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Georgia and the EU: Russia’s next move

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, June 25
Russia is going to make relations deeper with the occupied South Ossetia once Georgia signs the Association Agreement (AA) with the EU.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's top aide Vladislav Surkov arrived in South Ossetia and met the region’s de facto President Leonid Tibilov a couple of days ago.

“On June 27, Georgia will sign the Association Agreement with the European Union. Thus we, Russia and South Ossetia, must take measures in a timely manner to strengthen our relations. We must quickly develop a new plan, according to which we must cooperate more actively in defense, security and the social fields. We together should raise the living standards of the population living in South Ossetia,” Surkov said.

It should be noted that Anatoly Bibilov, whose United Ossetia party won majority of seats in breakaway South Ossetian parliament in the June 8 elections, was elected as speaker of the newly convened parliament on Monday. Joining Russia was one of the key slogans of the United Ossetia party ahead of the elections. Joining with Russia is a topic that is being discussed in Abkhazia as well.

Georgian analysts stress that Georgia’s move towards the European Union would cause more aggression from Russia. They emphasize that Russia will use its levers in terms of the occupied regions as well as those related to economics.

Georgian officials state that signing the AA presumably will not cause the irritation of Russia. According to Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze, Russia will not impose an embargo on Georgia after signing the AA.

“I do not think Russia is interested in the deterioration our bilateral relations achievements. If Russia imposes an embargo on Georgia, it will inevitably affect our relationships,” Panjikidze said. She informed that Georgian and Russian experts plan technical consultations to discuss potential effects of the DCFTA, which Tbilisi plans to sign with the EU on Friday, on bilateral Georgian-Russian trade.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that holding such consultations in the near future was discussed during a phone conversation between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and Georgian PM’s special envoy for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, on June 23.

Meanwhile, the United National Movement and some analysts criticize the government for not sending a loud message concerning the very serious threat Georgia is facing regarding Russia and might face in the future. Analyst Tornike Sharashenidze believes that Russia will not take Georgia’s EU integration calmly and might undertake juridical annexation of the de-facto regions.