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EU to Freeze Georgia's Membership Bid if Pro-Russian 'Foreign Agents' Law is Not Repealed

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Photo: EU to Freeze Georgia's Membership Bid if Pro-Russian 'Foreign Agents' Law is Not Repealed. Source: Unsplash
Photo: EU to Freeze Georgia's Membership Bid if Pro-Russian 'Foreign Agents' Law is Not Repealed. Source: Unsplash

The European Union will likely freeze Georgia's application for membership if the country passes the "Transparency of Foreign Influence" law, similar to Russia's "foreign agents" law. This information was reported by the Financial Times, citing three anonymous European officials.

According to these unnamed EU officials, the decision to start accession negotiations will likely be indefinitely postponed if the law comes into effect.

“We are clear on this matter. The adoption of this law is a significant impediment,” one of the sources told the publication.

The final vote on the controversial bill by the Georgian parliament, controlled by the pro-Russian "Georgian Dream" party, is expected in the coming weeks. It will occur after the document is returned to parliament, as Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has promised to veto the law. According to Georgian law, a simple majority in parliament is sufficient to override a presidential veto, making it likely that the veto will be overridden.

To recap, the pro-Russian "Transparency of Foreign Influence" bill was passed in its third reading on 14 May, with 84 out of 150 deputies voting in favour and 30 voting against it.

According to the bill, non-governmental organizations and media outlets receiving more than 20% of their annual income from abroad must register as "organizations representing the interests of a foreign power." They will need to file annual financial declarations, and those who attempt to avoid registration or fail to submit a declaration will face a fine of 25,000 lari (over 9,000 euros).

Throughout the bill's legislative process, the pro-European opposition in Georgia has held mass demonstrations in Tbilisi and other cities, which have been met with harsh police crackdowns.

Georgia applied for EU membership in March 2022, just weeks after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and was granted candidate status in December of the same year.

The next step for the European Commission is to issue an official recommendation to EU governments on starting membership negotiations. Brussels has made it clear that if the "foreign agents" law is passed, the commission will not issue this recommendation, the European officials stated.

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