On Tuesday, Georgian police arrested 66 citizens who were protesting in front of the parliament headquarters in Tbilisi against a bill on “foreign influence.”
The new norm establishes fines and jail sentences for directors of media outlets and NGOs that receive a fifth of their funds from other countries. The bill will now pass to a parliamentary commission, which will issue a final verdict in about three months.
During the protest, clashes broke out between demonstrators and police agents, who dispersed the crowd with tear gas and water cannons.
Several dozen people tried to break the police cordon to access the headquarters of the parliament, which approved the initiative with 76 votes in favor and 13 votes against.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili said she will veto the bill because it is similar to some Russian laws that could be restrictive and contrary to European Union regulations. In fact, Zurabishvili supported the protesters in a video shot with Statue of Liberty in the background.
“Our country sees its future in Europe and will not give anyone the right to take it away from us. This bill must be abolished,” alleged Zurabishvili.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has proposed to recognise activities of political parties that contradict principles of Georgia’s constitution and ‘the chosen path of our country and people’ as anticonstitutional, as parliament begins hearings for the foreign agent law. pic.twitter.com/1gEaMWrqhb
— OC Media (@OCMediaorg) March 2, 2023
Legislators who backed the bill explained that this initiative is necessary to guarantee transparency in the work of NGOs financed by representatives of foreign states. Georgian parliament can override presidential vetoes. However, it has not yet expressed any intention to do so with Zurabishvili.
Following the legislators’ statement, Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, warned Georgian authorities that approving the bill will harm their prospects of joining their country to the Union.
Georgia has sought to become part of the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for years. In 2012, this country signed an Association Agreement with the EU to promote political partnership and economic integration.
“Over the past year, we have intensified our efforts to achieve EU membership. This stance will determine the history of Georgia and the current actions of its authorities,” Georgia’s Prime Minster Irakli Garibashvili recently stated.