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Von der Leyen condemns violence as Georgian parliament passes 'Russian law'

Critics fear it could be used to suppress the press and non-governmental organizations and destroy the country's chances of joining the European Union. Georgia has been a candidate country since December 2023.

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EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has joined the bloc's foreign policy chief in condemning police violence in Georgia, which continued after parliament passed a controversial foreign influence transparency law.

Von der Leyen wrote on X: “I am following the situation in Georgia with great concern and condemn the violence on the streets of Tbilisi.”

“The Georgian people want a European future for their country. Georgia is at a crossroads. It should stay on course towards Europe.”

Dubbed a “Russian law,” the bill requires media and non-commercial organizations to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad.

Similar laws have been passed in Russia to silence voices and groups critical of the Kremlin.

Critics fear it could be used to suppress the press and non-governmental organizations and destroy the country's chances of joining the European Union. Georgia has been a candidate country since December 2023.

“I think people's willingness to fight for their freedom, for their European future is so great that we will definitely overcome it and we will definitely defend our freedom, no matter how long it takes,” said Elene Khostaria , leader of the opposition Droa Party.

“We will protest and we will win,” she said.

According to a 2022 poll by the National Democratic Institute, support for EU membership is up to 81% among Georgia's 3.7 million citizens.

However, supporters of the bill proposed by the ruling Georgian Dream party say it is necessary to ensure transparency and national sovereignty.

President Salome Zourabichvili criticized on social media the police response to Tuesday night's demonstrations, in which some protesters were beaten and at least 63 were arrested.

She described police violence as “completely unjustified, unprovoked and disproportionate.”

Zourabichvili has vowed to veto the bill, but the ruling party can override this by securing 76 votes.

Anna Harden

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