Georgia’s governing coalition Thursday agreed to withdraw a controversial ‘foreign agent’ bill after large civilian and international protests, according to an official Facebook page. The ruling Georgian Dream Party said they were in agreement with their partners in “unconditionally” withdrawing support for the bill. The post placed blame for the bill’s withdraw on the “machine of lies” that “portray[ed] the bill as negative and mislead a certain part of the public.”
The ‘On Transparency of Foreign Influence’ bill was introduced in Parliament in February. The bill required non-governmental groups and certain media outlets which receive 20 percent or more of their annual revenue from a “foreign power,” to register as “agents of foreign influence” with the Justice Ministry. The “Russia inspired” bill drew swift condemnation from Georgian President Salome Zourabichvilli. The President is an independent entity who threatened to veto the legislation if passed. In an official statement, Zourabichvilli said the bill would steal Georgia’s future. Additionally, the consequences of the bill would hinder its progress towards European integration.
The President’s sentiments were echoed in a statement by the EU. Officials said the bill would have a “chilling effect” on Georgia’s EU member candidacy ambitions. Furthermore, the EU urged Georgia to uphold its commitments to “democracy, the rule of law and human rights.”
It is unclear if another similarly styled bill will emerge in Georgia’s parliament. The People’s Power Party emphasized the need to carefully move towards full EU integration. However, Russia exerts strong influence over the country. Two sovereign regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, comprising almost 20 percent of the country’s total land area, have been occupied by Russian military forces since 2008.