Foreign Affairs Committee Chairs of EU Member States Visit Georgia

On May 13, the Chairpersons of the Foreign Affairs Committees of the Parliaments of Lithuania, the Czechia, Finland and Poland and the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag began their visit to Georgia to hold meetings with the representatives of the government, opposition and civil society. The visit comes amid a crisis caused by the ruling Georgian Dream party’s attempt to pass a law on foreign agents.

During a briefing held on May 10, the Parliament Speaker said he had rejected a request from the heads of the Parliaments’ foreign affairs committees of several countries, including “the Baltic countries, Germany, Poland, and Czechia,” who asked to meet with Papuashvili during their planned visit to Georgia next week. “I told them that it was not a good time for a visit,” Papuashvili said, citing the third hearing of the foreign agents bill in Parliament during the same period. The speaker said the committee heads were still planning to come to Georgia, adding that he had warned them that “the radical opposition might take their visit here as an encouragement for radical actions.”

Meeting with President

On May 14, the same day the Parliament adopted in the third reading the Foreign Agents’ law, the President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili met with the chairpersons of the Foreign Relations Committees of the German, Lithuanian, Polish, Czech and Finnish Parliaments. According to the presidential administration, the discussion focused on the country’s European integration and current developments in Georgia.

The President noted that now is a “very important stage” for Georgia’s independence, freedom and European future, and reiterated that she will veto any law that goes against Georgia’s European path. “According to the president, the upcoming parliamentary elections will be a real referendum between European and Russian Georgia, in which the European choice will win once again,” the presidential administration said.

The President emphasized that Georgia is waiting for the “clarity and support” from Europe for the people of Georgia “not to feel abandoned.” She also stressed the importance of high level visits at this moment. According to the Presidential administration, on its support the delegation said their visit is a show of support for Georgia

According to the same source, the delegation thanked the President for her leadership. The President herself also discussed her European Platform initiative, and Russia’s illegal actions in the occupied territories of Georgia.

Meeting with the opposition

A day earlier, on May 13 the Chairpersons of Foreign Committees held met with the representatives of opposition parties. After the meeting, the representatives of the opposition parties and the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag, Michael Roth, spoke to the journalists.

Michael Roth told journalists that he and his colleagues from EU member states are in Georgia to “send a very clear message: we are friends of Georgia, we are friends of the Georgian people. We are extremely committed that Georgia’ s place is at the very heart of Europe and that means we are working very hard on Georgia’s way to the European Union.” He appealed to the GD government to “stop this foreign agents’ law,” adding: “I don’t see any chance for bright future for Georgia if the government won’t withdraw this law.”

Michael Roth expressed his appreciation to the peaceful demonstrators and underlined that “Tbilisi is the true capital of Europe in these difficult times”. He expressed his hope to talk with representatives of the government and the ruling party during the visit.

When asked if he thinks the EU could start accession negotiations this year if the law is adopted, he replied: “No, definitely not. I don’t see any chance to open negotiations chapters with this law, the message of the European Union is very, very clear”.

As for the opposition members, some of them commented to journalists after the meeting:

Ana Buchukuri, For Georgia: The discussion focused on the current processes, which is very good. First of all, I emphasized that despite the decision of the government [not to meet with European partners], it is very important for the citizens of Georgia and for our country that these people, partners of Georgia and representatives of partner countries come to Georgia at this difficult time… It is clear to everyone that this is not just a matter of passing a single law and that we are now dealing with a much more systemic and large problem. This is understood both within the country and by the country’s partners.”

Khatia Dekanoidze, Euro-optimists: “I can confirm that there will be no negotiations with Georgia if this bill becomes a law. Also, the legitimacy of the elections will be seriously threatened, because practically no international organizations will be able to register, because [Georgian] Dream will not allow it after the adoption of this law.”

Tamar Khordzaia, independent MP: “Their arrival is a firm support to the Georgian society and our citizens. They see that Georgian citizens are fighting for European integration, which “Georgian Dream” vehemently opposes.”

Main messages from Chairpersons’ press conference

  • We are not foreign agents. We are friends and allies of Georgia. We have two missions: first, to show solidarity with the people demonstrating against the foreign agents law; second, to listen to all parties, including the government, the opposition, civil society, etc. Unfortunately, the government was “too busy” to meet with us.
  • As friends of Georgia, we are “very disappointed” about the adoption of the law in the third and final reading, because we are fighting for Georgia on its way to Europe. The granting of the EU candidacy was not a “gift to the government”, but an “encouragement” to the Georgian civil society.
  • We are disappointed that the GD government is not using the window of opportunity to make more efforts to join the EU and NATO. “If Georgian dream of nightmare is choosing Russia, there is no possibility to start accession talks.” This window of enlargement may close soon.
  • Foreign agents law is step away from the EU. Amending the law will not change the picture. The essence of the law is incompatible with EU values. Other laws, including the anti-LGBT law, the “offshore” law, the abolition of gender quotas, show a trajectory incompatible with Georgia’s European integration.
  • Not just the government and MPs, but also people will have to pay high price. We need “clarity from the EU side” to take action regarding sanctions. Not just the government and MPs, but also people will have to pay high price. “Candidate status is getting worthless.” Suspension of visa liberalization should not be an option, as it would be too high a price for the Georgian people to pay.
  • The foreign agents law must simply be withdrawn. Any amendments that may be introduced during the presidential veto period will not change the nature of the law.
  • Those Georgians who support the Georgian Dream and at the same time the EU integration of the country should understand that with the foreign agents law the country cannot join the EU; GD must be clear about its desire for Europe against Russia and cannot remain “neutral” in a difficult geopolitical situation; If people do not believe in the EU, it will be easier for Russia to turn to Georgia after Ukraine; GD’s policy makes it difficult for the EU to accept Georgia.
  • Foreign agents law is Russian in its essence and reflects Putin’s goals to silence civil society.
  • The future of Georgia lies in the hands of the Georgian people. The focus should be on the elections. There may be provocations before the elections and we have to be careful. Elections must be free and fair.
  • „You are now choosing your future or you go to the Georgian nightmare.“

NOTE: This news story was updated at 16:00 on May 15 to include the Foreign Affairs Committee Chairs’ press conference.

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


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