Thursday, July 25, 2024

Estonia parliament condemns Georgia foreign agent law, vows to block country’s EU accession

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The Parliament of Estonia issued a statement on Tuesday strongly condemning Georgia’s adoption of a controversial law requiring certain organizations to register as foreign agents, saying that it is “necessary” that Estonia block Georgia’s EU accession. Of the 70 members of the Riigikogu—the Parliament of Estonia—57 voted in favour of adopting the statement.

The president of Georgia’s parliament, Shalva Papuashvili, signed the country’s Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence on June 3. The law requires media, nongovernmental organizations, and other nonprofits to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad. Since the passage of the law, the streets of Georgia continue to be flooded by protestors. These protestors have been met with tear gas, physical violence, and what the Riigikogu, in their statement, describe as illegal arrests and psychological persecution.

Echoing earlier concerns, the Riigikogu claim the law is the brainchild of Russia’s maligned foreign agents law. In its statement, the Riigikogu construes the law as antithetical to the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Citing the Venice Commission’s assessment, the Riigiko alleged the law is clearly a violation of the rule of law, legality, proportionality and non-discrimination.

The Riigikogu urged Georgia to immediately repeal the law and to resolve the democratic crisis. Part-and-parcel with repeal, the Riigikogu wishes to see a stop to violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations.

Failing the above, the Riigikogu signalled its readiness to propose a package of sanctions against Georgia’s government and parliamentary leaders, as well as the representatives of law enforcement agencies responsible for the violent suppression of protests in Georgia. The Riigikogu has also suggested freezing the visa-free regime between Georgia and the European Union.

The chairs of 15 countries’ foreign affairs committees and the European Parliament previously issued a joint statement rejecting the law as undermining democracy. The statement expressed, “Despite repeated expressions of concern from friends and allies, the Georgian parliament has taken an alarming and repressive step that undermines democracy and contradicts its stated goal of Western integration”. The European Union has previously been clear that passage of the law would amount to an unforgiving breach of the 2023 Enlargement Package of the EU, which partially concerns Georgia’s potential EU accession.

An urgent opinion prepared by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) stated that the law was incompatible with international human rights standards and Georgia’s commitments as an OSCE state. According to ODIHR, while governments can impose obligations on civil society organizations, such obligations become inconsistent with human rights when they specifically target the civil society section in assuming that the receipt of foreign funding equates to being puppeteered by the interests of foreign powers.

Lauri Hussar, President of the Riigikogu, signed off the statement with words of solidarity: “The Riigikogu expresses its respect to the brave Georgian people who stand for Georgia’s democratic and pro-European future.”

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