Motion for a resolution - B9-0244/2024Motion for a resolution
B9-0244/2024

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on attempts to reintroduce a foreign agent law in Georgia and its restrictions on civil society

22.4.2024 - (2024/2703(RSP))

to wind up the debate on the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
pursuant to Rule 132(2) of the Rules of Procedure

Markéta Gregorová, Viola von Cramon‑Taubadel, Jordi Solé, Bronis Ropė
on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group

See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B9-0244/2024

Procedure : 2024/2703(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected :  
B9-0244/2024
Texts tabled :
B9-0244/2024
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Texts adopted :

B9‑0244/2024

European Parliament resolution on attempts to reintroduce a foreign agent law in Georgia and its restrictions on civil society

(2024/2703(RSP))

The European Parliament,

 having regard to its previous resolutions on Georgia,

 having regard to the statement by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement of 17 April 2024 on the adoption of the ‘transparency of foreign influence’ law,

 having regard to the statement by the spokesperson for the European External Action Service of 4 April 2024 on the draft law on ‘transparency of foreign influence’ in Georgia,

 having regard to the European Council conclusions of 14 and 15 December 2023,

 having regard to the Commission communication of 8 November 2023 entitled ‘2023 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy’ (COM(2023)0690),

 having regard to the Commission’s Georgia 2023 Report of 8 November 2023 accompanying its 2023 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy (SWD(2023)0697),

 having regard to the joint statement by the Chair of the Delegation for relations with the South Caucasus and the European Parliament’s Standing Rapporteur on Georgia of 8 November 2023 on the Commission recommendation of 8 November 2023 on the EU membership application of Georgia,

 having regard to the joint statement by the Chair of the Delegation for relations with the South Caucasus and the European Parliament’s Standing Rapporteur on Georgia of 18 April 2024 on the reintroduction of the draft law on ‘Transparency of Foreign Influence’ in Georgia,

 having regard to the Association Agreement of 1 July 2016 between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the one part, and Georgia, of the other part[1],

 having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, in particular Article 215(2) thereof, and the Treaty on European Union, in particular Article 29 thereof,

 having regard to Rule 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas on 3 April 2024, the Georgian Government announced its intention to reintroduce the draft law on ‘transparency of foreign influence’, targeting civil society organisations and independent media; whereas on 17 April 2024, the Georgian Dream party’s majority in Parliament passed this controversial bill, modelled on Russia’s ‘Foreign Agents Law’, at first reading with 83 votes in favour and none against; whereas opposition members of parliament did not participate in the vote; whereas the bill has yet to pass its second and third readings, with the latter expected by 17 May 2024;

B. whereas the law requires non-governmental organisations and media that receive over 20 % of their funding from abroad to register as ‘organisations pursuing the interests of a foreign power’ and label themselves as such; whereas the organisations would be subjected to additional scrutiny, reporting requirements and possibly sanctions, including administrative penalties of up to 25 000 GEL; whereas the law would seriously limit media and civil society organisations’ ability to operate freely;

C. whereas the law would significantly affect the activities of civil society organisations and independent media outlets that very often rely on foreign funding to exist and operate; whereas it would consequently lead to the muzzling of Georgia’s vibrant civil society, which is at the core of Georgia’s democracy and contributed greatly to the context of the decision on Georgia’s EU candidate status;

D. whereas a similar law was withdrawn in March last year after an outpouring of dissatisfaction and frustration among the Georgian public, expressed through massive rallies in Tbilisi; whereas the reintroduction of the draft law goes against promises made last year; whereas some 80 % of the Georgian population is supportive of EU membership;

E. whereas in recent days, thousands have taken to the streets again in Georgia to protest the re-introduction of the foreign agents legislation; whereas there are reports of riot police using disproportionate force to disperse protesters demonstrating against the controversial draft law;

F. whereas the European Council’s decision to grant Georgia EU candidate status, which was largely influenced by the capacities of Georgia’s civil society sector rather than the achievements of its government, clearly specified that the candidacy was granted only on the understanding that a number of steps were to be taken;

G. whereas this draft legislation comes at a time of increasing and ongoing attacks against civil society in Georgia and against democracy support from international donors, including reputed organisations such as the European Endowment for Democracy, in a seeming effort to narrow civic space by starving independent groups of funds which come from outside the country;

H. whereas there have been reports of government officials allegedly threatening public servants to prevent them from speaking out against the ‘foreign agents bill’;

