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The Daily Beat: 22 May

During his late-night interview with the Georgian Public Broadcaster, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze reacted to the Venice Commission’s urgent opinion on the Foreign Agents Law, calling it “faltering” and accusing the Commission of “having rejected the professional dignity.” He also claimed that the Commission’s opinion is “full of absurd notes” and “lies” and lacks legal arguments.

In the same interview, PM Kobakhidze spoke about the need to present an education reform plan for the 2024 parliamentary elections, saying that many professors at the Tbilisi State University “are selected by political affiliation and lack sufficient qualification.” He also stressed that the higher education system needs qualitative transformation, accusing the Saakashvili-era education ministers of dismantling the education system and pursuing a pseudo-liberal ideology.

During the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on “The State of American Diplomacy in 2024: Global Instability, Budget Challenges, and Great Power Competition,” the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he anticipates that the U.S. “will take actions” on Georgia’s recently passed Foreign Agents law. “I think it’s right out of Moscow’s playbook unfortunately, and I think it clearly counters the desire of the overwhelming majority of Georgians to move toward the EU and the EU integration,” said Secretary Blinken at the committee hearing.

On May 22, the McCain Institute, George W. Bush Institute, and Freedom House issued a strong-worded statement calling on the United States and its European allies “to immediately impose travel restrictions and financial sanctions against individuals responsible for undermining Georgia’s democratic development and Euro-Atlantic aspirations, including high-ranking Georgian Dream officials and their families.” The organizations also stress that Washington must stand with the people of Georgia “against the autocratic actions” of their government.

According to Radio Tavisupleba, a source told RFE/RL‘s Washington correspondent that the United States has information that “could destroy the reputation of representatives of the Georgian political elite.” The work on the MEGOBARI Act (Mobilizing and Enhancing Georgia’s Options for Building Accountability, Resilience, and Independence Act) has been going on for several months, as experts in the Congress expected that the ruling Georgian Dream party would try to re-introduce the bill, which was withdrawn last year amid protests, a member of the team working on the bill told the journalist of the Radio Liberty’s Washington Bureau on condition of anonymity, reported Radio Tavisupleba.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borell reacted to the Venice Commission’s urgent opinion on Foreign Agents Law by calling on the Georgian authorities “to follow the recommendation in view of safeguarding the fundamental elements of Georgia’s democracy.”  

On May 22, the Lithuanian Seimas adopted a resolution, calling on the Georgian government to withdraw the Foreign Agents Law and urging the EU institutions to consider the possibility of response measures against the government if the President’s veto is overridden. In its resolution, the deeply concerned parliament of Lithuania also stated that the law is “essentially equivalent to the Russian Federation’s ‘Foreign Agents Law’ and is incompatible with European values and democratic principles.”

The Financial Times reported that EU countries – Estonia, the Netherlands, Czechia, and Sweden – are pushing for discussion of sanctions against Georgia, including restrictive measures against Georgian Dream representatives who support the Foreign Agents Law at the EU Foreign Ministers’ meeting scheduled for May 27. The move is in response to the GD government’s defiant stance on its highly controversial Russian-inspired “foreign agents” law.

Following the Venice Commission’s urgent opinion on the Foreign Agents Law, the PACE co-rapporteurs for Georgia, Claude Kern (France, ALDE) and Edite Estrela (Portugal, SOC) on May 22 urged the Georgian government not to override the Presidential veto and to repeal this bill. The co-rapporteurs expressed readiness to continue dialogue with the Georgian government and the society on this matter within the ongoing monitoring procedure for the country.

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), a local watchdog warned that the ruling Georgian Dream party’s legislative proposal to lower the voting threshold for decision-making in the Central Election Commission threatens the integrity and confidence of the electoral process. The Georgian Dream-proposed amendments change the current decision-making system which requires the support of two-thirds of CEC members for certain Commission decisions. Instead, the ruling party proposes that should the Commission fail to decide with this rule, the decision can be revoted in the same meeting and adopted with a simple majority of the Commission members. 

The High Council of Justice (HCoJ) unanimously appointed 21 new judges on May 21 who will serve until retirement following a three-year probationary period. In its statement issued on May 22, GYLA questions the credibility of the lifetime appointment of 21 judges by the High Council of Justice (HCoJ), calling the decision “unexpected.”

The Monetary Policy Committee of the National Bank of Georgia (NBG) reduced the key refinancing rate by 0.25 percentage points to 8%. According to the NBG, inflation remains low, indicating that headline inflation rose by 1.5% annually in April, while core inflation was 2.3%. The NBG also emphasized that, despite the positive trends, uncertainty has increased due to the domestic and geopolitical situation, which increases inflation risks.


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