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US to offer support to Georgia if it abandons foreign agents law, Politico

US to offer support to Georgia if it abandons foreign agents law, Politico Photo: The US is trying to prevent the adoption of a law on foreign agents in Georgia (Getty Images)

Washington could sign a broad package of economic and security support for Georgia if the country's government abandons its increasingly anti-Western rhetoric and stops backsliding on human rights, Politico reports.

Under the terms of the bill, which will be introduced in Congress this week by Republican Congressman Joe Wilson, the United States will begin negotiations with Georgia to open a "robust preferential trade regime" if key policy criteria are met.

Along with improved access to American markets, the bill calls for liberalization of the visa regime for Georgian citizens.

It also authorizes government officials to develop a package of military support for the country, including the "provision of security and defense equipment ideally suited for territorial defense against Russian aggression and concomitant training, maintenance, and operations support elements."

However, the program will only be activated if the US confirms that "Georgia has shown significant and sustained progress towards reinvigorating its democracy, evidenced at a minimum by substantially fair and free elections and a balanced pre-election environment."

As previously reported by Politico, Wilson's bill would impose individual sanctions on politicians from the ruling Georgian Dream party, as well as other government officials, if they implement their proposed Russian-style "foreign agents" bill.

The bill, which is awaiting a final vote in parliament next week before becoming law, will brand Western-funded NGOs, media outlets, and campaigns as foreign agents, which critics say will be used to silence and delegitimize criticism of the government.

Wilson is chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, an independent US government agency that oversees freedom and democracy across the continent. His bill, the MEGOBARI Act, reflects the warnings of other leaders in Washington.

Law on foreign agents in Georgia

In April, the Georgian parliament returned to considering the Transparency of Foreign Influence bill, which it tried to adopt last year.

The initiators of the document were deputies from the ruling Georgian Dream party, which has ties to the Kremlin. The document requires media and non-governmental organizations that receive more than 20% of their annual income from abroad to register with the Ministry of Justice and obtain the status of a "foreign agent." The opposition is convinced that this mechanism will allow the authorities to put pressure on dissidents, in particular before the parliamentary elections in the country.

The consideration of the document sparked thousands of protests in the center of Tbilisi and repeated attempts by protesters to seize parliament.

However, despite the rallies, the parliament adopted the document in the final third reading.

The US has stated that it can fundamentally revise relations with Georgia in the event of the final adoption of the law on foreign agents.

President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili vetoed the bill. In the future, it will return to the parliament and if the deputies adopt it again, the document will enter into force.