Mamuka Mdinaradze, the Executive Secretary of the ruling Georgian Dream party, on Monday said there “could be no arguments from anyone” against the domestic bill on transparency of foreign influence, which has been proposed by People's Power, a public movement established by former MPs of the party, and caused public controversy over the recent days.
Mdinaradze was commenting after the bill was forwarded to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe for opinion, following criticisms by domestic opposition, part of the public and diplomatic representations in the country on its implications.
The legislation envisages registration of “non-commercial legal entities and media outlets as agents of foreign influence if they derive more than 20 percent of their income from abroad”, with opposition calling it “incompatible with the basic principles of a modern democratic state”.
In his comments, Mdinaradze said the ruling team could have approved the bill at its first hearing in the Parliament, but had decided to wait for the feedback of the CoE body on two versions of the draft law that had been forwarded to it.
We will wait for the conclusion of the Venice Commission and, based on that, we will continue to discuss the issue of supporting [this bill]”, the GD official said.
The Georgian authorities have forwarded two versions of the bill to the Commission - one dubbed the “American version” due to its relation to a corresponding United States law, and the other a domestic variation.
Mdinaradze stressed the American version was “very rigid”, with its regulations “very strict” in some areas of its reservations and norms, while adding the Georgian version was “only [about] transparency”.
“Even now, I think [the American version of the bill] is very strict. I think that this is not to be adopted, but if it is acceptable to everyone - including the Venice Commission - we will wait for the conclusion of the Venice Commission”, he added.
“[W]e have not yet heard any arguments from the [domestic] opposition regarding the American bill”, the party official also said.
The United States Department of State on Monday said it was “deeply concerned” about the implications of the bill for freedom of speech and democracy in Georgia.
The proposed law would stigmatise and silence independent voices of citizens of Georgia who are dedicated to building a better future for their communities, and we believe such a law could potentially undermine Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration and the Euro-Atlantic aspirations that the people of Georgia have so clearly expressed time and again in recent decades”, the State Department Spokesperson said.