Georgian parliament set to approve controversial 'foreign influence' law

Police try to detain a demonstrator near the Parliament building during an opposition protest against "the Russian law" in the center of Tbilisi, Georgia, May 13, 2024
Police try to detain a demonstrator near the Parliament building during an opposition protest against "the Russian law" in the center of Tbilisi, Georgia, May 13, 2024 Copyright AP Photo/Zurab Tsertsvadze
Copyright AP Photo/Zurab Tsertsvadze
By Euronews
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Georgia is about to approve a controversial law that tightens controls on organisations receiving foreign funds. Critics say it could undermine democracy and derail the country’s chances of joining the European Union.

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The Legal Affairs Committee of the Georgian Parliament approved a bill on transparency of "foreign influence" in its third hearing on Monday, the final step before it goes for a parliamentary vote.

Meanwhile, protesters have gathered in front of the parliament building amid heavy police presence, resulting in a violent standoff. Georgia's Interior Ministry said 20 people were arrested including three foreign citizens - two Americans and a Russian. Footage shows at least one individual being assaulted by police officers.

The divisive draft law, reintroduced by the ruling Georgian Dream party, requires media and non-commercial organisations to register as being under the foreign influence if they receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad.

The proposed legislation has been dubbed "Russian law" after a similar rule in Russia, which has been used to suppress voices and groups critical of the Kremlin.

Critics say it could undermine democracy and derail the country’s chances of joining the European Union. 

In an online statement last month, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell described the parliament’s move as "a very concerning development".

He warned that "the final adoption of this legislation would negatively impact Georgia’s progress on its EU path".

The draft law is identical to a bill proposed in 2023, which the government was forced to withdraw in the face of mass protests.

Although Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili said she would veto the law if it is passed by parliament, the ruling party can override the veto by collecting 76 votes. Then the parliament speaker can sign it into law.

Additional sources • AP

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