Expectations and the EU Association Agreement
People who said they had heard about the Association Agreement were asked what they thought the agreement could bring to Georgia. Survey respondents were asked to select one answer from a list provided on a show card. Looking at the results of this question by age group shows an interesting trend. Half of young people (18 to 35) stated that the agreement would result in political closeness and tight economic integration with the EU - the stated purpose of the agreement. In contrast, those aged 35 to 55 were more likely to report EU membership for Georgia as a result of the agreement. This outcome is not ruled out by the agreement, and in some instances, the agreement has served as a stepping stone on the path to EU membership. However, it is not an explicit or likely near-term result of the signing. Notably, a number of countries which are highly unlikely to want or be considered for EU membership have signed Association Agreements, including Algeria and Chile among other countries.
The graph below shows trust in the EU over time in Georgia. In 2008 trust in the EU was at 64%, followed by a slight decrease in trust which remained stable from 2009 to 2012. Interestingly, in 2013, a decrease in the level of trust occurred with trust responses dropping 16 percentage points, distrust increasing by seven, and neither trust nor distrust increasing by eight percentage points. Thus, a more ambivalent attitude towards the EU appears to have emerged in 2012 and 2013.
Note: Respondents were asked “Please tell me how much do you trust or distrust the European Union?” In the graph above, ‘fully trust’ and ‘somewhat trust’ are combined to form “Trust” and ‘somewhat distrust’ and ‘fully distrust’ are combined into “Distrust”.
This post has shown that awareness of the Association Agreement in Georgia is lower among ethnic minorities than ethnic Georgians in Georgia, likely due to lack of access to Georgian-language media and knowledge of Georgian. It has further discussed expectations among different age groups for the agreement, showing that young adults in Georgia expect closer ties from the agreement, while 36-55 year olds are more likely to believe that the agreement will lead to EU membership. Finally, the post looked at trust in the European Union over time. While distrust has not increased, ambivalence does seem to be spreading among Georgians, particularly in 2013. To further explore issues related to international organizations and the EU in Georgia, and the South Caucasus more generally, we recommend exploring our datasets here or using our Online Data Analysis Tool here. Readers may also be interested in the blog, Can’t get no satisfaction. Who doesn’t want to join the EU? published in March 2014 on the CRRC blog.
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The 2018 presidential elections, and particularly, the events surrounding the second round, have come to be considered a setback for Georgia’s democratic trajectory. Between the first and second round, it was announced that 600,000 voters would have debt relief immediately following the elections, leading some to suggest this was a form of vote buying. A number of instances of electoral fraud were also alleged. The use of party coordinators around election precincts was also widely condemned.
Georgians are enthusiastic in supporting the country’s accession to the European Union. Since 2012, when the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and CRRC-Georgia started tracking attitudes, three quarters of Georgians approved of the government’s goal of joining the EU, on average. What motivates Georgians to support the Union, or alternatively, to abandon support? A survey experiment included in the latest CRRC/NDI poll suggests potential economic burdens have a modest yet significant effect on support for membership. Results do not support the common belief that a potential military threat from Russia dampens Georgians’ support for the EU.
While many things could divide the public, what do the people think and which groups report more and fewer sources of division? The April 2019 NDI-CRRC poll suggests that there are fewer perceived reasons for division in rural areas and among ethnic minorities.