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17 May, 2024 15:52

EU state wants bloc to introduce ‘foreign agent’ laws

Protecting a country’s sovereignty is a precondition for democracy, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s office argues
EU state wants bloc to introduce ‘foreign agent’ laws

The European Union should not attack Georgia for adopting a foreign agent law, but rather follow suit, the political director of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s office, Balazs Orban has argued. The official insisted that measures aimed at curbing foreign influence are a key component of democracy. 

On Tuesday, Georgia’s parliament passed the ‘Transparency of Foreign Influence’ bill, which requires Georgian non-profit organizations, media outlets and individuals with more than 20% foreign funding to register as entities “promoting the interests of a foreign power” and disclose their donors. Failure to comply will be punishable by a fine of up to $9,500. 

US and EU officials were quick to denounce the legislation, while the law proved divisive at home as well. Thousands took to the streets of Tbilisi to protest against it, culminating in clashes with police. Critics have described the bill as similar to Russia’s ‘foreign agent’ law and fear that it will be used by the government to crack down on the opposition. 

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze argued that the law was needed to ensure more transparency.   

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Friday, Orban wrote that Hungary’s “intention is not to veto Georgia’s Law on the Transparency of Foreign Influence, but to encourage the introduction of similar laws across the EU!” 

He also claimed that protecting a nation’s sovereignty from “unwanted foreign interference” is “not a threat but a precondition for democracy.” 

“Instead of condemning it, EU should perhaps also follow the lead,” he concluded.  

Attempts within the EU to agree on a joint statement condemning the Georgian bill by the 27 member states’ governments have so far failed. Hungary and Slovakia objected, arguing that they “did not think it is right for the EU to interfere in the domestic politics of a third country,” several media outlets reported, citing unnamed EU diplomats.  

On Wednesday, the bloc’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, and the European Commission warned Tbilisi that the “adoption of this law negatively impacts Georgia’s progress on the EU path.”

Last December, EU leaders granted Georgia candidate status on the condition that it fulfill certain obligations. 

According to media reports, citing anonymous European officials, Brussels is now considering reversing the visa liberalization for Georgians in order to send a message to the South Caucasian country. 

Hungary’s parliament passed its own package of laws concerning the defense of national sovereignty in December, under which foreign funding of election campaigns is banned and a new Sovereignty Protection Office was created.

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