Half a year after far-right Georgian radicals and members of hate groups tore down a European Union flag during a rally against gay rights in Tbilisi, Georgian legislators have introduced a new law that makes it illegal to deface the flags of the European Union (EU), NATO, and their member states.
In summer of 2021, a protest was held in Tbilisi against the city’s annual Gay Pride parade, during which radicals attacked journalists and activists. They also tore down and burned the European Union flag that was hanging outside the parliament building. The event, called March for Dignity, saw a mob murder journalist Alexander Lashkarava, and caused outrage as thousands took to the streets to accuse the government of encouraging hate groups.
The new law also makes the desecration of any symbols linked to the organizations, as well as all other states with which Georgia has diplomatic relations, a criminal liability for which the offenders would be fined 1,000 Georgian lari ($323).
“Such fines are common for most European countries. We think these changes will be a preventive measure against such an unfortunate incident that occurred in July. We believe this is a progressive step,” said Nikoloz Samkharadze, one of the authors of the bill.
In addition to being fined, a repeat offender could also face time behind bars for defacing flags and symbols.
Georgia is not a member of NATO or the EU yet, but it has signaled strong aspirations for integration with both organizations.
Eighty percent of the Georgian population supports European integration; there is a very high respect for the EU in the country,” Kakha Gogolashvili, the director of Georgia’s pro-EU Rondeli Foundation think tank, said.
“We must not allow radical groups to commit such aggressive actions against the symbols of the EU and NATO. It is important that the parliament passed this new law with multi-party support.”