Georgia Stands at a Crossroads Between Autocratic Russia and the Democratic West

June 24, 2024

After the Georgian parliament approved a controversial bill that mandates organizations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as foreign agents, it’s obvious that the Caucasus country now stands at a historic crossroads. How do Georgian members of the ICDR, Ketevan Chachava, Ucha Nanuashvili, and Tinatin Khidasheli, see the future?


Member of the ICDR, executive director, Center for Development and Democracy (CDD), Georgia


Member of the ICDR, founder at the Democracy Research Institute (DRI); founder, project director at the Human Rights Center, Georgia


Member of the ICDR, chairperson, Civic IDEA, Georgia

Ketevan Chachava

Member of the ICDR, executive director, Center for Development and Democracy (CDD), Georgia

”Georgia stands at a historic crossroads, resolute in its journey towards the European Union and the Euro-Atlantic community. This steadfast commitment is woven into the very fabric of our nation’s identity and our dreams of a democratic, prosperous future. The decentralized, powerful protests led by our fearless youth against the Transparency of Foreign Influence Law, commonly referred to as the Russian Law, are a testament to our unwavering spirit and determination to safeguard our democratic values. Despite President Salome Zurabishvili’s veto, the Georgian Dream party adopted this law, overcoming the veto amidst massive protests on the streets of Tbilisi.

The law, set to take effect in early August, requires organizations and media to register under the label “organization carrying out the interests of a foreign power” within a month. An absolute majority of organizations plan not to register, facing substantial fines as a consequence. Our society stands united in its quest for European integration and the principles of democracy, CSOs are planning to challenge this law in the Constitutional Court of Georgia as well as in the European Court of Human Rights.

President Zurabishvili’s introduction of the “Georgian Charter,” a road map for the upcoming election in October, reflects the vision for reforms that resonate with EU ideals. With the unwavering support of our international allies, who are prepared to help us defend our democracy, the message is unequivocal: We will not be swayed by adversity. Our civil society will fight with every tool in its arsenal, including legal challenges, to ensure our path remains unaltered. Our journey to Europe transcends politics; it is a moral imperative, driven by the Georgian people’s desire for a brighter, more just future.

Together, with the support of the global community, we will overcome these challenges. We will reaffirm our place in the Euro-Atlantic community, standing strong for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Our path is clear, and our resolve unbreakable: Georgia will achieve its rightful place in Europe, guided by the will of its people and the support of its friends around the world.”

Ucha Nanuashvili

Member of the ICDR, founder at the Democracy Research Institute (DRI); founder, project director at the Human Rights Center, Georgia

”During the last few years, the political field in Georgia has been monopolized by the ruling party. We observe with concern the negative attitude of the authorities towards independent institutions, including the president, NGOs, and the media. The illegal dispersal of peaceful demonstrations, the excessive use of force, pressure on the media, the politicization of law enforcement bodies and the security sector, clear signs of the application of selective justice by launching criminal investigations against independent actors, the persecution of critical voices, impunity, and a lack of accountability -- all of the above characterizes the current situation in Georgia.

The shift in foreign policy and repressions announced by Bidzina Ivanishvili on April 29, 2024 have swiftly materialized into tangible actions – threats and insults hurled at hundreds of citizens have escalated into physical assaults and organized reprisals against politicians, human rights defenders, and activists.

Amidst the protests against the Russian Law, attacks on active citizens by law enforcement officers and people dressed in plain clothes have become a daily occurrence. The illegal violence is approved and sanctioned by the authorities, which is confirmed by the inaction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the attempt to normalize illegal violence. The instrumentalization of organized violent groups and leaving protesters alone with aggressors are practices that have been established for years by the Georgian Dream authorities.

The Kremlin-inspired law on foreign agents, adopted in May 2024 by the parliament, has become a symbol of the government’s violence against the people as well as its intimidation and betrayal of the country. The legal consequence of deterring this violence and changing the Western vector will be personal financial sanctions and travel bans, which will be imposed on those who put personal interest above the country’s constitution and on their family members.

A majority of deputies in the Georgian parliament acted against the national interests of the Georgian people and the country’s constitution by passing the Russian Law. The Georgian people are strong and we will be strong in defending our own European future. We will never ever get along with living under the boot of Russia.

We’ll continue our protest and confrontation until this law is repealed! We won’t leave a single person without help. We protect all those detained and those brought to administrative responsibility. Our lawyers are defending their rights, both within the country and in international courts. The adoption of the “Russian Law” will put the observation of elections at risk but, in spite of this, we, Georgian CSOs, plan to protect the elections and every single vote of our citizens. We will observe elections at every polling station and we will observe to protect free and fair elections!

It’s important to ensure that the 2024 parliamentary elections take place in a free, transparent, and fair environment. Long-term observation during the pre-election period and after the elections is very important. Another issue is that the state should investigate reported cases of harassment against activists, journalists, and civil society representatives. And a comprehensive reform plan needs to be adopted in support of real reforms of the judiciary, oversight of the security sector, the depoliticization of law enforcement, strengthening independent institutions and local authorities, as well as increasing accountability and stopping impunity.”

Tinatin Khidasheli

Member of the ICDR, chairperson, Civic IDEA, Georgia

”The reintroduction of the "foreign agents" bill by the Georgian Dream party in April 2024 has significantly impacted Georgia's trajectory towards European integration. Despite strong public opposition, including massive protests across major cities and the largest demonstrations in Tbilisi since Georgia's independence, the parliament passed the law and overruled the presidential veto. This law, effective from August 4, mandates NGOs and media to register as "foreign agents."

Resistance to this law is widespread, with almost all large civil society organizations and around 300 smaller or regional groups announcing their refusal to comply. This anticipated non-compliance is likely to trigger another wave of protests in September when the government attempts to start forceful registrations.

This issue is compounded by the upcoming pivotal parliamentary elections in October, viewed as a referendum on Georgia’s European aspirations. The law's enforcement and the refusal of major civil society organizations to register could lead to their exclusion by the Central Election Commission from monitoring, further escalating tensions.

In response to these developments, the West has shown strong support for Georgian NGOs and media. The United States has already announced travel sanctions, setting the stage for further measures from both Washington and Brussels. It is crucial for Western governments and institutions to deliver clear and unequivocal messages to prevent manipulation and propaganda by the Georgian government. The EU must articulate a firm stance, including the suspension of all negotiations and activities with the current regime in Tbilisi, to ensure that there is no ambiguity about the consequences of undermining democratic principles.

For effective pressure, it is important that statements and decisions from EU leaders are explicit in their condemnation and indicate a halt in relations with the current authoritarian and oligarchic government. This clarity is essential to counteract any government attempts to placate their voter base with misleading assurances about the EU's continued engagement despite criticisms.” 

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