Academics Call on EU Leaders to Take Action on Foreign Agents Law

In an open letter published on the website of the Trans-European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA), more than 120 European academics call on European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell to take concrete measures amid the developments around the foreign agents law “before it is too late.” In particular, they recommend that EU leaders visit Tbilisi and reaffirm their support for the people who continue to protest against the law; send a clear message to the Georgian government that a large-scale pre-election observation mission will be organized in the country; suspend all direct budgetary support to Georgia and funding of government-led projects and instead explore other ways to support Georgia’s civil society; and propose targeted sanctions and travel bans against the leadership of Georgia’s ruling party.

The academics stress that by continuing to protest against the foreign agents law, the Georgian people are doing their utmost “to prevent the ruling party from establishing a Belarus-style regime that would enable Russia to regain control over the South Caucasus.”

Referring to GD patron Bidzina Ivanishvili’s “paranoid” anti-Western speech on April 29, in which he promised widespread repression, the academics note the police violence against the peaceful protesters and add: “The ruling party’s thugs are compiling lists of civil society activists,  issuing personalised threats and beating people in front of their homes – all these are well-known steps from a beginner’s guide to building a dictatorship.”

The academics say that the EU’s pleas to the Georgian government to seize the historic opportunity of EU candidate status are in vain, since for the leaders of the GD “a democratic European future is not a priority”. They emphasize that the ruling party openly intends to stay in power “forever” and will try to rig the parliamentary elections and use as much violence as necessary. They believe that the foreign agents law is only part of the larger problem.

The academics take a positive view of the HRVP’s and the Commission’s calls for the withdrawal of the law, stressing that any modification of the law would be “futile, naive and excessively technocratic”. They stress the need for the EU institutions to fully understand the problem, i.e. the GD’s intentions, and “to draw the lessons of Belarus’ rigged elections of 2020, and to take relevant political action so that Georgia’s foretold disaster could still be averted.”

The academics warn that if the GD wins, Russia will achieve a significant blow to the credibility of the EU enlargement policy. They say: “The Commission needs to realize that in the enlargement context, it has a responsibility to help uphold democracy and the rule of law in the candidate countries so that the enlargement process does not fall hostage to uncooperative governments and vested interests.”

The recommendations:

“We appeal to you to take concrete political actions now, to stand with Georgia before it is too late,” the statement concludes.

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