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Despite protests: Georgia passes controversial “Russian law”

Despite protests: Georgia passes controversial “Russian law”

All the warnings from Brussels and Washington have had no effect: the leadership in Georgia is pushing through a law that could endanger their country’s EU course.

Despite weeks of mass protests, the Georgian parliament has passed a law that tightens control over civil society and could jeopardize the country’s EU course. The governing majority of the Georgian Dream party approved a controversial law that aims to limit foreign influence on non-governmental organizations. In doing so, the leadership in Tbilisi ignored warnings from the EU and other supporters of the small country in the South Caucasus.

According to the Rustavi-2 television channel, 84 deputies voted for the law and 30 deputies voted against it. Accountability will be tightened for aid organizations and independent media that receive more than 20 percent of their money from abroad. The justification is that more transparency is needed.

However, hundreds of thousands of opponents of the regulation, dubbed “Russian law,” fear that it will silence critical organizations, as is the case in Russia. With the authoritarian course of the Georgian Dream party, they see the ex-Soviet republic’s desired EU accession at risk.

Police take action against demonstrators

The peaceful demonstrations on the part of the protest movement in Tbilisi have been going on for weeks. Many mostly young demonstrators also gathered at the parliament building on Tuesday. They reacted outraged to the vote. Some tried to climb over barricades and get into parliament. The police used strong forces to drive the demonstrators back; According to eyewitness reports, several people were arrested.

A reaction from the EU Commission in Brussels was initially pending. There had previously been several warnings that the law did not meet European standards of freedom and the rule of law. The US, a major donor, also expressed concern.

The President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, wrote on X. “The Georgians on the streets dream of Europe. They want a European future. They expect European values ​​and norms.”

A country on a global political front

Georgia is located on Russia’s southern border and therefore on an important global political frontline. A majority of the population wants to break away from Russia; The desired accession to the EU and NATO is in the constitution. The country has had EU candidate status since last December.

At the same time, Moscow controls the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which it has recognized as independent states. The strong man at Georgian Dream is the party founder and obscure billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who pursued a see-saw policy between Moscow and the EU.

In a speech at the end of April, he announced an authoritarian turnaround. He threatened to prosecute the opposition after the upcoming parliamentary election in October. Observers also see a possible Russian influence in a law that is intended to facilitate the inflow of offshore money to Georgia. This would benefit Ivanishvili as well as wealthy Russians.

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Bundestag, Michael Roth (SPD), saw the approaching EU accession negotiations as a possible reason for the change of course. Then the government must introduce reforms for more rule of law and freedom, he told the dpa in Tbilisi. “Apparently people are afraid of this path and are prepared to pay a high price for it.”

Georgia received a lot of aid money

Hardly any other country has received as much help for projects in democracy promotion, media, social affairs, the environment and the economy as Georgia. Of more than 20,000 registered NGOs, 4,500 to 5,000 are actually active, estimates Stephan Malerius, representative of the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Tbilisi. “I believe that the investments by the EU, the USA and other donors in civil society have been very sensible,” said the head of the South Caucasus South Caucasus regional program Political Dialogue of the dpa.

The new law will now be forwarded to President Salome Zurabishvili, who has already announced a veto. The veto can then be overruled by Parliament. In this part of the process, foreign critics could raise their concerns, said Prime Minister Iraqi Kobakhidze.

Source: Stern

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