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New law ‘pushing Georgia away from EU’ – Borrell

Tbilisi adopted legislation earlier this month which tightens the rules on ‘foreign agent’ transparency

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has warned Georgia that its potential accession to the bloc is in jeopardy after Tbilisi adopted a controversial ‘foreign agent’ law earlier this month. The US has also indicated it will not hesitate to penalize the former Soviet republic unless it walks back the legislation.

Known officially as the Transparency of Foreign Influence Act and spearheaded by the ruling Georgian Dream party, the law came into force earlier this month despite opposition protests and a veto by President Salome Zourabichvili.

The legislation requires NGOs, media outlets, and individuals who receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as entities “promoting the interests of a foreign power” and to disclose their donors. Those who fail to comply will face fines of up to $9,500.

While opponents of the bill have described it as “Russian” and an attack on democracy, supporters have insisted it is similar to what numerous Western nations, including the US, have in place.

On Monday, Borrell said the foreign ministers of EU members had held “a lively debate on Georgia” for the second time in less than a month. Citing “worrying political developments,” the diplomat warned that “this law and all the negative developments around it are pushing Georgia away from the European Union.”

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FILE PHOTO: People protest against the 'transparency of foreign influence' bill in Tbilisi, Georgia, on May 28, 2024
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“If the government does not change the course of action, Georgia will not progress on the European Union path,” Borrell insisted.

According to the EU foreign policy chief, the law goes “against the will of the overwhelming majority of the Georgian population.” Brussels is planning to “increase our support to civil society and media” in the former Soviet republic, he added. The EU will also downgrade political contacts with Tbilisi and consider “putting on hold our financial assistance to the government,” Borrell stated.

Earlier this month, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller claimed the ‘foreign agent’ law “moves Georgia away from its democratic trajectory” and “fundamentally alter[s] the US relationship with Georgia.” “We have not yet announced individual sanctions… but we have made clear that we would not hesitate to impose them,” the official stated.

Late last month, Washington announced that it would start restricting visas for Georgian politicians who played a role in passing the legislation. In November 2023, the European Commission recommended granting Georgia candidate status “on the understanding that the government takes important reform steps.”

June 25, 2024 at 02:49PM

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