The draft laws on “transparency of foreign influence” are anti-democratic and do not correspond to the priorities of the European Union membership candidate country

The draft laws on “transparency of foreign influence” are anti-democratic and do not correspond to the priorities of the European Union membership candidate country.

On February 14, the “People’s Power” movement submitted a legislative initiative to the Parliament regarding the adoption of the law “On Transparency of Foreign Influence”.

On February 27, the same political party presented an alternative bill on the same issue.

The Georgian Trade Unions Confederation (GTUC)   believes that the draft laws, especially the one registered on February 27, grossly violate freedoms of expression and association guaranteed by the Constitution of Georgia. Also, it contradicts the practice established by the Constitutional Court of Georgia regarding the “legitimacy test” of the restriction of rights.

For trade unions, foreign donor support is particularly important for producing best-practice-based research, legislative initiatives and effective awareness-raising campaigns to ensure the protection of workers’ rights. It should be noted that in many EU member states such initiatives are supported by the state itself. It should be emphasized that it was with the support of donors that the changes in the labour legislation were implemented at all stages and the executive institution of the labour legislation was established in the form of the Labour Inspection Service. Thus, an important step was taken on the path of integration into the European Union.

Some clauses of the draft law are so unclear that they indefinitely increase both the authority of the supervisory body as though to intervene in the activities of an organization for the control purposes, as well as the circle of persons to whom the law may apply.

It is extremely problematic to use the term “agent” in the draft law, which carries only a negative connotation and the statements made by a number of parliamentarians regarding its definition cannot neutralize this.

It is alarming that the intention of the draft law is to entrust the registration as an “agent of foreign influence” and the subsequent supervision of their activities directly to the Prosecutor General, without providing for any preventive mechanism in exercising broad powers by the Prosecutor General against a person registered as an “agent of foreign influence”.  In addition to the fact that this is contrary to several principles of national legislation.  Determining the law enforcement structure as a controlling body will have a damaging effect on the activities of organizations and individuals operating with foreign financial donations. Control from an official who is a public prosecutor immediately creates suspicion in the public that the person is engaged in criminal, illegal activities.

In addition, the clauses of the draft law, which refer to the disclosure of information related to a person registered as an “agent of foreign influence” and the manner of its disclosure, contradict the existing regulations on considering information as public information or commercial secrets and their disclosure.

The draft law even assigns competence to determine the procedure for public information disclosure to the General Prosecutor, notwithstanding the fact that  this issue is already regulated by the General Administrative Code. Such regulation increases the risk of selective application of the law by the Attorney General. However, for the person under supervision, publicity may have been a weak but still protective mechanism.

The clauses of the draft law, which refer to the provision of personal data of individuals employed in organizations registered as “agents of foreign influence” to the Prosecutor General, immeasurably strengthen the power of the law enforcement agency to influence individuals and represent a disproportionate interference in the rights of individuals to free development, work and personal life.

Against all this, while there are many challenges in the country and Georgia is preparing to receive the status of a candidate for EU membership, it is not clear which point of the EU’s 12-point plan requires the adoption of a law on transparency of foreign influence, especially since there is actually nothing about it in the explanatory notes.

The Georgian Trade Unions Confederation (GTUC) emphasizes that European Integration is a strong will of the citizens of our country and the Parliament of Georgia, within its competence, should do everything for it.  At the same time, the priority of population, according to numerous social surveys, is solving acute labour and social problems, which is also an important part of the European integration.

The Georgian Trade Unions Confederation (GTUC) calls on the Parliament not to support the draft law on “agents of foreign influence” and to continue working to fulfill the EU’s 12-point plan!