EU urges Georgia to withdraw ‘foreign agent’ bill

By Thomson Reuters May 15, 2024 | 4:25 AM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union urged Georgia on Wednesday to withdraw its controversial “foreign agents” law and warned that the measure would set back the country’s ambitions to join the bloc.

“The adoption of this law negatively impacts Georgia’s progress on the EU path,” said a statement from EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi.

“The choice on the way forward is in Georgia’s hands. We urge the Georgian authorities to withdraw the law.”

Georgia’s parliament on Tuesday passed the third and final reading of the bill, which would require organisations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as agents of foreign influence, imposing onerous disclosure requirements and punitive fines for violations.

“The EU has clearly and repeatedly stated that the spirit and content of the law are not in line with EU core norms and values,” Borrell and Varhelyi said.

“It will undermine the work of civil society and independent media while freedom of association and freedom of expression are fundamental rights at the core of Georgia’s commitments as part of the Association Agreement and of any EU accession path.”

The statement from the two members of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, followed days of wrangling between EU member governments and officials.

Officials initially tried to agree a statement among the bloc’s 27 member governments but that foundered on resistance from Hungary and Slovakia, diplomats said.

It then took more time to agree a Commission statement between Borrell, a Spanish social democrat, and Varhelyi, a Hungarian nominated by his country’s nationalist government.

(Reporting by Andrew Gray and Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)