“We must prompt the international community to act…”
23 January, 2014
“We must prompt the international community to act…”
Interview with Levan Bodzashvili, Head of EU Research Center

Georgia faces challenges over internal and foreign policies. These are the subject of the interview by InterPressNews with Levan Bodzashvili, a professor at Fordham University School of Law and the head of the EU Research Center.
– Mr. Bodzashvili, as you know, 2014 is a crucial year for us – we are moving closer to Europe. However, the Patriarch’s Easter Epistle could pose a risk to our European future. What could
you say regarding the uproar that this epistle caused and how would you evaluate those threats that endanger our future?
– As early as the threshold of the Vilnius Summit I contended that the potential risks and dangers that impeded our well-being were not taken seriously. Even today these threats can only be noticed under a magnifying glass. Many consider that Russia has exhausted all its leverage against Georgia; this allegation is far from being right, though. One of the most significant deterrents that can divert us from the path to Europe is our people’s hopeless and apathetic outlook on Europe. Precisely, this can downgrade and discredit the idea of Georgia’s integration within Europe. Under the present conditions, the Government has to cope with the extremely vital task of unifying the Georgian people and following through on the process of our integration with the EU.
The Georgian people are obliged to prioritize the issues they are facing today. They must not exaggerate relatively insignificant problems, but look away from them and concentrate on what is actually important. They deliberately incite a rift by manipulating certain topics, and this is the most critical threat which today’s situation poses for us. They are holding a smear campaign, which is the result of a meticulously elaborated plan; by highlighting negative aspects of problematic matters, and by drawing our people’s attention to negatives, they are targeting something not so favorable for us. What kind of a goal could they have set? They must simply be aiming at altering the situation inside our country by weakening our church, and against this backdrop exhibiting the EU as a vicious and evil power; thus, they are creating the image of an enemy; they are pushing us to search for foes where they do not actually exist.
– How big of a chance do we stand that our values will run off the rails?
– Simply remember what kind of steps Russia took in Ukraine; it stopped at nothing to drag Europe through the mud by maintaining that Europe must be associated with evil. Take the topic of surrogacy, for instance. The vast majority of European states prohibit people from using this method of bearing children. And like the European states, in Georgia the practice of surrogacy is in need of regulation. In addition, I must also point out that the “clash of values” is a deliberately fabricated term and it actually does not even exist. Defaming and slapping down Europe – this is their key objective today.
We must comprehend that Europe is far from being based on one particular value; it is founded on the idea that everyone is different and equal at the same time. The EU does not urge its member states to renounce their values, rites or traditions, and each state is entitled to facilitate a deal with Europe regarding any kind of purposeful policy without overcoming some “insurmountable obstacles”.
The main challenge posed today is to keep public opinion unimpaired; however, the present status quo strongly indicates that we will find it extremely troublesome to negotiate this tough challenge. The interview with EU Ambassador Mr. Dimitrov, US high officials’ visits to Georgia, frequent audiences with the Patriarch, etc. also point out that our people are incrementally collapsing today.
I think that actually the Western states are those who are posing a threat to us. At the same time, we must take account of the fact that during the first six months of 2014 the leading state of the EU is expected to be Greece, which does not try to take active steps for involving the Eastern European states in partnership, and which focuses its attention on the southern states of Europe as well as the illegal migration process. One of the leading states of the EU is supposed to be Italy, which is expected to pursue the policy of Greece.
– Those against integration with Europe strongly hold that Europe will urge us to legalize same-sex marriages. The EU representatives have repudiated this claim, though; as for you, what do you think regarding the issue?
– The EU is prevented from making us take this step; however, it is dead set against any sort of discrimination. At the same time, we must bear in mind that discrimination does not imply only violating the rights of a minority; ignoring the will of the majority is discrimination, too.
If we look at bygone days, we will deduce that passing the so-called anti-discrimination laws was one of the key requirements of the EU when we were about to initial the EU pact.
As far as I am concerned, Georgia’s Justice Ministry is also drafting a similar law. The 36th article of our constitution covers the marriage issue, but does not define what kinds of marriages are admissible in our country. Only the Civil Code establishes a practice according to which only a man and a woman can join each other in wedlock in Georgia.
To prevent this matter from being manipulated, we can follow the Croatia’s lead and regulate the issue by the constitution.
– The majority of experts as well as government representatives assert that in 2014, after the Sochi Olympics, the Kremlin will place even more relentless pressure on Georgia. What sort of measures must Georgia’s government take to safeguard Georgia from pressure from Russia?
– Our Government’s strategy to hinder Russia from putting pressure on us by pursuing a “restrained policy” and by closing eyes to certain steps by Russian officials is understandable but not enough though. We must formulate a definite plan in relation to Russia if this plan has not already been hatched; and this plan must cover particular measures which our government intends to take about its foreign policy; we must also prompt the international community to pay attention to Georgia’s present situation by constantly providing it with pertinent information regarding us.
– If Russia does not stop at exacerbating tensions in Georgia and destabilizing relations with us, how are the US and Europe expected to respond to this?
– This or other way, the fact is that Europe has tried to avoid worsening relations with Russia by offering a simple formula to this state – none of the countries with a chance to sign the EU association pact will be thwarted by Russia. The relevant article was also formulated in the agreement. For the Russian political biggies this offer has turned out to be unacceptable though. As for us, under the present state of affairs we are obliged to have tight relations with our European and American partners.
The fact that before the Olympics a summit between Russia and the EU is planned is also important for us. This summit will confirm that the wounds which Russia inflicted on Europe by making Ukraine spurn the EU deal are still open. And the EU will show that it is firm in its resolution to mitigate Russia’s pressure on the European states.
Into the bargain, this year Russia is planned to become a leading state of the Big Eight while it has left a myriad of unsettled economic and fiscal issues as well as problems with the World Trade Organization. Thus, Europe and the US have in their hands adequate levers enabling them to restrain Russia.
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