Georgian parliament committee rejects presidential veto on divisive “foreign agents” legislation

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — A Georgian parliamentary committee on Monday rejected the president’s veto of “foreign agents” legislation that has sparked mass protests for weeks.

The move by parliament’s judiciary committee opens up the possibility for the full legislature to vote on Tuesday to override President Salome Zurabishvili’s veto of the measure, which she and other critics say will restrict media freedom and hamper Georgia’s chances of joining the European Union.

The law requires news media and non-governmental organizations that receive more than 20% of their budget from abroad to register as “carrying out the interests of a foreign power.” Opponents reject it and describe it as “Russian law” because it is similar to the measures approved by the Kremlin.

The ruling Georgian Dream party insisted that the bill was necessary to stop what it saw as harmful foreign actors trying to destabilize the South Caucasus country of 3.7 million people.

“It is very important for Georgia,” Maka Boshurishvili, a member of the ruling party who chairs the EU parliamentary integration committee, told The Associated Press.

She said the bill should help make the country “stable and peaceful,” and rejected opposition’s characterization of it as a “Russian law” as unfair.

“I think that if there was a proper understanding of the purpose of this law, no one would be able to prove why transparency is incompatible with European integration,” Bokorishvili said, adding that she expected the country’s Western partners “to have a better understanding of the necessity of this law.” Legislation for Georgia.”

Zurabishvili vetoed the law on May 18 after it was approved by representatives from the Georgian Dream party and its allies in parliament. This bloc has enough votes in Parliament to override the veto.

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The capital, Tbilisi, has been repeatedly engulfed in large protests, as the measure made its way through parliament.

On Sunday, Zurabishvili and Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze attacked each other in speeches at a ceremony marking Georgia’s Independence Day.

“While the specter of Russia looms over our heads, partnership and rapprochement with Europe is the true path to preserving and strengthening our independence and peace. Those who sabotage and undermine this path trample and harm the peaceful and secure future of our country, blocking the path towards becoming a full member of the free and democratic world,” Zurabishvili said. .

Kobakhidze responded, accusing Zurabishvili of betraying the country.

“It is the unity and reasonable steps taken by the people and their elected government that gave us the opportunity to maintain peace in the country over the past two years despite existential threats and multiple betrayals, including that of the President of Georgia.” He said.

The EU’s foreign policy arm said the adoption of the law “negatively affects Georgia’s progress on the EU path.” Critics say Russia may have been behind this to thwart Georgia’s chances of further integration with the West.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken He announced on Thursday that travel sanctions would be imposed on Georgian officials “responsible for or complicit in undermining democracy in Georgia.”

He added, “It remains our hope that Georgia’s leaders will reconsider the draft law and take the necessary steps to advance the realization of their country’s democratic and Euro-Atlantic aspirations.”

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