Venice Commission strongly recommends repealing the Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence in Georgia

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Mass protests emerged in Georgia against the Putin-inspired law.

The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission urgently recommends repealing the current form of the Law of Georgia on Transparency of Foreign Influence. The Commission underscores that the law’s fundamental flaws will have immediate and significant negative consequences for freedoms of association and expression, the right to privacy, the right to participate in public affairs, and the prohibition of discrimination. 

The Venice Commission regrets that the Georgian parliament did not wait for its opinion before adopting the law, despite calls by the President of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

The opinion meticulously examines the law’s compliance with the most stringent international and European standards. It unequivocally concludes that the restrictions the law imposes on the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association, and privacy are flagrantly inconsistent with the criteria outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These restrictions blatantly disregard the requirements of legality, legitimacy, necessity in a democratic society, proportionality, and the principle of non-discrimination.

The law, which purports to ensure transparency, in reality poses a grave risk of stigmatising, silencing, and potentially eliminating associations and media that receive even a minuscule portion of their funding from abroad. This poses a significant threat to open, informed public debate, pluralism, and democracy, as there is a high likelihood that the affected associations and media will be those critical of the government.

The Venice Commission strongly recommends that the Georgian authorities abandon the special registration, reporting, and public disclosure requirements for civil society organisations, online media, and broadcasters receiving foreign support, including administrative sanctions. 

While existing Georgian legislation already includes provisions requiring organisations affected by the law to register and report, including on their funding sources, a convincing explanation has yet to be provided as to why the existing obligations would be insufficient for ensuring transparency, writes the Commission.

If the current laws are insufficient, the Georgian authorities should consider amending them to comply with European and international standards. Specifically, if inadequate legislation exists, lobbying activities for foreign countries could be regulated in line with European standards. 

The Venice Commission also expresses regret that this law, sensitive to human rights but highly controversial in Georgian society, was adopted without genuine discussion and meaningful consultation. 

The Venice Commission concludes that this approach does not meet European requirements for democratic law-making and disregards the concerns of a large portion of the Georgian population, as demonstrated by the significant reactions in the country.

“As Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the @coe, I thank the @VeniceComm for strongly recommending repeal of the ‘foreign influence’ law, and I express hope that Georgia’s leaders will do so,” Gabrielius Landsbergis, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Member of Parliament of Lithuania, posted on X.

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