May 23. 2024. 8:26

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EU urges Georgia’s ruling party to withdraw controversial ‘foreign agent’ law

Georgia’s controversial Kremlin-style “foreign agent” law hampers the country’s progress on its EU accession path and should be withdrawn, the European Union said in a watered-down statement on Wednesday (15 May).

“The adoption of this law negatively impacts Georgia’s progress on the EU path,” said the statement, co-signed by the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell and the entire College of Commissioners.

“We urge the Georgian authorities to withdraw the law, uphold their commitment to the EU path and advance the necessary reforms detailed in the nine steps,” they added. Georgia became a formal candidate for EU membership in December 2023, on the understanding that it would undertake the recommended reforms.

The EU statement came after Georgia’s parliament greenlit on Tuesday the controversial bill, which Brussels warned defies ‘European values’ and harms the country’s accession prospects.

It followed a failed attempt to produce a joint EU27 statement, which was shelved due to resistance from Hungary and Slovakia.

Another attempt was then made to have the text co-signed by Borrell and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, which according to people familiar with the negotiations of the text, was again unsuccessful.

Instead, the signatories were extended to include the whole College of Commissioners.

EU scrambles to adopt common position as Georgian parliament passes ‘foreign agent’ law

As protests grow in Tbilisi, EU member states on Tuesday (14 May) failed to agree on a common statement that would condemn the passing of the Georgian government’s ‘foreign agent’ law, which Brussels warned defies ‘European values’ and hampers the country’s path towards accession.

“The intimidation, threats and physical assaults on civil society representatives, political leaders and journalists, as well as their families is unacceptable,” the statement said.

“We call on the Georgian authorities to investigate these documented acts,” it added.

While thousands rally daily in Tbilisi and protests are spreading to other Georgian cities, riot police have clashed with demonstrators, leaving some of them wounded.

Scuffles also broke out inside the parliament earlier this week between opposition lawmakers and members of the ruling Georgian Dream party.

“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,” the statement 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,” it added.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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Georgia’s president pledges to veto ‘foreign agent’ law as Baltic, Icelandic FMs visit Tbilisi