Prime Minister Kobakhidze Press Briefing

On 23 February, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze held his first press conference since returning from his visit to Brussels to discuss his meetings with European and NATO leaders and to answer questions from the media. Among other important issues, Kobakhidze answered questions about Ivanishvili’s involvement in the election campaign, EU leaders’ reaction to GD’s anti-Western statements, Sino-Georgian and US-Georgian strategic partnership.

Speaking about his visit to Belgium, Prime Minister Kobakhidze emphasized that “at all meetings, the special goodwill of the partners towards our country and the delegation was underlined… Mr. Josep Borrell, in his conversation with us, assessed the meeting of the EU-Georgia Association Council as the best that ever took place”.

Kobakhidze thanked the delegation that accompanied him on the visit and underlined Georgia’s commitment to EU integration. He stressed that by 2030 Georgia will be among the candidate countries “best prepared to join the European Union, both from a democratic and an economic point of view. The Georgian government will spare no effort to fulfill this task”.

Questions and Answers

When asked by the pro-government TV Channel Imedi about how problematic it is that some Georgian politicians establish non-governmental organizations and receive foreign funds, and whether this is legal, Kobakhidze said that political parties that receive foreign funds directly or indirectly are in violation of the Georgian Constitution and Georgia’s sovereignty. He noted that in democratic states “political entities can be financed from internal state sources and not from foreign sources” and that there is a “positive dynamic” in Georgia after the attempt to adopt so-called Foreign Agents law, because the foreign funding has decreased, “however, we must follow through on any such precedent,” said PM.

He also emphasized that no additional legislative changes regarding foreign funding of NGOs will be proposed.

The journalists asked whether Kobakhidze had been asked to explain his anti-Western statements and, above all, harsh criticism of MEPs in the past during meetings with the heads of EU institutions, in particular with the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, whom he has harshly criticized on several occasions.

The Prime Minister noted that Roberta Metsola was the first who initiated a conversation about the “misunderstanding between the European Parliament and the Georgian Parliament”. He stated that in 2022 the EP adopted three “absolutely unfair” resolutions, which they “had to criticize”, but “fortunately” after these incidents a “correct practice was adopted” and no more such statements were made. He added that he hopes that the Georgian government will have closer relations with the EP and that after the upcoming elections the relations will be “warmer”.

Asked how GD founder Bidzina Ivanishvili will be involved in the election process, Kobakhidze said: “It depends on him and his vision. So far we haven’t talked about the details of planning the election campaign. Of course, we will have meetings and an election campaign will be planned”. He also said that there are no plans to change the government in the near future.

When asked about the new amendments to the CEC staffing rules, the Prime Minister noted that these amendments were necessary to resolve the “deadlock” they had encountered in trying to appoint new CEC members, and that “the deadlock in the law on the CEC was created by the clause included in the April 19 agreement due to sabotage. The new law provides a way out of the deadlock”. He stated that he explained this issue to the European partners, who “received the arguments very well” and that the new law “provides impartiality, efficiency” of the Commission.

In a separate question, the Prime Minister reiterated the GD’s point about why the post of the opposition-elected Deputy Chairman of the CEC was abolished, claiming that there was a possibility that the opposition parties were planning a way to “sabotage the CEC” by getting rid of the CEC chairman and using the opposition-elected Deputy Chairman “to take control” of the institution.

He also spoke about Russia’s war in Ukraine, stating: “It is our duty to give maximum support to our Ukrainian friends from the political and humanitarian point of view… we wish Ukraine its sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Kobakhidze stressed that Ukraine is in a very difficult situation at the moment, elaborating on this issue in detail, and noted that he can’t predict how the war will end, stressing that even when discussing the future scenarios in Brussels, he was unable to hear any concrete predictions from the leaders of the EU member states and institutions.

The Prime Minister was asked about the strategic partnerships with China and US and whether his meetings after returning from Brussels first with the Ambassador of China to Georgia and then the Ambassador of the US carries the meaning that the governments has changed its priorities. He noted that both strategic partnerships are important for Georgia, however “those relationships are a mutual affair, therefore, the priorities are determined mutually.”

With regard to China, he emphasized the country’s “enormous” interest in Georgia, pointing to free trade agreements, direct flights, and high-level visits. Meanwhile, Kobakhidze noted that “over the years, US interest in strategic partnership seems to have waned,” noting that there are no high-level visits, no free trade agreement, no visa-free travel, and “for probably the eighth year, no President or Prime Minister has received a high-level congratulatory message from the US.”

Regarding the former President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, the Prime Minister noted that “for two years there was a speculative campaign as if Mikheil Saakashvili’s health condition was serious,” but now it is evident that this was “an empty lie” and that he plans to join political processes. He emphasized that the issue of Saakashvili’s pardon was not raised in any meeting with international partners.

He also spoke briefly about plans to meet with the doctors who have been protesting the demolition of the Central Republican Hospital for the past month, and to find a way to meet their needs while continuing to rehabilitate the hospital.

In addition, Prime Minister Kobakhidze spoke about the United National Movement’s proposal to appoint and select judges in the judicial system through “vetting” procedures. He stated: “‘Vetting’ in its essence contradicts not only formally the current Constitution of Georgia, but also directly contradicts the spirit of the Constitution, including the principle of independence of the judiciary. Especially since there is no basis for the development of such processes in our country.”

The proposed vetting process envisages re-evaluating the corps of judges to verify their integrity. One of the nine conditions of the European Commission directs the government to complete and implement a holistic and effective judicial reform, including a comprehensive reform of the High Council of Justice and the Prosecutor’s Office, fully implementing the recommendations of the Venice Commission and following a transparent and inclusive process. The introduction of vetting procedures could be one of the ways to achieve such reform, similarly to Ukraine and Moldova which have already introduced this procedure into their legislation.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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