TBILISI: The European Union urged Georgia on Wednesday (May 15) to withdraw its controversial “foreign agents” law and warned that the measure would set back the country’s ambitions to join the bloc.

Georgia’s parliament on Tuesday passed the third and final reading of the Bill, which would require organisations receiving more than 20 er cent of their funding from abroad to register as agents of foreign influence, imposing onerous disclosure requirements and punitive fines for violations.

Georgia’s opposition parties called for fresh protests on Wednesday, the latest in a series of near-nightly rallies that have sparked a spiraling political crisis in the South Caucasus country.

“The adoption of this law negatively impacts Georgia’s progress on the EU path,” said a statement from EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body.

“The choice on the way forward is in Georgia’s hands. We urge the Georgian authorities to withdraw the law.”

The Georgian government has said the law is necessary to ensure the transparency of foreign funding for NGOs. It did not immediately say if it would back off from passing the Bill following the EU’s comments.

Bidzina Ivanishvili, an ex-prime minister and one of Georgia’s most influential men, said last month that the law was necessary to assert Georgian sovereignty against Western powers which he said wanted to drag the country into a confrontation with Russia.

A NATO spokesperson warned on Wednesday that the draft law was a step in the wrong direction for Georgia and would draw it further away from European and Euro-Atlantic integration.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has vowed to veto the Bill, telling a joint press conference on Wednesday of foreign ministers from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Iceland that voting for the legislation would “betray the spirit” of Georgia, according to comments cited by Georgian media.


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