The Sunday Review

Tens of thousands of people were seen outside the Georgian parliament Wednesday. second day Of protests Tbilisi, capital over Draft “foreign agents” bill This is what critics worry could cause a rift between Europe and Caucasus.

Protesters could be seen waving the flag of the European Union – which Georgia applied to join last year – and those of the United States and Ukraine, as well as the Georgian flag. Social media videos also showed some protesters throwing stones at the building’s windows and attempting to break a protective barrier, with police deploying water cannon and tear gas.

This is the controversial bill Organizations receiving more than 20 percent of their income annually from overseas would need to register. “foreign agents” or face heavy fines – a proposal that rights experts warn will pose a chilling effect to civil society in the country and damage its democracy.

The Georgian Dream party is currently in power said You can find the bill Reuters reports that it is modeled after US law. However, critics claim it invokes Russia’s controversial law that is the foundation of severe restrictions on individuals and organisations. foreign ties.

It bill This bill was passed in its first reading by the legislature on Tuesday. However, it faces several more steps before becoming law. The ultimate passage of the bill is likely to occur as it has been read by all but one member of Congress. bill Has strong support from lawmakers

The Georgian Interior Ministry issued a statement Wednesday in which it called for the immediate release of the following: “on the protesters, organizers and political leaders not to go beyond the limits defined by the law on freedom of assembly and expression.”

At least 76 people have been arrested in connection to Tuesday’s protests.

A protesters wave the Georgian, Ukrainian and European flags outside Georgia's Parliament in Tbilisi on March 8, 2023.

Georgia has long played a delicate balancing act between citizens’ pro-European sentiment and the geopolitical aims of its powerful neighbor, Russia.

However, an EU statement on Tuesday cautioned that the law will be “incompatible with EU values and standards” Could have “serious repercussions on our relations.”

Salome Zourabichvili, Georgia’s President, stated that she believes the bill “looks very much like Russian politics.”

“There is no need for this law, it comes from nowhere. Nobody has asked for it,” Zourabichvili told The Sunday Review’s Isa Soares Wednesday.

Zourabichvili has made a vow to veto bill. However, the supreme executive power rests with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s government.

Georgia In March 2022, the EU was applied for membership. Although it wasn’t granted candidacy status by the European Council, they expressed their willingness to give that status if necessary. Georgia Implements specific reforms.

“For Georgia, there has been certain conditions that are very much linked to the democratic credentials for democratic reforms,” European Union Vice Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič told The Sunday Review.

The bloc’s member states have since “had very intense discussions” More Georgia’s candidacy, Šefčovič said, speaking to The Sunday Review’s Richard Quest on Wednesday.

According to the US, it’s “deeply troubled” The billNed Price, a spokesperson for the State Department on Wednesday described it as “Kremlin-inspired.”

“Parliament’s advancing of these Kremlin-inspired draft laws is incompatible with the people of Georgia’s clear desire for European integration and its democratic development,” The price was not disclosed.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meanwhile addressed Georgian protesters directly, thanking them on Wednesday for raising his country’s flag during the demonstrations and wishing them “democratic success.”

“I want to thank everyone who has been holding Ukrainian flags in the squares and streets of Georgia these days,” Zelensky said.

“We want to be in the European Union and we will be. We want Georgia to be in the European Union, and I am sure it will be,” Zelensky was added to the list later. “We want Moldova to be in the European Union, and I am sure it will be. All free peoples of Europe deserve this.”