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Venice Commission Strongly Urges Repeal of 'Foreign Agents' Law

By Liza Mchedlidze
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
The Venice Commission recently published its conclusions on a controversial Georgian law regarding Transparency of Foreign Influence, strongly recommending its repeal. The review was conducted at the request of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The Commission criticized the Georgian parliament for adopting the law without waiting for its opinion, ignoring calls from key European figures for a thorough review.

The Venice Commission found that the law imposes restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of association, and privacy, which do not comply with European and international standards. Specifically, the law fails to meet the necessary criteria of legality, legitimacy, necessity in a democratic society, proportionality, and non-discrimination as outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The law designates entities receiving foreign funds as pursuing the interests of foreign powers, which can severely impact their financial stability and credibility. The burdensome registration and reporting requirements, along with the threat of severe administrative fines and constant surveillance, hinder the effective operation of these organizations and create a chilling effect.

The Commission warned that the law, purportedly aimed at ensuring transparency, could actually stigmatize and silence organizations and media critical of the government, thereby undermining public debate, pluralism, and democracy.

In light of these issues, the Venice Commission recommended that the Georgian authorities abandon the special registration and reporting requirements for organizations receiving foreign support. They noted that existing Georgian laws already ensure transparency and suggested that, if necessary, these laws could be amended to align with European standards, especially regarding lobbying activities.

The Venice Commission concluded by strongly urging the repeal of the law to avoid significant negative consequences for democratic freedoms, including the freedoms of association and expression, the right to privacy, and non-discrimination. They also offered their continued support to the Georgian authorities and the Parliamentary Assembly in addressing these concerns.