Thousands Protest in Georgia Against Controversial 'Foreign Agents' Bill

Thousands protest in Georgia against 'foreign agents' bill, seen as authoritarian and Russian-inspired, risking EU integration.

Mahnoor Jehangir
New Update
Thousands Protest in Georgia Against Controversial 'Foreign Agents' Bill

Thousands Protest in Georgia Against Controversial 'Foreign Agents' Bill

Thousands of Georgians have taken to the streets of the capital Tbilisi to protest against a proposed 'foreign agents' bill that the opposition and Western countries claim is authoritarian and Russian-inspired. The bill, introduced by the ruling Georgian Dream party, would require organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as 'foreign agents' or face hefty fines.

Protesters fear the legislation could lead to the shuttering of many non-governmental organizations that have done important work in Georgia. The EU and Western countries have warned that the bill could halt Georgia's integration with the European Union, which granted the country candidate status in December 2022. "The law is not consistent with EU values and standards," said a spokesperson for the EU delegation to Georgia.

The bill must pass three readings in parliament and overcome a veto by Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, who has stated her opposition to the legislation, to become law. However, the ruling party holds a majority in the legislature and could potentially override a presidential veto.

Opponents of the bill have been protesting nightly outside parliament since the legislature approved the first reading. Clashes have erupted between protesters and riot police, with security forces using tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowds. The Public Defender has appealed to the Ministry of Internal Affairs not to use force against peaceful protesters exercising their constitutional rights.

Why this matters: The proposed 'foreign agents' bill in Georgia has sparked concerns about democratic backsliding and Russian influence in the country. The outcome of this political battle could have significant implications for Georgia's future trajectory and its relations with the West.

The ruling Georgian Dream party has called for a demonstration in support of the bill on Monday, while opponents have vowed to continue their protests, with a major rally planned against the second reading on Tuesday. "We will not let our country slip into the darkness of Russian authoritarianism," said one student protester. As tensions mount, the international community is closely watching developments in Georgia, a strategically important country in the Caucasus region.

Key Takeaways

  • Thousands protest in Georgia against 'foreign agents' bill
  • Bill would require NGOs with >20% foreign funding to register as 'foreign agents'
  • EU warns bill is inconsistent with EU values; could halt Georgia's EU integration
  • Protests continue despite ruling party's call for pro-bill demonstration
  • Outcome could have significant implications for Georgia's future and relations with West