Protests Persist in Tbilisi as Georgia Debates Controversial 'Foreign Agents' Bill

Protests erupt in Georgia over controversial "foreign agents" bill, raising concerns about democratic backsliding and EU membership prospects.

Muhammad Jawad
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Protests Persist in Tbilisi as Georgia Debates Controversial 'Foreign Agents' Bill

Protests Persist in Tbilisi as Georgia Debates Controversial 'Foreign Agents' Bill

Protests have continued in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, as lawmakers debate a controversial foreign influence bill that critics say is similar to repressive legislation used in Russia. The bill, which was given initial approval by parliament, has sparked outrage among Georgians who fear it could damage the country's bid for European Union membership.

The proposed law would require non-governmental organizations and media outlets that receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as "agents of foreign influence." Opponents have denounced the bill as the "Russian law" and say it is aimed at stifling dissent and cracking down on groups critical of the government.

Clashes erupted between protesters and police, who fired tear gas to break up the called demonstration outside the parliament building, with riot police using tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds. At least 14 people were detained, and one opposition lawmaker punched the leader of the ruling Georgian Dream party during a heated parliamentary debate.

Why this matters: The protests in Georgia highlight the ongoing struggle between pro-Western and pro-Russian factions in the country. The passage of the "foreign agents" bill could have significant implications for Georgia's democratic aspirations and its relationship with the European Union.

The ruling Georgian Dream party, which has been accused of being "pro-Russian," had previously abandoned a similar attempt to pass the law in March 2023 following widespread protests. However, the government is now trying to reintroduce the draft of the repressive foreign agents bill amid protests, despite the European Union expressing its "regret" over the move.

Georgia's President Salome Zourabichvili, who is pro-EU, has vowed to veto the bill if it is passed by parliament. However, the Georgian Dream party holds a majority in the legislature and could potentially override a presidential veto.

The Interior Ministry reported that 14 protesters were detained as protests continue over the foreign law, with one employee injured in the clashes. Protesters have vowed to continue their resistance against what they see as an attempt to undermine Georgia's democratic progress and European integration.

The European Union has warned that the draft law is "incompatible" with the bloc's values and could jeopardize Georgia's bid for EU membership. The country was granted candidate status by the EU last year, but the passage of the "foreign agents" bill could derail its efforts to move closer to the West.

Key Takeaways

  • Protests in Tbilisi over controversial "foreign influence" bill
  • Bill would require NGOs, media with >20% foreign funding to register as "foreign agents"
  • Clashes between protesters and police, 14 detained
  • Bill could damage Georgia's EU membership bid, president vows to veto
  • EU warns bill is "incompatible" with bloc's values, may derail Georgia's EU integration