I. whereas the re-introduction of this law, modelled on the foreign agents legislation in Russia, is not occurring in a geopolitical vacuum, but represents a trend in the broader region; whereas similar legislation copying Russia’s foreign agents law is currently being re-introduced in Kyrgyzstan;

J. whereas Georgia’s President Salome Zourabichvili accused Georgian Dream of ‘sabotaging the country’s European path’; whereas she has called the re-introduction of the law a ‘direct provocation a Russian strategy of destabilisation’ and has vowed to veto the bill if it is passes through parliament; whereas the ruling party has the ability to override such a veto;

K. whereas the international community has voiced serious criticism and concern in response to the re-introduction of this draft legislation; whereas the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the European External Action Service and EU Member States have released statements urging Georgia to refrain from adopting legislation that could compromise Georgia’s EU path, stressing that this law is not in line with EU core norms and values;

L. whereas a plethora of international organisations and high-level officials have called on the Georgian Government to withdraw the proposed law, including the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, the UN Resident Coordinator in Georgia, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the European Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House and USAID;

M. whereas this is not the only sign of democratic backsliding since Georgia was granted EU candidate status, as the Georgian Government recently announced its intention to introduce a bill criminalising the promotion of same-sex relationships, similar to Russia’s ‘LGBTQ+ propaganda’ rules;

1. Deplores the decision by the Georgian ruling party to re-introduce the controversial bill on ‘transparency of foreign influence’, which mirrors similar legislation in place in Russia and specifically targets civil society organisations and independent media; expresses its concern that the law passed its first reading in the Georgian Parliament in the absence of opposition members of parliament;

2. Stresses that the targeting of civil society organisations and independent media in general and this proposed legislation in particular are indisputably inconsistent and irreconcilable with the norms and values of the EU and with any EU membership aspirations; echoes, therefore, the assessment by the High Representative that the final adoption of this legislation would negatively impact Georgia’s progress on its path towards EU membership;

3. Emphasises that, if adopted, this law would render the work of civil society organisations and independent media in Georgia effectively impossible due to costly and time-consuming administrative burdens, possible legal prosecutions, and the reputational disruption of the ‘foreign agent’ label; stresses that while receiving international funding, these organisations do not pursue the ‘interests of a foreign power’ but rather strive every day to uphold the human rights and democratic hopes of Georgia’s citizens and to provide them with unbiased reporting on developments in their country;

4. Expresses its strong support for Georgian civil society and independent media; underlines that the decision to grant Georgia EU candidate status was taken for the most part to acknowledge the achievements and democratic efforts of Georgia’s civil society as well as the overwhelming support for EU accession among its citizens;

5. Condemns the broader campaign of attacks targeting civil society organisations and reputable international donors who pursue the support of democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights in Georgia;

6. Points to the outpouring of frustration by Georgian citizens expressed by another round of widespread protests in recent days; calls for an independent investigation into reports of the use of disproportionate force by the authorities against Georgian citizens; reminds the Georgian authorities of the fundamental right to peaceful protest and the need for this right to be respected at all times; calls on the Georgian leadership to ensure that the freedom of expression and of assembly are protected while avoiding any escalation of violence;

7. Urges the Georgian Government to reconsider the re-introduction of this harmful legislation and withdraw the bill on ‘transparency of foreign influence’ without delay; calls on the authorities not to undermine the will of the Georgian people but rather to strive towards depolarisation and societal reconciliation for the benefit of all Georgians;

8. Denounces also the intention of the ruling party to introduce a bill criminalising the promotion of same-sex relationships, mirroring similar legislation in Russia; underlines that such legislation is also not in line with EU core values and signifies another swerve away from Georgia’s EU accession path; urges the Georgian Government to refrain from introducing such legislation;

9. Calls on the Commission to conduct an immediate interim assessment of Georgia’s implementation of the steps on which the country’s candidate status was made conditional and to present its findings in an oral update; proposes that the Commission publish its report on Georgia as part of its annual Communication on enlargement by early October at the latest;

10. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to investigate the consequences of this law for their role as donors in Georgia and to communicate to the Georgian Government and parliament, to the extent possible, about the impact the law could have in this regard;

11. Considers, in accordance with Article 29 of the Treaty on European Union and Article 215(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, given that the rule of law is a principle of the EU’s common foreign and security policy and the bill as currently being considered by the Georgian Parliament would, if adopted and implemented, violate the Council of Europe’s rule of law standards as interpreted by the Venice Commission, that the Council may adopt a decision regarding sanctions on individuals involved in any future adoption of this law;

12. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the European External Action Service, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the President, Prime Minister and Parliament of Georgia.

Last updated: 23 April 2024
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