U.S. Targets Georgian Democracy Underminers With Visa Sanctions, Reviews Relations

U.S. Targets Georgian Democracy Underminers With Visa Sanctions, Reviews Relations

The United States said on Thursday it is reviewing its bilateral cooperation with Georgia and will impose visa restrictions over its controversial "foreign agent" law that triggered weeks of mass protests in the country, TURAN's Washington correspondent reports.

In a statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday evening that the visa restrictions would apply to individuals responsible for undermining democracy in Georgia and their family members. No officials were named, but they are believed to be members of the ruling Georgian Dream party.

"Anyone who undermines democratic processes or institutions in Georgia —including in the lead-up to, during, and following Georgia’s October 2024 elections — may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy and precluded from travel to the United States. Immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions," Blinken said in a statement.

Last week, the Georgian parliament passed a law that requires NGOs and independent media that receive more than 20% of their funding from foreign donors to register as organisations "bearing the interests of a foreign power". Georgia's president has vetoed the law - but the ruling party has enough MPs to override her intervention by holding another vote in parliament next week.

In his statement, Blinken noted the Georgian Dream party "has developed and passed a 'foreign influence' law that would stifle the exercise of freedoms of association and expression, stigmatise organisations that serve the citizens of Georgia, and impede independent media organizations working to provide Georgians with access to high quality information.

"As Georgian citizens have voiced opposition to the law, we have seen clear indications of a campaign of intimidation and the use of violence to suppress peaceful dissent," the Secretary said, adding that the measures "run contrary to Georgia’s long-stated goal - reflected in its constitution - of Euro-Atlantic integration and strategic partnership with the United States".

America's top diplomat also said he hopes that "Georgia’s leaders will reconsider the draft law".  "I am also launching today a comprehensive review of bilateral cooperation between the United States and Georgia. It remains our hope that Georgia’s leaders will reconsider the draft law and take steps to move forward with their nation’s democratic and Euro-Atlantic aspirations. As we review the relationship between our two countries, we will take into account Georgia’s actions in deciding our own," he concluded.

Blinken's statement came as top U.S. Senators Thursday evening introduced a bipartisan sanctions bill against Georgia, the latest legislative push to respond to the GD's “foreign agent” bill.

The Georgian People’s Act, introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Jim Risch, would impose travel bans and other sanctions on Georgian politicians accused of obstructing the country's Euro-Atlantic integration and being behind “corruption, human rights abuses and efforts to advance foreign agents law or facilitate its passage,"as the authors put it.

On the other side of the Congress, Representative Joe Wlson, chair of the Helsinki Commission, also introduced a much-anticipated bill that would offer Georgia military and economic assistance if it does not adopt the controversial foreign agent law.  The bill also contains sanctions provisions if Georgia ultimately enacts the foreign agent law.

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