PM Kobakhidze Rails Against Detractors

Speaking to journalists on April 23, the Georgian Prime Minister stood by the foreign agents’ law and railed against its critics, including European politicians and some MEPs, accusing them of refusing transparency and interfering in the country’s internal affairs. Bizarrely, and in the face of mounting signals from the highest officials to the contrary, he asserted the law was bringing Georgia closer to Europe. PM Kobakhidze also questioned the veracity of the recently published U.S. State Department human rights report and accused foreign-funded NGOs of their “closed circle of lies.”

“Politically bankrupt speak in the name of the people

PM Kobakhidze’s key thesis has been that those who protest the law are “politically bankrupt” and have no right to speak in the name of the people. He said the “radical opposition” party ratings have been “radically slashed,” the NGOs have “record low trust in Georgian society,” and President Salome Zurabishvili is “completely politically discredited in the eyes of the Georgian people.”

He said only the ruling Georgian Dream party speaks for the people, pointing to the opinion polls commissioned by his own party. He also prophesized that the Georgian Dream ratings would rise further once the law on foreign influence is adopted.

“People are on the side of the government, and Georgian society supports this law that has been introduced. The Georgian people support transparency,” PM Kobakhidze said, in line with the party talking point that the law is solely about transparency.

The PM downplayed the size of the protests, saying “only 350 people” had gathered on April 22 and even that “the vast majority of them were party activists,” adding that “they [the opposition] find it difficult to gather people.” The government claimed that the protests had gathered “9500 people at their peak.” This is despite the protests that have blocked the capital for the ninth day running.

Meanwhile, he claimed that “tens of thousands of people” will take to the streets to demand “more transparency from CSOs” at an April 29 rally, where the ruling party admitted it plans to ferry local officials from across the country.

Europe does not want transparency

Asked by the journalist to comment on repeated criticism by the EU High Representative Joseph Borrell, PM Kobakhidze turned the tables, saying, “They do not want transparency of funding; they fear transparency of funding,” and according to him, this is “the only reason why the statements […] are being made.” He reiterated that the opponents in Europe “presented no argument” against the law and argued there can be none since the bill has only a “positive” goal of making the CSOs more transparent. He said: “Even under these circumstances, the [critical] statements are being made, which only means that someone very much does not want transparency.”

“We would only be happy if there were as much communication as possible,” Kobakhidze said, and called out EUHR Borrell, saying that as soon as he makes statements about the law, “he automatically gets involved in political debate,” which “should be taking place inside the country.” He then insisted that only political parties in the Georgian Parliament, and not “some [people] from the outside, including partners and friends,” should be discussing the bill. [Asked if EU High Representative Borrell’s statement was “interference” in Georgian politics, Kobakhidze briefly replied: “Of course it is interference.”

PM Kobakhidze reiterated that the ruling party does not want to allow the development of processes in the country similar to those “that developed in the years of 2020, 2021, and 2022.” Without mentioning names, he accused two former ambassadors of “leading very serious processes” and “twice putting CSOs at the epicenter of revolutionary processes.”

Attacking the CSOs, PM Kobakhidze said, “There are a thousand kinds of malicious propaganda in which NGOs are involved, including drug propaganda.” He said that “society needs to have information about this, about who is financing such wrong actions.”

EU makes empty threats

Even as warnings from top EU and European officials multiply that the adoption of the law would severely hamper Georgia’s chances of advancing towards the European Union, PM Kobakhidze argued that instead of being an obstacle to Georgia’s European integration, “the adoption of this law is a necessary condition for us to move forward.”

Much like the Speaker of the Parliament before him, the PM recalled that Georgia got the EU candidacy despite the calls from Europe to release former president Mikheil Saakashvili from detention and threats that the failure to do so would harm the EU candidacy. “27 [EU] ambassadors went to the Minister of Justice and told him that if we did not release Saakashvili, we would have to forget everything related to the European Union,” the Georgian Prime Minister said, but Georgia got the candidacy nonetheless. Kobakhidze said the same thing was going to happen with the foreign agent law. “That time, we did not release Saakashvili, and we became the [EU] candidate country, and now we are going to adopt this law and move towards the EU, the [accession] negotiations will be opened.”

When asked to comment about the forthcoming resolution of the European Parliament on Georgia, Kobakhidze said, “The resolutions of the European Parliament have lost their value for Georgian society during the past years.” He personally attacked the vice-chair of the EU-Georgian association committee, Lithuania’s former defense minister, Rasa Juknevičienė (EPP), who is particularly critical of the ruling party, saying, “Rasa cannot be the face of Europe. Rasa is […] a kind of a throwback to the Warsaw Pact [a Soviet-centric military alliance, cold-war opponent of NATO]. Such people should not represent the European Union today.”

CSOs, U.S. State Department, “odious” MEPs in “a loop of lies”

PM Kobakhidze was asked to comment on the recently released U.S. State Department Human Rights Report, in particular the part that mentions Nika Gvaramia, the founder of the opposition-leaning media outlet Mtavari Arkhi, and states that his imprisonment has been deemed “politically motivated.”

“There is a lie in the State Department report,” Prime Minister Kobakhidze said, again accusing an unnamed CSO of feeding false information to the State Department. “The State Department funded the NGO, then this NGO fed it the lie, and then this lie was found in the State Department report,” he said, adding that it was all “a loop of lies.”

Kobakhidze was asked to comment on recent calls by MEPs for the “Debidzinization” of Georgia, i.e. the deoligarchization of the country, as the term refers to the GD’s founder and honorary chairman, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. “This statement is absolutely shameful. Transparency is also needed in this.”

He took up the notion of the “loop of lies” again to say “Today, some odious European politicians have become impudent precisely because there is a kind of closed loop of lies.” He added that “this closed loop of lies” must be broken, and for this, the law on agents must be adopted.

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


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