Georgian Riot Police Clash with Pro-EU Protesters at Parliament

Georgia's proposed "foreign agent" law sparks massive protests, raising concerns about the country's democratic trajectory and its EU membership bid.

Nasiru Eneji Abdulrasheed
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Georgian Riot Police Clash with Protesters over Foreign Agents Law

Georgian Riot Police Clash with Protesters over Foreign Agents Law

Riot police in Tbilisi, Georgia used pepper spray and force to push protesters against a proposed foreign agents bill out of the central Rustaveli Avenue near the parliament building. The protests have been ongoing, with thousands gathering in front of the parliament to demonstrate against the draft law. Police employed tear gas and rubber bullets in a pro-EU protest crackdown to disperse the protesters, and some arrests have been reported.

The foreign agent bill is currently in its second plenary session in parliament, with civil society organizations calling on the public to join the protests. The law would require organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as foreign agents, drawing comparisons to a similar Russian law used to crack down on dissent.

Critics say the bill, which they call the "Russian law," aims to align Georgia, a former Soviet country, more closely with Moscow. The legislation resembles a similar measure implemented by Russia in 2012 that has been used to stifle and stigmatize anti-Kremlin advocacy groups and media organizations. Similar measures have also been adopted by two other former Soviet nations, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

The protests have drawn criticism from opposition politicians, who have accused the ruling party's founder Bidzina Ivanishvili of making conspiracy-laden speeches and threatening the Georgian people at a staged mass rally to counter anti-government protests. The Georgian Foreign Minister has met with European Commission officials in Brussels to discuss the foreign agent law, with the EU official's comments on transparency drawing criticism online.

Why this matters: The proposed foreign agents law in Georgia has sparked widespread protests and raised concerns about the country's democratic trajectory. The legislation's similarity to a Russian law used to silence dissent has drawn international criticism and called into question Georgia's path towards EU membership.

As the tense situation continues, with a heavy police presence and some arrests reported, the Georgian parliament is set to hold a second hearing on the controversial foreign agents bill. Despite growing domestic and international resistance, the ruling Georgian Dream party aims to pass the law, which the EU has said is inconsistent with Georgia's bid for EU membership. President Salome Zurabishvili has declared she will veto the bill, but the parliamentary committee supports a second reading of the foreign agents bill and can override her veto.

Key Takeaways

  • Riot police used force to disperse protesters against foreign agents bill in Tbilisi.
  • The bill would require NGOs with >20% foreign funding to register as foreign agents.
  • Critics say the bill aims to align Georgia with Russia, drawing comparisons to Russian law.
  • Protests have drawn criticism from opposition, who accuse ruling party of conspiracy speeches.
  • Despite resistance, Georgian parliament supports second reading of the foreign agents bill.