In Georgia, a series of legal amendments are putting the country's EU aspirations on hold

Image by Arzu Geybullayeva

This story was first published on OC Media’s website. An edited version is republished here under a content partnership agreement.

A foreign agent bill, a ban on gender election quotas, and most recently an LGBTQ+ propaganda bill are just the latest legal amendments proposed by the ruling Georgian Dream party. Pundits say the ruling party is throwing the country's EU aspirations away for a potential electoral advantage ahead of the parliamentary election scheduled for October 2024.

Most recent legal bills

On June 27,  the “LGBT Propaganda” bill, proposed by the ruling Georgian Dream Party, passed its first reading in parliament.

The contents of the proposed bill include banning same-sex marriage, which has already been prohibited in Georgia since 2017; legally barring queer people from adopting children; banning gender-affirming medical treatment; banning legal gender recognition; and banning “queer propaganda” in the media, educational institutions, and at public gatherings, protests, and workplaces.

According to a 2023 report by the Media Development Fund, titled “Anti-Gender and Anti-LBGTQ Mobilization in Georgia,” between 2012–2023, at least eight legislative changes were registered in the parliament submitted by various groups including the Georgian Dream, with the sole purpose of restricting or limiting LBGTQ+ rights in Georgia, five of which received no support.

But homophobia has been a big part of the Georgian Dream Party's toolkit since the party took over the country's leadership in 2012, emboldening the country's ultra-conservative and far-right citizens to target the queer community and its supporters.

Tbilisi Pride’s director, Tamar Jakeli, told OC Media that the Georgian Dream sought to attract more conservative voters through queer-phobic legislation which was “a direct copy” of Russian laws. Russia adopted its anti-queer law in 2013, to “protect children from information advocating a denial of traditional family value.” The law has had an immense effect on queer people in Russia, forcing them to hide their identities, causing an uptick in violence and suicides, and prompting many to flee abroad to safety.

The parliamentary majority plans to pass the law in its second and third readings in the autumn session, which begins on September 3 (Parliament’s spring session ended on June 28).

The Foreign Agent bill

Since April 2024 the country has been rocked with protests over what local civic groups called “The Russian law.” Despite ongoing calls to drop the bill, the country's lawmakers approved the controversial law on foreign agents in May 2024. The bill requires all media outlets and non-governmental organizations in Georgia receiving more than 20 percent of funding from foreign sources to register as “foreign agents” and report their annual income and donor sources. This, according to local civil society, “would entail monitoring from the government, which could compromise organizations’ internal communications and confidential sources.”

Also in April, the ruling party decided to abolish the gender quota as outlined in the Electoral Code of Georgia for women MPs. Prior to this decision, at least one out of every four persons on a party list had to be a woman. A Council of Europe Commission said the changes to the code gave “rise to serious concerns regarding the stability of electoral law.” In addition, the commission also noted:

The amendments relating to political parties’ candidate lists are relevant for the outcome of elections, and their adoption much less than one year before the next parliamentary elections — scheduled for October 2024 — gives rise to serious concerns regarding stability of electoral law.


Meanwhile, violent responses to the peaceful protesters against the foreign agent bill — physical assaults by the riot police, excessive use of physical force during detentions, deployment of pepper spray, tear gas, and water cannons to disperse the almost daily protests — raised concerns among Western stakeholders.

As such, on June 6, the United States imposed visa restrictions against dozens of Georgian officials including members of the Georgian Dream party, members of parliament, law enforcement, and private citizens.

On June 27, local media reported that at least three Georgian Dream MPs and the head of Georgia’s Special Tasks Department were hit by US travel sanctions over their support of the foreign agent law and the authorities’ crackdown on protesters. On July 1, other names were added to the list, including Interior Minister Vakhtang Gomelauri, Criminal Police Chief Teimuraz Kupatadze, and Patrol Police Chief Vazha Siradze. The same day, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated his country’s concerns about Georgian Dream’s controversial foreign agent law:

We, and many other countries, have not only expressed our deep concerns about it especially its passage. We have taken action to manifest those concerns and you are likely to see more of that. Its clearly antithetical to the European direction that Georgia wants to take and that clearly the majority of Georgian people want to take.

To mitigate the potential consequences, the founder and honorary chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, has reportedly sent an “envoy” to Washington. The envoy consisted of the head of the State Security Service (SSG), Grigol Liluashvili.

Separately on June 28, a joint statement by 36 states was presented at the United Nationals Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva expressing concern about the government's conduct:

On June 27, EU leaders issued a statement after a European Council summit, warning that Georgia’s current trajectory is “de facto leading to a halt of the accession process,” referring to the plan to allow Georgia to become a European Union (EU) member state.

Georgia formally applied for EU membership on March 3, 2022. In June 2022, Georgia's candidate status was declined, instead giving Georgia a list of 12 conditions the country had to fulfill before their application could be reexamined. Among these conditions were reducing political polarization, reforming the judiciary, ensuring functioning state institutions, strengthening anti-corruption measures, including de-oligarchisation, and others. Georgia was finally granted the status in December 2023.

On June 19, the EU’s Ambassador to Tbilisi, Pawel Herczynski said the country's EU aspirations were “practically frozen” as a result of the controversial bill on foreign agents.

From boos to cheers

How Georgian people feel about the ruling party and its decisions was perhaps best illustrated on July 2 when Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze took the stage in the capital Tbilisi to congratulate the national football team following their return from the Euro League Tournament. The crowd booed continuously until President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili took the microphone and the crowd immediately started cheering.

Just last year in November the ruling party attempted to impeach President Zurabishvili but failed. The President has gained mass popularity after siding with the people and the opposition during the street protests against the government-imposed foreign agent law in March 2023 and during the recent protests. Despite her rather limited role as a political figure, President Zurabishvili took a more critical position against the ruling party in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. She regularly criticized the ruling party's rhetoric on the ongoing war and Russia's intentions.

This further puts her and the people at odds with an increasingly far-right Georgian Dream Party.

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