Despite protests and veto: Georgia passes controversial law

President Zurabishvili had protested against the law – a minor setback for the ruling party “Georgian Dream”, which wants to use the law to freeze foreign donations to NGOs. Russia congratulates. The EU and the US are planning sanctions.

Despite weeks of mass protests, Georgia’s parliament has finally passed a law to tighten control over civil society. Despite criticism from the European Union and the United States, 84 of the 150 MPs voted for the law on Tuesday, with only four abstentions. In doing so, the parliament also overrode the veto of pro-European President Salome Jurapishvili. A simple majority is sufficient to override a veto.

The ruling Georgian Dream party, which holds a majority in parliament, has tightened accountability for non-governmental organizations that receive more than 20 percent of their money from abroad. She justifies this with more transparency. On Tuesday, the debate in Parliament was once again marked by harsh accusations from the government and the opposition. Opposition MP Anna Sydlitze accused the political leadership of a “thoughtless policy” that would block Georgia’s path to the EU and cause many problems for the country.

Parliament Speaker Shalva Babuvashvili accused opposition MPs of working for the interests of other countries and not for the national interest. “This is blatant treason.”

President of Georgia Salomi Jurapishvili during a speech on Tuesday evening.APA / AFP / Giorgi Arjevanidze

Thousands of people protested against this law

According to reporters from the German Press Agency, thousands of people gathered again in front of the parliament against the law. Police were also gathered in large numbers. Demonstrators insulted representatives of the Georgian Dream as “slaves”, “traitors” and “Russians”.

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In their view, the so-called “Russian law” is aimed at silencing critical organizations. They see parallels with legislation passed in Russia against so-called foreign agents. This has been used by the Kremlin for years to suppress the opposition and independent media.

Peaceful demonstrations on behalf of the protest movement have been going on for weeks in Tbilisi. Another big rally was planned for the evening. Many demonstrators fear that Georgian Dream’s authoritarian tendencies could jeopardize the former Soviet republic’s desired EU accession.

The EU announces the results

The Austrian Foreign Ministry regretted the decision in a statement on stage

The European Union announced its results. “The EU has repeatedly stressed that the law passed by the Georgian parliament violates the EU’s fundamental principles and values,” EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell and the EU Commission said on Tuesday evening. The decision will have a negative impact on Georgia’s path towards the EU. The EU and its member states are exploring all options to respond to the developments.

Brussels representatives have previously called on the government to withdraw the law. Experts from the Council of Europe have also recently criticized this provision. In its current version, it contains fundamental errors that have significant negative consequences for freedom of expression and assembly, the right to private life and the right to participate in society, it said from Strasbourg.

The US has imposed visa restrictions

The US has already announced the consequences. According to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, they want to impose visa restrictions on “persons responsible for or involved in undermining democracy in Georgia and their family members.” Additionally, bilateral cooperation between the United States and Georgia will be put to the test.

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The Georgian government was not irritated by this. He rejected economic sanctions as interference in internal affairs and declared them counterproductive. At least there was praise from Moscow: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied Russia had anything to do with the law. But he described it as “normal practice” to protect himself from outside influences.

Georgia is located on the southern border of Russia and is therefore an important global political front. Majority of people want to secede from Russia. A desire to join the EU and NATO is enshrined in the constitution. The country has been a candidate for EU membership since December. At the same time, Moscow controls the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which are recognized as independent states. (APA/AFP)

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