Brussels warns Georgia of a threat to disrupt EU integration

The Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Enlargement, Gert Jan Koopman, has warned the Georgian government that the draft law on “foreign agents” is unacceptable and will hinder the country’s hopes of joining the EU, but there is still time to change the situation. Koopman stated this to journalists in Tbilisi, Reuters reported.

According to a senior EU official, Brussels is monitoring the situation with the bill’s adoption and is concerned about what is happening.

The law on transparency will create serious obstacles to EU accession – Koopman

“There are disturbing changes in the legislation. The law on transparency adopted in the second reading is unacceptable in its current form and will create serious obstacles to EU accession,” Koopman said.

He warned that the Georgian authorities are still able to change the situation.

“However, there is still time. We will develop our recommendations (on whether to start negotiations on Georgia’s accession to the EU, ed.) in September and issue our report in October–November, so there is still time. However, the decision ultimately rests with the government”, he stated.

In two weeks, the Georgian parliament will consider the bill in its third reading.

The de facto leader of Georgia’s ruling party, pro-Russian oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili, said in a rare speech on Monday that Georgia needs to protect its sovereignty from foreign attempts to control it and suggested that opponents of the bill are acting in the interests of the West.

People view the events in Georgia as part of a larger struggle that could decide whether Georgia moves closer to Europe or reverts to Moscow’s influence.

Key events in Georgia’s “foreign agents” law issue

On March 7, 2023, the Georgian parliament approved in the first reading the draft law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence,” which largely imitates the Russian law on foreign agents. After that, protests broke out in the country. Police fired tear gas at protesters.

Reports indicate that police detained 66 protesters near the parliament building on the morning of March 8. The opposition announced new protests.

If Georgia finally adopted the draft law on “foreign agents,” the EU threatened “serious consequences.”.

On March 9, the Georgian Dream’s political council, the People’s Power, and the parliamentary majority withdrew the law. Later, the country’s parliament rejected the bill in the second and final reading.

However, the Georgian parliament once again initiated the draft law on “foreign agents” on April 3, 2024.

The heads of the parliamentary foreign affairs committees of several European countries called on Tbilisi to abandon the bill after its re-initiation on April 6. The United States also stated that this law would steer Georgia away from the European path.

On April 8, President Salome Zurabishvili declared that she would veto the law if parliament passed it, despite the negative response from the public and the media.

On April 9, thousands of people took part in a rally in Tbilisi against the law, which the ruling Georgian Dream Party registered in parliament for the second time.

On April 16, the Georgian parliament postponed consideration of the law due to protests.

On April 17, the Georgian parliament passed the scandalous law on “foreign agents” in the first reading for the second time, and protesters demanded a meeting with the prime minister.

During the protest against the law on “foreign agents” in the center of Tbilisi on the night of May 1, clashes broke out between law enforcement officers and protesters. Six police officers reported injuries, while the police detained 63 people.

On May 1, the Georgian parliament passed the controversial law on “foreign agents” in the second reading, and clashes broke out on the streets of Tbilisi between activists and the Interior Ministry.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili called on Georgians to make a choice between Europe and Russia, commenting on the scandalous law on “foreign agents.”

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