President believes her veto on Transparency bill to be overridden but would use it on behalf of street protesters
President believes her veto on Transparency bill to be overridden but would use it on behalf of street protesters

“My veto is as symbolic as this law has been. I know the veto will be repelled, but that does not matter, as I will do it in the name of the people protesting on the streets so that they are not left just standing on the streets,” said Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili in an interview with Euractiv.

According to President Zourabichvili, nobody believes that any amendments to the law can truly change the situation or the direction. That’s why so many people are on the streets.

“This law is more than just a law. In all its content and form, it resembles Russia’s law and is a clear attempt to intimidate non-governmental civil society organisations at a very sensitive time for us, just before the 26 October elections.

The purpose is even clear because those non-governmental organisations will be involved in observing the upcoming elections.

This bill changes the terms of our relationship with our Western partners and friends, as it considers them agents of subversion and revolution that are trying to overthrow the current government. It targets the very organisations that have built this country since our independence, supporting democratic development, agriculture, education, and health.

The narrative of ‘you have helped us for 30 years, but now you are agents of foreign influence‘ does not fit. Many Georgians, a very big part of society, have all worked with international, European or American organisations at one point or another.

This includes the people who are now in power, such as the chair of the parliament who worked for a German foundation for 15 years. According to their logic, this makes them also agents of influence.

The President remarked that the bill on Transparency of Foreign Influence, re-introduced for the second time, is an obstacle to Georgia’s European future. She noted that there are some attempts to dialogue with the government authorities. However, “they [the government] are not to be trusted because if they were, they would not have taken these steps in the first place.”

“It is a clear obstacle to our European future. Instead of what we should be doing—working on Georgia starting accession negotiations—we are losing time and the consensus of society for something that is clearly defined (by our constitution).

This means that this government, the ruling party, is not eager to take us towards the results we should achieve by the end of the year by fulfilling the European Commission’s nine steps towards reform. Instead, we are focused now on this law and its consequences,” she said.

The President believes that the ones who can change the situation are Georgian people and they will do it in the elections.

“The only ones who can change the bigger picture of our current situation are the people themselves in the elections. We have to prepare peacefully and quietly for the elections and the role the EU can play.

They have to make clear what Georgia’s choice is in the elections and they have to put it in those terms. Either it is continuing on the path towards the EU and accelerating if possible, or taking another direction.

The EU has to hear not only people on the streets but also what people will say in the elections, which will be a type of referendum. Depending on the outcome, this will decide whether they [the EU] will or will not pause the visa liberalization or other processes,” she said.

Salome Zourabichvili also spoke about her European Action Plan platform.

“I will offer a European Action Plan platform with the steps that the next Georgian parliament should take. I will offer it to society and political parties so they can be reunited on this common objective while being free to run according to their own political agendas. I hope that most of the political parties will sign, those that will be going into the elections.

It will include a call to abolish, as soon as possible, all laws that go against the spirit and letter of European reform recommendations,” she said.