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President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili Vetoes the 'Foreign Agents' Law

By Liza Mchedlidze
Monday, May 20, 2024
The President of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, vetoed the 'Foreign Agents' law, emphasizing that it cannot be changed or improved. It will be submitted to the Parliamentary Bureau on May 20. The law was returned to Parliament unchanged, except for one new article specifying that it will only be valid for one day after enactment, ending the following day.

"Today, I vetoed the Russian law. This law is Russian in its essence and spirit, which is against our constitution and all European standards, and thus represents an obstacle to our European path.

This veto is legally valid and will be submitted to Parliament today. This law is not subject to any changes or improvements, making this a straightforward veto. This law should be withdrawn," Zourabichvili said.

Zourabichvili's veto document states that Georgia's 'Foreign Agents' law closely mirrors Russia's Law of Agents. She noted that despite terminology differences, both laws essentially target individuals or entities perceived as carrying out the interests of foreign powers. She referenced a legal opinion from OSCE/ODIHR in July 2023, which labeled the law as undemocratic and against human rights and European standards.

"This law meticulously repeats the spirit of the Russian law. The law is, in fact, the same as the so-called Law of Agents, from which the words 'agent of foreign influence' have been removed and replaced by the term 'carrier of the interests of a foreign power', which is the definition of the term 'agent'. As early as July 2023, the legal opinion by the OSCE/ODIHR clearly confirmed that the law is undemocratic, against basic human rights and freedoms, and European standards," the document reads.

The Georgian President argued that the "On Transparency of Foreign Influence" law is unconstitutional as it violates the freedom of association (Article 22) by compelling organizations to register as foreign agents, resulting in stigmatization. Additionally, it contradicts the right to privacy (Article 15) by imposing intrusive measures.

"The law 'On Transparency of Foreign Influence' is unconstitutional because it contradicts Article 22 of the Constitution, 'Freedom of Association'. The law forces organizations to register as agents of a foreign power, leading to their stigmatization. It creates all the conditions to restrict the activity of the organization and eventually cancel it. Additionally, it contradicts Article 15 of the Constitution, 'rights to inviolability of private and family life, personal space, and communication," the document reads.

Zourabichvili also argued that the law imposes, among other things, the obligation to provide a special category of personal data, which violates the constitutional rights of a person to have their personal and family space protected from any unjustified interference. In this regard, the law serves to intimidate and instill fear.

The veto document reads that the law contradicts Article 78 of the Constitution regarding "Integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures," hindering Georgia's European integration. It goes against European values and requirements for EU candidacy. Additionally, it opposes the obligation for constitutional bodies to pursue EU integration, emphasizing that no improvement is possible.

"The law in its entirety is unconstitutional, therefore, un-Georgian, un-European, and undemocratic. Thus, it is not amenable to improvement through changes because its essence, content, and principles are unacceptable. Accordingly, the repeal of the law is inevitable and reflects the will of the Georgian people," the document reads.