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Survey results on Georgians’ views of EU

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, January 18
Despite the fact that 12% of Georgians questioned by a recent survey mistakenly believe that Georgia is already a member of the European Union, the greatest number of respondents think that Georgia needs to become a member of the EU first and then other international organizations like NATO. These were some of the results revealed by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF) in the frame of the survey report: Knowledge and Attitudes toward the European Union in Georgia.

EPF’s Caucasus Research Resource Centre (CRRC) carried out a baseline survey to study Georgia’s knowledge and attitudes toward the EU in 2009 and in 2011.

The 1,683 people in 2009 and 1,818 people in 2011 responded to different kinds of questions regarding the European Union.

Based on the research, the most important issues for Georgian citizens currently are related to the social situation in the country. The greatest number of respondents said that unemployment, high prices, poverty, pensions, and availability of medical service are the most important current issues. Matters of territorial integrity, membership in international organizations, a free court system and some others were behind social issues in importance. However to the question - “What would the greatest assistance for Georgia be from the international community?” Georgians consider territorial integration to be first, then the creation of workplaces, and then making Georgia an EU member state.

To the question - “Which are the most trusted institutions in Georgia?” 74% of those questioned responded - the Church - followed by the army, the President, and then the EU.

As for Georgia’s close relations with other countries, it seems that the country’s relationship with Russia is still important for Georgians, as after the United States and EU, 47% of those questioned said that Georgia should have good relations with Russia.

Despite the fact that a great number of those questioned consider the EU to be a democratic institution and Georgia a European state, more people consider that Georgia requires at least five years to be worthy of EU membership. They think that the country’s unresolved conflicts, political instability, Russian factor, lack of democracy and undeveloped civil society are the main obstacles standing in its way.

The survey also revealed that Georgians do not have enough information about the EU and other international organizations, and the assistance that those organizations are carrying out in Georgia. One of the signs of this was that 12% of those questioned believe that Georgia is already an EU member.

Director of Caucasian Resource Centre - Georgia, Koba Turmanidze, states that Georgians are conditioned to have a positive opinion of the EU even without any real knowledge about the organization. “It is more important to know what Georgians will decide when they eventually do have enough information, and can evaluate the value of both options. Thus getting more information will help everyone to make decisions on whether partnership with the EU really is good, or whether it might carry with it some negative implications.”

Project Manager of the EU delegation in Georgia, Oliver Risner, was not surprised that Georgians did not have that much information on the EU, as according to him even citizens of the EU’s member states often do not know much about the organization. “I hope that at schools, in different programs and in the media, it will be better explained what the EU and its institutions are.” He thinks that people should learn more about the EU from public discussions and through the media. “As it is not just a part of the Government’s foreign policy, but directly affects each member citizen’s life.”

The Georgian authorities are continually claiming that Georgia is getting closer to joining international organizations and that the day is not far off that we will become members of the EU and NATO. They also constantly state that the Georgian Government pays attention to polls and recommendations of the people and acts based on the demand and needs of the Georgian people. Unlike the Government, the opposition consider Georgia to currently be as far from EU and NATO membership as ever before.

Certain Georgian analysts also think that Georgia does not currently satisfy NATO and EU standards thus membership in the organizations is still a long way off. Analysts Ramaz Sakvarelidze and Gia Khukhashvili draw attention to the concrete demands of international organizations which are still not being carried out by the current administration, such as court reform, strengthening of democratic institutions and so on.