The Parliament of Georgia has advanced with the adoption of the Law on Foreign Agents

The Parliament of Georgia advanced with the adoption of the law on foreign agents< /p> Illustration photo – Georgia – flag.

Tbilisi – Georgian MPs today, with the votes of the ruling party, adopted in the first reading the controversial law on foreign agents, which critics consider to be a shift of the Transcaucasian republic towards an authoritarian regime. The Georgian president has promised to veto it because, according to her, it threatens the country's hopes of joining the European Union. “Today is a black day for Georgian democracy,” Georgia Online quoted the US embassy as saying. Thousands of people demonstrated against the law in front of the parliament building, which the police tried to disperse with tear gas.

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“There are 76 votes in favor, 13 against. The draft law was adopted in the first reading,” said Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili after the vote, according to TASS. On Monday, Georgian MPs even engaged in a fistfight while discussing the bill.

The vote took place against the background of protests organized by the opposition. According to estimates, around 10,000 demonstrators gathered. Heavies repeatedly used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon against them, protesters threw cannon balls, firecrackers and also Molotov cocktails at the police, reported reporters from the scene. The Ministry of the Interior claims that the protest went beyond the law and freedom of speech.

President Salome Zurabishvili, who originally came from the ruling Georgian Dream party, supported the demonstrators with her statement from the New York headquarters of the United Nations. “Behind me is the Statue of Liberty, which is a symbol of what Georgia has always fought for and for which we have come to this day. I am with you because today you embody a free Georgia,” the head of state said according to the TASS agency.

< p>Critics say the inspiration for the news comes from Russia, where a similar law was passed in 2012, after Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin. Since then, the Russian authorities have continuously expanded it and used it to suppress civil society and independent media. The ruling Georgian Dream party announced last month that it supports the law, which must go through several more approval stages.

The proposed norm would require organizations that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents” and submitted to Department of Justice scrutiny. Otherwise, they would face heavy fines.

“The Russian law that is now being proposed in the parliament is against Georgian national interests, against our European ambitions,” said opposition politician Irakli Pavlenishvili. Georgian Dream lawmaker Irakli Beraja, on the other hand, called opponents of the bill “spies”, reported the independent Caucasian server OC-Media.

MP Živi Mikanadze from the Georgian Dream said that the people of the country deserve to know how which organizations are funded. According to Reuters, the ruling party claims that it continues to support Georgia's entry into the structures of the European Union.

President Zurabishvili has previously stated that she will veto the law, as she believes it threatens Georgia's hopes of joining the EU and NATO. But parliament can override a presidential veto, as has already happened in the case of the wiretapping law, which the union criticized. More than 60 organizations and media already said in February that they will not follow the proposal if it becomes law.

In a statement today, the US Embassy stressed that further adoption of Kremlin-inspired laws is not compatible with Georgia's integration efforts to the European Union and with the country's democratic development. According to him, the adoption of these laws will harm Georgia's relations with strategic partners and disrupt the work of many organizations helping Georgians. These steps also call into question the ruling party's commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration, the embassy said.

The Georgia Online server pointed out that similar reservations have been expressed by the embassies of other Western countries, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Union ambassador.