Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia Shalva Papuashvili
© Getty Images / Anadolu / ContributorChairman of the Parliament of Georgia Shalva Papuashvili
The participation of foreign officials in an anti-government rally is unacceptable, the parliament speaker said

The participation of politicians from NATO countries in anti-government rallies in Tbilisi is a hostile step aimed at overthrowing the Georgian government, parliamentary chairman Shalva Papuashvili has said.

The statement comes as foreign ministers from Iceland, Lithuania and Estonia took part in a rally against the recently passed 'foreign agents' bill on Wednesday. The ministers, who arrived in Tbilisi to discuss the controversial law with the country's government, were later seen addressing a crowd of protesters at the parliament building.

"Addressing a rally of exalted youth, led by the radical opposition parties against the government, and calling them the 'whole nation' is something that you ... would not expect from a foreign minister of an EU member state," Papuashvili argued in a post issued on Thursday on X (formerly Twitter).

"Some in the governments of our Baltic partners have been carried away a bit too much by their own rhetoric," he added.

Papuashvili recalled that the Georgian government has proven its "commitment to European and Euro-Atlantic values and policies," adding that "now, with [the] ever-elusive prospect of NATO membership amidst the regional geopolitical turmoil, Georgia has to deal with dramatic foreign challenges mostly on its own."

He mentioned "unaccountable foreign money," which he said flows freely into Georgia's political system, including radical groups, claiming the new legislation on transparency in relation to foreign influence is intended to deal with this challenge.

Papuashvili suggested that those who are protesting against the legislation are affected by it. "Foreign dignitaries joining these protests, in blatant disregard of Georgia's sovereignty and diplomatic practice, in the name of 'democracy and human rights', is hypocrisy at best, and subversion at worst," he concluded.

On Tuesday, the Georgian parliament passed the law on foreign agents at the third and final reading of the legislation, despite massive street protests and criticism from Western governments.

Officially titled 'On the Transparency of Foreign Influence', the bill would require Georgian non-profit organizations, media outlets and individuals that receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as entities "promoting the interests of a foreign power," as well as disclosing their income and donors. Refusal to do so will be punishable by a fine of up to $9,500.

Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili has expressed support for the demonstrators and vowed to veto the bill. However, the move would be mostly symbolic as a presidential veto can be overridden by a simple majority in parliament.

The US and EU have criticized the proposal, claiming that it would complicate the work of many foreign NGOs. Brussels has warned Tbilisi that it could lose its EU candidate status if it passed the bill.

The head of the ruling Georgian Dream party, Mamuka Mdinaradze, has argued that the new bill was necessary to protect the country from foreign-funded protests, radical political parties, and propagandistic media.