Foreign Ministers of Nordic-Baltic Group Countries Visit Georgia

On May 15, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna, Latvian Foreign Minister Baiba Braže and Icelandic Foreign Minister Thórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir began their visit to Georgia. They have already met with the Prime Minister, Irakli Kobakhidze, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ilia Darchiashvili, Speaker of the Parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, representatives of the parliamentary opposition parties, and met with the President, which was was followed by a joint press conference with the President of Georgia.

During the visit they also met with the CSO representatives, after which they held a press briefing. Before leaving Tbilisi, the Foreign Ministers joined demonstrators against the Foreign Agents’ law on Rustaveli Avenue.

Meeting with the Prime Minister

According to the press release of the Government Administration, the Foreign Ministers discussed with the Prime Minister of Georgia the European integration process of Georgia. The press release reads: “The efforts of the Georgian government in the direction of rapprochement with the European Union were noted, and the role of the support of international partners on this path was emphasized. The Prime Minister stated that Georgia is a leader among the candidate countries in all areas, be it democracy, rule of law, human rights or the pace of economic development, to which the European Union must respond with appropriate steps”.

At the meeting, the Foreign Ministers criticized both the law on transparency and anti-LGBT Constitutional amendments. “The head of the government explained that the law on transparency is aimed at strengthening state sovereignty and provides for only one thing – the annual declaration of the finances of relevant organizations. Accordingly, the law will play an important role in fulfilling one of the key requirements of the European Union – reducing polarization in Georgia,” – notes the press release.

Meeting with the Foreign Minister

According to the Georgian Foreign Ministry’s press release, the discussions between the colleagues focused on Georgia’s progress towards European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Darchiashvili briefed his colleagues on “Georgia’s progress towards EU membership” and outlined the next steps in this endeavor. Darchiashvili underscored Georgia’s “unwavering commitment” to European and Euro-Atlantic integration and emphasized close cooperation with partners.

“In addition, attention was focused on the need to adopt the law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence” and it was once again emphasized that the main goal of the adoption of the said law by the Georgian legislative body is to ensure transparency in the country,” – reads the press release.

At the end of the meeting the Ministers confirmed their readiness to “continue the current cooperation efforts.”

Meeting with the Speaker of the Parliament

During the meeting between the visiting Foreign Ministers and the Speaker of the Parliament, the parties discussed the law on transparency of foreign influence. According to the press release of the Parliament, the members of the delegation expressed their “concern” about the adoption of the law. The Georgian side “emphasized the problem of lack of transparency among the non-profit organizations” and the necessity to solve it. The parties also discussed the next steps and the “willingness to continue the dialogue” was noted.

Different readouts of the meeting

After the meeting Speaker Papuashvili said that the sides “agreed” at the meeting “that we did the right thing when we did not listen to our European colleague and did not impose sanctions on Russia” as well as did not release Saakashvili.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis addressed the comments of Shalva Papuashvili about the meeting, writing: “In response to confusion about the meeting with the Chair of the Parliament of Georgia Shalva Papuashvili, I feel the need to clarify that we did not agree that Georgia was right to ignore European advice and values, and we expressed extremely strong views, not “some concerns”.

Latvian Foreign Minister Baiba Braže wrote on X (Twitter) after the meeting: “Concern about the draft Law on Transparency on Foreign Influence and its adverse effects on Georgian European path is genuine. Expressed it to the Speaker of Georgian Parliament. Don’t recognise statements that the Speaker attributes to us about sanctions on Russia or Mr Saakashvili.”

Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna commented: “Let me be clear – we did not agree on any of this. My message is the opposite: Georgia is not moving to the right direction.”

Meeting with the parliamentary opposition

The opposition MPs spoke with the Foreign Ministers about the adopted law. The opposition representatives shared their thought on the law in the closed-door meeting. The meeting was attended by Tinatin Bokuchava, Khatia Dekanoidze, Davit Usupashvili, Mikheil Daushvili, Fridon Injia, Nika Machutadze, Armaz Akhvlediani, Giorgi Vashadze, Ketevan Turazashvili and Herman Szabó.

According to Parliament’s press release, Tinatin Bokuchava, United National Movement’s faction Chair said: “The first and most important thing is that the EU member states stand by the Georgian people and will do everything to save our European future and European perspective. Secondly, as in the United States of America, in the member states of the European Union it is natural to start considerations on individual sanctions.”

