Author: Alexis de Varax


Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream party’s (GD) reintroduction of a “foreign agent” draft law has sparked renewed debates on sovereignty and transparency. Shalva Papuashvili, Georgian Parliament Chairman, argues that this is not a Russian-style law but a European one. The current bill targets Georgian non-governmental organizations and media outlets, renaming “foreign agents” to “organizations pursuing the interests of a foreign power”. This article contrasts Georgian Dream’s law and narrative with their European and French counterparts, examining their motivations, impact on democracy, and broader geopolitical influences.

The Argument of National Sovereignty and Independence

Mamuka Mdinaradze, the parliamentary majority leader of the ruling Georgian Dream party, recently announced the reintroduction of the draft law on “The Transparency of Foreign Influence”. Despite facing massive protests last year, the party remains steadfast in its commitment to passing legislation that it claims will safeguard Georgia’s sovereignty. While the main term used in the bill has been modified from “foreign agent” to “organization pursuing the interests of a foreign power”, the core content remains unchanged: Organizations receiving foreign funding, regardless of the type of activity, must publish annual financial reports, with penalties for violations.

The parliamentary majority has emphasized the “non-transparency” of the civil sector in Georgia, linking this lack of transparency to “national security challenges.” They accuse NGOs of falsifying election results and orchestrating “revolutionary scenarios” to undermine the government. Furthermore, the ruling party blames NGOs for spreading “pseudo-liberal ideology and so-called LGBT propaganda,” as well as undermining public trust in the Georgian Orthodox Church. This narrative is an additional indicator that the Georgian Dream is moving towards Russia. Indeed, the ruling majority, led by Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, has announced a law against LGBT propaganda, which is also a copy-paste of a Russian law. The Georgian Dream party’s narrative extends to allegations of Western political interference, particularly targeting organizations like the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), among others.

The government argues its “foreign agent” law aligns with the US, French, British, Canadian, and EU laws, challenging Western claims. Pro-government media and online sources brand opponents as Western propaganda tools. Georgian Dream’s allegations find support among pro-Russian groups, who believe the West aims to 1) promote liberal-LGBT views and 2) push Georgia into conflict with Russia, revealing underlying geopolitical tensions in the debate.

Comparing Russian and Western Laws

Following up on Shalva Papuashvili’s comparisons with the French and European laws, let’s delve into the distinctions. First of all, the EU Commission’s “Proposal for a Directive on Transparency of Interest Representation on behalf of Third Countries”, which is part of a broader Defense of Democracy package (EUDD), is still under development and faces a multi-stage process. It requires approval from both the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, potentially involving lengthy negotiations and revisions before becoming a law. The French law, titled “Preventing Foreign Interference in France,” has already been adopted by the National Assembly. However, it awaits scrutiny by the Senate. If passed there, it requires final presidential approval.

Before comparing the laws, it’s crucial to grasp the European context. The European Union and its members are grappling with foreign interference, most notably from Russia. These interferences have escalated significantly since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In response, the EU has united against Russian aggression, with European countries such as France intensifying its rhetoric against Putin. Moreover, France perceives its interests as being threatened both domestically, evidenced by interference in the 2017 French presidential election campaign, and externally, with French interests jeopardized by Russia in Africa. It is against this backdrop that Europe is fortifying itself with legislation aimed at shielding against foreign interference, not just from Russia but also from China, Turkey, and Iran. In this light, such legislation can be understood and justified.

The French law and the EU’s Defense of Democracy package (EUDD) primarily target foreign interference, including cyberattacks and misinformation from nations like Russia, China, Turkey, and Iran. These laws aim to defend Europe against aggressive foreign meddling. In contrast, Georgia’s “foreign agent” law targets Western-funded organizations, which have long supported the country’s development. This shift risks alienating valuable allies and undermining Georgia’s international partnerships. While Georgia’s law aligns with autocratic powers such as Russia or Iran, the French law and the EUDD focus on countering a broader range of threats and enhancing transparency within their respective jurisdictions.

Additionally, the EUDD specifically seeks to regulate interest representation activities on behalf of third countries influencing EU policies and decision-making. It introduces comprehensive transparency measures, such as mandatory registration in a Transparency Register for entities conducting lobbying campaigns on behalf of third-country governments. Additionally, key details of these activities, including funding amounts and goals, will be publicly accessible.

Moreover, on the first hand, the French law, like the US Foreign Agents Registration Act, clearly distinguishes between the “type of activity” and “nationality” of the agent. While it doesn’t impose as rigorous transparency measures as the EUDD, it aligns with the EU’s goal of safeguarding democratic processes and institutions. This distinction means that organizations aren’t automatically labeled as foreign agents based solely on foreign funding. Instead, the focus is on the nature of the activity itself, whether it’s lobbying, public relations, or other forms of representation. On the other hand, the Georgian government’s approach labels NGOs and media outlets that receive over 20% of their funding from foreign sources as “organizations pursuing the interests of a foreign power.” This broad categorization risks unfairly stigmatizing organizations that might be acting in Georgia’s best interests but depend on international funding for their operations. Such an indiscriminate classification can erode the credibility of civil society groups, discourage foreign investment, and hamper international collaboration. This could ultimately diminish the impact and reach of civil society within Georgia. In comparison, the EUDD offers a more balanced and nuanced perspective. It makes a clear distinction between legitimate lobbying efforts and covert foreign influence, thereby providing a framework that safeguards the reputation of civil society organizations.

In terms of penalties, the French law includes fines and imprisonment for non-compliance. In contrast, the EU’s approach focuses on safeguards to prevent the misuse of the law and to respect fundamental rights, rather than imposing specific penalties like fines or imprisonment. The Georgian law proposes legal measures against incompliance, which include heavy fines. Plus, it provides leeway for arbitrary and selective enforcement, which can be used as a tool to suppress dissent or target specific groups or individuals, as seen, for example, with the concerns raised by persons with disabilities and disability rights organizations in Georgia.

The Georgian legislation was not modeled after the European or French laws. Instead, it closely aligns with the narrative and the purpose of Russia’s foreign agent law. The shared narrative portrays European liberalism and LGBT influences as threats to traditional values and regional peace, imposing restrictive and punitive measures on media and civil society. The Russian law was designed with the intent to suppress dissent and restrict civil liberties in Russia, echoing the apprehensions expressed about the Georgian “foreign agent” draft law.


The Georgian law on “The Transparency of Foreign Influence” goes beyond domestic policy, signifying the country’s geopolitical pivot. It suggests a move away from Western integration and potentially back towards Russia’s sphere of influence. By mirroring the Russian legislation and potentially harming civil liberties, Georgia risks alienating itself from the EU. While both the Georgian and Russian governments frame these laws as safeguards to national security, Western leaders, human rights organizations and democracy experts argue they stifle dissent and curtail civil liberties.