Speaker Papuashvili Presents 2023 Report on Parliament’s Work

On February 22, the Speaker of the Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, presented the last Annual Report on the work of the Parliament before the elections and the Action Plan for 2024.

He began his speech by explaining the landscape in which “the Georgian Parliament had to navigate” in the recent years. He noted that in addition to critical issues such as the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Parliament also faced the challenge of a “radicalized opposition”, but “was able to overcome it” and achieve the “historically important success of being granted EU candidate status”, while “maintaining peace and security”.

In the presentation, a the recurrent theme was the criticism of the opposition. Speaker Papuashvili highlighted the number of plenary sessions held in Parliament (65), laws passed in hearings (622), international agreements signed (54), Group of Trust meetings held at Parliament (14) and throughout emphasized the lack of participation by the opposition in these processes.

Papuashvili also spoke about the “anatomy of waves of disinformation and radicalization” used by the opposition and their “allied CSOs”. He talked at length about why the Government uses the principle of “strategic patience” in foreign relations, explaining the reasons why Georgia can’t do more in the face of the imminent threat from Russia and noting that international partners understand this position better than the opposition, who “blames” the Government for being pro-Russian.

He also mentioned “disinformation campaigns” around the failed Foreign Agents Law, which he still believes to be needed; around the health of former President Mikheil Saakashvili; the narrative that Georgia is helping Russia evade sanctions; and the “disinformation” surrounding Georgian judiciary.

In addition, Speaker Papuashvili criticized President Salome Zurabishvili as well, stating: “The highest official of the country, who was supposed to be the unifier of the country, turned out to be the divider of the country, who, by promoting radicalization, practically joined the game of the radical opposition and thus significantly damaged not the “Georgian Dream”, but the international image and interests of Georgia.”

He reaffirmed the Parliament’s commitment to EU integration on various occasions, additionally noting: “It would be desirable for NATO to follow the example of the European Union and offer clearer criteria for Georgia’s membership, the fulfillment of which will bring our country closer to the North Atlantic Alliance, as has happened in the case of the European Union.”

Questions from the opposition centered on Papuashvili’s speech. Other questions revolved around sanctions evasion, China-Georgia relations, the fate of the opposition-initiated laws, allowing the opposition to meet with Mikheil Saakashvili, and how to ensure free and fair elections. Papuashvili’s answers were vague, he brushed off accusations from the opposition and reiterated points of his speech.

While talking about the “radical” opposition he recalled the 2022 events, when some opposition parties protested against the cancellation by the Government of charter flight for volunteer fighters planning to go to Ukraine. Saying that this was “against the state’s interest” he said: “You know where the airport is, you know how to get a ticket, if you want to sacrifice yourself, you know how to get to [Ukraine], where you can prove your heroism. Stop being a hero at the expense of the people!” – Papuashvili stated.

Meanwhile, the representatives of the ruling party confined themselves to praising Papuashvili and following suit in criticizing the opposition, rather than asking questions about the work of the Parliament.

The only question that was clearly answered and noted by the Speaker was that of independent MP Tamar Kordzaia. Kordzaia stressed that the Georgian Constitution clearly stipulates that ministers must respond to MPs’ written inquiries and asked whether Papuashvili considered the lack of answers to be unconstitutional, to which he agreed and promised to work on the issue.

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