Georgian Parliament Speaker’s request for Venice Commission opinion on controversial bill citing need for “high standards of transparency”

  • Georgian Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili sent a letter to Bazy Malaurie, the President of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe over transparency bills. Photo: Shalva Papuashvili’s Facebook account, 8 Mar 2023 - 18:04, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili on Wednesday published the letter sent by the official to Bazy Malaurie, the President of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, for requesting the body’s opinion on the controversial bill on transparency of foreign influence that has met by a backlash in Georgia.

The letter cites a “complex regional security environment” for Georgia and the Government's efforts to ensure “high standards of transparency” in the face of “existing challenges”, in its justification of the bill that has been labelled as incompatible with democratic principles by the domestic opposition and civil sector, and has led to public protests and criticism from European and United States officials.

The bill involves registration of non-commercial legal entities and media outlets in the country as “agents of foreign influence” if they derive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad.

The letter to the Venice Commission notes the legislative initiative proposes two versions of the draft law - proposed by People's Power, a movement composed of former members of the ruling Georgian Dream party - which aims to ensure a “minimum transparency and accountability of NGOs, including when it comes to [their] foreign funding”. 

Highlighting the country’s “progress” on its European Union membership path in the formal letter, Papuashvili also claimed the country’s authorities were “determined to closely work” with their international partners to “ensure a fine balance between legitimate goals of transparency and security on the one hand and rights and freedoms of civil society on the other”. 

The bill passed the first hearing at the Georgian Parliament on Tuesday, in heated sessions between MPs, while authorities have said they will await the Commission’s opinion before scheduling the second hearing at the lawmaking body.