Germany's Scholz, Georgia's Kobakhidze clash over foreign-funded NGO law

  • World
  • Friday, 12 Apr 2024

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze attend a joint press conference, in Berlin, Germany, April 12, 2024. REUTERS/Nadja Wohlleben

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday appealed to his visiting Georgian counterpart to withdraw a planned law on foreign influence, increasing pressure from the European Union over the legislation.

Critics have compared the law under debate in the country that aspires to join the EU to one Russian President Vladimir Putin has used to crush dissent.

A previous attempt to introduce it was abandoned last year after months of street protests.

"Our criticism remains the same as last time and we hope the law will not be passed," Scholz said on Friday at a joint news conference with Irakli Kobakhidze, Georgia's prime minister since February. "We believe Georgia does not need such laws."

Labelled the the "transparency law" by Georgia's government, it would require Georgian organisations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as "foreign agents" or face fines.

Kobakhidze said that his Georgian Dream party's proposal merely gave the government the right to look at foreign-funded NGOs' accounts once a year.

"We have a right to demand a minimum degree of transparency from NGOs," he said.

"The NGOs that are acting on behalf of their funders have the aim of influencing political developments in Georgia. They have twice tried to change the government not through democratic votes but through street protests.

"We can well understand why these funders and the NGOs are afraid of openness," he added, without naming specific NGOs or funders.

Scholz said it was crucial that the Caucasus country's upcoming elections be free and fair, especially given its aspiration to join the EU.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt, Editing by Rachel More, Miranda Murray and Barbara Lewis)

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