Impact of overturning the foreign agents law in Georgia

The recent decision by the Georgian parliament to overturn the presidential veto on the foreign agents law is expected to have significant implications on the country’s political landscape. The passing of the legislation, often referred to as the “transparency on foreign influence” bill, has been met with strong opposition, sparking protests in the capital city of Tbilisi.

The law, which requires media and non-governmental organizations receiving over 20% of their funding from abroad to register as “organizations acting in the interest of a foreign power”, has been criticized for potentially stifling dissent and limiting freedom of speech. Opponents of the law have compared it to similar legislation in Russia, labeling it the “Russian law”.

Many NGOs have already announced they will not comply with the law, stating that it is insulting and factually incorrect to brand them as acting on behalf of a foreign power. The passing of the law has intensified the ongoing protests in Georgia, with demonstrators voicing their concerns about the future of democracy in the country.

The decision to override the presidential veto has also drawn criticism from international bodies, including the European Union, which has expressed deep regret over the parliament’s choice. The EU had previously warned that the law could jeopardize Georgia’s progress towards EU membership, with the country being granted candidate status in December 2023.

The US has also weighed in on the issue, warning of potential consequences for those undermining democracy in Georgia. However, the government has dismissed these warnings, emphasizing that there will be no compromise on the country’s interests.

In response to the parliament’s decision, President Salome Zourabishvili presented a new charter aimed at moving Georgia towards Europe, calling for unity among opposition parties ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections. The charter includes reforms to depoliticize the justice system and security services, and to address laws hindering the country’s EU aspirations.

As the situation in Georgia continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how the passing of the foreign agents law will impact the country’s political future and relations with international partners.