For the past years, Georgia has been in a downward spiral vis-a-vis its European integration goals, largely due to its deteriorating state of democracy, undermined rule of law, and government’s reckless bashing of dissent.
Download the full publication to read the analysis of Georgia’s implementation of 5 key EaP policy priorities:
1.1. Together for resilient, sustainable and integrated economies
1.2. Together for accountable institutions, the rule of law and security
1.3. Together towards environmental and climate resilience
1.4. Together for a resilient digital transformation
1.5. Together for resilient, fair and inclusive societies
Thematic Summary of implementation of 5 key EaP priorities across the region.
Analysis for other states:
Current perception of the EaP policy in Georgia
EU aspirations among the EaP partner states vary depending on their domestic political dynamics, public support and last but not least the geopolitical context they find themselves in. Over the course of the existence of the Eastern Partnership Georgia has made it clear that it sees itself in the European family. It has even enshrined this mission in its constitution (article78) by stating that “the constitutional bodies shall take all measures within the scope of their competencies to ensure the full integration of Georgia into the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization”.This pledge was upheld by Georgia’s frontrunner status due to its functional institutions and a democratic inertia of a peaceful transfer of power in 2012. Another meaningful factor is the sustainablepublic support tojoining the EU, which hovers around 80 percent for more than a decade or so.
Lamentably, for the past years Georgia has been in a downward spiral vis-a-vis its European integration goals largely due to its deteriorating state of democracy, undermined rule of law and government’s reckless bashing of dissent. These trendshave drawn sharp criticism from number of the EU institutions, especially the European Parliament, which issued a resolution and called “on the Georgian authorities to resolutely uphold the highest standards of democracy, the rule of law, judicial independence, fair trials and fundamental freedoms, including in the area of media freedom, and thereby unambiguously demonstrate their political determination to actualise the ambitious European aspirations of the people of Georgia”.
In response, the ruling party’s leaders and its rank and file members alike responded in a menacing and blackmailing tone suggesting that the resolution was offensive, unjust and some even claimed that it might prompt Georgia to reconsider its European future. To make things worse, there is a growing concern among Georgia’s western friends about where the true allegiance of the Georgian authorities lies considering their ambivalence in supporting its Euro-Atlantic aspirations, its dire democracy record and rather strange war-time sharp criticism of the Ukrainian government when the entire western community rallies behind it.
Hence, not surprisingly once a frontrunner among the EaP countries, Georgia currently has a tarnished reputation and lukewarm reception in Brussels. This turn of events prompted the demotion of Georgia in the pecking order of the countries of the associated trio favored by Brussels. Apart from all the above-listed, the EU was particularly annoyed by the abrupt withdrawal of Georgia’s ruling party from the inter-party April 19 agreement brokered by the European Council President Charles Michel.
This comes at a wrong time as Russia’s unprovoked and atrocious invasion of Ukraine opened a new window of opportunity for the associated trio. Russia’s barbaric actions triggered an expedited process of review of applications for the EU candidate status lodged by Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova giving them a chance to seal their European path through formal procedure. Unfortunately for Georgia, the European Commission recommended to the European Council to give Georgia the European perspective until certain priorities are addressed and only after that grant it candidate status. Considering the latest developments taking place in Georgia and the democracy record of the government, this was no surprise.
In spite of all the malaise related to the behavior of the ruling party, the Georgian people all but deserve granting the EU candidate status by the European Council, in spite of the opinion of the European Commission, as it has staunchly supported the European path through the last two decades and has never given up the hope of becoming a member of the European family. Moreover, it does have a functioning economy and institutions that are necessary to show it meets the membership requirements. As the EU is more than just a union of prosperous states, it should not forget that it was created for the perpetuation of peace on the European continent. In the context of the ongoing Russian aggression, Georgia together with other members of the associated trio merit the prospect of European future as it has incurred tremendous costs for its choice.
By not granting EU candidate status to any of the members of the trio and leaving them out in the cold, Russia and other ill-wishers will be bolstered and the pro-European forces in these countries will suffer a devastating blow. By offering the status, the EU will send a forceful message of support to the trio, encourage reforms and democratization in these states and promote prospective political elites (those in and outside government) to firmly commit to the European future.
By the end of 2022, the European Commission will review how the Georgian Government addressed the recommendations outlined in its opinion. The question remains if the authorities in Tbilisi will be able to meet those expectations provided that they will have to “de-oligarchize” their political system (get rid of the influence exerted by Bidizina Ivanishvili), do away with political retribution against its opponents, restore rule of law and rectify its record of treating media and civil activists.
Georgia’s vision of the updated EaP policy
For Georgian policymakers:
- Based on the European Council conditions on EU candidate status elaborate the roadmap of implementation with the involvement of all political parties and civil society. Ensure immediate return to the April 19 Agreement;
- The Georgian Government should immediately change its communication mode and reverse its aggressive, threatening and obstructive tone/attitude towards the EU institutions and Georgia’s European allies;
- Georgia should increase its visibility in Brussels and other European capitals to convince EU institutions and member states of its resolve to commit to Georgia’s European future.
- Set up a separate entity at the executive level to deal with the Georgia’s EU integration process (e.i. like Office on EU integration) and give it as much power as possible; This move will send a strong message about Georgia’s European aspirations and commitments to the EU and member states.
- Reinvigorate cooperation and coordination with Ukraine and Moldova in relation to the common EU-related foreign policy aspirations. Plan high level visits to Kyiv and Chisinau to reinforce the image and capacities of Trio.
- Set up the trialogue format with the involvement of civil society, government of Georgia and the EU and or Member states.
For the EU Policymakers:
- The EU should avoid splitting up the Associated trio as it will undermine its stance in the neighborhood and lead to more instability and exacerbation of geopolitical competition among various regional actors;
- The EU should set up the EU-MD, UA, GEO summit in the framework of the EaP to encourage a shared vision of European future among the Trio and the EU;
- Set up the clearest and measurable benchmarks/conditionality (leaving no room for interpretation) for achieving the candidate status and strictly monitor their fulfillment. Particular emphasis should be puton “de-oligarchisation”, political plurality, rule of law, reform of the justice system (Judiciary and Prosecutor’s Office), media freedom and protection of rights;
- Following the Council’s decision, the EU should clearly communicate (to leave no room for interpretation) about its expectations and what needs to be done on the side of Georgia. The EU should also increase its visibility across Georgia via various initiatives/activities and strengthen communication with the Georgian public to counter disinformation and malign, anti-EU narratives following the decision.
- Strengthen and institutionalize the policy dialogue with the civil society on GEO-EU membership process.