U.S. will conduct a 'comprehensive review' and introduce visa restrictions with Georgia over 'Russian law'

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington, U.S., May 22, 2024
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington, U.S., May 22, 2024

The U.S. will conduct a comprehensive review of its cooperation with Georgia over the 'Foreign Agents' law, also known as the 'Russian law', U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken announced on May 23.

Georgia's ruling Georgian Dream party drafted and passed the "Foreign Agents" law that stifles freedom of association and expression, stigmatizes organizations that serve Georgian citizens, and suppresses independent media, the announcement said.

Read also: EU proposes to cancel visa-free regime and impose other sanctions on Georgia over law on 'foreign agents' - FT

“In response to these actions, the U.S. State Department is implementing a new visa restriction policy for Georgia that will apply to individuals responsible for or complicit in subverting democracy in Georgia, as well as their family members," he said.

"This includes persons responsible for suppressing civil society and freedom of peaceful assembly in Georgia through a campaign of violence or intimidation."

Under the new policy, anyone who undermines democratic processes or institutions in Georgia could be denied a U.S. visa and barred from entering the U.S. These restrictions may also apply to their immediate families.

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

"Today I am also launching a comprehensive review of bilateral cooperation between the United States and Georgia," Blinken said.

"We hope that the leaders of Georgia will review the draft law and take steps to advance the democratic and Euro-Atlantic aspirations of their country. As we review the relationship between our countries, we will take Georgia's actions into account when making decisions about our own actions."

The “Foreign Agents” law and protests in Georgia

Mass protests swept through Georgia on April 9 following ruling Georgian Dream party leader Mamuka Mdinaradz's announcement that his party intended to reintroduce the 'Foreign Agents’ bill.

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

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

The measure mandates the registration of non-profit organizations 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: Georgia risks sliding into Russia’s orbit — opposition MP

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze stated on April 18 that the “Foreign Agents” bill aims to safeguard the country from “Ukrainization.”

In response, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that the real threat to Georgia is Russification, not “mystical Ukrainization,” warning that using Ukraine derogatorily harms Ukrainian-Georgian relations.

Members of the European Parliament voiced concerns that the adoption of Georgia’s controversial “Foreign Agents” bill could jeopardize the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration efforts.

The European Parliament passed a resolution regarding Georgia’s 'Foreign Agents' law on April 25, casting 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. President Zourabichvili urged an end to the protest dispersal in Tbilisi and held the government responsible for the unrest.

Police arrested 60 demonstrators on May 1, charging them with hooliganism and disobeying lawful police orders, the Interior Ministry announced, adding that six police officers were injured in the unrest.

Later that day, the Georgian parliament approved the “Foreign Agents” bill in its second reading.

The legal committee of the Georgian Parliament considered and supported the "Foreign Agents" law in the third reading in 67 seconds on May 13.

The Georgian Parliament adopted the "Foreign Agents" law in its final third reading on May 14.

84 MPs voted for the adoption of the law; 30 opposition MPs voted against it. Security forces again began to disperse protesters who had gathered near the parliament building.

Read also: EU warns Georgia: "foreign agents" law could derail accession process

The European Union may freeze Georgia's application for membership if the law on "Foreign Agents" comes into force, The Financial Times newspaper wrote on May 16.

NATO also warned the Georgian government that the law is incompatible with the country's membership in NATO and the EU.

Salome Zurabishvili vetoed the law on transparency of foreign influence on May 18.

The law contradicts the country's constitution and European standards and "in this way represents an obstacle on our European path," she said.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine