Georgia president overruled as lawmakers push forward with Russia-style 'foreign agents' law

Demonstrators protesting the “foreign influence” law crowd outside the parliament building in central Tbilisi on May 28, 2024.

Vano Shlamov | Afp | Getty Images

Georgian lawmakers on Tuesday voted to override a presidential veto on a Russia-style “foreign agents” law, pushing forward with legislation that has triggered international condemnation and large-scale protests in the South Caucasus nation.

The U.S., European Union, NATO and the United Nations have all expressed concern about the bill, which critics say could jeopardize Georgia’s chances of joining the EU and push the country back into Russia’s orbit.

The foreign agents law calls for media outlets, nonprofits and other nongovernmental organizations in the country to declare that they are “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they receive more than 20% of their funding from sources abroad.

Russia, which occupies about 20% of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory, has used similar legislation to crack down on independent news media and activists critical of the Kremlin.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili vetoed the controversial legislation on May 18, saying on social media platform X that the “fundamentally Russian” law represents “an obstacle to our European path.”

Zourabichvili, a critic of the ruling Georgian Dream government, has called for a repeal of the law.

The Georgian Dream party has insisted that the legislation is necessary, despite the law triggering some of the largest demonstrations the country has seen since declaring independence from the Soviet Union more than 30 years ago.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze has said the bill will create “strong guarantees” to help ensure long-lasting peace in the country.

‘A very sad day for Georgia’

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Tuesday’s vote marked “a very sad day for Georgia and the rest of Europe.”

“The passing of this law effectively puts Georgia’s accession to the EU on hold, with no benefit for anybody,” Landsbergis said on X.

“The adoption of this law negatively impacts Georgia’s progress on the EU path,” European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said in a statement on May 15.

“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,” he added.

Separately, the U.S. has said it was “deeply troubled” by Georgia’s decision to pass the “Kremlin-style ‘foreign agents’ legislation.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a briefing on May 14 that the law would compel the U.S. to “fundamentally reassess” its relationship with Georgia.

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