TBILISI, March 7. /TASS/. Georgia’s parliament on Tuesday passed a bill on foreign agents in the first reading.
"Seventy-six votes for, thirteen against. The bill is passed in the first reading," parliament speaker Shalva Papuashvili said after the vote.
According to the speaker, it was the Georgian version of the bill. The so-called American version will be debated at the next session of parliament, he added.
Meanwhile, a several thousand-strong protest rally was held in front of the parliament building, blocking traffic on Prospect Rustaveli, Tbilisi’s central artery. The demonstrators were protesting against the bill, claiming that it would hinder Georgia’s integration with Europe.
In February, the Georgian parliament registered two versions of the foreign agents bill, namely a Georgian iteration and an American one, the latter being a translation of the US Foreign Agents Registration Act. Under the Georgian version, a foreign agent is defined as a legal entity, including a media outlet, that receives more than 20% of its financing from foreign sources. The bill would not apply to individuals, whereas the US version applies to both legal entities and individuals, and stipulates criminal liability.
The initiative to enshrine the concept of foreign agents in law has given rise to serious criticism by both Georgia’s opposition and Western politicians. Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili promised to veto the bill if it is passed, whereas its initiators, the Power of the People public movement and the leaders of the ruling Georgian Dream Party, contend that the law is needed to ensure the transparency of entities financed from abroad. They plan to refer the bill to the Venice Commission after it passes in the first reading.