Dr. Khatuna Burkadze – We need to move forward to Europe with unity

The history of Georgia has always been full of challenges and threats. Nevertheless, the brave Georgian people have never feared the enemy and have always supported their friends. We are a free and dignified society, a society that fought against the Soviet and Russian military power on April 9, 1989, and regained political independence. For 32 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, sovereign Georgia has been struggling to take its rightful place in the international arena, which implies full participation in defining priorities of international politics. To achieve this foreign policy goal, the integration of Georgia into European and Euro-Atlantic structures is vital to give it more security, development, prosperity and strengthen the means of ensuring state interests in a geopolitically vulnerable environment.

In the years, for Georgia's European future, the youth, public servants, diplomats, civil society and academia, politicians, media organizations, the business sector, and other members of the community have spared no effort within their functions to implement reforms in all key areas and get even closer to European standards. In February 2023, the European Commission published an analytical report reflecting a number of initiatives and measures taken by Georgia over the years. In the current geopolitical context, the reforms implemented so far and the fulfilment of the 12 priorities contribute to achieving more tangible results on the European path. However, the adoption of the bill "On Transparency of Foreign Influence" at the first hearing raised serious questions. The bill contradicted Article 78 of the Constitution of Georgia under which constitutional authorities should take all measures within their power to ensure Georgia's full integration into the European Union and NATO.

As a result of Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified, illegal war against Ukraine launched on February 24, 2022, the challenges to the international security system have become even more evident. This situation required extraordinary decisions. A few days after Russia's aggression, on February 28, 2022, Ukraine submitted its application for EU membership. Following this decision, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova made a similar application to the European Union. The European Council recognized the European Perspective of Georgia, which politically means that our state is a European country and can become a full member of the European Union. At the same time, obtaining EU candidate status is essential for Georgia to determine its European future. It will increase political and financial support from the European Union. We can achieve European goals by continuing respective legislative and institutional reforms, implementing the 12 priorities, and demonstrating unity. Contrary to this, the bill "On Transparency of Foreign Influence" violated the first, seventh, and tenth priorities because it included norms that aimed to cause divisions in society, increase polarization, and weaken free civil society, and media. Due to the impediments to European and Euro-Atlantic integration, the draft law contradicted the supreme law of Georgia. It also did not comply with international legal norms under which states are obliged to create an appropriate environment for free civil society and media - and this is the basis for the development of a democratic system and protection of human rights.

Our strategic partners from the United States of America, the European Union, NATO, the Council of Europe, and the United Nations urged us not to adopt a draft law that would damage our relations. Especially against the backdrop when Georgia faces a number of threats and challenges under the Russian occupation, and annexation, we need not only to maintain cooperation with partners but also deepen and strengthen these relations. It is essential to ensure our national interests and continue contributing to regional and global securities.

Because of the large-scale public protest and the recommendations, and advice of the partners, the parliamentary majority has decided the withdrawal of the draft law "On Transparency of Foreign Influence". According to paragraph 16 of Article 112 of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia, the Parliament rejected the bill during voting by the second hearing. Simultaneously, under paragraph 17 of Article 112 for the final rejection, the draft law shall not be put to the vote at the plenary session within one month during the session period.

All this is necessary for peace and security in the country and our European, democratic development. Today, standing together and accelerating the country's national project - European integration - is the path that will give Georgia more opportunities. We need to move forward to Europe with unity.

Steven Blockmans: If Georgia misses the opportunity to get closer to the EU, it will take a long time to repair the damage caused by the autocratic regime