Home News Georgian parliament gives final approval to ‘foreign agent’ measures

Georgian parliament gives final approval to ‘foreign agent’ measures


Georgia’s parliament gave final approval to a controversial bill on Tuesday triggered a series of tense protests In the capital, Tbilisi, there are fears the legislation could push the country back into the Kremlin’s orbit.

President Salome Zurabichvili promised Veto the bill. But the Georgian Dream party, Georgia’s ruling party since 2012, has enough votes to override her veto.

Both the opposition and the government view the passage of the innocuous-sounding bill called “Foreign Influence Transparency” as an important step in the history of Georgia, a mountainous country of 3.6 million people located in the central Caucasus Mountains. .

this draft bill Non-governmental groups and media organizations with more than 20% of their funding coming from foreign countries will be required to register as “organizations carrying the interests of foreign powers” and provide annual financial statements on their activities. The Georgia Department of Justice will be given broad authority to monitor compliance. Violations will result in fines equivalent to more than $9,300.

Government officials and ruling party lawmakers said the draft law would make NGOs that play a central role in Georgia’s highly polarized political life more transparent to the public, thereby strengthening the country’s sovereignty.

But the pro-Western opposition is outspoken condemn the legislation as a covert effort to transform Georgia into a pro-Russian state.

Thousands of people have protested against the bill in Tbilisi and other Georgian cities over the past month. As the crowd grew, the police began to use heavy-handed tactics to disperse the crowd.

Riot police used tear gas, pepper spray and fists against some protesters as they surrounded the Capitol. Some protesters were beaten in tense confrontations, including Ted Jonas, an American Georgian lawyer who has lived in the country since the early 1990s.

“They dragged me about 30 meters along the pavement, punching and kicking me along the way,” Mr Jonas said in the book. a post on Facebook. “My nose was bleeding and I had bruises on my head, chin, right eye socket and left eye socket from being kicked or punched.”

The confrontation continues to escalate as parliament nears final reading of the bill. At least 20 protesters were detained early Monday, police said, including one Russian citizen and two American citizens.Student groups from top domestic universities say on sunday They are going on strike to protest against the bill.

Protesters have called the bill “Russian law” and believe it mimics similar measures in Russia. Russia’s “foreign agents” law, passed in 2012, was also portrayed by the Russian government as a transparency measure, but it quickly developed into one. rough tools Silencing and smearing anti-Kremlin advocacy groups and media organizations.

“We have a lot of pro-Western NGOs, they are against the West, they are pro-Russian,” protester Luna Iakobadze, 26, said of the government.

The Georgian government has always denied accusations that the bill has any connection to Moscow. Government representatives insist they are committed to the country’s broader aspirations to join the European Union.

But in a recent speech, Georgian Dream party founder Bidzina Ivanishvili cast the West as an enemy, not a friend.Mr Ivanishvili spoke at a pro-government rally in late April explain NATO and the EU are controlled by a “global war party” that sees “Georgia and Ukraine as cannon fodder.”

“They first pitted Georgia against Russia in 2008,” Ivanishvili said, referring to a brief war between Moscow and the government in Tbilisi. “In 2014 and 2022, they put Ukraine in a more difficult situation.”

Ivanishvili is a reclusive oligarch who made his fortune in Russia before returning to Georgia in the early 2000s. He accuses Western elites of trying to foment revolution against his party for refusing to actively oppose the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

But some protesters say Moscow is the natural center of gravity for Ivanishvili and his party, which has ruled Georgia for nearly 12 years and aims to tighten its grip on the country’s politics in upcoming elections in October.

“This is the only way they can stay in power and stand with Russia,” lawyer Ilia Burduli, 39, told a rally. “That’s the only way to stay in power forever.”

Georgia’s recently appointed prime minister, Irakli Kobakhidze, described activists opposing the bill as arrogant and ignorant people who had been brainwashed into believing it was linked to Russia.

“A confident man without knowledge and intelligence is worse than a Russian tank,” Kobakhidze said on Friday. a post on Facebook.

some critics have echo The government’s reasoning is that the Western-funded NGO sector, although not democratically elected, has a huge influence on Georgian political life. But they also say the new law won’t solve the problem.

EU representatives and U.S. officials criticized the legislation, saying it once again raised questions about Georgia’s democratic record.

On Saturday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. government was “deeply alarmed by the backsliding of democracy in Georgia.”exist a post Sullivan said on social media that Georgian lawmakers faced “a critical choice – support the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of the Georgian people or pass a Kremlin-style foreign agents law.”

In recent years, the West has been walking a tightrope in Georgia: on the one hand, it is trying its best to incite the pro-Western aspirations of the Georgian people, while on the other hand, it is trying its best not to alienate the Georgian ruling party and people. Pushing it into the hands of the Kremlin. The European Union granted Georgia candidate status in December, a move widely seen as an effort to prevent the country from slipping into the Kremlin’s orbit.

But the balancing act has become more difficult since Moscow invaded Ukraine, forcing many former Soviet states to pick sides. The invasion also provides Georgia and some other countries with a lucrative opportunity to help trade between Russia and the West, which has been restricted due to sanctions and other measures.

Mikheil Kechaqmadze, a Georgian analyst, said: “The ‘Georgian Dream’ believes that the focus of Western attention is elsewhere and that their focus on Georgia has waned, so they are fighting to adopt this law. The price to pay may not be too high.”

“They don’t want European integration,” he said in an interview. “They want to subvert it by introducing laws.”

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