Ruling party withdraws transparency bill “unconditionally” citing domestic “tranquility”, EU integration

The ruling party said it had acted as a “responsible force” to each member of the public. Photo: Georgian Dream press office, 09 Mar 2023 - 11:36, Tbilisi,Georgia

The ruling Georgian Dream party on Thursday said it was “unconditionally” withdrawing the controversial bill on transparency of foreign influence that was met by a backlash by domestic opposition, civil sector and diplomatic representations in the country, citing the interest of maintaining domestic “tranquillity”, the country’s development and its European integration aspirations as factors behind the decision. 

A joint statement by the Political Council of the GD, members of the Parliamentary majority and the People’s Power movement - composed of former members of the ruling party who proposed the bill last month - said the legislative piece had caused controversy in the public, adding restoring “peace, tranquillity and economic development”, as well as Georgia's progress on its European integration path, was a priority in the move.

In criticism in the reception of the legislative initiative, the ruling party stressed a “machine of lies” had managed to “present the bill in a negative light and mislead a certain part of the public” by calling the legal initiative a “Russian law”.

Accusing “radical domestic forces” of involving young demonstrators in protests against the bill this week in “illegal activities” during the rallies, the ruling party extended its gratitude to law enforcement officers for “responding to violence with patience” in accordance with “highest [democratic] standards”.

The party added “as the emotional background subsides, we will better explain to the public what the bill was for and why it was important to ensure transparency of foreign influence in our country”. 

To do this, we will start meetings with the population and let the general public know the truth about each and every detail of the topic. Georgia will maintain peace and stability and continue moving towards Europe with dignity, which is the principle choice of the country’s people”, said the statement. 

The draft law, which involved registration of non-commercial legal entities and media outlets in the country as “agents of foreign influence” if they derive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad, passed its first hearing at the Parliament earlier this week, with its discussions accompanied by heated exchanges and clashes between MPs, as well as public rallies outside the legislative body.

Its proposal was met with criticism by domestic actors and Georgia’s international partners, with Josep Borrell, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on Tuesday saying it was “incompatible” with EU values and standards.

The United Nations Office in Georgia said adoption of the bill would “risk impeding the work of civil society and media and the essential contributions they make to Georgian democracy”.