BREAKING: GD Reintroduces the Draft law on Foreign Agents

On April 3, the parliamentary majority leader of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Mamuka Mdinaradze, announced the reintroduction of the draft law on foreign agents, which was dropped last year after the massive rallies on March 7-9. According to Mdinaradze, the content of the bill remains the same, the only change is in the title: the word “agent” in it has been removed and the title has been replaced with “Organization Pursuing the Interests of a Foreign Power”.

“The parliamentary majority, after consultation with the political council of the party, has decided to reintroduce the draft law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence” to the Parliament. The bill will be introduced in the Parliament of Georgia with exactly the same text as it was introduced last year, with only one difference. You all remember that last year we introduced the bill and immediately after the introduction we expressed our readiness to replace the term “agent of foreign influence” with another term. In the draft law we are introducing today, the term “organization pursuing the interests of a foreign power” will be used instead of the term “agent of foreign influence”,” – stated Mdinaradze during his press briefing.

Mdinaradze reiterated the GD party’s narrative from last year, claiming that the bill only requires organizations that receive foreign funding to publish their own annual financial report, with only financial penalties for violations.

Parliamentary Majority Statement

In its statement, the parliamentary majority emphasizes that the “civil sector remains the most non-transparent sector in Georgia”, and claims that the lack of transparency poses “the most important challenges for state security,” which they believe is proven by the events of the past four years.

The statement notes that during the past elections the NGOs “falsified” the results of the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT), which gave the “radical opposition” an excuse for “sabotage and the nonrecognition of the election results”. “Accordingly, wealthy NGOs were not only at the heart of the revolutionary scenario in 2020-21 but also assumed the function of its primary initiators.”

The statement also refers to the second “revolutionary scenario” in June 2022, after the EU’s decision to not grant Georgia the candidate country status. During the rallies, GD claims the “wealthy NGOs went all in and completely exposed their political essence and radical agenda as they hoped to achieve results and return to power together with the collective National Movement.” They also reiterate their “second front” narrative, stating that at that time the NGOs called for Georgia to “attack Russia” and “get involved in the war.”

“For years, the so-called NGOs have been waging a Soviet-style campaign against the independence of the judiciary. To this end, they stigmatize the judiciary and judges. Despite the fact that NGOs have thus far failed to present court cases that would demonstrate the existence of systemic or even relatively serious non-systemic problems within the judiciary, they still persist in carrying out the above campaign and, using nontransparent finances, they are trying to undermine this important state institution to this day,” – reads the statement.

GD claims that the criticism of the judiciary is always linked to cases involving UNM representatives: “These were the cases of Rustavi 2, Gigi Ugulava, Nikanor Melia, Nika Gvaramia, Mikheil Saakashvili, and other politically sensitive cases over which nongovernmental organizations have actively tried to discredit the court and specific judges.”

“We would also like to remind you that the NGOs had no reaction when, in contravention of the Bangalore Principles, effective sanctions were imposed on both former and current Georgian judges, extending even to their adult and minor family members, which is an extreme form of gross violation of basic human rights. All of this demonstrates that the rule of law and basic human rights are worthless to the so-called nongovernmental sector,” – highlights the statement.

In addition, the GD blames NGOs for spreading “pseudo-liberal ideology and so-called LGBT propaganda”, as well as carrying out “campaigns that aim to undermine public trust in the Georgian Orthodox Church”. They also mention that the NGOs “hysterical campaign” was headed by the former Ambassador of the United States, allegedly Kelly Degnan, blaming her for representing “the interests not of this country but of the “Global War Party” in Georgia”

The statement particularly specifies the “specific instances of the funding of extremism in Georgia”, blaming “Droa, the Franklin Club, Canvas trainings, as well as the funding of other associations and events from foreign foundations that promoted radicalism and so-called polarization in Georgia.” They stress that Droa’s funding “demonstrate the harshness of the corresponding foreign power’s attitude towards the Constitution and the legislation of Georgia”, since foreign funding of political party is “strictly limited in developed countries”

The parliamentary majority also puts blame on the European Endowment for Democracy (EED), stating that it “already had an illegitimate impact on the 2024 elections, which would have been reported by the so-called local observer organizations, had the corresponding NGOs not been funded from the same sources.”

“Considering all of the above, we are not surprised that the former ambassador told the Georgian citizens a disgraceful lie last year, labeling the draft law – which was copied from the American law and had nothing in common with the law in force in Russia – as a “Russian law.” Given that the practice of supporting extremism in Georgia has weakened under the new ambassador, we hope that the incumbent ambassador will not stoop to telling the Georgian people such lies,” – reads the statement.

The GD statement notes that although the bill was dropped last year, it still had an impact on reducing the funding of extremism, but adds that ” such practice has not been completely eliminated”. “During this period, we held consultations concerning the transparency of finances of the largest American and European foundations, including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the European Endowment for Democracy (EED). However, we have not made any progress in ensuring the transparency of these foundations.”

The GD states that last year radical opposition, NGOs, and their lobbyists “misled a significant part of the Georgian public” who rejected the law, adding: “We are the authorities elected by the Georgian people, and defending the dignity of the Georgian public is our main responsibility. No one should get away with deceiving the public.”

“It should be noted that comparable laws are in force in the United States of America, Israel, and Australia, and last year, the discussion of comparable laws has begun and is underway in the European Union, Great Britain, France, Canada, Slovakia, and Ukraine, which further confirms the relevance of this issue in terms of the protection of democracy and sovereignty. It is the sovereign right and responsibility of the state to ensure transparency of information concerning foreign funding to the people and their democratically mandated government,” – reads the statement.

Concluding the statement, GD notes that last year the NGOs and opposition “deliberately disrupted the substantive discussion of the law because they knew best that they had nothing to say and that all of their so-called arguments were empty lies.” The GD adds: “This year, everyone will have to enter into a substantive discussion, which will show the public the scale of the lies that they have inflicted on the Georgian public.”

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