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Are Georgia’s foreign policy priorities shifting?

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, August 28
A recently published National Democratic Institute (NDI) survey has revealed an interesting tendency in the evolution of Georgia’s foreign policy. The opinion poll was conducted after the local elections of 2014. The majority of people still support Georgia’s European path through the survey. However, the number has decreased compared to previous surveys. Conversely, the number of the people who look at Russia as less of a threat and support Georgia’s membership to the Eurasian Union, has increased.

71% of people questioned in the survey knew about Georgia signing the Association Agreement (AA) with the EU. 69% positively assessed the fact, 8% negatively, 22% did not know how to assess this development and 1% declined to respond altogether. Most people are waiting for improvement in Georgia’s economy after signing the AA.

Russia is the most significant geo-political challenge for Georgia. 42% admitted that Russia is still a threat to Georgia, 38% believe that Russia poses danger for Georgia, but the threat is exaggerated, 15% say that Russia is not a threat to Georgia at all, and 6% refrained from responding. Compared to the April 2014 survey, a number of those people who view Russia as a threat has decreased from 50% to 42%, when the number of those, who do not view Russia as a threat remained the same 15%.

There is an increase in those who support Georgia’s membership in the Eurasian Union. Today 20% support joining the Eurasian Union, compared to 11% in November of 2013 and 16% in April of 2014.

Such a change in public opinion could be attributed to the fact that after the Georgian Dream coalition took office, Russia has not been as aggressive as it used to be. In addition, the number of Georgian products exported to Russia has increased. The current Georgian government claims that the normalization of relations with Russia is possible. Some Georgians believe that the current policy with Russia might result in the reintegration of Georgian occupied territories. As such, striving towards the EU and NATO will not promote positive changes in Georgia and might result in more aggression from Russia.

In the context of such change in public mood, much is dependent on the government. It should use the AA to achieve economic advancement in the country that results in increasing support for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.