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Foreign policy priorities of Georgian Dream coalition

By Messenger Staff
Monday, December 31
A major political aspect to 2012 was Georgia's domestic policy battles. However, foreign policy issues also played a major role over the past year. Thus far, there has been no deviation from past foreign policy directions aside from the recent "warming" of relations with Russia.

Throughout their campaign prior to the election, the United National Movement (UNM) accused the Georgian Dream opposition of being oriented towards Moscow with President Saakashvili labeling them publicly as the last Russian project. He attempted to instill fear and distrust of the Georgian Dream in the Georgian population as well as Georgia’s foreign allies, suggesting that in the case of their victory, Georgia will gravitate back to the Russian orbit.

This, however, did not have much effect; people did not believe these allegations and as a result, still voted for the Georgian Dream.

The election period was also significant in that that UNM activated its lobbyist companies in the West, thus attempting to undermine and discredit the position of the Georgian Dream coalition. This lobbying activity was not unusual for Saakashvili, as his administration spent a large amount of money to maintain in the West the false image– that of a democratic administration leading the country. This was his advantage over the former opposition. Through such efforts, Saakashvili and his team managed to deceive its Western partners, showing them only the facade of democracy, while in reality, things were going wrong.

Saakashvili also declared economic miracles, while nearly half of Georgia’s population is unemployed or poorly paid. He was lying when announcing democratic changes in the country, when in reality there were numerous cases of the abuse of human rights and putting innocent people into the prisons, creating a whole set of political prisoners, suppressing freedom of media and many other violations. However, through his lobbying companies and his personal ability to charm visitors, Saakashvili impressively managed to create a false image of Georgia worldwide.

After the appearance of Bidzina Ivanishvili on the political stage, the opposition managed to accumulate solid finances to create a true, unbiased picture of the country and present it to its Western allies and the ordinary public.

The Georgian Dream's efforts eventually led to success. Georgia's Western allies realized that the new power emerging in Georgia was devoted to the ideals of western and Euro Atlantic countries. However, it also undertook a commitment to regulate relations with Russia.

It has only been two months since the new party came to power. Hence it is premature to speak much about its achievements and failures. One thing can be said however: Georgia’s new leadership with its actions in those two months proved its commitment to Euro-Atlantic structures.

After its electoral success on October 1, the Georgian Dream slowed down its lobbyist activities around the world, whereas Saakashvili continued exploiting the reserves of his lobbyist potential. In addition, the newly appointed administration, in particular the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior Affairs and the Prosecutor General, began investigating some of the most scandalous activities and abuses committed by high-level officials from the previous administration.

This was followed by the detention of a number of high officials that included the former Minister of Defense and Interior Bacho Akhalaia and others. The detentions and interrogations continue; however, Saakashvili and his supporters tried to discredit the new administration through its lobbying companies by labeling these acts as political revenge.

An aggressive anti-Georgian Dream campaign was unleashed to undermine the activities of the new government. Some Western politicians who naively trusted Saakashvili continued doing so. Hopefully the new Georgian administration will activate different levers to reveal the correct picture of the situation inside the country.

The new administration has already managed to achieve a serious breakthrough in the country’s relations with Russia. The Russian Federation has nearly lifted its embargo on Georgian products and Georgia has appointed a special envoy for Georgian-Russian relations. The first meeting between Ambassador Zurab Abashidze and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gregory Karasin, was held in Switzerland. Georgia also announced that it would not obstruct the Sochi Olympic Games in 2015. Although no political issues have been discussed so far, hopefully things will continue in the right direction.

The first regional visit to Azerbaijan was also made by Prime Minister Ivanishvili. His position proved that he is committed to protecting the country’s interests in all fields– may it be political or economical. He also plans to visit Armenia and Turkey in the near future.

On his first official visit as the PM, Ivanishvili confirmed in Brussels the country’s intentions to integrate into the EU and NATO.

2013 will be full of challenges for Georgia; among them is the forthcoming resignation of the president, new presidential elections and possible snap parliamentary elections. Of course, any of these events can potentially influence the country’s foreign policy.