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The draft law would require organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as "foreign agents".

The EU, which gave Georgia candidate status in December, has said that the draft law is "incompatible" with EU values. Britain, the U.S. and Germany have all criticized the decision to reintroduce the law, which was initially shelved last year after protests.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/lawmakers-scuffle-again-georgia-over-foreign-agent-bill-2024-04-29/

So what is the problem with this law? "incompatible" seems like not a good reason at all

Why aren't people allowed to know who funds NGO's and who's interest they serve in their own country?

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6 Answers 6

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There is quite a practice worldwide to name a law in a way only partially related to its content. The law has only little to do with the foreign influence. It is about the domestic opposition.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSe1PqmLFPg (Ru speech, human-written En subtitles)

Russian politician in exile, himself a "foreign agent" in Russia, analyses the issue in Georgia.

TL; DL (too long, don't listen)

The essence of the law is to move a heavyweight repressive toolset from the judical branch (where it more or less belongs and is, at least in theory, controlled by proportionally heavyweight checks and balances) to the executive branch (little to no checks and balances, top-down action).

This allows the government to impose strong repressive measures quickly and in bulk, with little possible counter-action from the parties affected.

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  • @user12482025, the trouble is that organizations would need to out themselves as having significant foreign backing, or open themselves up to legal action. Some organizations want the funding sources to remain private, and others may not be aware that they're being backed by foreign money\power. Commented May 12 at 18:40
  • Surely both are equally true. It mandates that domestic opposition is transparent about foreign influence? Commented May 14 at 12:39
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Because the current politicial situation in Georgia is that the law is about the Western (EU, UK, USA) agents and their organizations. No one wants that his costly built up "soft power" network becomes outlaw from tomorrow.

Note that essentially similar laws against, for example, Russian influence in Ukraine and in the Baltic States, don't cause any trouble for the EU, but yes for Russia.

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  • 4
    what is the "trouble" exactly? they can still operate, they are just labeled as foreign agents. I can have foreign colleagues work with me at my job and everything is fine Commented May 9 at 16:46
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    @user12482025 Yes, but that is only a first step. For example, if you have worked previously by a company labeled as a foreign agent, the bosses in the future might choose another candidate on a job interview for a company working with the state. Note, security services have similar lists everywhere, with or without such a law. Thus the real effect of this law is not the labeling, but the threat provided by the open labeling. And this threat serves the purpose to not cooperate with these foreign agents.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented May 9 at 16:49
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    @EricNolan No such law is always needed. Also by us, in theory we are free to be racist or homophobe, but we all know, it is not a good idea, particularly not openly. So is it there, working for foreign agents.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented May 10 at 8:07
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    There is no Russian-style law against foreign agents in Ukraine or the Baltics: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_agent
    – Anton
    Commented May 10 at 13:09
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    This is how color revolution gets started: let the local medias interfered by outsiders. After some years, the anti-local-government sentiment gets built up and reinforced. At some point, something happens locally and it can escalate to revolution. Commented May 11 at 13:56
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Because it restricts freedom of association and equates foreign funding with being an agent controlled by a foreign power.

The Georgian draft bill is very similar to Russia's 2022 law that was ruled by the European Court of Human Rights to be in violation of article 11 of the Human rights convention on the right to freedom of association.

In addition, the Georgian bill requires 20%+ foreign-funded orgs to register as "organizations serving the interests of a foreign power", a misnomer that goes far beyond mere information of the public, laying suspicion and public stigma on them.

Some reports also mention increased investigation burden on these orgs, giving authorities extended seizing power and the right to demand disclosure of journalist sources.

Human Rights Watch, Le Monde, ECHR

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  • Can you clarify if EU is saying that EU member states funding organisations in other EU member states shouldn't be designated as "foreign agents" or that foreign funding from even non-EU states should be allowed into any EU member state organisations and they shouldn't be designated as "foreign agents"?
    – sfxedit
    Commented May 10 at 13:08
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    No idea, you would have to dig into 1+ year of public statements, tweets by EU officials, assessment reports on Georgia EU candidacy, etc. to find out. I didn't find an EU press release that goes into that much specifics this time, they just throw back to what happened last year in March when a similar law was submitted to the Georgian parliament and failed. Commented May 10 at 13:28
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    If you want to be serious about proving that there's a double standard, you probably need to translate and compare clause by clause the Georgian bill with legislation from some EU member state, which no one has done right now, or at least not that I could find. And I'd be curious of the result :) Commented May 10 at 13:38
  • @I'm unclear about how it limits freedom of association, as the law compels organizations to declare who they are associating with, but does not place any restrictions on this association. Commented May 12 at 18:43
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    @AaarghZombies Cf. NAACP v. Alabama (1958) for the US Supreme Court explaining how it places restrictions on association. At least part of the point of the bill is to intimidate "foreign agents" out of media, and intimidate people who would work with "foreign agents."
    – prosfilaes
    Commented May 12 at 23:49
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The EU is working towards an EU-wide civil society. National political parties are coming together in EU-wide party groupings. NGOs cross borders. That's an European value. If Georgia wants agricultural subsidies and free movement of workers in the future, they'll have to accept the movement of activists, too.

