Tiflis: row over "foreign agents" bill

A government bill in Georgia has sparked mass demonstrations. Under the law, which bears strong similarities to Russian legislation, media and NGOs that receive money from abroad would be classified as foreign agents. On Thursday morning, the government withdrew the bill. The comments in Europe’s press — written before the withdrawal — highlight what is at stake here.

Echo (RU) /

Witch hunt and a break with Brussels

With the draft law the government risked a deliberate break with the EU, writes Dozhd editor Ekaterina Kodrikadze in a Telegram post republished by Echo:

“Numerous NGOs and independent media receive funds from Western foundations and live off grants — this guarantees freedom of expression. The Georgian authorities will see this as espionage and as foreign agent activity. Yet this state could also see itself as a foreign agent since Georgia receives huge financial support from the EU and the US. Undoubtedly, the bill will make it possible to launch a witch hunt in Georgia to restrict rights and freedoms. Moreover, in my opinion this is a deliberate break with the EU.”

Jekaterina Kodrikadse
Onet.pl (PL) /

Georgians fear their path to Europe will be blocked

Commenting on website Onet.pl, author Ziemowit Szczerek sees parallels with the Ukrainian Maidan:

“This Russian-style law has triggered a similar reaction to Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of European integration in Ukraine, which led to the Maidan protests and rebellion against Russian dominance. Like the Ukrainians back then, the Georgians today fear that all of a sudden their path to the West has been blocked.”

Ziemowit Szczerek
Postimees (EE) /

Putin’s influence very conspicuous here

Postimees is alarmed:

“The foreign agents law that is causing an outcry in Georgia looks like a duck, walks like a duck and is optically the same duck as the Russian law of the same name that came into force in 2012. This marked the beginning of the total suppression of free thought and the final downfall of Russia. It’s astounding that Putin’s influence on the current Georgian leadership is so great that they have already started to copy Russia’s repressive laws. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the very hesitant attitude of the Georgian government, which was clearly at odds with the mood among the population, was conspicuous.”

El Mundo (ES) /

The starred flag is its only hope

Brussels must do something, says El Mundo:

“The Kremlin’s shadow is again looming over Georgia, which Putin invaded in 2008, occupying a fifth of its territory and lighting the first fuse of the powder keg that has now exploded in Ukraine. A draft law muzzling the press and NGOs has driven thousands of Georgians onto the streets. ... Their democratic aspirations and dream of joining the EU are disappearing down the drain. Georgia is waving its star flag like a flare and demanding help from Brussels, which has so far denied the country candidate status. ... The EU must listen to the sirens before the fire in Russia’s backyard engulfs another territory.”