GD resubmits legislative initiative on foreign financing transparency
GD resubmits legislative initiative on foreign financing transparency

The ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party will resubmit a modified draft bill on transparency of foreign financing, said Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of the parliamentary majority.

Holding a briefing at the GD central office, Mamuka Mdinaradze said that the draft law “On the Transparency of Foreign Influence” will have the same wording as last year, except for the term “agent of foreign influence,” which will be replaced with the term “organization pursuing the interests of a foreign power.”

Here is Mdinaradze’s statement as delivered:

“As the public is aware, the civil sector remains the most non-transparent sector in Georgia. The lack of transparency is one of the main sources of faultiness and, accordingly, it is one of the most important challenges for state security. The events that have unfolded in Georgia over the past four years have been confirmed with ample clarity.

It was this lack of transparency that allowed the so-called nongovernmental organizations to falsify the results of the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) in 2020 and to spread false information about eight-percent excess votes at polling stations and the delayed announcement of the election results by the CEC. We would like to remind you that it was the false conclusion published by them and the statement about the “worst elections of all” that produced the radical opposition’s artificial excuse for sabotage and the nonrecognition of the election results. This led to the radicals calling for snap parliamentary elections and denying the country a chance to stabilize for a whole year. Accordingly, wealthy NGOs were not only at the heart of the revolutionary scenario in 2020-21 but also assumed the function of its primary initiators.

They found themselves at the heart of the revolutionary scenario for the second time in June 2022, when, ostensibly due to Georgia’s failure to receive candidate status, they demanded the resignation of the government and the formation of a so-called technical government, in which they aimed to occupy key positions. At the time, wealthy NGOs went all in and completely exposed their political essence and radical agenda as they hoped to achieve results and return to power together with the collective National Movement. Fortunately, however, thanks to the experience and pragmatism of the public, the revolutionary scenario failed to materialize. Instead, the Georgian public became fully informed about the revolutionary and radical agenda of the so-called nongovernmental organizations.

We would also like to remind you that they actively participated in all the protests that took place in 2022, the main demand of which was to join the sanctions and send volunteer fighters to Ukraine. Also, we all remember the following statement by one of the leaders of the wealthy NGOs: “Russia is losing the war in Ukraine, it has insufficient resources there, therefore it cannot start military operations in all directions; we must do everything to make use of this window of opportunity.” Today, it is clear to everyone what outcome this would have led our country to, had we acted according to their dictates and followed their calls for war.

For years, the so-called NGOs have been waging a Soviet-style campaign against the independence of the judiciary. To this end, they stigmatize the judiciary and judges. Despite the fact that NGOs have thus far failed to present court cases that would demonstrate the existence of systemic or even relatively serious non-systemic problems within the judiciary, they still persist in carrying out the above campaign and, using non-transparent finances, they are trying to undermine this important state institution to this day.

Furthermore, wealthy NGOs and radical parties attacked the judiciary because of the cases that were of particular importance to the collective National Movement. These were the cases of Rustavi 2, Gigi Ugulava, Nikanor Melia, Nika Gvaramia, Mikheil Saakashvili, and other politically sensitive cases over which nongovernmental organizations have actively tried to discredit the court and specific judges. We would like to remind you that the Strasbourg court upheld the decisions of the Georgian courts in all of these cases, which poured cold water on the NGOs’ campaign. We would also like to remind you that the NGOs had no reaction when, in contravention of the Bangalore Principles, effective sanctions were imposed on both former and current Georgian judges, extending even to their adult and minor family members, which is an extreme form of gross violation of basic human rights. All of this demonstrates that the rule of law and basic human rights are worthless to the so-called nongovernmental sector.

In addition, NGOs are actively involved in the dissemination of pseudo-liberal ideology and so-called LGBT propaganda; in campaigns that aim to undermine public trust in the Georgian Orthodox Church; in supporting political intervention in Georgia under a religious pretext; in actions directed against Georgia’s energy independence, and so on.

Unfortunately, none of their financiers have taken responsibility for the above-mentioned anti-state actions and the radical agenda of wealthy NGOs. Likewise, no one has taken responsibility for the foreign-funded fake campaign to delegitimize the elections that was conducted in 2020 by a number of media outlets belonging to the radical opposition.

Most concerning of all is the fact that this hysterical campaign came to be headed by a person who possessed the status of ambassador of one of the countries. In reality, however, this person represented the interests not of this country but of the “Global War Party” in Georgia. As it later emerged, this person had a lot to hide.

Despite the complete non-transparency of the funding of nongovernmental organizations, last year we became aware of specific instances of the funding of extremism in Georgia that were aimed at supporting revolutionary processes. Namely, during the past year, we have informed the public about the financial support of Droa, the Franklin Club, Canvas trainings, as well as the funding of other associations and events from foreign funds that promoted radicalism and so-called polarization in Georgia.

The funding of Droa and other similar cases demonstrate the harshness of the corresponding foreign power’s attitude towards the Constitution and the legislation of Georgia and towards Georgia’s state sovereignty in general. The foreign funding of political parties is strictly limited in developed countries, and Georgian legislation is also framed in this spirit. Against this backdrop, the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) acted completely harshly and brazenly funded a political party for election purposes. It should be noted that the European Endowment for Democracy has already had an illegitimate impact on the 2024 elections, which would have been reported by the so-called local observer organizations, had the corresponding NGOs not been funded from the same sources.

