Ukrainian Foreign Ministry outraged by Georgian PM’s statement about law on “foreign agents” and Ukraine

Дата: 19 April 2024
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Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented on the consideration in the Georgian parliament of the draft law On the Transparency of Foreign Influence. Ukrainian diplomats expressed indignation at the statement of the country’s Prime Minister, Irakli Kobakhidze, about Ukraine in the context of the adoption of the document.

Irakli Kobakhidze, the ruling Georgian Dream party leader, speaks before parliament in Tbilisi on February 8, 2024

Georgian PM Kobakhidze said that the bill on “foreign agents” is designed to protect Georgia from “Ukrainisation.”

The Foreign Ministry stated that Kobakhidze’s recent comments have sparked outrage.

Russification, but not mythical “Ukrainisation”, is the real threat to Georgia. Ukraine is interested in a peaceful and friendly atmosphere in Georgia and has unwaveringly supported it. Ukraine continues to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ statement, Ukrainian diplomats expressed concern about the project’s potential impact on Georgia’s political situation.

The Ukrainian side urges all relevant parties to respect Georgian citizens’ right to peaceful protest and seek a resolution to the crisis through constructive dialogue.

According to media reports and Georgia’s parliamentary website, the draft law, On Transparency of Foreign Influence, would require nonprofits and media outlets receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to join a registry and provide detailed annual financial accounts. Organizations that fail to register or provide such data would be fined GEL 25,000 (USD 9,500).

A statement published on the party’s Facebook page said the bill is mostly identical to a bill with the same name withdrawn by Parliament in March 2023 following widespread protests. The only change is that the term “agent of foreign influence” has been replaced by “organization pursuing the interests of a foreign power.”

Georgian Dream, which controls a parliamentary majority, vowed in its statement to pass the law by the end of the current parliamentary session in June. The party’s majority is large enough to override Georgia’s president, who previously said she would veto it.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) criticized Georgian Dream’s reintroduction of a proposed “foreign agents” law previously shelved after mass protests in the Georgian parliament.

“Georgian authorities’ revival of a bill that would smear media outlets as foreign-controlled is deeply concerning and utterly incompatible with their claim of aligning with European democratic standards and threatens press freedom ahead of the October parliamentary elections,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “The ruling Georgian Dream party should withdraw the law and renounce any form of ‘foreign agent’ legislation if Georgia wants to succeed in its bid to join the European Union.”

In recent days, massive protests against the “foreign agents” bill have been taking place in Tbilisi. More than a dozen people were detained following protests on April 15 and 16.

Leading members of the European Parliament have stated that the “foreign agent” law passed in the first reading in Georgia is an attack on independent media and civil society and threatens the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration. MEPs called on the Georgian government and parliament not to disappoint the aspirations of the majority of the Georgian people.

In April 2024, Kyrgyzstan ratified a Russia-style foreign agents law requiring some nonprofit media organizations to register as “foreign representatives” and label their publications as produced or distributed by a foreign representative.

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