White House 'Deeply Troubled' As Georgia Enacts Law To Thwart NGO 'Interference'

Defying large domestic protests and condemnation from the United States and other Western governments, the Republic of Georgia's parliament on Tuesday adopted a "foreign agents" law that would impede foreign nongovernmental organizations' (NGOs') ability to operate in the country -- and put Georgia's European Union and NATO ambitions in jeopardy. 

Georgia's president, Salome Zourabichvili, has vowed to veto the measure, but the parliament approved the law by a 84-30 margin, only only needs 76 to override a veto. After the law's passage, Biden Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters: 

"We’re deeply troubled by Georgia’s Kremlin-style 'foreign agents' legislation...we have been outspoken about our concerns with the legislation, which runs counter to democratic values and would move Georgia further away from the values of the European Union and, let’s not forget, also NATO."

white house deeply troubled as georgia enacts law to thwart ngo interference

Under the Georgia law, which is modeled after one adopted in Russia, organizations that receive more than 20% of their funding from outside the country would have to register as "agents of foreign influence," under threat of fines. While Western governments officially scoff at the notion, NGOs have been a major vector of Western interference in foreign countries, up to and including regime change campaigns. NGOs played roles of varying significance in the so-called "Colour revolutions" in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.  

Ironically reinforcing the idea that the law would thwart foreign interference, the German Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Michael Roth and Lithuanian legislator Zhigimantas Pavillionis visited the protest rally outside the parliament -- conjuring images of late US Senator John McCain and Sen. Chris Murphy joining anti-government protesters in Kiev as the Ukraine revolution gained momentum.  

In a vivid display of the intensity of feelings over the law, fists flew in parliament earlier this year: 

In recent months, Georgia has seen large protests against the law, with university students playing a major role. On Monday, 30 different colleges in the country saw students declare "strikes" and join demonstrations that decry "the Russian law."  

According to some polls, upwards of 89% of Georgians support EU membership to some degree -- but, ironically, most of these polls seem to be organized by NGOs like the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute. Demonstrators frequently wave EU flags and on Tuesday played the EU anthem... 

The protests have periodically erupted in violence, with police resorting to tear gas, water canons and clubs. 

European Commission spokesman Peter Stano echoed the White House's warning about the law's effect on Georgia's potential EU membership, telling the Financial Times:

“[The law is] very dangerous for Georgia’s European ambitions. The expectations are very clear — if this piece of legislation is adopted, it will be a grave obstacle for Georgia when it comes to [its] European outlook.”

The parliament's ruling coalition is led by the Georgian Dream party. On Tuesday, the party's principal benefactor, Bidzina Ivanishvili, refused to meet with German and US officials who wanted to persuade him to intervene and prevent the vote from taking place. 

What's next? The parliament has 10 days to deliver the bill to Georgian President Zourabichvili. She then has two weeks to issue her promised veto, and then an override seems a certainty. Then things will get interesting as foreign-funded NGOs will have to start complying with the registration requirement or cease their activities. Don't expect the US empire to sit on its hands...

via May 15th 2024