Georgia’s President Vetoes Controversial ‘Foreign Influence’ Bill Amid Protests

Georgia’s President Vetoes Controversial ‘Foreign Influence’ Bill Amid Protests

Georgia’s President Vetoes Controversial ‘Foreign Influence’ Bill Amid Protests

Georgia’s President Salome Zourabichvili has vetoed the “foreign influence” bill that has sparked unprecedented protests in the country and warnings from Brussels that the measure would undermine Tbilisi’s European Union aspirations.

Despite Zourabichvili’s veto on Saturday, the proposed legislation is likely to be delayed rather than blocked.

Excel Magazine International learnt the parliament can override the veto with an additional vote.

“Today, I set a veto on the law, which is Russian in its essence and contradicts our constitution,” Zourabichvili said in a televised statement.

Critics argue the bill resembles Russian legislation used to silence dissent.

The draft law requires non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and media outlets receiving more than 20 percent of their funding from outside Georgia to register as bodies “pursuing the interests of a foreign power”.

Failure to comply and disclose sensitive information about foreign funding would result in a fine of 25,000 lari ($9,360), followed by additional fines of 20,000 lari ($7,490) for each month of non-compliance.

On Tuesday, Georgia’s Parliament, led by the Georgian Dream party, passed the bill. The party, which has been in power since 2012, holds enough votes to overturn the president’s veto with a simple majority.

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, a member of Georgian Dream, indicated the party’s readiness to consider Zourabichvili’s proposed amendments if she outlines them in her veto document.

However, Zourabichvili, who is at odds with the governing party, has ruled out entering “false, artificial, misleading negotiations” with Georgian Dream.

Giorgi Revishvili, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera that despite Georgian Dream’s majority to override the veto, the president’s move was significant.

“The president rightfully said how the foreign agent’s law is a Russian law and contradicts all European standards,” Revishvili said.

He also noted the growing political involvement of the younger generation, who are driving the protests.

The bill has incited mass protests in Tbilisi for the past few weeks.

NGOs and media organisations fear they may be forced to close if they do not comply.

Eka Gigauri, head of Transparency International’s Georgian branch, told France24, “The implication would be that they might freeze our assets.”

Critics argue that the draft law would limit media freedom and jeopardise Georgia’s bid to join the EU.

Opponents also believe the bill will move Georgia closer to Russia.

The two former Soviet countries have had a strained relationship since Georgia’s independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, warned on May 1 that Georgia was “at a crossroads”.

EU spokesman Peter Stano added, “EU member countries are very clear that if this law is adopted, it will be a serious obstacle for Georgia in its European perspective.”

Georgia applied for EU membership in 2022 and was granted candidate status in December last year.

The US has also urged Georgia against approving the bill, stating it would be inconsistent with its goal to join the EU and establish a relationship with NATO.

Despite the controversy, the Georgian Dream party insists it is committed to joining the EU and portrays the bill as a measure to increase the transparency of NGO funding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *