After Georgia’s parliament passes a “foreign influence” law influenced by Russia, there will be further protests.


A law that designates NGOs receiving funding from abroad as organizations with “foreign influence” was passed by the parliament in Georgia, sparking thousands of protests. Brussels has warned that this move may jeopardize Tbilisi’s hopes of joining the European Union.

During the third and final reading of the bill on Tuesday, lawmakers voted in favor of it by a margin of 84 to 30, drawing criticism that it was similar to oppressive Russian laws that were used to stifle dissent.

In the capital’s main square, where protests have been going strong for the past month, demonstrators and riot police engaged in combat.

Earlier, there were also altercations within the chamber between opposition MPs and Georgian Dream party members.

The measure, according to critics, is a representation of the former Soviet republic’s recent move toward tighter ties with Russia.

Before the vote, about 2,000 demonstrators, most of them young, gathered outside the parliament, chanting “no to the Russian law.” Several thousand more joined the march that evening once word got out that the law had been passed by MPs.

Later, demonstrators stopped traffic at a major crossroads in the heart of Tbilisi.

Thirteen protesters were detained, according to the interior ministry, for “disobeying police orders.”

Prominent opposition activist David Katsarava’s wife claimed that when he was arrested at the protest, riot police severely abused him.

The largest anti-government demonstration in Georgia’s recent history saw up to 100,000 people take to the streets on Saturday, capping weeks of massive protests against the law in Tbilisi.

Washington has warned that the law’s adoption would mean Tbilisi’s withdrawal from the Western orbit, while the EU has declared the measure to be “incompatible” with Georgia’s long-standing bid to join the 27-nation bloc.

While visiting Georgia, US Assistant Secretary of State Jim O’Brien stated that if the legislation is not changed to conform to Western standards and there are “travel restrictions and financial sanctions against individuals involved and their families,” the US might implement these measures.

Furthermore, he issued a warning, saying that Georgia would be “under review if we are now regarded as an adversary and not a partner” for the approximately US$390 million that Washington has allotted this year in aid.

The foreign influence statute was referred to as “Russian interference in Georgia” by UK Defense Minister Grant Shapps.

Replying to the accusation of “undisguised interference in Georgia’s internal affairs,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov shot back.

In order to voice “our concerns,” Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis announced that he and his colleagues from Iceland, Estonia, and Latvia would be visiting Georgia on Tuesday.

The ruling Georgian Dream party and the demonstrators have promised not to give up.

Protesters claim that their ultimate objective is to remove the Georgian Dream.

The measure mandates media organizations and non-governmental organizations that obtain over 20 percent of their money from outside to register as organizations that are “pursuing the interests of a foreign power.”

A similar rule has been utilized by Russia to stifle public individuals and organizations that have opposing or divergent views from those of the Kremlin.

On Tuesday, the EU restated its stance that the measure jeopardizes Tbilisi’s ambitions to become a member of the EU.

According to its spokesperson, Peter Stano, “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 was given official EU candidacy last year, and Brussels will likely decide in December whether to officially begin membership talks—a highly unlikely scenario.

At odds with the administration, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has threatened to veto the bill, calling it a “symbolic move” because Georgian Dream has enough parliamentarians to override her veto.

The majority of Georgian society is anti-Kremlin. Opinion polls indicate that most Georgians support the country’s quest to join the EU and NATO, which is backed by the country’s constitution.

Critics of the government and nongovernmental organizations have documented months of harassment and intimidation prior to the bill’s reintroduction.

Georgian Dream has stated that it is dedicated to entering the EU, portrayed the demonstrators as violent gangs, and claimed that the measure aims to increase transparency of NGO funding.

The bill has been the subject of contention for five months.

About The Author

Leave a Reply