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The government gives millions to Georgian civil society

The government gives millions to Georgian civil society

What it indicates is that Georgia stands at a crossroads – either it continues to move closer to the European Union or it moves closer to Russia. Currently, the latter option seems the most likely, as the government has chosen to proceed with the passage of the “Russian law”, which is incompatible with EU membership.

“We are concerned about this, both in terms of what it means for the ability of Georgian civil society to function, and because it conflicts with rapprochement with the European Union,” says Johan Forssell, who visited Georgia earlier this week.

A new vote is expected next week. The government's plans were met with major popular opposition, and massive protests continued in the streets of Tbilisi for weeks.

The law is about to Media outlets and volunteer organizations that receive more than 20 percent of their funds from abroad are forced to register as “foreign agents.” If they do not do so, they will be fined.

Photo: Lisa Matteson

In practice, this means, among other things, that many organizations receiving grants from Swedish SIDA will soon have to register as “foreign agents”. The result could be an end to the organizations' operations in the country, which came as a result of a similar Russian law introduced in 2012.

Therefore the government will Increased aid to Georgian civil society by ten million kroner. Another million will go to the Georgian media mining company Ifacts. The money must be paid in the near future and will be handled by the Swedish Embassy in Tbilisi.

– The situation is more difficult than ever for civil society, so the support will go to these important organizations, says Johan Forssell.

– It is not only this legislation that makes things difficult for organizations. There is also a discourse on the part of the Georgian government where faces are printed on posters and banners, where they are described as foreign agents and that they are managing the affairs of other countries.

Sweden is already one of Georgia's major donors today. Last year, the support amounted to SEK 230 million, and this year it is also expected to reach more than SEK 200 million.

facts.The “Russian law” has led to large protests

For several weeks, protests have continued in Georgia against a proposed law that would force volunteer organizations to admit they “work for a foreign power” if they receive more than 20 percent of their funds from abroad.

The opposition describes the law as a “Russian law” because it is similar to Russia's 2012 anti-foreign agents law, which has become a tool of repression against Putin's critics.

The European Union describes the law as inconsistent with Georgia's ambition to become a member of the Union, which is stipulated in the country's constitution.

Read more:

Georgia: The new “Russian battle” is approaching the boiling point

Opposition in Georgia: New law tailored to powerful oligarchs

Police violently put down a demonstration in Georgia

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