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Georgian Parliament Overrides President’s Veto on Foreign Agents Law

The parliament of Georgia has overridden the earlier veto of a law that would require NGOs in Georgia to disclose themselves as “agents of foreign influence” if they receive 20 percent or more of their funding from abroad.

Currently, there are over 25,000 NGOs active in Georgia, 90 percent of which are believed to be foreign-funded, creating a ratio of one NGO to every 148 citizens. Prior to this new law, NGOs did not even have to disclose whether they were funded from abroad. 

Georgia’s French-born President Salome Zourabichvili, who was the French ambassador to Georgia before moving into Georgian politics after 2004 Rose Revolution in Georgia, had initially vetoed the law. The Presidential veto was subsequently overridden by a Parliamentary vote of 66–0, followed by an 84–4 vote on the law itself. 

According to Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze of Georgia, ahead of the vote to override, various foreign politicians had tried to blackmail him into opposing the law. Kobakhidze has even claimed that during a phone call, an EU Commissioner listed the recent assassination attempt against Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico while discussing Western responses to the law, though this claim has been denied by the EU. 

The authors of the bill list America’s 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as inspiration, an act that requires those working on behalf of foreign governments to disclose their lobbying activities. Nevertheless, the opponents of the Georgian law have argued that the proposed legislation goes further than America’s FARA, since it includes foreign humanitarian and cultural organizations as foreign agents.

President of the European Council Charles Michel stated that he believes that the law is “a step backward and takes Georgia further away from its EU path.”

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