Council of Europe urges Georgia to abandon 'Foreign Agents' bill (aka the 'Russian law' bill)

Demonstrators hold a rally to protest the draft law on “foreign agents” in Tbilisi, Georgia, May 14, 2024
Demonstrators hold a rally to protest the draft law on “foreign agents” in Tbilisi, Georgia, May 14, 2024

The Council of Europe (CoE)'s Venice Commission issued a critical opinion of Georgia's "Foreign Agents" bill that recently passed its third reading in the Georgian parliament.

The CoE calls on Georgian authorities to "repeal the law in its current form," warning of significant negative impacts on freedom of expression, privacy, civic participation, and non-discrimination, according to a statement on the CoE website.

"Ultimately, this will affect open, informed public debate, pluralism, and democracy," the CoE said.

Read also: U.S. to offer Georgia massive support package should it abandon its 'Russian law' and anti-Western rhetoric

The report criticizes the expedited process by which the law was adopted, noting the absence of genuine debate and substantive consultations.

It also highlights the "blatant disregard for the concerns of a significant portion of the Georgian population."

The commission expressed regret that the Georgian parliament approved the bill without waiting for its opinion, despite appeals from the President of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Read also: Students from Georgia's main universities announce mass strike to join anti-'Russian law' protests

Protesting the 'Foreign Agents' bill in Georgia

Mass protests swept through Georgia on April 9 after the ruling Georgian Dream party announced its intention to reintroduce the 'Foreign Agents', or 'Russian law', bill that was abandoned in 2023 following mass protests.

Security forces moved to disperse demonstrators in Tbilisi on April 16.

Read also: Tens of thousands march in Tbilisi against Georgia’s ‘Foreign Agents’ bill – Reuters

The Georgian legislature approved the bill in its first reading on April 17.

The measure mandates the registration of non-profit entities and media receiving over 20% of their income from abroad as ‘organizations acting in the interests of a foreign state.’

The bill requires three votes for passage in the Georgian parliament to become law.”

Read also: Mass brawl and protests in Georgian parliament over controversial 'foreign agents' law – video

The second reading on May 1 saw 83 deputies vote in favor and 23 against.

European Parliament MPs voiced concerns that adopting the 'Foreign Agents' bill could jeopardize the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration efforts.

The European Parliament passed a resolution on April 25 regarding Georgia’s 'Foreign Agents' bill that casts doubt on the country’s EU accession talks while the law is active.

Clashes erupted between police and protesters near the Georgian parliament on April 30.

Read also: Situation tense in Georgia as Special Forces push protesters away from entrances to parliament - video, photos

President Zourabichvili urged an end to the protest dispersal in Tbilisi and held the government responsible for the unrest.

The Georgian parliament legal committee reviewed and supported the "foreign agents" law in its third reading in just 67 seconds on May 13.

Georgian parliament passed the "foreign agents" bill in its third and final reading, with 84 deputies voting in favor and 30 opposition members against on May 14.

Authorities began dispersing protestors gathered outside the parliament building on the same day.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine