In Georgia, tens of thousands of demonstrators march again in the streets after the vote of a criticized law

Around 30,000 Georgians opposed to a controversial bill passed in parliament the day before, which threatens to hamper the country's membership in the European Union (EU), rallied again on the evening of Wednesday, May 15 in the center of the capital, Tbilisi, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP)

In Georgia, tens of thousands of demonstrators march again in the streets after the vote of a criticized law

Around 30,000 Georgians opposed to a controversial bill passed in parliament the day before, which threatens to hamper the country's membership in the European Union (EU), rallied again on the evening of Wednesday, May 15 in the center of the capital, Tbilisi, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Visiting foreign ministers from Estonia, Iceland and Lithuania joined the march to the protest site, before addressing the crowd in a show of solidarity with the demonstrators.

The day after this vote, NATO, the European Commission and the United Nations (UN) condemned this government initiative. Demonstrations against this text, inspired by legislation in force in Russia to repress the opposition and which targets the media and NGOs receiving foreign funds, have lasted for more than a month. The parades bring together large crowds waving European, Ukrainian and Georgian flags and chanting slogans against Russia, which waged war on Georgia in 2008.

Thousands of people began blocking a major intersection in Tbilisi on Wednesday evening, paralyzing traffic in the capital's central districts. “We have been taking to the streets day after day for more than a month and we will not back down until this Russian law is repealed,” Anuka Liparteliani, a 19-year-old student, told AFP. “And in the fall, we will drive out this pro-Russian government,” she added, referring to the legislative elections scheduled for October.

Protests also took place in the western towns of Kutaisi and Tsalenjikha. The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, on behalf of the European Commission, called on Georgia to “withdraw” this law, deemed contrary to the “values” and “essential standards” of the EU.

“A significant impact on freedom of expression”

The vote on this text has “a negative impact” on the process of this state’s accession to the EU, he underlined in a press release. Georgia has been an official candidate for entry into the European Union since December 2023. It also aspires to join NATO, whose spokesperson, Farah Dakhlallah, denounced a measure that “distances” it from its “integration European and Euro-Atlantic”.

The Georgian president, Salomé Zourabichvili, a pro-European in open conflict with the government, is expected to veto the new law but the ruling party, Georgian Dream, claims to have enough votes in Parliament to override it.

“The impacts [of the law] on the rights to freedom of expression and association in Georgia are unfortunately now likely to be significant,” regretted the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. man, Volker Türk.

The United States reacted on Tuesday by warning that it could “reassess” its relations with Georgia. The Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian and Icelandic foreign ministers, for their part, traveled to Tbilisi on Wednesday to express their concern.

President Zourabichvili proposed amendments to the bill but warned, during this press conference with the Baltic and Icelandic representatives, against any “artificial” negotiations. The Prime Minister, Irakli Kobakhidzé, for his part said he was ready to discuss possible modifications.

As it currently stands, the text requires any NGO or media receiving more than 20% of its funding from abroad to register as an “organization pursuing the interests of a foreign power” and to subject to administrative control.