Herman Szabó, a member of the “Girchi” said he spoke to the European guests about the problems related to the mentioned bill. According to him, it is clear in which direction “Georgian Dream” is going and now the opposition has to work.

Giorgi Vashadze, Startegy Aghmashenebeli’s leader, stated after the meeting: “For the Foreign Ministers it is very clear that any changes in the content of this law will not ennoble it. The law is a fundamentally inadequate document. Secondly, visitors see very clearly that all these disinformation campaigns coming from the Georgian Dream side are directed against European values and principles.”

Ketevan Turazashvili, a member of the political group “Citizens”, pointed out, it was emphasized at the meeting that making amendments or changes in the law will not bring real results. “It was a very reliable message that nothing ends with the adoption of this law, because our partners – the European Union and the United States of America – will also be by our side during the elections.”

Meetings with the non-parliamentary opposition

Nika Gvaramia, leader of Ahali party: “The sentiment is clear that this law, as well as Bidzina Ivanishvili’s speech a few days ago, means Georgia’s deviation from the European and Western path. It is clear and clear that Georgia will not be able to get closer to Europe as long as this law exists, and not only this law, as long as the Georgian government acts like this.”

Zurab Japaridze, leader of Girchi-More Freedom: “I don’t even know what word can accurately describe the emotion or feeling these people have after meeting with Georgian Dream. Shock might be the closest, but even shock doesn’t fully describe how they feel when they leave the meeting. We talked about many things. In detail, they were interested in how we see the situation. We provided information about everything, including the atmosphere of terror created by Georgian Dream, i.e. threatening phone calls, hanging up posters, ambushes near houses and physical reprisals carried out by violent groups in masks, as well as the so-called law enforcement structures during peaceful demonstrations…”.

Elene Khoshtaria, leader of Droa party: “The European Union supports the longing of the population of Georgia to join the European Union. Now what the future of Europe depends on is the people who come out, protest and do not stop, not on Papuashvili, not on individual politicians, specifically on the people that everyone can see. Everyone is amazed at the number of people who consistently come out for such a long time.”

Giga Bokeria, leader of European Georgia party: “These people, especially the foreign ministers of our Baltic countries, and especially these people who are here today, are long-time friends of Georgia. These people, when we have a normal government and not this Putinist group of oligarchs, are and will be the most important people… for our security and freedom. That is why such meetings are important. In this context, these people will support the will of the Georgian people and clearly support it today.”

Press Briefing

After the meeting held between the visiting Foreign Ministers and the CSO representatives, the Foreign Ministers of Lithuania, Estonia and Iceland held a press briefing with both local and international media representatives.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis reiterated Lithuania’s support for Georgia’s EU aspirations, stressing: “Europe is with you”. He emphasized that European countries “are not deceived” that the law “has anything to do with transparency”, adding that it is clear that this law is directed against civil institutions that speak out against government policies, and that it “goes against the very basic fundamental principles of democracy that the European Union stands for”. He concluded by saying that “with this law there’s no pass to European Union” and called on the government not to approve it after the President’s veto.

The Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna emphasized that the Georgian government is not keeping its promises it made when receiving the candidate status and that there will be consequences if the government continues with the steps it is taking now. The Foreign Minister of Iceland Thórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir also reiterated her support for Georgia’s integration into the EU.

During the Q&A portion of the briefing, the Lithuanian Minister was asked if there was a possibility of amending the law after the Venice Commission’s decision was published in a way that would present a compromise for both the government and the demonstrators, and he said that there was no understanding why this law was needed and that if there was a law intended to silence NGOs, it could not be fixed: “If Georgia wants to stay on European path, you cannot have one foot in Moscow.”

Regarding the violent dispersal of the rallies, the Lithuanian Minister condemned the violence by the law enforcement officers and said that the government’s explanation that the violent dispersal happens because the rallies turn violent isn’t correct, because: “there is a clear belief in democratic states that the state owns the monopoly of violence, therefore there will never be equality between what people can do and what the state can do.”

Finally, when the Ministers were asked if they knew who the Global War Party is, which is so often mentioned by the GD representatives who claim that it is driving Georgia into war and is trying to open a second front with Russia, the Estonian Minister said that this is a Kremlin narrative, while the Lithuanian Minister emphasized that “the only war party is in Moscow”, which invaded Georgia in 2008.

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


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