Tens of Thousands Protest in Georgia Over Foreign Agents Bill 

(FP) – Tens of thousands of people gathered in Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia, for the second day of protests against a proposed “foreign agents” bill. The bill would require organizations that receive 20% or more of their annual income from abroad to register as “foreign agents” or face heavy fines. Protesters fear that the bill would damage civil society in the country and harm its democracy. Some protesters threw stones at the parliament building and attempted to break a protective barrier, prompting police to deploy water cannons and tear gas.

The ruling Georgian Dream party has stated that the bill is modeled on US legislation, but critics say it resembles a controversial law in Russia that imposes draconian restrictions and requirements on organizations and individuals with foreign ties. The bill has passed a first reading and is likely to become law as it has strong support among lawmakers.

Georgia has long balanced between pro-European sentiment and the geopolitical interests of Russia. The EU has warned that the proposed law is incompatible with its values and standards and could have serious repercussions on its relationship with Georgia. The US has also expressed concern, calling the bill “Kremlin-inspired.”

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has vowed to veto the bill, but ultimate executive power lies with Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili. The EU has expressed readiness to grant candidacy status to Georgia if it implements certain reforms, while Ukraine’s president has expressed solidarity with the protesters and voiced support for Georgia’s European aspirations.