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The Daily Beat: 20 May

On May 18 President Salome Zurabishvili vetoed the law on foreign agents, saying that this law “in its essence and spirit is a Russian Law that contradicts our Constitution and all European standards, and therefore it’s an obstacle to our path.” The move comes earlier than expected and well before the president’s two-week deadline. The ruling Georgian Dream party needs 76 votes to overcome the veto and controls 84 MPs.

On May 19 German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron issuedjoint statement in response to the adoption of the foreign agent’s law by the Georgian Parliament, expressing concern about the situation in Georgia. “It is with deep regret that we take note of the decision of the Georgian government and the ruling party to deviate from this path by acting against our common European values and the aspirations of the Georgian people, such as through the adoption of the so-called law “on transparency of foreign influence,” reads the joint statement.

On May 19 The Hill reported that U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson is preparing a bill that would impose sanctions, including visa bans on Georgian government officials responsible for passing the Foreign Agents law. Wilson’s bill, as well as similar legislation in the Senate, is intended to warn Georgian Dream not to override the President’s veto and repeal the law or face U.S. consequences.

The US bill also offers incentives if the foreign agent law is repealed, including enhanced trade relations, increased opportunities for Georgians to travel and study in the U.S., and economic assistance. Additionally, it calls for the U.S. President to provide training, support, and defense equipment to help Georgia defend against Russian aggression.

The Georgian Dream MPs slammed the President’s veto, claiming that Zurabishvili’s move finally confirmed that there are no objections and legal arguments against the Transparency Law, further adding that the foreign-sponsored fake project – “No to the Russian Law” – has failed. European and EU leaders supported the veto, urging the Georgian authorities to seize this opportunity and reject the law that undermines the country’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Opposition representatives praised the President for using the blanket veto and not entering into pseudo-discussions with the ruling majority.

At a government meeting, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze also reacted to the President’s veto, accusing Salome Zurabishvili of “closing all spaces for healthy discussions,” and linking the adoption of the “transparency law” to issues of peace and war. Speaking on the law, PM Kobakhidze also reminded the public of the devastating consequences of the ongoing war in Ukraine, further saying that the adoption of the “transparency law” would help the country maintain lasting peace.

Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili held a press conference, again discussing why it was “necessary” to pass the Foreign Agents Law, calling the presidential veto a “mockery” of Georgian citizens and noting that talks in Western governments about sanctioning Georgian officials are a “Russian tactic.”  

While Georgia awaits the Venice Commission’s opinion on the law of foreign agents, which is expected to be published on May 21, the Expert Council on NGO Law of the Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe adopted an opinion on the law, concluding that “there is no justification for this Law that would be consistent with European and international standards.”

Speaking to the British podcast “The News Agents,” Georgian Dream MP and First Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee Mariam Lashkhi compared a “global war party” often cited by Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze to “freemasons,” claiming that they have a shadowy influence on world politics and “everything.” According to Lashkhi, sometimes when partners say that Georgia is doing well and everything is fine in the country “then there is an additional voice.” When asked by a journalist – “who else other than the masons are part of a global war party,” Lashkhi replied: “Well, I don’t know.”

The Budget and Finance Committee of the Parliament did not support the President’s veto on controversial amendments to the tax code known as the “offshore law.” The ruling majority will probably overcome the veto next week. The amendments, passed by the ruling Georgian Dream party under a fast-track procedure on April 19, offer a wide range of tax benefits to companies and individuals who decide to move their assets from tax havens to Georgia.

The National Bank of Georgia has denied the information about the resumption of the possibility of transferring money from Russia to Georgia through the sanctioned Russian payment system “Unistream,” according to the information provided by the NBG to

The Data of the Day

The National Statistics Service (Geostat) published preliminary data indicating that in January-April 2024, Georgia’s foreign trade decreased by 2.7% compared to the same period of 2023, totaling $6.563 billion in value. In January-April 2024, exports from Georgia decreased by 10.1% to $1.763 billion, while imports lowered by 0.3% to $4.800 billion.

According to Geostat, in the same period, Turkey was Georgia’s largest trade partner with $964 million in trade volume, followed by Russia with $837 million, China with $498 million, United States with $480 million, and Azerbaijan with $401 million.


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