Fear has forced the ruling Georgian Dream party to recall the controversial foreign agents bill - Eka Beselia, a lawyer, politician and a former MP told Front News.
She stressed a “sincere and powerful protest” of the country’s youth forced the authorities to withdraw the draft law that envisaged the registration of domestic NGOs and media organizations as foreign agents if they derived more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad.
The politician also pointed to the threats of reviving the currently shelved legal piece by the authorities and “turning the country back to Russia” until in office.
“The agenda of the Kremlin and the current Georgian government concedes”, she said.
Front News: how would you assess the ongoing process and rallies in the Georgian capital?
Eka Beselia: we have witnessed one of the healthiest processes in the country over the years, with our new generation realizing its responsibilities before the motherland and taking to the street to ensure Georgia’s European future. Even those who were skeptical [over the country’s future] have joined the protest. The developments will definitely bring positive consequences.
Front News: why did the ruling party initially approved the bill with its first reading and then decided to recall it? Have the rallies made them take this step?
Eka Beselia: It is hard to logically evaluate their actions. However, considering the presence of unqualified and inexperienced politicians in the party, nothing could be surprising. On the other hand, it is obvious the government has changed the pro-western stance outlined in the country’s constitution. I do not rule out the GD following a different agenda and it coincides with the Russian one. This could have led to this fatal mistake. Only the powerful public protest has forced the authorities to recall the bill. They have checked the strength of these protests, dispersed them, used unproportional force, but the public’s reinforced anger and strong stance made them step back.
Front News: what was the role of the international community in the process?
Eka Beselia: the international negative response to the bill - coming from the EU, UN, US, our allied countries - were very strong and synchronized with the domestic backlash to the legal initiative that, of course, has played its role for the positive result.
Front News: do you believe Georgia’s foreign course is at risk? If so, will the public be able to defend its choice?
Eka Beselia: Georgia’s foreign course is indeed at risk and it was clearly demonstrated by the ruling party’s decision in 2021 to withdraw an agreement with the opposition mediated by the European Council president Charles Michel. The party should have known the move would have shaken trust towards it and no one would tolerate that decision. The move by the GD was a signal of derailing from the foreign course and also a disrespect to the bloc. I think the fear that the country could be distanced from Europe had united the public.
Front News: is it possible for the GD to reintroduce the bill?
Eka Beselia: until the Georgian Dream is in office, nothing can be excluded. The ruling party has absolutely lost its credibility in the eyes of the public and the international community, that is why the people were protesting the bill until its official rejection on Friday. The Georgian Dream is getting similar to the United National Movement in its approaches and efforts to preserve power at any cost.
Front News: how the party, the country has reached this point?
Eka Beselia: the problem is that our people can wait too long, until something very unacceptable happens. Absence of protests on various wrong moves makes the authorities braver. Now the situation is different as the young generation has joined the fight that was crucial. The public should learn to protest from the very beginning to prevent such developments.
Front News: can such protests activate the government’s efforts to meet the EU candidacy conditions?
Eka Beselia: meeting the 12-point conditions is of utmost importance for the country’s future and to watchdog the process by the public could determine the country’s fate. If the public had protested the justice reform offered by the authorities in the past, they would not be able to appoint biased judges for a lifetime. Now the public should be particularly cautious and push the government to take actions to meet the conditions for Georgia to obtain the EU membership candidate status, prevent threats coming from Russia and become a part of the free world.