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21 May, 2024 12:41

US could sanction NATO applicant for ‘undermining democracy’ – Politico 

Washington has threatened to punish Georgian politicians who voted for a ‘foreign agents’ law, the outlet has reported  
US could sanction NATO applicant for ‘undermining democracy’ – Politico 

The US could sanction members of the Georgian government after the country’s parliament passed a new ‘foreign agents’ law opposed by Washington, Politico reported on Monday, citing a draft document.  

Georgia’s Transparency of Foreign Influence Act would require NGOs, media outlets, and individuals receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as entities “promoting the interests of a foreign power.” They must also disclose their donors or face a fine of up to $9,500.   

On Friday, Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili vetoed the law, although the move is seen as largely symbolic and is expected to be overruled by parliament.  

In their draft bill targeting politicians in the former Soviet state, US lawmakers accuse the ruling Georgian Dream party of an “increasingly illiberal turn.” They also claim Tbilisi has “openly attacked US and other Western democracy promotion organizations” while embracing “increased ties” with Russia and China.  

In a bid to “secure democracy,” the proposed US legislation would impose sanctions on government officials who have “material responsibility for undermining or injuring democracy, human rights, or security in Georgia.”  

It would also impose visa bans on politicians and the families of those responsible for the passage of “Russia-style” foreign agent legislation, the report said. Georgian security services and law enforcement who have clamped down on protests against the bill would also be targeted.    

Zourabichvili, who is an independent, vetoed the controversial law on Friday following weeks of street protests and clashes with police in the Georgian capital. The president has argued that if signed into law, the bill would undermine the country’s aspiration to join the EU.   

The presidential veto is seen by some political experts as largely symbolic, because parliament is controlled by the Georgian Dream party, which is expected to overrule it.  

During a visit to Georgia last week, Assistant US Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O’Brien warned of “restrictions coming from the United States” if Tbilisi adopts the legislation. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has also said that once enforced, the law would compel Washington to “fundamentally reassess” its relationship with Georgia, which is also seeking to join NATO.  

If the government in Tbilisi abandons the law, however, the US could sign off on a major military and trade package, Politico said, citing a draft document. Along with improved access to US markets, the bill calls for a liberalization of the visa regime for Georgian citizens, it added.