US Gov’t announces visa restrictions for “those undermining democracy” in Georgia

Blinken also noted the US support for Georgia’s democracy was “longstanding and foundational” to the bilateral relationship. Photo: Department of State, 24 May 2024 - 13:30, Tbilisi,Georgia

The United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday announced a new visa restriction policy for “those responsible for undermining democracy” in Georgia, including in connection with the law on transparency of foreign influence, adopted by the ruling Georgian Dream party, as well as a comprehensive review of the cooperation between the two countries.

The statement stressed the US Department of State was implementing the visa restrictions that would apply to individuals responsible for the actions and their family members, and cited those “responsible for suppressing civil society and freedom of peaceful assembly” in Georgia through a “campaign of violence or intimidation”.

“Over the past few months the ruling Georgian Dream party has developed and passed a ‘foreign influence’ law that would stifle the exercise of freedoms of association and expression, stigmatise organisations that serve the citizens of Georgia, and impede independent media organisations working to provide Georgians with access to high quality information”, Blinken said.

As Georgian citizens have voiced opposition to the law, we have seen clear indications of a campaign of intimidation and the use of violence to suppress peaceful dissent. Both the ‘national security law’ and the repressive tactics used to quell legitimate dissent undermine Georgia’s democracy and the fundamental freedoms to which the Georgian people are entitled and run contrary to Georgia’s long-stated goal - reflected in its constitution - of Euro-Atlantic integration and strategic partnership with the United States”, he continued.

Blinken also noted the US support for Georgia’s democracy was “longstanding and foundational” to the bilateral relationship.

“Anyone who undermines democratic processes or institutions in Georgia - including in the lead-up to, during, and following Georgia’s October 2024 elections - may be found ineligible for US visas under this policy and precluded from travel to the United States. Immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions”, he continued.

The official also announced launching a comprehensive review of the bilateral cooperation, and further expressed his hope Georgia’s leaders would reconsider the law and take steps to “move forward with their nation’s democratic and Euro-Atlantic aspirations”.

The Parliament last week adopted the law, which requires groups “considered to be an organisation pursuing the interests of a foreign power” - determined by more than 20 percent of their funding coming from abroad - to be registered in the public registry with the status and publicise their received funding.

It has been met by public protests and criticism from some of Georgia’s international partners, and was vetoed by President Salome Zourabichvili, however the ruling party has enough votes to overcome her veto.