Press Releases Georgia: Speech by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell in the EP plenary on attempts to reintroduce a foreign agent law in Georgia and its restrictions on civil society

Georgia: Speech by the High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell in the EP plenary on attempts to reintroduce a foreign agent law in Georgia and its restrictions on civil society

Speech delivered by Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell.

Madam President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

Over the past weeks, thousands of citizens of Georgia have taken to the streets to exercise their right to peaceful demonstration, demanding once again that authorities withdraw the law on transparency of foreign influence.

We have seen impressive scenes from Georgia last year already. Citizens of all ages holding Georgian and European flags showing their strong attachment to democracy, to our shared European values and to Georgia’s path towards the European Union. At the time, the ruling party and the government made a public pledge to the Georgian citizens that such legislation would never come back.

I urge the political leaders of Georgia to withdraw the draft law. As it was the case last year, it is clear that this legislation is incompatible with the EU norms and values. If adopted, it would jeopardise Georgia’s progress on the EU path.

Georgians have a future in the European Union. The candidate status that was granted last December has brought our relations closer than ever before. Our door is open, so I urge the Georgian leaders to mirror the expectations of the citizens and not derail the country from the EU path.

The work of civil society and media organisations is crucial to any democracy. Georgia has a vibrant and diverse civil society that has contributed to the country’s successful progress towards EU membership. The proposed legislation would limit the capacity of civil society and media organisations to operate freely, it would limit freedom of expression and unfairly stigmatise organisations that deliver benefits to the citizens of Georgia. This would also impact the European Union’s support to the Georgian people, as a part of it is channelled through NGOs. Transparency should not be used as an instrument to limit civil society’s capacity to operate freely.

The Commission stressed in its enlargement report the work that Georgia needs to undertake and in particular the nine steps. As an EU candidate country, Georgia is expected to comply with the Copenhagen criteria, which specifically require adherence to principles of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Only meaningful and irreversible progress in these fundamental areas determine the opening and overall pace of accession negotiations.

Finally, the EU urges the Georgian leaders to foster national consensus around the goal of joining the European Union. It is imperative for all political leaders to reduce polarisation and engage positively and constructively with each other and with the civil society. Enlargement is a success when the whole country is behind this goal. It is also is a strategic choice of any country that decides to embark on this path. It is a commitment to align not only with our norms, but also with our values.

Thank you.


Link to the video (starting at 1:15):

Closing remarks 

President, Honourable Members,

This debate today demonstrates that we share the wish of seeing Georgia succeed in its reforms and on its European path. This is also the wish of the people of Georgia. And now, we need Georgian leaders to deliver, to work hard on the reforms to advance on its chosen European path.

Being a candidate country requires a new level of efforts, and also increases the responsibilities of the government, the opposition, and civil society.

Ahead of the next enlargement report this autumn, the European Union will continue to monitor the reforms put forward. We stand ready to support the country in all reform efforts, but we will clearly denounce any decision that may undermine democracy, human rights and the rule of law. This is all for the benefits of the Georgian people.

And we are today denouncing the attempt to reintroduce the law that we have already condemned last year.

Thank you.


Link to the video:

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