Home Featured Don’t pass ‘foreign agent’ law, top European legal body tells Georgia – POLITICO
Don’t pass ‘foreign agent’ law, top European legal body tells Georgia – POLITICO

Don’t pass ‘foreign agent’ law, top European legal body tells Georgia – POLITICO

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The rules as they stand would negatively impact “open, informed public debate, pluralism and democracy,” the panel of four international jurists found.

The ruling Georgian Dream party says the bill is necessary to protect against foreign influence. It would require organizations that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to declare they were “pursuing the interests of a foreign power.” It would apply primarily to Western-funded civil society groups.

According to the Venice Commission’s report, the framing of the law is “broad and vague,” and the financial reporting requirements are both impractical and open to being abused to “impose lengthy, harassing and costly audits.” It added that the label of pursuing the interests of a foreign power, even if not rooted in fact, could generate stigma.

It said the proposals “present numerous similarities” with laws adopted by Russia, Hungary and Kyrgyzstan, all of which have been accused of shuttering civil society groups.

Reacting to the findings, Georgian Dream held a briefing where MP Salome Kurasbediani told reporters it showed “there are no legal or other arguments against Georgia’s law on transparency.” She accused the jurists of making “biased political assessments instead of a professional discussion.”

The EU has warned adoption of the bill would effectively torpedo Georgia’s chances of joining the bloc, just six months after the country was awarded candidate status. The U.S. Congress will consider a bill introducing sanctions against Georgian Dream politicians if it becomes law, while senior U.S. officials have warned of growing Russian influence. The ruling party has accused Western powers of meddling in its internal affairs, and said NGOs have plans to try and overthrow the elected government.

Tens of thousands of Georgians have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest the draft law. Riot police used force to disperse protesters and detained opposition politicians.

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