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The Daily Beat: 15 May

Pro-EU protesters gathered again near the parliament, blocking Rustaveli Avenue. Late in the evening, the foreign ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Iceland, who are visiting Georgia, arrived at Rustaveli Avenue and addressed the protesters, expressing their solidarity. Demonstrators greeted the foreign ministers’ appearance, chanting “sanctions, sanctions,” demanding sanctions for those responsible for enacting the foreign agents’ law and a violent crackdown on protesters. Large student rallies against the foreign agents’ law also occurred in Batumi and Kutaisi.


After adopting the law on foreign agents in the third and final reading, the share prices of Georgian companies listed on the London Stock Exchange fell significantly. Although the prices of large companies often fluctuate, today’s sharp decline is seen by some experts as a direct result of the passage of the highly controversial foreign agents’ law. The GEL also followed this downward trend, falling in price against the USD and the EUR. As a result of the May 15 trading, GEL devalued against more than 40 currencies.


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 met with Speaker Shalva Papuashvili, Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili, representatives of the parliamentary opposition, and President Salome Zurabishvili. The meeting with the President was followed by a joint press conference with Salome Zurabishvili.


After the meeting with foreign ministers, 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, Latvian, and Estonian foreign ministers strongly and publicly denied the Speaker’s statement attributed to them. “Let me be clear – we did not agree on any of this. My message is the opposite: Georgia is not moving in the right direction,” posted the Estonian Foreign Minister on social platform X.


On his official Facebook and X pages, Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili did not even mention the meeting with his Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, and Icelandic counterparts. There was only a brief announcement on the Foreign Ministry’s official website, noting that Darchiashvili had updated his colleagues on Georgia’s progress on the EU path, emphasizing the need for transparency.


President Salome Zurabishvili and the visiting Foreign Ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Iceland madejoint statement on the adoption of the foreign agents’ law. At the press point, Salome Zurabishvili addressed the future plans, while the Ministers emphasized their support for Georgia’s EU integration and expressed hope that the Agents’ law will be withdrawn soon.


Parliament overrode the President’s April 18 veto on the amendments to the Electoral Code that abolish gender quotas for female MPs. 85 MPs voted in favor of abolition, while 22 voted against. Before this decision, the Electoral Code of Georgia required that at least one out of every four persons on a party list must be a woman.


On May 15, Parliament also adopted in the third reading the amendments to the Electoral Code, allowing the political parties to designate their deputies as “delegates” of voters registered in an electoral district, and abolishing the 40 percent threshold for majoritarian candidates for local councils. The law now needs to be signed by President Salome Zurabishvili. The GD-initiated amendments were criticized by the opposition and local SCOs.


Police arrested Giorgi Okmelashvili, head of the creative agency Limoni, on charges of violence against police amid broader concerns that authorities are cracking down on individuals and agencies critical of the government. According to reports on social media, at least four other creative and media agencies – AdFlex, H0lymotors, Ogilvy, and Betterfly – have been recently subjected to sudden checks by finance authorities. The reports come amid a broader crackdown on critical voices and organizations as the ruling Georgian Dream party pushes through the foreign agents’ law despite massive opposition and protests.


U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issuedjoint statement with 15 European colleagues, including the EU and the United Kingdom, in which they condemned the “alarming and repressive step” taken by the Parliament of Georgia by adopting the foreign agent’s law. The signatories pledge never to abandon the Georgian people and say they won’t “hesitate to hold accountable those responsible for enacting this Russian-style law and for the brutal targeting of nonviolent demonstrators, including by Bidzina Ivanishvili and his cronies.”


The adoption of the foreign agents’ law “negatively impacts Georgia’s progress on the EU path,” EU High Representative Josep Borrell and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi say in their May 15 statement, calling on Georgian authorities to “withdraw the law. The EU officials also condemned the “intimidation, threats and physical assaults on civil society representatives, political leaders and journalists, as well as their families,” calling on Georgian authorities to investigate the “documented acts.”

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