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  • So does that mean that the EU only has an issue with a member state designating an organisation, receiving funding from another EU member state, as a "foreign agent"? What if the funding is from, say , China, Russia, Japan or United States - can organisations receiving foreign funds from non-EU states still be designated as "foreign agent"?
    – sfxedit
    Commented May 9 at 17:02
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    @sfxedit, consider what is currently going on in Germany regarding the AfD. Much outrage that their people seem to have taken money, but no formal designation.
    – o.m.
    Commented May 9 at 17:56
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    I don't see much difference - one of AfD's member is accused of not disclosing that they received money from Russia (and they ofcourse deny it). And "No formal designation" doesn't mean no negative repercussions. German courts are now even considering stripping them of from state funding and even banning them for their political activities, which is obviously worse than being simply designated as a "foreign agent". So it seems to me that Germany is just as concerned about the "wrong" foreigners funding their political activists as Georgia is.
    – sfxedit
    Commented May 10 at 12:42
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    @sfxedit, regarding the ban on political parties, it is instructive to look at the KPD/DKP history. The Communist Party of Germany was banned, so they founded the German Communist Party which avoided objectionable language in their manifesto. The DKP still exists, even if it became clear later that some of their cadres travelled to the GDR to learn Marxism, Leninism, Demolitions, and Radio ...
    – o.m.
    Commented May 10 at 14:01
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This proposed law has acquired a nickname in Georgia apparently: "the Russian Law".

‘No to the Russian law!’ Georgia protesters demand a ‘European future’ | Protests News | Al Jazeera

Mass demonstrations last year forced the government to withdraw a similar bill. This second attempt has given renewed energy to thousands of young people, from school pupils to university students, swelling a tide of discontent.

They believe their government has fallen under the influence of the Kremlin and is sabotaging their dreams of being part of Europe. Each night, the rallies have begun with the Georgian national anthem, as well as the EU’s, Ode to Joy.

Russia has used its version to suppress any opposition or criticism of Russian actions (or the USSR's see Memorial). As noted in another answer, the Russian blueprint law has been gradually expanded to cover pretty much anything the Kremlin deems worth suppressing. And that includes for example gay rights advocates in Russia. Which, though they might not be to the taste of everyone in Russia, are also not obviously foreign policy concerns.

Additionally, the EU, which is considering Georgia admission may have learned its lessons about taking in authoritarian countries with Hungary, which has similar laws as well.

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This may be tied to that the "agents" are not just asked to declare they funding on every paper they publish but also are being restricted in numerous other ways. It looks more like an official nomination for a traitor.

Foreign agents will soon not be allowed in all levels of elections. They cannot also represent candidates or even be observers (source). This law is not finalized yet as at the time of writing but I think for sure will pass.

The law prohibits all Russian citizens and companies from placing advertisements on websites, blogs, social networks or any other resources published by a "foreign agent" (source), so they cannot even earn money from the proper advertisement business. It is not just about receiving secret money from abroad.

Here is the list of other prohibited activities, as found in this source:

  • Carrying out educational activities for minors or in state and municipal organizations;
  • Producing information products for minors;
  • Procuring goods, works and services to meet state and municipal needs;
  • Receiving state financial support, including in the implementation of creative activities;
  • Carrying out the operation of significant objects of critical information infrastructure and activities to ensure its security;
  • Participating as an expert in the state environmental assessment; and
  • Making donations to election funds of political candidates and political parties.

The Russian status of "foreign agent" is no longer limited to groups of persons engaged in some kind of political activity. Various environmental groups, climate activists are being labelled as well (source).

Hence it is very efficient to misuse this law to suppress the political opponents, all, foreign funded and not. Just a requirement for public declaration of funding, alone, likely would not cause that much of the opposition.

Russia is an example of the "slippery slope" where the similar law has expanded without end, with criteria of inclusion gradually becoming more and more relaxed until now it is enough to be "under foreign influence", "participation in an international conference with accommodation at the expense of the organizer", "gift from friends or relatives living abroad" or even transfer of own funds from an own account in foreign currency. This sounds so arbitrary that, basically, anyone.

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  • "but also are being restricted in numerous other ways" - can you elaborate or cite some examples? Ths might clarify how this law in particular clashes eith European values. Commented May 12 at 22:48
  • Understand. I have expanded the answer now.
    – Stančikas
    Commented May 13 at 12:32
  • I think that some of the problem here is in how the document is translated into English. When people in the west hear the term "foreign agent" they think intelligence services or spies. If the document were use softer language it might be received differently. Commented May 14 at 12:42

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