Ilia State University, ending the day with a meeting with the prime minister. Germany’s top diplomat also managed to visit the occupation line in the Odzisi area near the Tskhinvali region, eye-witnessing the negative impacts of Russian “borderisation.” According to media reports, human rights, the rule of law, de-polarization, strong civil society, and EU-related reforms were at the heart of the German-Georgian discussions. Annalena Berbock publicly backed the country’s European aspirations, saying she wanted to see Georgia and its people in the EU. “The place of the Georgian people is in Europe,” said the German foreign minister, adding that “the Georgian government can’t become a member of the EU without civil society, and Georgian civil society won’t become a member of the EU without the Georgian government.”

While the German foreign minister was guesting in the city, Georgian prime minister Irakli Garibashvili was questioned in the Parliament under the interpellation procedure. PM once again spoke from the parliamentary rostrum about the ongoing war in Ukraine and the efforts to open a “second front” in Georgia, accusing the “destructive” opposition of trying to “overthrow” the government and organize a “revolution” in the country. Garibashvili also slammed the EU parliament resolution on Saakashvili and referred to Georgia’s prospects of being granted the EU candidate status. “If Europe and European colleagues want to end the polarization [in Georgia], they should [grant us] the status of a candidate,” the prime minister warned alarmingly.  Then he lashed out at opposition MP Gubaz Sanikidze, calling him a “bastard, traitor and bought by Saakashvili for USD 100 thousand.” Later on, Gubaz Sanikidze was seen physically assaulted in the parliamentary corridors by the ruling party lawmakers who apparently exacted revenge for MPs insulting remarks to the PM.

In her late Friday TV interview with the opposition TV Pirveli, president Salome Zurabishvili made a political revelation, acknowledging the patron of the ruling Georgian Dream party Bidzina Ivanishvili as an oligarch. “Yes, he is probably. He is an oligarch in the sense that he has money and influence on the media and politics. Still, the problem of the oligarchy is more significant than Ivanishvili himself,” the president said. Zurabishvili also revealed that she is in touch with government ministers but has no contact with the prime minister.

Three ruling party lawmakers – Vladimir Chachibaia, Nino Iobashvili, and Giorgi Khelashvili, who did not vote for the Russian-style “foreign agents” bill initiated by the ruling majority, became advisers to the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Parliament. Parliamentary Committee on Procedural Issues has already approved the termination of their parliamentary powers, and various sources have confirmed their demotion. Yet another senior MP, Irakli Kovzanadze, already a former head of the finance and budgetary committee who did not attend the voting, was also ejected from his seat formally due to a sudden urge to return to civil service.

U.S. Ambassador Kelly Degnan brushed away the prime minister’s criticism of the State Department’s Human Rights report on Georgia, stressing that reports are double-checked, prepared inclusively, containing credible and reliable information. A couple of days ago, the prime minister downplayed the US State Department’s Human Rights report, calling it “biased,” “unfair,” and “based on unfair conclusions.”  

Khatia Dekanoidze left the United National Movement (UNM) as she believed the party was stuck in the past and given a new reality that won’t work. Earlier, Khatia Dekanoidze also resigned from the chair of the UNM parliamentary faction following the election of Levan Khabeishvili as the new leader of the UNM. Dekanoidze says she will continue parliamentary activity as an independent MP and advocate the release of political prisoners and Georgia’s European integration.

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