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BBC: Georgia president vetoes “Russian-style” foreign agent law

Georgia protests foreign agent law
Protesters hold a night sit-in on 13 May 2024 in front of the Georgian Parliament in Tbilisi ahead of the planned legal committee hearing on the “foreign agent” law. Photo: Guram Muradov,
BBC: Georgia president vetoes “Russian-style” foreign agent law

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has vetoed a divisive “foreign agent” law that has sparked weeks of mass street protests, who said it would limit freedom of speech in the country and strengthen Russian influence, according to BBC.

This week, the Georgian parliament approved the foreign agent bill, which requires NGOs and independent media that receive more than 20% of their funding from foreign donors to register as organizations “bearing the interests of a foreign power.” Failure to do so would have resulted in fines. Georgian opponents of the bill dubbed it “the Russian law”, comparing it to legislation used to target critics of President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.

Salome Zourabichvili stated that the law is “fundamentally Russian in its essence and spirit” and poses an obstacle to Georgia’s EU membership aspirations. However, her veto is largely symbolic, as the prime minister’s Georgian Dream party holds enough seats in parliament to override it with another vote.

“This law cannot be subject to any change, improvement, and embellishment, and thus, it’s a very simple veto. This law must be withdrawn,” the official said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze has called on the protesters to select at least ten representatives to join a discussion with him on the controversial law, but it remains unclear if this move will be made to increase the support of the ruling party and the law itself.

Earlier, sources among EU officials revealed the EU’s intention to freeze Georgia’s accession bid if Tbilisi passes a controversial “foreign agents” law inspired by Russian legislation, although reversal remains possible.

FT: EU to freeze Georgia’s accession bid if it enacts Russian-style “foreign agents” bill

Georgia applied for EU membership in March 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In December 2023, the European Commission recommended accession talks for Ukraine and Moldova but only granted Georgia candidate status, conditional on it undertaking reforms ranging from fighting disinformation to improving human rights protections.

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