Georgia's 'Foreign Agents' Bill Sparks Chaos and Protests in Parliament

Chaos erupts in Georgia as lawmakers approve controversial 'foreign agents' bill, sparking mass protests and EU condemnation, with implications for the country's European aspirations.

Mazhar Abbas
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Chaos Erupts in Georgian Parliament Over Controversial 'Foreign Agents' Bill

Chaos Erupts in Georgian Parliament Over Controversial 'Foreign Agents' Bill

Chaos erupted in the Georgian parliament this week as lawmakers approved the first reading of a controversial 'foreign agents' bill. The proposed legislation would require media outlets and non-profit organizations that receive over 20% of their funding from abroad to register as entities influenced by foreign sources.

Thousands of protesters gathered in front of the parliament building in Tbilisi to demonstrate against the bill, arguing that it could harm Georgia's aspirations to join the European Union. The situation escalated as the ruling Georgian Dream party pushed through the bill in a vote boycotted by opposition deputies. Critics say the bill mirrors a repressive Russian law and undermines Georgia's European aspirations.

The EU has strongly condemned the bill, warning it is incompatible with EU values and could jeopardize Georgia's path to EU membership. Despite being granted EU candidate status in 2023, the relationship between Brussels and Tbilisi remains complex, with concerns over the ruling party's alleged pro-Russian leanings.

Why this matters: The controversial 'foreign agents' bill in Georgia highlights the ongoing struggle between pro-European and pro-Russian influences in the country. The outcome of this legislation could have significant implications for Georgia's future alignment and its prospects for EU membership.

Protesters, chanting slogans like 'No to the Russian regime' and 'Long live the European Union,' have vowed to continue demonstrating until the Georgian Dream party withdraws the bill. The final vote on the legislation is scheduled for May 17, and the EU continues to urge the government to refrain from adopting laws that would undermine Georgia's EU integration process.

Parliament Scuffle: The chaos in the Georgian parliament also saw physical altercations, with the leader of the opposition punching an MP during a scuffle in the historic parliament building. The incident further highlights the ongoing tensions and political divisions in Georgia as the country prepares for upcoming elections.

Veto Threat: President Salome Zurabishvili has said she will veto the bill if it reaches her desk, though parliament can override her veto. The U.S. Embassy and the EU have condemned the parliament's actions, emphasizing that the proposed law is incompatible with Georgia's democratic development and European integration aspirations. As tensions persist, the Interior Ministry has urged protesters to refrain from illegal actions, with the demonstrations resulting in detentions and injuries since their start on Monday.

Key Takeaways

  • Georgia's parliament approved 1st reading of 'foreign agents' bill, sparking protests.
  • Bill would require media, NGOs with >20% foreign funding to register as foreign-influenced.
  • EU condemned bill as incompatible with EU values, threatening Georgia's EU membership.
  • Protests continue, with opposition leaders clashing with MPs in parliament.
  • President vowed to veto bill, but parliament can override; tensions remain high.