'You Get Out What You Put In’ – EU Tells Georgia
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, September 30
It is in Georgia’s hands to get more out of the EU Eastern Partnership program, Miroslav Lajcak, European External Action Service Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia, said on September 29. According to Lajcak, the new philosophy presented in the new program of the partnership gives an explanation of individual approaches of what countries can get out of it as proportionate to what they put in: “more for more” but also “less for less”.
“This enables our partners to show how close they are to European values, how much they want to implement political and economic reforms. By putting more in, they will get more help and political and economic integration from the EU. The same can be said about Georgia as about other countries – you should use it”, Lajcak said.
The managing director was not concrete about the exact problems Georgia has which create obstacles for the state’s further integration into European structures, but did hinted at some issues in different fields. “The Eastern Partnership Program makes room for you to present significant changes in your political and economic system. We are ready to financially assist you”, he said and added that the date for launching negotiations on a free trade agreement will be decided by the leaders at the Partnership summit. “There is real chance that this will start in a short period of time, as Georgia has made great progress,” Lajcak said.
Georgian officials have frequently mentioned the importance of Georgian–EU relations and the state’s readiness to integrate into the union, based on the successful reforms and changes carried out. According to recent statements from Georgia’s representative to the EU, Salome Samadashvili, negotiations on free trade with the EU will be opened by the end of the year and the target for the following year will be to launch negotiations on a visa free travel regime.
The Georgian opposition however is skeptical. As the representative of Our Georgia- Free Democrats, Viktor Dolidze, told The Messenger, Georgia does not do the “homework” given by the EU with the current authorities in power, as the present government of Georgia has no competence in this. “The EU and NATO are wide-ranging organizations covering almost all fields and they have their demands regarding economic, social, democratic, political and other areas. The current authorities fail to meet recommendations however there are political force in Georgia who will be able to do this.”
As analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze told The Messenger, the new slogan, 'more for more', gives the EU political maneuverability. At the same time, Georgia has one important specificity ”it looks different from different sides. Georgian reality is seen differently from Georgia, differently from Europe, differently from the USA,“ the analyst said, stating that it is difficult to say beforehand how the EU might act towards Georgia. “Europe might make critical statements towards Georgia and after that say that it is ready to assist Georgia to eradicate certain problems, or it might criticize and use the criticism to reduce assistance. In general, the EU tries not to be as generous as before and the slogan serves that aim. It’s difficult to say how their new approach will reflect on Georgia,“ Sakvarelidze said.
According to Andrew Wilson, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, the EU seems to be ready for deeper relations with Georgia on free trade. He also states that the Georgian government’s unexpected Euro-enthusiasm is brought about by failure of NATO attempts in 2008 and the reset policy of the US with Russia.