A large, diverse crowd of demonstrators filling a public square in Tbilisi, Georgia, with banners and flags against a twilight sky, expressing strong opposition to the proposed 'Foreign Agents' Law, c

Why Demonstrators in Georgia Are Against the ‘Foreign Agents’ Law and Its Significance – NPR

Understanding the Controversy Around Georgia’s ‘Foreign Agents’ Law

In the Republic of Georgia, significant public unrest has been triggered by the proposed ‘Foreign Agents’ Law, which has been seen by many as an attempt by the government to curb civil liberties and align more closely with Russian legislative practices. This piece examines the reasons behind the demonstrations, the content of the law, and the broader geopolitical implications for Georgia and its aspirations for Western integration.

What is the ‘Foreign Agents’ Law?

The proposed ‘Foreign Agents’ Law in Georgia requires any organization receiving more than 20% of its funding from foreign sources to register as a foreign agent. This label not only carries a stigmatizing connotation but also subjects the organizations to additional government scrutiny and regulatory burdens. Proponents of the law argue that it is necessary for national security and transparency, similar to the reasoning seen in Russia’s 2012 legislation which has been used to suppress dissent and control civil society.

Public Reaction and Demonstrations

The response from Georgian civil society has been overwhelmingly negative, with thousands taking to the streets in the capital, Tbilisi, and other cities. Demonstrators argue that the law is a direct threat to democracy in Georgia, aimed at silencing critical voices and limiting the operation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), media outlets, and other civil society groups that play a crucial role in maintaining governmental accountability.

Protesters have also expressed concerns that the law would hinder Georgia’s efforts to join Western organizations such as the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). For many Georgians, alignment with Western institutions is not only desirable for economic reasons but also as a strategic counterbalance to Russian influence in the region.

Comparison with Russian Legislation

The similarities between Georgia’s proposed law and Russia’s ‘Foreign Agents’ law are hard to ignore. Since its enactment, the Russian law has been widely criticized by international human rights organizations and has led to the labeling and subsequent limitation of numerous NGOs and media outlets, diminishing civil space. Observers fear that Georgia’s law could lead to a similar decline in democratic freedoms and an increase in government control right when the country is trying to distance itself from Russian geopolitical influence.

Implications for Georgian Democracy and Western Relations

Georgia has been on a path towards Western integration, highlighted by its association agreement with the EU signed in 2014 and its continued efforts to fulfill the requirements for EU membership and closer ties with NATO. The ‘Foreign Agents’ Law poses a significant obstacle to these goals, as Western institutions are cautious of engaging with countries where democratic values and human rights are in question.

Broader Geopolitical Significance

The enactment of the ‘Foreign Agents’ Law could potentially realign Georgia’s foreign policy more towards Russia, which has been viewed with suspicion and resistance from large segments of the Georgian population, especially since the 2008 conflict over South Ossetia. This shift could lead to increased tensions not only within Georgia but also across the broader Eastern European region, complicating relationships with both Western allies and neighboring countries.


The proposed ‘Foreign Agents’ Law in Georgia has ignited widespread protests and brought to the forefront the ongoing struggle between the desire for democratic governance and the pull of authoritarian influences. The outcome of this conflict will have significant implications for the future of Georgia’s democracy, its relationship with Western institutions, and its position in the broader geopolitical landscape of Eastern Europe.


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