Considering all of the above, we are not surprised that the former ambassador told the Georgian citizens a disgraceful lie last year, labeling the draft law – which was copied from the American law and had nothing in common with the law in force in Russia – as a “Russian law.” Given that the practice of supporting extremism in Georgia has weakened under the new ambassador, we hope that the incumbent ambassador will not stoop to telling the Georgian people such lies.

While it is true that the practice of supporting extremism has weakened after the developments surrounding the draft law “On the Transparency of Foreign Influence,” such practice has not been completely eliminated. Furthermore, more than 90 percent of NGOs’ funding remains non-transparent.

During this period, we held consultations concerning the transparency of finances of the largest American and European foundations, including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the European Endowment for Democracy (EED). However, we have not made any progress in ensuring the transparency of these funds.

We cannot rely on the benevolence of individual ambassadors. In addition, it should be noted that Georgia’s security needs to be protected from different sides. Under such conditions, we believe that the transparency of NGOs has no alternative in Georgia.

Last year, the radical opposition, NGOs, and their lobbyists misled a significant part of the Georgian public, making the people reject the law that provided for the accountability and transparency of NGOs of their own accord. We are the authorities elected by the Georgian people, and defending the dignity of the Georgian public is our main responsibility. No one should get away with deceiving the public.

Therefore, after consulting the party’s Political Council, the parliamentary majority has decided to resubmit the draft law “On the Transparency of Foreign Influence” to the Parliament.

The draft law will be initiated in the Parliament of Georgia with exactly the same text as last year, with only one difference. You all remember that last year, right after the initiation of the draft law, we expressed readiness to replace the term “agent of foreign influence” with different wording. In the draft law initiated by us today, the term “organization pursuing the interests of a foreign power” will be used instead of the term “agent of foreign influence.” All other sections of the draft law remain unchanged.

We remind you that the draft law provides for a single requirement – that organizations receiving foreign funding publish their annual financial reports. Only financial sanctions are envisaged in cases of violation of the said requirement. This is the minimum standard of transparency and accountability to the public that any organization with even a formal claim to conscientiousness must meet. Therefore, the content of the draft law does not provide even minimal grounds for criticism. The law will be passed in all three hearings by the end of the current session.

As you know, last year we made a humane decision and made allowances even for the part of the public that was misled. Furthermore, there was a threat of serious provocations that could have endangered peoples’ lives and health. We decided to withdraw the draft law based on these considerations.

It was also repeatedly noted that despite the withdrawal of the draft law, the initiative has already fulfilled its function to a significant extent. The public learned that the organizations at the heart of the revolutionary processes pursue the interests of a foreign power, rather than those of the Georgian people. At the same time, to reiterate, while the practice of the foreign funding of radicalism and so-called polarization has significantly weakened, the problem has not been completely eliminated and specific organizations funded by a foreign power, together with radical opposition parties, remain the main source of radicalism and so-called polarization in Georgia. We have tried to completely eliminate the problem of transparency on numerous occasions but to no avail. Despite initial promises, the donors eventually refused to disclose the funding and, in the end, found themselves in such an inconvenient situation that they could not even respond to the messages of top-level officials. Given that the ideal outcome did not manifest, and the public received a great deal more information about the issue, we believe that initiating the draft law has no alternative. The logical condition for not adopting the law “On the Transparency of Foreign Influence” was the practical provision of transparency of foreign influence, which, unfortunately, could not be achieved even after long consultations with embassies and donors. Moreover, we see how the inflow of non-transparent money increases in the run-up to the elections in Georgia, and the majority of these funds is directed to supporting radical parties, radical NGOs, and radical propagandist media. Although at first glance the support for radicalism has weakened in Georgia compared to the previous three years, we have no right to become complacent as it is common knowledge that apparent silence often precedes a storm. Unfortunately, donors persist in their refusal to disclose to the Georgian people who and what they are funding in Georgia. When donors refuse to recognize their responsibility to the Georgian people, protecting the interests of the Georgian people is the responsibility of our government, elected by the people.

It should be noted that comparable laws are in force in the United States of America, Israel, and Australia, and last year, the discussion of comparable laws has begun and is underway in the European Union, Great Britain, France, Canada, Slovakia, and Ukraine, which further confirms the relevance of this issue in terms of the protection of democracy and sovereignty. It is the sovereign right and responsibility of the state to ensure transparency of information concerning foreign funding to the people and their democratically mandated government.

Last year, the radical opposition, NGOs, and their lobbyists deliberately disrupted the substantive discussion of the law because they knew best that they had nothing to say and that all of their so-called arguments were empty lies. This year, everyone will have to enter into a substantive discussion, which will show the public the scale of the lies that they have inflicted on the Georgian public.

In the long term, the law “On the Transparency of Foreign Influence” will protect Georgia from artificial attempts to cause unrest in the country, similar to those that the country has had to deal with since 2020. The protection of sovereignty, peace, and stability is our primary responsibility to the Georgian state and the Georgian public,” he said.