Georgia: Presidential Veto of “Foreign Agents” Law Changes Nothing

Georgian Opposition: “The new law is an obstacle on the way of the Caucasian republic to Europe”

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has exercised her veto power over the law on “foreign agents,” which was approved by the Tbilisi parliament in its third and final reading on May 14. The law has sparked popular protests for over a month, with the opposition calling it a violation of freedom of expression.

The law was strongly supported by the government led by the Kartuli Ontseba (Georgian Dream) party, which claimed it was modeled after the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in the United States. However, President Zurabishvili and the opposition argued that the new law “contradicts the letter and spirit of Georgia’s Constitution and will represent an obstacle on the Caucasian republic’s path to Europe.”

In Georgia, the president plays a largely ceremonial role, and the veto power only allows the head of state to “postpone the entry into force of the law.” The parliament has the right to reject the veto, and the law will enter into force regardless. In this case, the ruling party has enough votes in parliament to override the veto, meaning the law is likely to go into effect.

In December 2023, Georgia was granted candidate country status for EU accession. However, to continue on this path, Georgia must demonstrate that it guarantees the proper functioning of democratic institutions and respect for the rule of law. Critics of the new law argue that it will “limit democratic freedoms in the country.”