Around 200 Georgian NGOs have declared they will defy the "foreign agent bill" as the European Union warned that the law could "harm Georgia's EU aspirations.(Photo by Nicolo Vincenzo Malvestuto/Getty Images)


NGOs vow to defy Georgia’s Foreign Agent law amid Brussels threats


Around 200 NGOs in Georgia said they would defy the country’s new Foreign Agent legislation amid threats from Brussels that the law could “harm Georgia’s EU aspirations”.

On May 29, the NGOs — including the local branch of European Commission-backed Transparency International — issued a joint statement pledging to continue protests and offering mutual support.

The group argued that the legislation resembled a Russian regulation designed to silence government critics — and labelled it as a “Russian law” — though these facts have been fiercely contested by those in power.

“We will go on with our deed. We will help people and each other and won’t obey the Russian law!” they said.

“We’ll accumulate funds to pay fines of each other that were imposed on us because of our devotion to our country and the fight for freedom.”

They vowed to continue their fight until the law was “repealed”.

“The Georgian people are strong and will be in defending our own European future and will never ever get along with living under the boot of Russia,” the NGOs stated.

The Foreign Agent bill was officially adopted on May 28 by the Georgian Parliament after it overruled a presidential veto.

NGOs say the law “jeopardises the monitoring of the legislative elections” scheduled for Georgia in October, with the proposal sparking weeks of mass demonstrations and international condemnation.

Brussels has meanwhile cautioned that the Foreign Agent law contradicts EU values and could obstruct Georgia’s accession progress, urging the country’s authorities to reconsider implementing the legislation.

Following the bill’s passing, the bloc warned of possible consequences, saying the EU and its Member States were considering “all options” in reaction to the development.

“Its enactment leads to backsliding on at least three out of the nine steps set out in the Commission’s recommendation for candidate status endorsed by EU leaders and will negatively impact Georgia’s EU path [towards membership],” the European Commission said.

“We urge the Georgian authorities to reverse this trend and return firmly to the EU path.”

US officials also urged Georgia to halt the legislation’s passage as protesters took to the streets, later condemning the move by the parliament to override the president’s attempt to veto the then-bill.

“It is unfortunate that Georgia’s leaders are choosing to forego the steps needed to advance Georgia and the Western direction that its people want,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

On May 24, Washington introduced new visa restrictions on Georgia in response to the new rules, with the US also launching a review of bilateral co-operation between the two countries in retaliation to the law’s passing.