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Thousands protest after Georgian parliament passes ‘foreign agents’ bill | Political news

The bill requires organizations receiving at least 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as foreign agents.

Thousands of protesters gathered in Georgia after parliament passed a ‘foreign agents’ bill on third and final reading, despite warnings from Brussels that its passage could harm the country’s bid for membership. European Union.

Clashes took place on Tuesday between riot police and protesters outside the Parliament building after lawmakers voted 84-30 to pass the bill, removing a major obstacle to the adoption of the bill.

“This law is taking away my future,” Anano Plievi, a 19-year-old protester, told Agence France-Presse outside Parliament.

“I’m angry and proud of all these people at the same time. We will continue our journey towards Europe.”

Al Jazeera’s Dmitri Medvedenko, reporting from Tbilisi, said “the frustration of these people was very real.”

“The entire square, … the entire area in front of Parliament is again filled with people as a sign of determination,” Medvedenko said.

Police said they would “throw tear gas at anyone who did not move away,” he said.

According to Medvedenko, protesters said they would continue to come out “tonight, tomorrow, probably the next day” to make their voices heard.

Earlier, scuffles even broke out inside the Parliament hall, when opposition MPs clashed with members of the ruling Georgian Dream party.

The project now goes to President Salome Zourabichvili, who has said she will veto it, but her decision can be overturned by another vote in Parliament, controlled by Georgian Dream and its allies.


The party’s push for the legislation has plunged the South Caucasus country into a prolonged political crisis.

The bill requires media and NGOs to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad. Many see the move as influenced by similar legislation in Russia, which has been used to suppress the Kremlin’s political opponents.

Critics insist this poses a threat to democratic freedoms and the country’s aspirations to join the EU.

Georgian Dream was forced by massive protests to withdraw the bill last year. Revised efforts to pass the legislation again sparked huge protests.

The government says the bill is necessary to promote transparency, combat “pseudo-liberal values” promoted by foreigners and preserve Georgia’s sovereignty. Critics accuse the ruling party of seeking to move the country away from its European aspirations and towards Moscow.

The protests have been taking place for weeks, peaking in the evening, when tens of thousands of people staged some of the largest demonstrations seen in Georgia since it regained independence from Moscow in 1991.

Demonstration in Tbilisi
Demonstrators take part in a rally to protest against a proposed law on “foreign agents” in Tbilisi (Irakli Gedenidze/Reuters)

The EU, which granted Georgia candidate status in December, has repeatedly said the bill would pose an obstacle to Tbilisi’s further integration into the bloc.

European Council President Charles Michel said on Tuesday that “if they want to join the EU, they must respect the fundamental principles of the rule of law and democratic principles.”

Georgian Dream insists it still has ambitions to join the EU and NATO, even though it has adopted harsh anti-Western rhetoric in recent months.

Polls show that Georgian public opinion is strongly supportive of European integration, while many Georgians are hostile to Russia due to Moscow’s support for the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The US, UK, Germany, Italy and France have all urged Georgia to withdraw the bill.

The Kremlin, which denies any role in inspiring the Georgian bill, said Tuesday that the crisis was Tbilisi’s internal affair and accused outside powers of interference.

“We are witnessing clear external interference in Georgia’s internal affairs,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“This is an internal Georgian issue. We do not want to intervene in this area in any way.

News Source : www.aljazeera.com
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