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US threatens to ‘take action’ against NATO applicant

Western officials claim that Georgia’s crackdown on foreign influence “undermines democracy”

The US is “looking hard” into how it can punish Georgia over the so-called ‘foreign agents’ bill, recently passed by lawmakers in Tbilisi, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a Congressional hearing on Wednesday.

Georgia’s Transparency of Foreign Influence Act would necessitate non-profit organizations, media outlets and individuals who derive more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as entities “promoting the interests of a foreign power” and disclose their income and sponsors or face fines of up to $9,500. The legislation, which ignited weeks of violent protests and clashes with the police in Tbilisi, was passed in the EU applicant country’s parliament last week.

“We are looking very hard at what we can do in response to that, and I anticipate we will take actions, the EU is looking at the impact on the accession process for Georgia, so I would anticipate that there will be things to come because of the impact this law may have,” Blinken told US lawmakers in Congress.

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Demonstrators protest against a bill on foreign agents near the parliament in Tbilisi, Georgia.
US could sanction NATO applicant for ‘undermining democracy’ – Politico 

Blinken said that the US was “very concerned” about the legislation, which he described as “right out of Moscow’s playbook,” and which “clearly counters” the Georgian public’s desire for “EU integration.”

Despite criticisms that if passed, the legislation could be used to target political opposition, the bill does not provide for criminal prosecutions, unlike the US’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), in effect since the 1930’s.

The bill was described as “undermining of democracy” by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O’Brien on last week’s visit to Tbilisi. He warned Georgia of “restrictions coming from the US,” and potential sanctions on the country’s lawmakers that were involved with the legislation.

READ MORE: US threatens NATO applicant with sanctions

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili vetoed the bill on Friday, but the gesture is considered to be largely symbolic, as the Georgian Dream party has a majority in parliament and is expected to overrule it.

May 23, 2024 at 06:58AM

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