Laws and Justice

US Sanctions Threat Amid Protests, Concerns, and Russian Influence

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Georgia's "Foreign Agents" Law Sparks US Sanctions Threat

The Georgian government could face sanctions from the United States for passing a controversial "foreign agents" law, according to a senior US diplomat. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O'Brien expressed concerns about the law, which he believes undermines democracy in Georgia.

O'Brien's visit to Tbilisi coincided with the Georgian parliament's approval of the Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence. He met with both Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze and members of the opposition, emphasizing the potential consequences of implementing the law.

"I was very clear that there would be consequences if the law were implemented as it now stands," O'Brien stated. He stressed that Georgia's aspirations to join the EU and NATO require adherence to certain standards, which the current law seems to deviate from.

O'Brien warned of potential financial or travel sanctions against individuals responsible for undermining democracy and violence against peaceful protesters. He emphasized the US's desire for Georgia to continue on a peaceful path towards the EU and NATO with a robust democracy.

The "foreign agent" law mandates non-profit organizations, media outlets, and individuals with significant foreign funding to register as entities "promoting the interests of a foreign power." They must also disclose their income and donors or face hefty fines. Unlike the US's Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the Georgian law does not include criminal prosecutions.

This is the second attempt by the Georgian government to pass such a law. Last year, they backed down after violent protests and threats from the US and the EU. Opposition activists have continued their protests against the law, which they deem a "Russian law," leading to clashes with police.

The US-Georgia disagreement has attracted the attention of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Spokesperson Maria Zakharova questioned the US's criticism, highlighting the milder nature of the Georgian law compared to the American FARA. She also questioned why Georgia should conform to US values and whether non-interference in other countries' internal affairs is not a US value.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09