Speaker: USAID and EED ‘Fund Extremism in Georgia’

On October 24, the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, doubled down on accusations against the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the European Endowment for Democracy (EED), saying some of their programs encourage “extremism” and “polarization.” He demanded “explanations” from the US and the EU, just as the ruling party and security services have stepped up pressure on civic activists.

Speaker referred to “several scandals involving USAID,” which he called “very unfortunate”, noting that “it seems that a number of local USAID officials have a careless attitude towards the good name that American aid has in Georgia.”

In this context, Papuashvili mentioned the mainstay of the “Georgian Dream” spin to discredit ISFED, the key election watchdog, by claims that USAID “interfered in the 2020 elections in Georgia” when ISFED “spread false results of the parallel count” (which ISFED has repeatedly denied). Adding further elements to that spin, Papuasvhili said, “USAID officials themselves knew about this [spreading of false results] and hid it from the Georgian public.” Papuashvili pointed out – counterfactually – that USAID “still has not responded to the allegations.” He added, “the[ir] silence serves as an affirmative answer.”

Papuashvili then referred to two recent cases that are being actively spinned by the ruling party affiliated media – the so-called “trainings case” where civic activists are investigated by security services for taking part in peaceful resistance training and the news that a watchdog, GDI, helped activists pay fines imposed after administrative arrests.

Papuasvhili said there was a “closed circle,” in which, on the one hand “people are trained to have a more radical agenda” and then “supported” financially when the “radical actions take place”, and “protected when they break the law.” He said the paying of fines “gives a carte blanche to the perpetrators, and of course, this is absolutely unacceptable.” Papuashvili said the government is “waiting for clarifications […] from the USAID side” which has allegedly funded GDI to pay these fines.

Speaker attacked the EED saying its activities “are hidden from the public.” He said it was “strange and very disappointing” that while the EU calls for depolarization in Georgia, the money the European Union gives to EED, “is spent in Georgia to promote extremism.”

In the same context, he mentioned the movement “Droa” as “a group that rejects the elections and at the same time is characterized by radicalism” as funded by EED, and said it “paid the bail of Nika Melia, accused of storming the Parliament.” He also referred to another usual target of the ruling party, “Shame Movement” and its campaign, which, Papuasvhili said “served to romanticize the Molotov cocktail” and “gave free hand for violence to people who violate the law and use violence during demonstrations.”

Shalva Papuashvili stressed the need for “explanations” from the EU and the EU member states’ embassies: “How does this covert funding in Georgia fit in with the values of the EU, and especially when money goes to radical groups, does the EU distance itself from this, or does it fund what it thinks is right? Once again, every cent spent in Georgia is spent against the interests of EU citizens and, most importantly, against the interests of the Georgian people,” he concluded.

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