Scuffles erupt as Georgian parliament passes bill targeting ‘foreign agents’ | Politics News

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The bill mandates that organizations that receive at least 20 percent of their funding from abroad must register as foreign agents. Georgian politicians engaged in a brawl in parliament prior to the bill’s passing. Punches were thrown during the debate on Tuesday as the ruling party pushed for the controversial legislation, leading to a political crisis and mass protests in the country.

The bill requires media and NGOs to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad, drawing comparisons to similar legislation in Russia. Critics claim the bill threatens democratic freedoms and Georgia’s aspiration to join the European Union.

Despite facing mass protests last year that led to the withdrawal of the bill, the ruling party has reintroduced it, sparking even larger demonstrations. President Salome Zourabichvili has vowed to veto the bill, but the parliament can override her decision.

The government argues that the bill aims to promote transparency, combat “pseudo-liberal values” promoted by foreigners, and uphold Georgia’s sovereignty. Critics believe the ruling party is moving the country away from its European aspirations and closer to Moscow.

Numerous protesters gathered outside the parliament building on Tuesday, with a heavy police presence nearby. Demonstrations have been ongoing for weeks, with tens of thousands taking part in some of the largest protests since Georgia regained independence in 1991.

The European Union has expressed concerns that the bill could hinder Georgia’s integration with the bloc. European Council President Charles Michel emphasized the importance of respecting the rule of law and democratic principles for EU membership.

Despite its anti-Western rhetoric, Georgian Dream maintains ambitions of joining the EU and NATO. Public opinion in Georgia strongly supports EU integration, while there is widespread hostility towards Russia due to its support for breakaway regions.

Several Western countries have urged Georgia to withdraw the bill, while the Kremlin denies any involvement in inspiring it. The Russian government described the crisis as Georgia’s internal affair and accused outside powers of interfering in the matter.

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