A Russian-style “officers law” is driving thousands of Georgians into the streets. The police take brutal measures.

Arrest at a demonstration.

In the hands of the police: arrest of a pro-Western protester in Tbilisi on April 16 Photo: Zurab Tsertsvadze/ap

SEDAN taz | They give no respite: since Monday, thousands of protesters carrying national and EU flags have gathered in front of the Parliament building in the center of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. The posters say: “No to Russia, yes to Europe!” and “You are the government, but we have the power!”

The reason for the protests, which continued on Wednesday, is the so-called “agent law” based on the Russian model, which is currently being debated in parliament. On Wednesday, 83 deputies voted in favor in the first reading; There were no votes against. Four opposition representatives were expelled from the room, others left the room voluntarily. According to the law, non-governmental organizations and media outlets that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad will have to register in the future as “representatives of foreign interests.”

The leader of the parliamentary group of the ruling party “Georgian Dream” (KO), Mamuka Mdinaradze, justified the initiative in early April with the need to create more transparency in the civil sector. Organizations receiving funding from abroad are a source of radicalization and polarization in Georgia, Mdinaradze said. However, critics of the law see it as a door to gagging civil society and ultimately keeping it cold, as has been happening in Russia for a long time.

The KO had already presented a “law on the transparency of foreign influence” in Parliament in March of last year. However, as a result of massive protests, some of which led to violent clashes, he had to abandon the project.

Second try

This opposition “victory” was one of the reasons why the South Caucasus republic received the EU candidate country status that many Georgens eagerly awaited last December. But that doesn't prevent the knockout. Now, six months before the parliamentary elections, he is making another attempt to pass the “agents law.”

Police forces had already used pepper spray, tear gas and water cannon against protesters on Monday, arresting 14 people and eleven others on Tuesday, according to Georgian media, several journalists were injured.

A report from the news portal. media The general secretary of the opposition party, Lelo Irakli Kupradze, was reportedly severely beaten. Parliament Speaker Schalva Papuashvili accused protesters of violence. Violence has become an instrument for them to achieve their political objectives.

Well-known athletes also spoke out about it. Jaba Kankawa, captain of the Georgia national football team (The team has qualified for this year's European Championship; Noted. Editorial team) published the words “Russia, fuck you!” with the flags of Georgia and the EU in the background.

Future in Europe

Mixed martial arts athlete Ilia Topuria wrote on social media: “It is painful to see special forces beating protesters. It is important that the voice of the Georgian people is heard and respected. It is a shame that the Georgian people still have to fight for this.”

Clearly many people in Georgia are still willing to do this. Especially representatives of the younger generation see their future in Europe. But this European future is increasingly in danger. European Council President Charles Michel said the “law of the agent” contradicts Georgia's ambitions in the EU. The accession process will be affected and Tbilisi will move away from the EU.