Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on Tuesday said “many non-government organisations” in the country were “directly fighting against state interests” using foreign funding, in comments on the controversial bill for registering non-commercial legal entities and media outlets in the country as “agents of foreign influence” if they derive more than 20 percent of their income from abroad.
Garibashvili was responding to the backlash and public protests against the proposed bill, which has been labelled “incompatible with the basic principles of a modern democratic state” by the domestic opposition, civil sector and diplomatic representations in the country.
“We know a lot of organisations which, using funding received from abroad, hold anti-Government rallies [and facilitate] a lot of provocative events that do not serve the national interests of our country”, the PM said in his comments.
“Their financing is not transparent. On the other hand, they urge us that the activities of the Government and Parliament should be fully transparent, and this is true. We are at the forefront of transparency around the world. For example, we are number one in terms of budget transparency”, Garibashvili said in reference to the ranking by the International Budget Partnership that listed Georgia in the leading position in 2022.
The Government head noted two versions of the draft law had been prepared for the legislative initiative.
One is the so-called Georgian version, prepared by People's Power [public movement, the author of the initiative], and the other is the so-called American version - [...] a translation of the [corresponding] American law which was [adapted] to our reality. In America, this law was passed in 1939 [...] and I don't think anyone has challenged the need for the law [in the United States]”, he said.
Garibashvili stressed decisions on legislation were “sovereign”, and cited his Government’s efforts for European integration of the country.
We, our country, have been on the path of European integration for the last 10 years. We all know very well that Georgian Dream obtained the Association Agreement with the European Union in 2014], [as well as] free trade, visa-free travel [deals] and now the European perspective [granted by EU bodies to Georgia last year], which finally proved that we will indeed be a full-fledged member of the European family”, Garibashvili said.
The United Nations Office in Georgia has criticised the potential adoption of the bill by saying it would “risk impeding the work of civil society and media and the essential contributions they make to Georgian democracy”.
The bill has been forwarded to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe for opinion before a voting on it takes place at the Georgian Parliament.