The people should decide whether Ivanishvili is an oligarch or not - Kelly Degnan
Is Ivanishvili an oligarch?
“The United States cannot say whether Bidzina Ivanishvili or anyone else is an oligarch or not. This should be determined by the Georgian people.” Thus US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan answered a journalist’s question for “Formula” TV on whether Ivanishvili is an oligarch.
The question arose in Georgia after the European Union included “de-oligarchization” in its twelve-point plan for Georgia joining the EU.
According to the EU’s plan, Georgia must “undertake and fulfill the obligation of ‘de-oligarchization’ and eliminate the excessive influence of private interests on economic, political and public life.”
Whether Georgia will receive the status of a candidate country for EU membership depends on fulfillment of this recommendation.
Opponents of the government and experts point out that de-oligarchization really means the weakening of Ivanishvili’s influence on the Georgian government.
Members of the Georgian Dream party, founded by Bidzina Ivanishvili, claim that this provision is not related to Bidzina Ivanishvili.
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Instead, they label currently imprisoned former President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, one of the owners of “Formula” Telecom Davit Kezerashvili, and opposition politicians Badri Japaridze and Mamuka Khazaradze as true oligarchs.
“Saakashvili is one of the most famous oligarchs. Today he is in prison and a decisive step towards de-oligarchization has already been taken… Kezerashvili is the second oligarch against whom a criminal case has been opened, and of course it is important for de-oligarchization that this case be concouded,” reads chairman of the ruling party Irakli Kobakhidze’s first comment after the publication of the EU recommendations.
On June 12, the acting Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, issued an extensive letter on this issue. In the letter published on Facebook, he writes that the ruling party is making all current and key decisions without the consultation or input of Bidzina Ivanishvili.
As talk of de-oligarchization picks up steam, Georgian Dream says they intend to pass a law on de-oligarchization similar to one in Ukraine.
The “anti-oligarch law”, which would limit the excessive influence of oligarchs on the economic, political and public life of Ukraine, was signed in November 2021, before the war in Ukraine. The law went into effect on May 7, 2022.
“…improper influence, money or personal influence, affecting political, judicial and official processes is the basic thing that this law [de-oligarchization] is trying to achieve. It’s difficult, but I think it’s the most important thing. There are other countries facing the same challenge. But each country should find its own formula to solve this problem,” Kelly Degnan said in an interview with “Formula”.
Is Ivanishvili an oligarch?