Georgia: “Foreign Agents” Bill Sets Fire to Fire
Georgian police repelled protesters outside parliament in Tbilisi on Wednesday with water cannons and tear gas.
The Georgian opposition called for a new demonstration on Wednesday evening against a bill on “foreign agents”, denounced as a copy of a liberticidal Russian law, the day after clashes between opponents and police.
The Georgian Parliament adopted this text on Tuesday in first reading, which provides that organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad are obliged to register as foreign agents; foreigner, under penalty of fines.
According to its critics, this project is reminiscent of a similar law passed in Russia in 2012 and which the Kremlin uses to suppress the media and critical voices .
More than 1,000 protesters marched up the main avenue of Tbilisi, the capital of this Caucasus country, to the parliament building on Wednesday afternoon, an AFP correspondent noted. /p>
No to Russian law!, chanted protesters. The march, originally planned for International Women's Day, turned into a protest against this bill.
But the bulk of the demonstrators are expected outside Parliament for another evening rally at the call of several NGOs and opposition groups.
Georgia, a former -Soviet republic marked by a war against Russia in 2008, aims to join the EU and NATO. However, several recent government measures have cast doubt on these aspirations.
The “foreign agents” bill is perceived by many as a copy of a Russian draconian law.
The passage of the Foreign Agents Bill in the first reading led to the gathering of thousands of opponents in Tbilisi on Tuesday evening, dispersed protests with tear gas and water cannons.
The Georgian Interior Ministry said that at least 66 people were arrested on this occasion, and that around 50 police officers and civilians were injured in clashes. According to this source, protesters threw stones at the police, attempting to carry out an organized attack on Parliament.
Thousands of people demonstrated in Georgia against a controversial “foreign agents” bill, denounced by government critics as a tool of intimidation against the media and NGOs. A report by Tamara Alteresco.
For its part, in a press release, the opposition party Girch indicated that its leader, Zurab Japaridze, had been violently bludgeoned in the jaw by police during protests on Tuesday, then arrested and taken into custody.
The chairman of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Irakli Kobakhidze, denounced the action of radicals and drew a parallel between these protests and the pro-European Maidan revolution in Ukraine in 2014.
< p class="e-p">Ukraine, in the end, lost 20% of its territory after this revolution, he claimed, referring to the Ukrainian territories conquered by Moscow since the annexation of the Crimea and the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Flags of the United States, the European Union and Ukraine waved in the crowd of protesters opposing the draft law on “foreign agents”.
In a sign of concern in the West, the head of diplomacy of the European Union, Josep Borrell, on Wednesday condemned the bill, deeming it incompatible with the values of the EU and the European Union. ;aim to join the European bloc.
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has called for the law to be repealed, promising to veto it. However, this veto could be overcome by the ruling party, Georgian Dream, which controls more than half of the seats in Parliament.
According to party chairman Irakli Kobakhidze, however, the second and third reading of the text could only take place in June, after the review of the bill by the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe. x27;Europe.
In recent years, Georgian authorities have faced mounting international criticism over an alleged rollback of democracy that has damaged Tbilisi's ties with Brussels.
The U.S. Embassy in Georgia on Tuesday denounced the plan, saying that the continuation of these laws will harm Georgia's relations with its strategic partners.
Georgia applied for membership of the EU together with Ukraine and Moldova a few days after the Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory on February 24, 2022.
In June, the EU granted candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, but asked Georgia ie to carry out several reforms before obtaining a similar status.