May 23. 2024. 8:03

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Georgia ruling party presses on with ‘foreign agents’ bill opposed by EU

Georgia’s parliament gave initial approval on Wednesday (17 April) to a bill on “foreign agents” that the European Union said risked blocking the country’s path to membership and triggered protests for a third straight night.

The fate of the bill is widely seen as a test of whether Georgia, 33 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, intends to pursue a path of integration with the West or move closer towards Russia.

Critics compare the bill to a law that Russia has used extensively to crack down on dissent.

As many as 10,000 opponents of the bill gathered outside the parliament, sitting atop cars and buildings — a day after police used pepper spray to clear protesters away from part of the building.

Georgian police clear protesters against foreign agent bill

Riot police in Georgia waded into demonstrators and cleared them from around part of the ex-Soviet state’s parliament on Tuesday (16 April) as lawmakers debated a bill on “foreign agents” that the opposition denounces as authoritarian.

Several thousand protesters moved over to the government building, heavily guarded by police, to demand a meeting with Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, the bill’s principal backer.

Some demonstrators, many wearing helmets and masks, scuffled with police outside the building.

Eighty-three of 150 deputies voted in favour while opposition MPs boycotted the vote. The ruling party Georgian Dream has a supermajority in Parliament.

The bill must pass two more readings before becoming law.

It would require organisations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as agents of foreign influence.

Soon after the vote, the EU said in a statement: “This is a very concerning development and the final adoption of this legislation would negatively impact Georgia’s progress on its EU path. This law is not in line with EU core norms and values.”

Georgia: Passing of foreign influence law in1st reading – despite repeated calls by