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Nato calls Georgia’s ‘foreign agents’ bill ‘step in wrong direction’ after mass protests in Tbilisi – Europe live

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Nato says Georgian law ‘step in the wrong direction’

Nato’s spokesperson said today that “the Georgian government’s decision to pass legislation on so-called “foreign agents” is a step in the wrong direction and takes Georgia further away from European and Euro-Atlantic integration.”

“We urge Georgia to change course and to respect the right to peaceful protest,” she added.

The Georgian government’s decision to pass legislation on so-called “foreign agents” is a step in the wrong direction and takes Georgia 🇬🇪 further away from European and Euro-Atlantic integration. We urge #Georgia to change course and to respect the right to peaceful protest.

— NATO Spokesperson Farah Dakhlallah (@NATOpress) May 15, 2024

Key events

A decision by the EU to start accession talks is likely to be indefinitely postponed if the foreign agents law comes into force, three EU officials told the Financial Times.

“We have been very clear . . . this is a showstopper,” said a person briefed on the discussions between Georgian and EU officials.

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Lithuania’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, stressed that the group of visiting ministers “expressed extremely strong views” rather than just some concerns.

In response to confusion about the meeting with the Chair of the Parliament of Georgia @shpapuashvili, I feel the need to clarify that we did not agree that Georgia was right to ignore European advice and values, and we expressed extremely strong views, not “some concerns”. pic.twitter.com/keuj60Xsxx

— Gabrielius Landsbergis🇱🇹 (@GLandsbergis) May 15, 2024

Belgium “strongly regrets” the adoption of Georgia’s foreign influence law, the country’s foreign minister has said.

Belgium strongly regrets the adoption by the Georgian Parliament of the law on ‘foreign influence’, which distances the country from European values.

Statement 🇧🇪⬇️ pic.twitter.com/f5qFAmih4I

— Hadja Lahbib (@hadjalahbib) May 15, 2024

It appears that Olivér Várhelyi’s name has been removed from the European Commission statement on Georgia.

Várhelyi, a former Hungarian ambassador, serves as European commissioner for neighbourhood and enlargement. He was nominated for the post by the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán.

Orbán recently met in Budapest with Georgia’s prime minister, Irakli Kobakhidze.

Hungary, backed by Slovakia, has blocked a statement from the EU’s 27 member states condemning Georgia’s foreign agents law.

The updated statement’s title reads: “Statement by High Representative Josep Borrell with the European Commission on the adoption of the ‘transparency of foreign influence’ law in Georgia.”

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Here’s footage of recent protests in Georgia.

Protesters shut down major intersection in Georgia in rally against ‘foreign agents’ law – video

Salome Zourabichvili, Georgia’s president, said she spoke with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Spoke with President @ZelenskyyUa

I thanked the President for his solidarity and unwavering support for the Georgian people.

Our joint future lies in Europe!

🇬🇪🇺🇦🇪🇺

— Salome Zourabichvili (@Zourabichvili_S) May 15, 2024

‘We urge the Georgian authorities to withdraw the law,’ Borrell and Várhelyi say

After a delay, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, and the neighborhood commissioner, Olivér Várhelyi, issued a statement on Georgia.

“The EU stands with the Georgian people and their choice in favour of democracy and of Georgia’s European future. The intimidation, threats and physical assaults on civil society representatives, political leaders and journalists, as well as their families is unacceptable,” they said.

“The European Council granted Georgia the status of a candidate country on the understanding that the relevant 9 steps set out in the Commission recommendation of 8 November 2023 are taken. These steps require human rights to be protected and civil society as well as media to be able to operate freely. They also refer to the need for depolarisation and the fight against disinformation,” they added.

Borrell and Várhelyi also noted that “the EU has clearly and repeatedly stated that the spirit and content of the law are not in line with EU core norms and values.”

They added:

The adoption of this law negatively impacts Georgia’s progress on the EU path. The choice on the way forward is in Georgia’s hands. We urge the Georgian authorities to withdraw the law, uphold their commitment to the EU path and advance the necessary reforms detailed in the 9 steps.

