Russia & Former Soviet Union

EU suspends accession process for ex-Soviet republic

The Georgian ‘foreign agent’ law is “incompatible” with membership of the bloc, its ambassador in Tbilisi has said

FILE PHOTO: View of the Old Tbilisi, Georgia. ©  Getty Images / lovelypeace

The European Union has suspended the process of Georgia’s accession to the bloc, the EU’s ambassador to the former Soviet republic, Pavel Gerchinsky, told Russian media on Tuesday. A €30 million ($32.5 million) payment allocated to the Georgian Defense Ministry has also reportedly been frozen.

The envoy cited Tbilisi’s controversial ‘foreign agent’ law as the reason behind the move. After the legislation was adopted last month, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned Georgia that its potential accession to the bloc was in jeopardy.

Formally titled the Transparency of Foreign Influence Act, the new law requires NGOs, media outlets, and individuals who receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as entities “promoting the interests of a foreign power” and to disclose their donors. Those who fail to comply will face fines of up to $9,500. The bill came into force despite opposition protests and a veto by Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili.

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“The intentions of the current Georgian government are unclear to EU leaders. The Transparency of Foreign Influence Act is clearly a step backwards. […] Also, the anti-Western, anti-European rhetoric is completely incompatible with the declared goal of joining the European Union. Unfortunately, as of now Georgia’s accession to the European Union has been suspended,” Gerchinsky said, as quoted by RIA Novosti.

While opponents of the law have described it as at attack on democracy and “Russian” because Moscow has similar legislation, its supporters have noted it is similar to what numerous Western nations, including the US, have in place.

Borrell said last month that Georgia will not progress with its EU accession unless its government changes its policies.

Georgia will hold parliamentary elections in October, and Gerchinsky expressed hope that a new government in Tbilisi, “whatever it may be,” will again “begin serious work” toward EU integration.

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The former Soviet republic applied for EU membership in March 2022, shortly after the start of the Ukraine conflict. In May of last year, the European Council agreed to allocate €30 million to boost Georgia’s defense sector. The European Council granted Tbilisi candidate status last December.

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