Georgia PM slams US criticism of draft ‘foreign agents’ law

  • The Georgian prime minister has rejected U.S. criticism of “foreign agents” law, calling it false and reminiscent of past meddling.
  • The proposed law requires organizations with over 20 percent foreign funding to register as agents.
  • Protests against the legislation have been ongoing in Tbilisi, with the EU and U.S. advising against its enactment.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze rejected on Friday U.S. criticism of a draft “foreign agents” law, saying Washington’s statements on the issue were false and reminiscent of earlier meddling which had fuelled violence.

The draft legislation, which is winding its way through the Georgian parliament, would require organisations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as agents of foreign influence, a requirement opponents attack as authoritarian and Kremlin-inspired.

Protesters have taken to the streets of Tbilisi for weeks to show their opposition. The European Union and the United States have urged Tbilisi to drop the legislation or risk harming its chances of European Union membership and a broader Euro-Atlantic future.

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The standoff is seen as part of a wider struggle that could determine whether Georgia, a country of 3.7 million people that has experienced war and revolution since the fall of the Soviet Union, moves closer to Europe or back under Moscow’s influence.

Demonstrators hold a rally to protest against a bill on “foreign agents” in Tbilisi, Georgia, May 2, 2024. Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze rejected on Friday U.S. criticism of a draft “foreign agents” law, saying Washington’s statements on the issue were false and reminiscent of earlier meddling which had fuelled violence. (REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze/File Photo)

“I explained to (senior U.S. diplomat Derek) Chollet that false statements made by the officials of the U.S. State Department about the transparency bill and street rallies remind us of similar false statements made by the former U.S. Ambassador in 2020-2023,” Kobakhidze said in a statement on X.

He said the previous U.S. statements had encouraged violence from what he called foreign-funded actors and had supported “revolutionary processes” which he said had been unsuccessful.

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“I clarified to Mr. Chollet that it requires a special effort to restart the relations (between Georgia and the United States) against this background, which is impossible without a fair and honest approach.”

Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party and a former prime minister, has said he will fight for what he called “the full restoration of the sovereignty of Georgia”, and has suggested that the West is trying to meddle and drag his country into conflict.

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