United States imposes punitive actions on Georgia over foreign influence legislation

The Biden administration has announced that it will impose visa restrictions and conduct a thorough review of the United States’ relationship with Georgia. This decision comes in response to Georgia’s recent passing of a highly debated foreign influence bill.

Non-government organizations, media outlets, and other entities must register as foreign agents if they receive over 20% of their funding from foreign sources. This requirement is part of a bill classified as a national security law.

The ruling Georgia Dream Party, despite facing strong opposition both domestically and internationally, managed to pass the law in Georgia’s Parliament on May 14.

President Salome Zourabichvili, an independent, vetoed the bill on Saturday, stating that it was “fundamentally Russian” and went against Georgia’s Constitution and the European Union’s standards. However, it seems that lawmakers have enough votes to override her veto.

The bill has faced criticism from both the United States and the European Union. The European Union has expressed its concerns, stating that it goes against the EU’s “core norms and values.”

In November, Georgia was granted candidate country status to the EU. The 27-member bloc expressed concern that the law “negatively impacts” Georgia’s progress towards inclusion.

During a statement on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed concern over the “clear indications of a campaign of intimidation and the use of violence” that have been employed to suppress protests against the bill. He further emphasized that these tactics, along with the implementation of the national security law, pose a threat to Georgia’s democracy and fundamental freedoms.

The Department of State is taking action in light of these events by introducing a fresh visa-restriction policy for Georgia. This policy will target individuals who are involved in or supportive of efforts to undermine democracy in the country, along with their family members. The statement reads, “In response to these actions, the Department of State is implementing a new visa-restriction policy for Georgia that will apply to individuals who are responsible for or complicit in undermining democracy in Georgia, as well as their family members.”

Today, I am also launching a thorough review of the collaboration between the United States and Georgia.

According to Blinken, individuals who undermine democratic processes or institutions in Georgia, including activities during and after the country’s October 2024 elections, may be deemed ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy.

The U.S.’s highest-ranking diplomat emphasized the importance of American support for Georgia’s democracy, stating that it forms the foundation of their bilateral relationship. The diplomat expressed hope that the leaders of Georgia will reconsider the proposed bill.

He mentioned that our assessment of the relationship between our two countries will consider Georgia’s actions in determining our own.

The announcement follows Blinken’s testimony before the House Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, where he was questioned about the actions being taken by the United States to tackle the bill.

According to him, the Biden administration has expressed significant concern regarding the law, with him stating that he believes it is a direct reflection of tactics used by Moscow.

He said that it clearly goes against the desire of the majority of Georgians to move towards EU integration.

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MBS Staff
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