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The Daily Beat: 16 May

The GEL exchange rate continues to depreciate for the second day in a row, even though the National Bank sold USD 60 million. As a result of the May 16 trading, GEL devalued against more than 40 currencies, including the USD and the EUR. The downward trend coincides with the passage of the foreign agents’ law, which sparked weeks of ongoing mass protests, police brutality, and harsh international criticism.

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze arrived in Turkey, where he has already met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, discussing economy, transport, and energy cooperation with special emphasis on transit and connectivity. The parties also signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Energy Cooperation. Prime Minister Kobakhidze’s visit coincides with reports that Turkey is considering legislation similar to Georgia’s Foreign Agents’ Law, raising concerns about press freedom and civil society in Turkey.

A local online media outlet, AGENDA.GE reported that in an interview with BBC, Nikoloz Samkharadze, Chair of the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee said the Georgian Government was “open to suggestions” from its European partners on changes to the newly adopted law on foreign agents to make it compatible with EU directives. “The Georgian law only has one requirement for NGOs that are funded from abroad – to declare their assets and expenditures. That’s it. No other requirement,” Samkharadze told BBC, further claiming that there were “no similarities” between the Georgian Law and the “foreign agents” legislation in Russia.

120 SCOissued a statement calling for the “unconditional withdrawal” of “the Russian law against the national interests of the Georgian people and the Constitution,” which was adopted in the third reading by the parliament. “This attempt to establish Putin’s rules in Georgia is a betrayal of all our ancestors and compatriots, who fought and are fighting against the Russification of Georgia for more than two hundred years. Before the draft law condemned by the entire international community becomes a law, the veto of the president remains, which the Parliament must not override,” – reads the statement.

The Georgian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF GNP), which unites more than 150 CSOs, issuedstatement revoking the Memorandum of Cooperation with the Georgian Parliament over the adopted law on foreign agents, and expressing solidarity with those “who have become a victim of large-scale repressions, physical and psychological violence in recent days.” According to the statement, the passage of the foreign agents’ law “legalized the violence, intimidation, stigmatization, and persecution of different opinions that had occurred before the adoption.”

The Russian payment system “Unistream” has resumed its operation in Georgia, enabling money transfers from Russia to Georgia through this Russian payment system, reported the Russian online media outlet Vestikavkaza, citing the deputy CEO of the company.

The Russian Embassy in London reacted to the UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps‘s denunciation of the foreign agents’ law as a “Russian interference in Georgia,” saying his statements “border on the absurd” and accusing the UK Defense Secretary of hypocrisy. The Russian Embassy called on British officials to refrain from making irresponsible statements and stop spreading anti-Russian propaganda and disinformation.

In a joint statement, three leading MEPs – David McAllister, Chair of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Marina Kaljurand, Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with the South Caucasus, and Sven Mikser, the European Parliament’s standing rapporteur on Georgia – called on the European Council and European Commission to reconsider the EU-Georgia relations, including the EU’s political and financial support to the country.

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Chair of the Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, Lucie Potůčková reacted to the recent developments in Georgia regarding the Foreign Agents Law, saying the Assembly members have been following the developments in the country and “any report of intimidation and violence is viewed with concern,” according to the OSCE PA press release.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based press freedom watchdog, addressed the increasing number of attacks on journalists covering the ongoing protests against the foreign agent’s law, calling on the Georgian authorities to conduct “transparent” investigations into all these cases and to drop the law, which it says “undermines the right to freedom of information.”


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