Estonian MFA summons Georgian ambassador over 'foreign agents' bill

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The Georgian flag flying in Tallinn.
The Georgian flag flying in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Georgian Ambassador to Estonia was summoned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday over a bill that will brand foreign-funded NGOs and media in Georgia "foreign agents". Estonia called for the law to be retracted.

In a statement, the MFA said it conveyed "great discontent" to the ambassador and called on the government to retract the bill, which passed its first reading on Tuesday.

The law would require non-governmental and media organizations that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to declare themselves as "foreign agents", or face hefty fines and possible imprisonment.

It has been compared with a similar law in Russia.

"It raises serious questions about the prospects of democracy in Georgia," the Estonian MFA said. "The law is in clear conflict with Georgia's ambition so far for rapid Euro-Atlantic integration."

The bill contradicts European values and runs counter to the country's plans to obtain EU candidate country status, the statement said.

"Implementing the law will lead to silencing independent media and civil society and will make it more difficult to carry out Estonia's development cooperation projects in Georgia," it continued.

Foreign ministers from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also made a joint statement on Wednesday.

They also called for the Georgian government to respect people's right to protest peacefully.

"We call on the Parliament of Georgia to responsibly assess the real interests of the country and refrain from decisions that may undermine aspirations of Georgia's people to live in a democratic country which is advancing towards the EU and NATO," Urmas Reinsalu, Edgars Rinkevičs, and Gabrielius Landsbergis said.

On Tuesday, protesters clashed with police in Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, after parliament backed the controversial draft law, the BBC reported.

Riot police used water cannons and pepper spray to disperse the crowds outside the parliament building.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said she was "disturbed" by the scenes coming out of Tbilisi against peaceful protesters.

"Events in Georgia remind us that democracies may also gradually erode at the hands of elected leaders," she wrote on social media.

Editor's note: This article was updated to add a comment from Kaja Kallas.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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