President vows to veto bill on transparency of foreign influence if approved

  • Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili says the bill would distance Georgia from Europe. Photo: President’s press office, 28 Feb 2023 - 16:28, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili on Tuesday pledged to veto the controversial domestic bill on transparency of foreign influence, proposed by the People’s Power movement, if the draft law is approved by the country’s legislative body. 

In her comments for the media during a gender equality political forum in Tbilisi, the President said the bill, submitted to the Parliament earlier this month, was “unacceptable” for her as it would “distance Georgia from Europe”.

Proposed by the movement, whose representatives remain in the Parliamentary majority despite having left the ruling party last year, envisages registration of “non-commercial legal entities and media outlets as agents of foreign influence if they derive more than 20 percent of their income from abroad”.

It has been met by a strong criticism from the domestic opposition, a part of the public and diplomatic representations in Georgia, with the backlash labelling the initiative as “incompatible with the basic principles of a modern democratic state”.

People's Power claims their bill has become a “target of unjustified criticism”. Photo: People's Power press office.

In her comments on the bill on Monday, the United States Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan said “these laws seem to be clearly in line with Russian law” that could “undermine that progress that Georgia has spent so many years building”. 

The diplomat added the bill “aimed at blocking Georgians who are helping other Georgians”. 

Ruling party officials have said they agree with the bill in principle, adding the legislative piece is “in full accordance with democratic standards”. 

Authorities have forwarded two versions of the bill in question to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe for opinion, with Mamuka Mdinaradze, the head of the ruling party in the Parliament, on Tuesday saying there “could be no arguments from anyone” against the draft law.

People’s Power has claimed one of the versions of the bill is an “analogue” of a bill used in the United States, and labelled the American counterpart as being “very strict” in its regulations. Members of the movement and ruling team officials have claimed the other version is a “less strict” option that is “only [about] transparency”.