Latest World News

In Georgia, the struggle for influence between Russia and the European Union


When the “Foreign Agents” bill first surfaced in Georgia’s parliament, a joke was widely circulated among Kremlin opponents groups who found refuge in this small Caucasian country: “If you run away from the Russian world, the Russian world will come to you. » The text, adopted at first reading on March 7, was modeled on a Russian law aimed at silencing any critical voice. It provided that any NGO or media receiving more than 20% of its funding from international sources register as a “foreign agent”, under penalty of heavy fines. An unprecedented authoritarian turn, which undermined the country’s chances of one day joining the European Union (EU).

Tens of thousands of people immediately took to the streets. “People understood that it was a declaration of war against democracy and freedom, and that it would close the doors of the European Union to us”, analyzes Levan Tsutskiridze, director of the Eastern European Center for Multiparty Democracy research center. Under pressure, the government ended up giving up on March 10, while stubbornly defending its text.

The Georgian population, 80% of whom aspire to join the EU, knows that the fight is far from over. “They withdrew the law, but did not give up on their objectives: to clear the way before the October 2024 legislative elections by destroying civil society – the last island of independence in the country, so weak is the opposition. – and sabotage the process of integration into the European Union”explains the researcher.


The scandal exposed what civil society has been denouncing for years: the pro-Russian orientation of the government, led in the shadows by the former prime minister and founder of the Georgian Dream party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire oligarch who made wealth in Russia. So far, the government’s ambivalent rhetoric has fueled the confusion. Tbilisi continues to claim to want to join the EU, while making sure to derail the process in order to blame the failure on the Europeans. This double game now seems laid bare. “Those who still had doubts understood. The government has shown its true face. It’s a turning point for everyone.”says the sociologist Iago Kachakichvili, professor at Tbilisi State University.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers In Georgia, the awakening of Generation Z in the face of the law on “foreign agents”

The crisis revealed, implicitly, the battle for influence that Russia and the European Union are waging in Georgia, a country in which 20% of the territory has been occupied by Russian troops since the August 2008 war. Shortly before his visit in Tbilisi, Thursday, March 23, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock denounced “attempts to divert the country from the pro-European path advocated by the overwhelming majority of Georgians” And “the pressures the country faces from within and without”.

You have 70.28% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.