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CEE countries send letter to Georgia over ‘foreign agents law’ concerns

| 2024-05-27 3 min read

CEE countries send letter to Georgia over ‘foreign agents law’ concerns

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Countries from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) made up five of the seven signatories states of a letter expressing concern over recent developments in Georgia to its Parliamentary Chairman H.E. Shalva Papuashvili sent on Friday, 24 May.

In recent months, Georgia has witnessed political and social upheaval, as anti-government protests erupted in response to proposed legislation that critics say is reminiscent of Russian-style restrictions on civil society, and which critics argue would curb freedoms and align Georgia closer to Moscow.

Local reports say the attempt to reintroduce the “foreign agents law”, which was abandoned last year after similar protests, combined with growing anti-Western government vitriol, show that the ruling Georgian Dream party is no longer interested in seeking integration into the EU.

The Georgian government withdrew the bill, but Papuashvili, a member of Georgian Dream, announced on May 20 that the party plans to overrule Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili’s veto of the controversial foreign agents law. Zourabichvili, who is pro-Western and an opponent of Georgian Dream, vetoed the law on 18 May.

Nevertheless, the government has a large enough House majority to overturn the veto, and may do so this week, prompting the US to threaten sanctions. Bulgaria will go to the polls in October and Zourabichvili has called for a united opposition against Georgian Dream.

Georgia needs friends and support, not hypocrisy and subversion’ – House chairman

Papuashvili has also accused the foreign ministers of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia of attempting to overthrow the Georgian government after they met him and then took part in a rally against the law in the capital of Tbilisi. 

On May 16 he tweeted: “Foreign politicians’ joining of radical anti-government rallies in Tbilisi is not just an unfriendly act against Georgian people. It is also a symptom that the Russian government has imparted some of its worldview to its staunchest opponents, especially in the Baltics. 

“Georgian government has long proved its commitment to European and Euro-Atlantic values and policies. Now, with ever-elusive prospect of NATO membership amidst the regional geopolitical turmoil, Georgia has to deal with dramatic foreign challenges mostly on its own. 

“Simply calling this law ‘Russian’ does not make it undemocratic, and, moreover, does not justify attacks on Georgian government. Some who are affected by this legislation protest it. Protests are often radical and violent. Foreign dignitaries’ joining of these protests, in blatant disregard of Georgia’s sovereignty and diplomatic practice, in the name of ‘democracy and human rights’, is hypocrisy at best, and subversion at worst. Georgia needs friends and support, not hypocrisy and subversion. We have had enough of those from the North already,” Papuashvili concluded.

Letter underlines work done towards EU integration

Poland, Czechia and the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined France and the Netherlands in naming themselves as “Georgia’s partners and friends and the staunchest supporters of Georgia’s European aspirations”.

The letter said: “We have been with Georgia every step of your EU integration progress. We have seen remarkable political transformation and enormous efforts you invested in the reform progress in the previous years.

“Most recently Georgia was given a clear path to start accession negotiations. We celebrate your success with you and truly value the strength of our partnership and mutual respect that we have built over the years. It has allowed us to have a frank dialogue even on issues where we disagree. Because on the most important issues, on the issues of values and principles, we always were united and strongly committed. 

“Recent decisions by Georgia are a matter of concern for us since your actions run contrary to those values and principles you have committed to be guided by and that are at the core of your European aspirations. The spirit and content of the draft law on Transparency of Foreign Influence, adopted by Georgia’s parliament, are incompatible with European norms and values. 

“The law as it stands seeks to silence media and civil society organizations that play a vital role in a democratic society and are instrumental in helping Georgia on its path to the EU. We urge you to withdraw this law and engage in a meaningful and inclusive dialogue with organized civil society and citizens. 

“We also urge you to respect the fundamental values by upholding the rights of people to assembly and discontinue the use of violence and intimidation against the peaceful demonstrators. The decision to pursue EU membership is a sovereign choice of Georgia and its people as it was for those of us who joined the EU 20 years ago. 

“We truly hope Georgia does not waver in its commitment to using the historic window of opportunity to bring Georgia’s people into the common area of peace, and prosperity, but also freedoms, and values. We believe in Georgia’s European future and are committed to supporting you,” the letter concluded.