Georgian Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili on Tuesday said the European Union flag would be returned to the pole outside the Parliament building in Tbilisi “with due honour” after far-right activists took the symbol down and burned it in an incident earlier during the day.
The official called the action a “desecration” of the bloc’s symbol and cited a law making punishable actions against the flags of the EU and individual countries that are erected outside the legislative body.
Papuashvili cited the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which, in its reaction to the offence, said those involved in the act would be identified and punished using the code of administrative offences.
It's sad what we see. Radicalism begets radicalism. Such behaviour is unacceptable, no matter who it comes from”, the Speaker said.
Papuashvili also added plans were in place to repair the flagpole that was damaged in the incident, before the EU flag is returned to the spot.
The incident saw members and activists of the Conservative Movement political party of the Georgian right-wing media outlet Alt-Info take down the flag while making pronouncements against the country’s European integration aspirations.
They replaced the EU symbol outside the legislative body with the Georgian flag and demanded a referendum on the controversial bill on transparency of foreign influence, proposed by former members of the ruling party before public protests and criticism from domestic opposition, civil sector and Georgia’s foreign partners saw the draft law retracted last week.
The withdrawn legislative piece involved registration of non-commercial legal entities and media outlets in the country as “agents of foreign influence” if they derived more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad, and was widely condemned as a “Russian law” by its critics.
Other demands by the group included release of the individuals convicted for violence during the 2021 counter-rally against the Tbilisi Pride event. Led by right-wing activists, the assaults on reporters who had gathered to cover the LGBTQ festival left more than 50 of them injured, while the conservative protesters also stormed offices of organisers of the eventually cancelled event.
The group also called for “severe punishment” for “coup organisers” in the country, in reference to the United National Movement opposition party.
In its statement on Tuesday’s incident, the Interior Ministry said its investigation had been launched with an article on “desecration of official symbols”, adding the offenders would be “identified and fined”. The violation is punishable by ₾1,000 (₾ 993), with a repeat offence incurring a doubled fine or 15-day imprisonment.