EU countries push for sanctions on Georgia over ‘Russian law’

World 11:24 22.05.2024

Several EU countries are pushing for sanctions against Georgia, including the suspension of visa-free travel to the bloc, in response to the government’s defiant stance on its Russian-inspired “foreign agents” law, Ednews informs referring to the Financial Times.

Georgia, an EU candidate country, has defied warnings from Brussels and months-long street protests, pressing ahead with the controversial law, which is similar to one already in place in Russia that obliges media and rights groups that receive foreign funding to register with the government.

Estonia, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Sweden are leading an initiative to discuss restrictive measures at a meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers next week, according to people briefed on the discussions. Options include revoking visa-free travel to the EU for Georgian nationals, targeted sanctions and the freezing of EU funds, two of the people said.

European capitals are considering “different measures of pressure on the Georgian government”, according to officials familiar with the matter.

EU officials have warned that, if enacted, the “foreign agents” law would constitute a major setback for Georgia’s accession process, adding to domestic concerns that the country is sliding deeper into Russia’s orbit.

The ruling Georgian Dream party has vowed to finalize the adoption of the law in the coming weeks and on Tuesday decried the international pressure after reports that members of the US Congress were also calling on the Biden administration to ready sanctions. “Some American politicians and officials . . . employ the language of blackmail in communication with Georgia,” said Georgian Dream.

The party has argued that the law was necessary because non-governmental organizations had allegedly attempted twice since 2020 to “start a revolution, and we cannot idle away in anticipation of a third attempt”.

The EU is likely to move slower than Washington, as some countries are worried that suspending visa-free travel could backfire since tens of thousands of Georgians draped in EU flags have been taking to the streets in recent weeks to protest against the law.

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