‘Very disappointed’: Council of Europe says concerns ignored

The Council of Europe’s secretary general, Marija Pejčinović Burić, said today that “the adoption at third reading of the draft law ‘on transparency of foreign influence’ by the Parliament of Georgia, without waiting for the opinion of the Venice Commission, is very disappointing and does not reflect the spirit of constructive dialogue.”

“Regrettably, international partners’ concerns regarding the draft law’s incompatibility with European democratic and human rights standards were ignored, while the lack of genuine parliamentary deliberations is not in accordance with an inclusive democratic process,” she said.

Daniel Boffey

Daniel Boffey

Georgia has been warned by the US not to become an adversary of the west by falling back in line with Moscow, as its parliament defied mass street protests to pass a “Kremlin-inspired” law.

Washington’s assistant secretary of state, Jim O’Brien, spoke of his fears that the passing by Georgia’s parliament of a “foreign agents” bill on Tuesday could be yet another “turning point” in the former Soviet state’s troubled history.

In comments that appeared to signal a conviction in the US that the Georgian government was once again aligning with Russia, O’Brien suggested funding could soon be pulled.

Billions of dollars had been spent by the US on rebuilding Georgia after the fall of the Soviet Union and hundreds of millions more were planned for the country’s economy and military, he said.

“All that has to be under review if we are now regarded as an adversary and not a partner,” O’Brien told reporters at a press conference in Tbilisi.

Read the full story here.

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Nato says Georgian law ‘step in the wrong direction’

Nato’s spokesperson said today that “the Georgian government’s decision to pass legislation on so-called “foreign agents” is a step in the wrong direction and takes Georgia further away from European and Euro-Atlantic integration.”

“We urge Georgia to change course and to respect the right to peaceful protest,” she added.

The Georgian government’s decision to pass legislation on so-called “foreign agents” is a step in the wrong direction and takes Georgia 🇬🇪 further away from European and Euro-Atlantic integration. We urge #Georgia to change course and to respect the right to peaceful protest.

— NATO Spokesperson Farah Dakhlallah (@NATOpress) May 15, 2024

Georgia’s ombudsman said that representatives of the public defender visited 16 people detained overnight.

Lithuanian minister warns Georgia’s government of ‘risks’ of continuing on ‘dangerous course’

“We came to Georgia as your closest friends, friends who care about Georgia and its people, who care about Georgia’s European future,” Lithuania’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, said in Tbilisi.

Speaking alongside ministers from Estonia, Latvia and Iceland, as well as Georgia’s president, Landsbergis spoke of “completely unacceptable use of force against the protesters” as well as “orchestrated intimidation campaign against non-governmental organisations and activists” and “remarkable resilience” shown by Georgians.

He added:

The first objective of us coming here thus is to express our support and solidarity with everyone who fights for Georgia’s democratic and European choice, for Georgia’s European future. This future belongs to Georgian people, and it should not be captured by anyone.

Our second objective is to pass a very clear message to the representatives of the ruling party, both in the parliament and in the government, of the risks and severe consequences Georgia will be facing if they continue on this very dangerous course.

‘How to save Georgia’: president holds talks with European ministers

Georgia’s president, Salome Zourabichvili, a critic of the government, spoke today alongside visiting foreign ministers from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Iceland, who travelled to Tbilisi to show support for Georgians calling for a pro-European, democratic future for their country.

“This society indeed stands on the values which are European values: democracy, freedom,” Zourabichvili said, stressing that Georgia has always fought for independence and “will never go back to the Russian hands.”

“On the agenda today is the following issue: how to save Georgia,” she added.

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European politicians show solidarity in Tbilisi

Amid ongoing protests and a government crackdown, a group of senior European politicians are visiting Georgia to express their support for demonstrators.

Michael Roth, chair of the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, was among those attending a protest in Tbilisi last night. He described it as “one of the most moving moments of my political life.”

One of the most moving moments of my political life.

Tonight we are all Georgians!

🇬🇪🇪🇺🫶🙏🏾 https://t.co/O1Rv8JPlv9

— Michael Roth – official 🇪🇺🇺🇦🇮🇱🇬🇪 (@MiRo_SPD) May 14, 2024

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