EU official calls Georgia's 'foreign agents' bill unacceptable

A senior European Union official warned the Georgian government on Thursday that its proposed legislation on "foreign agents" was unacceptable and would be an obstacle to the country's hopes of joining the EU if adopted in its current form.

Publication: 02.05.2024 - 16:24
EU official calls Georgia's 'foreign agents' bill unacceptable
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The bill, which would require organisations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as agents of foreign influence, has sparked a rolling political crisis in the South Caucasus country.

Georgia's parliament on Wednesday approved the second reading of the bill, whichthe opposition says is Kremlin-inspired, as police fired tear gas and stun grenades to clear a large crowd of protesters.

The government says the law is needed to ensure that foreign funding of NGOs is transparent.

Ever-growing numbers of demonstrators have been taking to the street nightly for almost a month. A heaving crowd, tens of thousands strong, shut down central Tbilisi on Wednesday in the largest anti-government rally yet.

Gert Jan Koopman, director general of the European Commission's enlargement directorate, told reporters in the Georgian capital that Brussels was monitoring the situation and was worried by what was happening.

"There are concerning developments in terms of legislation. The law that has been passed on transparency in the second reading as it stands is unacceptable and will create serious obstacles for the EU accession path," said Koopman.

"However, there is still time. We will draw up our recommendations (on whether to start EU accession talks with Georgia) in September and issue our report in October-November, so there is still time. But the ball is very firmly in the court of the government," he added.

The Georgian parliament is expected to consider the bill in a third reading in around two weeks.

The ruling Georgian Dream party's billionaire businessman founder Bidzina Ivanishvili, in a rare speech on Monday, said Georgia needed to defend its sovereignty against foreign attempts to control it, and suggested opponents of the bill were acting in the interests of the West.

The standoff is seen as part of a wider struggle that could determine whether Georgia, a country of 3.7 million people that has seen turmoil, war and revolution since the collapse of the Soviet Union, moves closer towards Europe or back under Moscow's influence.

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