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Georgia's President Salome Zourabichvili has utilized her veto power to reject a highly debated "foreign agents" bill, following weeks of extensive protests across the nation.

Despite Zourabichvili's prior commitment to blocking the bill, her veto could potentially be overturned by a simple majority in parliament. The bill had received approval on Tuesday, with 84 lawmakers voting in favor and 30 against.

The contentious legislation aimed to mandate organizations receiving over 20% of their funding from abroad to register as "agents of foreign influence" or face penalties. Critics argue that the bill mirrored similar laws in Russia, which the Kremlin has leveraged to suppress opposition and civil society.

In her address after vetoing the bill on Saturday, President Zourabichvili denounced its fundamentally Russian essence, contending that it contradicted both the country's constitution and European norms. She emphasized the necessity of repealing the bill, warning of potential hindrances to Georgia's aspirations of joining the European Union—a sentiment echoed by the EU.

Georgia's pursuit of EU membership, initiated in 2022 and acknowledged with candidate status in December, has been viewed as an endeavor to counteract the nation's inclination towards Russia, its former Soviet counterpart.

The historical tug-of-war between Russia and the West has persistently ensnared Georgia. Despite the country's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and substantial public support—approximately 80%—for EU accession, its complex relationship with Moscow continues to impede progress towards European integration.

Formal diplomatic ties between Georgia and Russia ceased following Russia's invasion in 2008. Nonetheless, Russia's lenient visa regulations for its nationals residing and working in Georgia illustrate the nuanced dynamics, with many opting for Georgia to evade conscription amid Russia's involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. Photo by Giorgi Abdaladze, Wikimedia commons.