Georgia Approves Controversial 'Foreign Agents' Law, Igniting Domestic Protests and International Criticism

Georgian parliament passed a contentious bill, requiring NGOs with over 20% foreign funding to register as "organizations serving the interests of a foreign power." President Zourabichvili opposes the bill, but with potential parliamentary override, it may become law, prompting EU criticism and calls for sanctions against Georgian Dream politicians involved.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Georgian Parliament Passes Foreign Agents Bill Amidst Protests and International Criticism

The Georgian parliament has approved a contentious bill that requires non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and media outlets receiving more than 20% of their funding from foreign sources to register as "foreign agents." The vote, which passed with 84 in favor and 30 against, came amidst intense domestic protests and international condemnation from the United States and the European Union.

Despite vocal opposition from civil society groups and the Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, who vowed to veto the bill, the ruling Georgian Dream party pushed forward with the legislation. Critics argue that the bill's "foreign agents" label could be used to silence anti-corruption campaigners and voices critical of the government.

The vote has sparked widespread protests in the streets of Georgia, with demonstrators gathering outside the parliament building, blowing whistles, vuvuzelas, and even banging pots and pans to make their voices heard. The opposition United National Movement party has called the vote a "watershed moment" and urged for "regime change" in the upcoming October elections.

The European Union, which granted Georgia candidate status in December, has strongly criticized the bill, stating that it is "incompatible with European values" and could hinder the country's bid for EU membership. Several EU foreign ministers have urged the bloc's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, to take a firm stance against the legislation, while European Parliament members have called for targeted sanctions against Georgian Dream politicians who pushed the law.

Why This Matters: The approval of the "foreign agents" law in Georgia has significant implications for the country's democratic development, civil society, and aspirations to join the European Union. It raises concerns about potential crackdowns on dissent, freedom of expression, and the ability of NGOs and media outlets to operate independently. The law's passage has further polarized Georgia's political landscape and highlighted the tensions between the ruling party and opposition forces. Additionally, it has strained Georgia's relations with the EU and could potentially derail or significantly delay the country's accession process.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Georgian parliament approved a controversial "foreign agents" law targeting NGOs and media outlets receiving foreign funding.
  • The move sparked widespread protests in Georgia and drew condemnation from the U.S. and the EU.
  • The law is seen as a potential tool to silence critical voices and anti-corruption campaigners in the country.
  • The EU has warned that the law is incompatible with European values and could hinder Georgia's EU membership bid.
  • Calls for targeted sanctions against Georgian Dream politicians and the possibility of "regime change" have been raised by the opposition.

politics georgia