EU urges Georgia to withdraw 'foreign influence' law

The European Commission on Wednesday slammed Georgia for passing a "foreign influence" law targeting overseas-funded NGOs and for repressing mass protests against it, urging Tbilisi to reverse course.

"The adoption of this law negatively impacts Georgia's progress on the EU path... We urge the Georgian authorities to withdraw the law," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a joint statement with the rest of the EU's executive.

Georgia's parliament on Tuesday adopted the controversial law, which the United States says is a "Kremlin-style" piece of legislation aimed at branding NGOs as "foreign agents" to silence dissent.

The move is divisive in the ex-Soviet republic, where a majority of the population wants to join the European Union and NATO, and is staunchly anti-Kremlin, according to opinion polls.

Protests have sprung up against it, and scuffles have even broken out inside parliament between opposition lawmakers and members of the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Georgian Dream has sought to depict the protesters as violent mobs. It insists it is committed to joining the EU, and portrays the bill as aimed at increasing transparency of NGO funding.

The bill requires NGOs and media outlets that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as bodies "pursuing the interests of a foreign power".

The EU had originally aimed to issue its statement in the name of its 27 member states, but diplomats said that was scuppered by objections from Hungary and Slovakia.

Hungary's right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the closest EU leader to the Kremlin, is a staunch ally of the Georgian authorities.

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