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Shaheen Meets with Georgia Parliamentary Delegation Following Protests Over Foreign Agents Law

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Chair of the Europe and Regional Security Cooperation Subcommittee, met with members of Georgia’s Foreign Affairs Committee and the Georgian Ambassador to the United States, David Zalkaliani. The meeting follows the Parliament of Georgia’s re-introduction of a Russian-style bill that would severely limit free speech and democratic accountability in Georgia. If approved, this law would undermine the United States’ longstanding relationship with the country, which is based on shared democratic principles that have also guided Georgia’s path towards membership in the European Union (EU). A photo from today’s meeting can be found here.

“During my meeting with Georgian parliamentarians, I conveyed that as a longtime supporter of Georgia, I am disappointed by the rapid political shift taking place in the country, which is at odds with the wishes of the Georgian people,” said Shaheen. “The legislation put forward to suppress the important work of civil society organizations, if successful, would irrevocably change Georgia’s relationship with the United States and damage any aspirations for EU and NATO membership. I urged them to listen to the Georgian people who have taken to the streets to peacefully protest, and I hope this dangerous and concerning legislation is stopped in its tracks.” 

Last week, Shaheen and U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent bipartisan letter to the Prime Minister of Georgia following the re-introduction of a law that would force non-governmental organizations and independent media that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from foreign donors to register as foreign agents.

Mass protests first broke out 13 months ago, when the Georgian government first introduced the proposed foreign agents law. The government ultimately withdrew the legislation in response to the public outcry but have recently re-introduced a similar version of the bill. Once again, mass protests have taken place on the streets of Tbilisi in opposition to the legislation. The foreign agents bill resembles legislation enacted in Russia in 2012 that undermined democratic opposition to the Kremlin.

Shaheen participated as an election monitor in Georgia with U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) in 2012. Last year, Shaheen traveled to Georgia and Romania to meet with heads of state, members of legislature and representatives from civil society to discuss the nations’ bilateral relationships, as well as the geopolitical importance of the Black Sea region. Shaheen spoke out against the first introduction of the Georgia Dream’s foreign agents law, noting that it resembles laws passed in Russia. In June 2021, Shaheen led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to Eastern Europe, including Georgia and Ukraine.

In March 2021, Shaheen held a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee hearing on bolstering democracy in Georgia and previously introduced a bipartisan resolution reaffirming U.S. support for a pro-democracy future for Georgia. Senator Shaheen has also successfully led bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate to establish a U.S. policy toward the Black Sea region.