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Protests in Georgia in Focus

Travel Tuesday, political turmoil in Georgia sees continued protests, application for an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister and his Defence Minister announced by ICC Chief Prosecutor, and softer-than-expected German PPI.

Travel Tuesday: Madagascar
A “mini continent”, home to over 90% of wildlife species found nowhere else on Earth. This includes half of the world’s chameleon species!
GDP $15.3 billion
Biggest Industry Agriculture, Fishing, Forestry
Biggest Trading Partners USA, France, China, Japan, Netherlands
Political system semi-presidential democratic republic
National Animal The ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta)
Next Election 29 May

In Focus: Protests in Georgia

Protests are continuing in Georgia amid political turmoil across the country.

After weeks of intense protests, last Sunday the Georgian president Salome Zourabichvili vetoed the “foreign agent” bill calling it “fundamentally Russian” in its “essence and spirit”.

Ostensibly, the bill would require any NGO or Media Group which receives over 20% of their funding from overseas to make a declaration to the government registering as “bearing the interests of a foreign power”. However, given that similar laws have been used in Russia to crackdown on dissidents, critics maintain that those in power will simply use it as a mechanism to repress opposition and media groups.

The US have also made such comparisons, with the White House Press Secretary saying that Washington was “deeply troubled by Georgia’s Kremlin system foreign agents’ legislation…which runs counter to democratic values”. Similarly, the EU have also called on Georgia to withdraw the bill.

For example, as one source said to the BBC, supposing that the Georgian Red Cross refused to make such a declaration, they would likely be abolished.

Last Wednesday, the unicameral legislature passed the bill – officially named the “Law On Transparency of Foreign Influence” – by 84 votes to 30.

And despite the President’s subsequent veto, the Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze will likely try to override it, given the number of seats that his Georgian Dream Party command in the Parliament of Georgia. (The Dream and People’s Power party who are currently in government hold 84 seats to the Opposition’s 55).

Many fear that the law would bring Georgia a step further away from Brussels and a step closer to Moscow.

Some pro-Western parties in Georgia including UNM have now boycotted the parliament in Tbilisi while the foreign ministers of Latvia, Estonia, Iceland and Lithuania have joined marches in opposition to the bill.

The rising tensions in Tbilisi and elsewhere in the country comes at a time when many consider Georgia to be at a critical juncture. Down one path is embracing liberal democracy and integration with NATO and the EU. Down another lies a clamp down on civic and democratic society while being subsumed into Moscow’s sphere of influence. As such, the UNM leader has said that Kobakhidze is trying to “derail Georgia Euro-Atlantic path”.

The protests around the bill comes as the country gears up for a general election on 26 October 2024. All eyes are now on Tbilisi to see whether Kobakhidze will try to override Zourabichvili’s veto.

Israel Gaza: ICC Chief Prosecutor Applies for Arrest Warrants

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Khan announced yesterday that he would apply for an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defence Minister Yoav Gallant. Khan will also seek arrest warrants for three Hamas leaders, Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri (Deif) and Ismail Haniyeh.

Following Khan’s assessment, judges in the International Criminal Court will now consider the evidence ahead of deciding whether or not to issue the arrest warrants.

Regarding Netanyahu and Gallant, the chief prosecutor’s statement said that “I have reasonable grounds to believe that [they] bear criminal responsibility” for “war crimes and crimes against humanity committed on the territory of the State of Palestine (in the Gaza strip) from at least 8 October 2023”.

Netanyahu responded by saying that he opposed “with disgust The Hague prosecutor’s comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas”. President Biden also rejected the Khan’s assessment saying that it was “outrageous” and that “whatever this prosecutor might imply, there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.”

Regarding the three leaders of Hamas, Khan stated that “We submit that the crimes against humanity charged were part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population of Israel by Hamas and other armed groups pursuant to organisational policies”.

Khan also demanded the release of all hostages held by Hamas.

Karim Khan’s full statement can be read on the BBC here.

German PPI

This morning, the German producer price index came in marginally softer-than-expected, hitting -3.3% on an annualised basis. This came against the market consensus which was forecasting a -3.2% print. On a monthly basis, the index still rose 0.2%, in line with last month’s figure.

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