Georgian leader assures Baltic ministers she will veto 'foreign influence' law

  • 2024-05-15
  • LETA/BNS/TBT Staff

TBILISI – Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili on Wednesday assured the visiting Baltic and Icelandic foreign ministers that she will veto a controversial "foreign influence" law.

"I will not betray the spirit of this country. (...) I have conveyed the message to our friends that the president will not be taken advantage of," the Georgian leader told a press conference in Tbilisi after a meeting with the top diplomats from the Baltic states and Iceland.

The so-called "foreign agent" law, she said, shows that the country's government is ignoring the voice of Georgian civil society and the country's partners in the West. Georgians have shown how they feel about this legislation by staging protests for more than a month, Zourabischvili also stressed.

According to the president, 80-90 percent of the country's population are in favor of the country's European integration, and the ongoing protests are "a testament to this society's commitment to the fundamental European values of democracy, freedom and independence". 

The foreign ministers met with the Georgian president after the country's parliament voted on Tuesday to pass the controversial "foreign influence" law.

"The adoption of the "foreign agent" law, as well as continued repressions against Georgia’s civil society, will put Georgia’s further progress on the EU/NATO path on hold. If this happens, responsibility will lie squarely with Georgia’s government," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said after the meeting.

The Georgian president, he said, assured the visiting ministers she would veto the controversial law.

Despite the violence that have erupted during the protests, the Georgians protesting against the "foreign influence" law have once again shown their desire to belong to the Western world, Landsbergis pointed out, adding that goal of the Baltic and Icelandic foreign ministers' Tbilisi visit is to show support to and solidarity with "everyone who fights for Georgia‘s democratic and European choice".

The ministers are also sending a message to the representatives of the ruling Georgian Dream party both in the parliament and in the government that the country will face consequences if "they continue on this very dangerous course", Landsbergis said.

"You have never been as close to the start of EU accession negotiations (...). It has taken many years and lots of effort, but everything can be lost in just one blink," Lithuania's top diplomat said. "It is our genuine interest to help Georgia to make its European journey until its final destination."

The visit is not intended to interfere in Georgia's internal political processes, Latvian Foreign Minister Baiba Braze said adding that the Nordic and Baltic countries have been supporting Georgia's European integration aspirations in various ways for years and are interested in its EU membership.

For her part, Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna says the adopted law is pushing Georgia away from the EU, adding that Brussels will certainly have to react to its adoption.

Later in the day, Landsbergis and his counterparts are set to meet Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili, Foreign Minister Ilya Darchashvili, representatives of the opposition and non-parliamentary parties, NGOs, and the country's youth.

Georgian lawmakers on Tuesday adopted the controversial law, despite weeks of protests and growing tensions.

The country's president has vowed to veto the law, distancing herself from the policies of the ruling party. However, the ruling party has enough MPs to override the veto.

The law has been denounced by opponents as similar to the existing repressive law on "foreign agents" in Russia, which Moscow uses to suppress critics and stifle independent media.

Georgia is rocked by protests and law enforcement services are trying to suppress them.