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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Georgian parliament ‘failed’ foreign agents bill

The Georgian parliament ‘failed’ the ‘foreign agents’ bill at second reading, responding to the demand of tens of thousands of protesters, who staged large-scale demonstrations in central Tbilisi for several days, as well as than in other cities in Georgia.

Another alternative bill “On registration of foreign agents” was withdrawn by the initiators – a group of anti-Western deputies united in the “People’s Force” movement.

Thus, the bills on foreign agents were canceled by official procedures, as demanded by the protesters.

The United States, the EU and other Georgia partners have welcomed the authorities’ decision to withdraw the bill, which they once advised rescinded because it could negatively impact freedom of movement. expression and undermine the country’s European integration.

Recall that after the introduction in Russia in 2012 of the Russian law on foreign agents, independent NGOs and journalists ceased to work in the Russian Federation. Opponents of the Georgian bill feared the same could happen in Georgia.

Moscow does not hide its dissatisfaction with the fact that civil society did not allow the adoption of a law on foreign agents in Georgia. At the same time, Russian leaders initially ruled out that the protest was popular, arguing it was “externally orchestrated”.

“Events in Georgia, of course, are orchestrated from outside. They are of the same nature – it is the same desire to create an irritant on the borders of Russia,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on March 10.

Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, meanwhile, said the foreign agents bill was allegedly unacceptable to the United States because it would reduce Washington’s influence on domestic political life in Georgia. “By withdrawing it (from the bill) from consideration in parliament, Georgia lost a chance for sovereignty,” Volodin wrote on his Telegram channel.

Russian President’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov also announced Washington’s involvement in the Tbilisi events.

“You can’t say ‘invisible hand’, it’s visible, we see where the president of Georgia is addressing his people, she’s not addressing Georgians and Georgians in Georgia, but addressing since America, so someone’s ‘visible hand’ is diligently trying to add the anti-Russian element here again,” Peskov said.

It should be noted that after the decision of the ruling party to cancel the adoption of controversial bills, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili, who is visiting the United States, congratulated the Georgian people for their victory and declared that she would not allow the authorities to pass any law likely to distance Georgia from the prospect of integration into the EU.

Along with criticism from Moscow officials, Russians with foreign agent status in their homeland sent an open letter to the Georgian parliament. The authors of the letter write that inclusion in the list of foreign agents in Russia means “civil death”: “from the sudden inspections of non-profit organizations in 2012 to the almost complete destruction of civil society by 2023”.

“We welcome the decision of the majority in the Georgian parliament not to proceed with the adoption of the draft law on foreign agents, which is similar to its Russian counterpart. We call for clarification of the effect of this law in Russia… We do this to ensure that such laws are not passed in Georgia or elsewhere,” reads the appeal to the Georgian parliament, which was signed by 82 citizens. . from the Russian Federation, including Andrei Makarevich, Viktor Shenderovich, Lyubov Sobol, Ekaterina Shulman, Sergei Smirnov, Mikhail Shats, Tatyana Lazareva, Artemy Troitsky, Boris Zimin, Evgenia Albats.

Political scientist Gia Nodia believes that the authorities’ cancellation of plans to adopt a law on foreign agents is a “victory for the people”. Nevertheless, according to the expert, the country’s leadership remains problematic, considering the adoption of such a law as acceptable, being aware of its consequences, i.e. suspension of the country’s European integration and complications in relations with Western partners, which Georgia’s partners have directly stated.

“The people have triumphed over Russian law. But the pro-Russian government still remains at the head of the country. Defeating her is a much more difficult task,” says Nodia.

Political scientist of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies Kakha Gogolashvili notes that the main driving force behind the protest against the Foreign Agents Bill was the youth. According to the expert, it turned out that the younger generation of Georgians is “responsible, reasonable and principled” and that recent events in the country “have rehabilitated the Georgian public” in the eyes of the whole world democratic in the context of the fact that the authorities have gradually “sabotaged” Western values ​​over the years.

“As a result, the power in place has greatly discredited itself, but has it learned a lesson from what has happened? This is all still a big question, and we don’t know how they will act in the future. After all, granting Georgia candidate status for EU membership depends on the politics of the ruling party. Will Georgian Dream fulfill the 12 EU conditions necessary for its candidacy, or will it continue to incite polarization of society and sow Euroscepticism? Questions remain,” Gogolashvili summed up.

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