EU slams Georgia’s ruling majority over ‘foreign agents’ law

The European Union stands with the Georgian people and their choice in favour of democracy and of Georgia’s European future, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi said in a joint statement on May 15, after a new law targeting media organisations and foreign-funded NGOs was approved at third and final reading in Georgia’s Parliament.

The bill now faces a likely veto by Georgia’s president, which the parliament in Tbilisi can override by holding an additional vote, the BBC reported.

Critics say the bill – which they call the “Russia law” – could be used to threaten civil liberties, the report said.

Borrell and Várhelyi said: “The intimidation, threats and physical assaults on civil society representatives, political leaders and journalists, as well as their families is unacceptable. We call on the Georgian authorities to investigate these documented acts”.

The statement said that the European Council had granted Georgia the status of an EU candidate country on the understanding that the relevant nine steps set out in the European Commission recommendation of November 8 2023 are taken.

“These steps require human rights to be protected and civil society as well as media to be able to operate freely,” the statement said.

“They also refer to the need for depolarisation and the fight against disinformation.”

Nevertheless, and despite large protests and unequivocal calls by the international community, the Georgian government ruling majority adopted the law “on transparency of foreign influence” in Parliament in third reading, Borrell and Várhelyi said.

The EU has clearly and repeatedly stated that the spirit and content of the law are not in line with EU core norms and values, they said.

“It will undermine the work of civil society and independent media while freedom of association and freedom of expression are fundamental rights at the core of Georgia’s commitments as part of the Association Agreement and of any EU accession path.”

The adoption of this law negatively impacts Georgia’s progress on the EU path, the statement said.

“The choice on the way forward is in Georgia’s hands. We urge the Georgian authorities to withdraw the law, uphold their commitment to the EU path and advance the necessary reforms detailed in the 9 steps. 

“The EU stands ready to continue supporting Georgians working towards a European future,” Borrell and Várhelyi said.

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