Georgian president vetoes controversial “foreign agent” bill

  • 18 May, 11:03

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has vetoed the “foreign agent bill” that has sparked large-scale protests and drawn criticism from the country’s Western allies.

“Today I vetoed a Russian law. This law is Russian in its essence and spirit… It contradicts our constitution and all European standards, therefore it represents an obstacle to our European path,” Zurabishvili said at a briefing on Saturday.

The ruling Georgia Dream party that has initiated the bill, has the right to override the president’s veto in a voting. On 14 May, the Georgian Parliament passed the “Foreign Influence Transparency” law, known as “foreign agent law” in the society with 84 deputies in favour and 30 against. Under the bill any organization receiving 20 percent of its funding from abroad must register as “agents of foreign influence” or face fines.

The adoption of the controversial law has divided the South Caucasus country. The opponents of the bill believe it will help the government to prosecute civil society and media and derail Georgia’s integration to the European Union. The bill has caused thousands-strong anti-government rallies in the capital Tbilisi with protesters burning Russian and ruling party’s flags. Georgia’s European allies have expressed concerns over the adoption of the bill.

“We join our European allies in urging Georgia not to enact legislation that goes against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Georgian citizens — the desire to integrate fully into the EU,” State Department Spokesman Miller said in a statement on Thursday.

Despite the pressure from the EU and Western allies, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze has refused to back down, however, accusing US and European officials of “persisting to make groundless political statements in public space.”

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