Shalva Papuashvili

Georgian government, after a one-year forced pause and in the face of criticism both inside and outside the country, re-initiated the bill on “Agents of Foreign Influence”.

The new initiative, titled as the draft law on “Transparency of Foreign Influence”, which Georgian Dream seems to be determined to finally adopt, envisages the mandatory registration of non-governmental organizations and media outlets with more than 20% of their income from abroad as “carrying the interests of a foreign power”.

It’s essentially similar to the bill initiated last year, which caused a great public uproar and the government had to withdraw it.

The Chairman of the Parliament Shalva Papuashvili states that he personally had many attempts to convince the donor and recipient organizations of the importance of transparency for the society, which ended in vain.

“If you are an organization that participates in public life with foreign funding, tell the public about it. This is the simplest standard of transparency. At the same time, this law is a clear message that we are an open, free, democratic state, where everyone is welcome, while at the same time respecting the fundamental principles of a transparent, democratic game. Good deeds don’t need to be hidden,”  Shalva Papuashvili said.

“Sometimes, when I talk to representatives and ambassadors of any EU country, they wash their hands insisting they don’t know how the money is spent. To some extent, this is also hidden from EU citizens. The answer of the embassy was that [the donor] is a independent organization and it is their decision. This is not the answer the people of Georgia deserves. If the European Union does not take responsibility for the fact that their money is spent bypassing the law and if it distributes money in this way, then they should state it openly,” he said.

The bill immediately became an object of criticism.

“This is the guy that German organization @giz_gmbh employed for many years on Rule of Law projects in Georgia. How can western donors be so misled by hiring people who do everything BUT respect Rule of Law, violate the rights of the MPs in the Parliament and enforce Russian interests? Shame!” tweeted German MEP Viola von Cramon on Shalva Papuashvili.

“Georgian Dream got new instructions from their masters in the Kremlin. They are so uncreative that they reintroduced the same Russian law that Georgian people said NO to. This law has one goal – to sabotage Georgia’s European future. To keep Georgia in the Russian swamp. Bad idea,” she tweeted later.

“Georgian Dream has already shown its face […]. Today everything is clear. We got a kind of advance from Europe and today, the Georgian Dream is busy sabotaging our path and future. ‘Sabotage’ is the only word that came to mind” said President Salome Zourabichvili at the briefing Wednesday.

According to the draft, everyone who is considered to be an “organization carrying out the interests of a foreign power” must be registered in the public registry separate database, exposing the received income.

At the same time, the registered organizations will have the obligation to fill in the financial declaration annually.

The draft law “In order to identify the organization carrying out the interests of a foreign power” grants the Ministry of Justice the authority to conduct study and monitor the issue at any time.

Avoiding registration or failure to fill out the declaration will result in the organization being fined in the amount of 25 thousand GEL (USD 9,930).

The draft also envisages the following types of fines: 10 thousand GEL if the organization does not fill out the application form within 10 working days from the entry on the website of the Ministry of Justice; In case of non-correction of defects in the documents within the specified period the fine amounts to 10 thousand GEL; Committing a legal offense after one month will be fined to 20 thousand GEL.