Transparency International: GD-Backed “Foreign Agents Law” Mirrors Russian Legislation, Could Stall European Integration Process

On April 18, Transparency International issued a statement on the “Foreign Agents Law”, expressing “deep concern” over its reintroduction, highlighting that it mirrors similar legislation that has been in place in Russia since 2012, and calling on authorities to withdraw it. The statement notes that the passage of the bill in the first reading came “in the wake of a brutal crackdown on protesters in the streets of Tbilisi the night before.”

The international watchdog notes that “this move significantly undermines democratic principles and the progress made towards enhancing transparency and accountability in the country.” It adds that the adoption of the law will be a “serious setback for civil liberties, media freedom, and the functioning of civil society in Georgia.” TI also stresses that the adoption of the law “could significantly stall the nation’s European integration process.”

TI calls on the Georgian authorities to “immediately” withdraw the “Foreign Agents Law” and end attacks on CSOs and media, including its own local branch. The organization urges the Government “to initiate in a constructive dialogue with civil society and international partners to ensure that any new legislation strengthens rather than undermines Georgia’s commitment to transparency and democratic governance.”

Regarding the expected consequences of the adoption of the “Foreign Agents Law,” TI stresses that the designation of the CSOs and media receiving foreign funding as organizations pursuing the interests of a foreign power carries “a heavy stigma and the potential to discredit and diminish their vital work.” Such measures, TI says, “are not only restrictive, but detrimental to democratic discourse and engagement,” which have been the “hallmark” of Georgian CSOs’ contributions to governance and social progress.

TI’s statement recalls the critical reactions to the law from Georgia’s international partners, including government representatives of EU member states, the European Commission, the MEPs, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. State Department, and, in particular, the U.S. Helsinki Commission. It also referred to the fact that Georgian society heavily opposes the adoption of the law.

“This law mirrors the oppressive legislation adopted in Russia in 2012 and expanded in 2022, which led to designating Transparency International Russia as an “undesirable organization,” ultimately leading to its closure,” the statement stresses.

Transparency International also expresses concern with “the rapidly deteriorating environment and seriously shrinking civic space in Georgia with regard to the election-monitoring and watchdog NGOs and critical media outlets.”

“It is crucial that Georgia remains on a path that supports the development of an open society, with robust participation from all stakeholders, ensuring that the country continues to progress towards European integration and the enhancement of its democratic institutions,” the statement concludes.

The statement is accompanied by a commentary by Transparency International’s Chair, François Valérian, saying that the reintroduction of the law with exactly the same content as that of the last year’s and a slight change in wording “does not change the underlying intention of undermining civil society’s ability to speak up against abuse of power.” He urges the GD authorities “to reconsider this regressive path and reaffirm its commitment to the principles of open governance and democratic integrity.”

“The future of Georgia’s democracy and its place within the European community depend on protecting, not persecuting, critical voices,” the TI Chair says.

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