The EU Getting Squeezed in Georgia
22 October, 2015
The EU Getting Squeezed in Georgia
Recent polls have shown that the EU is less and less popular in Georgia. The reason is that they are getting squeezed between several different sides.

The Kremlin is the first group pushing against the EU, not in any real way but in terms of its reputation. As everybody knows, the Kremlin is now very effectively deploying propaganda in Georgia and everywhere else. They deploy propaganda just the way they conduct war, to confuse and promote instability, not to win. The Kremlin is not trying to convince the people of Georgia that Russia is a wonderful place; Everybody knows that it is not. But the Kremlin also knows that the overwhelming majority of people in Georgia have not been to the the United States or the EU and don’t really know what these places are like. 

The Kremlin tries to convince the public of three main things, the first being that the EU, America and Obama specifically are weak, incompetent, and unreliable partners for anybody. The second thing the Kremlin does is put forward and support any possible crazy conspiracy theory, they don’t really care which ones. They actively try to prevent people from having a clear understanding of the world or what is happening in it and why, but rather to portray the world as filled with secret mysterious forces acting behind the scenes. This is an effective way to confuse people and make them feel that no matter what they do, they have no control. And the third thing they do is to portray Russia and Putin as powerful, omnipresent, rock-like and steady. Russia may not be perfect, but it is strong and stable. The Kremlin can’t send out these messages from all media outlets in Georgia, so it tends to go from the least reliable channels, consumed by the least educated consumers of information, the ones who don’t speak other languages and haven’t been to the US or the EU to see for themselves. But what these channels lack in authority, they make up for in loudness and the echo of these messages finds its way into many many brains.

The second group pushing against the EU is the National Movement. They were never very comfortable with European Social Democracy and were more comfortable with the the Republican Party in the U.S. than with any other international partners. The EU always seemed too soft, too old, too worried
about equality and compromise to be very strong. The National Movement valued decisive action and the EU, as a multi-national negotiating body, isn’t so great at that. So the National Movement, while considering themselves the gatekeepers of Georgia’s relationship with the West, has always been quite critical of Europe and this has also found heir way into the brains of the population.

The third group pushing against the EU is the ruling party. Senior representatives of the Georgian Dream coalition have been quite aggressive in saying that the EU must do more for Georgia, must clarify Georgia’s path to NATO, must give it visa-free status, must do this or must do that. It is setting up the EU to look bad in Georgian eyes, and setting up the population to view the relationship as a failure or at least not so useful for Georgia.

Meanwhile, who is speaking on behalf of the EU, Europe and the West in general? The EU isn’t very good at speaking for itself. It also has a number of big problems within its own borders, currency problems, debt problems, refugee problems, the potential exit of the UK and plenty of others. Europe’s relationship with Georgia seems far away and when the posture of Georgia towards the EU is so aggressive, the EU could be inclined to say, «Is this really a problem worth trying to solve?» 

This is a shame because Georgia really is getting closer to Europe. The association agreement is a good one and will over time have great economic benefit to Georgia as soon as Georigan business figures out how to make use of it. Visa-free travel will happen soon. The evidence of Georgia’s increasing European connections is everywhere to be seen in Georgia and within the EU; more Georgians work and travel there and more Georigan restaurants spring up. But somehow the numbers aren’t going in the right direction. Unique among its neighbors, in Georgia the public decides where the nation will go. So where will the nation go?

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