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ორშაბათი | 29 სექტემბერი, 2014

Georgians Have High Hopes but Little Information about the Association Agreement with the EU

Optimism abounds with regards to the recently signed Georgia-European Union Association Agreement (AA). Most Georgians, however, lack information about the EU and its relation to the country, including the details of the agreement which directly concern the future of Georgia’s economy. The AA covers many areas including national security, migration, human rights and the rule of law but is primarily a free trade agreement with potentially major implications for employment.

Surveys have consistently shown that Georgian citizens are primarily concerned with unemployment and other economic problems, but academic opinions are divided on whether the AA’s impact on unemployment will be positive or negative; Messerlin, Emerson, Jandieri and Le Vernoy (2011) emphasize the “extremely onerous” costs of complying with EU regulatory standards while Kakulia (2014) argues that short-term costs will be more than offset by augmented inward foreign direct investment and expanded export volumes. This blog post analyzes public opinion surveys as well as academic research on the Association Agreement and finds discordance within the attitudes of the public. While much of the public have high hopes about the country’s integration with the EU, close ties may not improve the employment situation, which the majority of citizens see as Georgia’s most pressing problem.

Georgians tend to view potential EU membership positively, with the CRRC 2013 Caucasus Barometer survey finding that when asked “To what extent would you support Georgia’s membership in the EU?” 34% of adults responded “fully support” and 31% “rather support.” While demonstrating optimism most citizens are ill-informed about the EU and what closer ties mean for the country’s future. For example, in the Eurasia Partnership Foundation’s Knowledge and attitudes toward the EU survey in 2013 only 23% of the population reported familiarity with the Eastern Partnership, (a crucial forum for EU-Georgia dialogue) and only 19% responded “Yes” to the question “Have you heard or not about the Association Agreement with the European Union?”


While Georgians overwhelmingly see EU integration in a positive light, their focus rests primarily on the problem of stubbornly high unemployment, which could be profoundly impacted by the conditions of the AA. The 2013 Caucasus Barometer confirmed a series of studies emphasizing public awareness of the unemployment problem, finding that 54% of adults in Georgia view it as the “most important issue facing Georgia,” dwarfing such options as “unsolved regional conflicts” and “problematic relations with Russia.” That should not come as a surprise, as recent numbers from the National Statistics Office of Georgia give the unemployment rate at 14.6%, high by almost any standard, while some studies have found that the actual figure is upwards of 30%.


EU-Georgia relations and unemployment are closely intertwined because the AA includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), meaning that in addition to dissolving tariffs on all imports from EU member states the country will have to adopt EU regulatory standards on products. Academic opinions are split as to whether this will be helpful or harmful to the employment situation. In the words of Vato Levaja of the Free University of Tbilisi, “we need to adjust to the EU regulations, which are, to put it in a nutshell, the luxury of a richer community…you have to pay for it.” This adjustment could be especially difficult for agriculture producers who must bear the financial burden of meeting stricter food safety standards. Some manufacturers will also need to make costly investments in order to improve the quality of their products. Higher operating costs combined with increased foreign competition (due to the removal of tariffs) could hurt the profitability of some firms, putting downward pressure on employment, at least in the short term.

Proponents of the agreement argue that by improving its regulatory standards Georgia will attract more foreign investment and be able to export products to a wider range of foreign markets. More stringent regulation means better products and more productive industries, thereby increasing national wealth and employment opportunities. That may well happen, but the process will be difficult and likely only bear fruit in the long-term. However, as Georgians see unemployment as the biggest issue facing the country it is important that citizens become better informed about the Association Agreement’s economic implications. While Georgians tend to expect positive outcomes from integration the jury is out on whether deeper ties with the EU will help expand employment opportunities.

For additional insights relating to Georgian attitudes toward EU integration refer to this July post concerning expectations for the Association Agreement or take a look at our data using the CRRC’s Online Data Analysis 
tool. The website of the EU Delegation to Georgia offers a wealth of information on the Association Agreement.

02.06.2014 | ორშაბათი

Finding a good job in Georgia

Data on employment and perceptions about work present an interesting lens on Georgia. This is especially true since the official unemployment rate is 15% according to Geostat in 2012, and 31% of the population is unemployed and seeking work in Georgia as of September 2013, according to the National Democratic Institute
21.07.2014 | ორშაბათი

Friends and Enemies in the South Caucasus

On 1 April, 2014 the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University (ISET) published a blog which described a future Transcaucasian Confederation agreement signed by the three South Caucasian states. Despite the fact that the blog was an April Fool’s Day joke, it provoked significant interest and reader response.
18.08.2014 | ორშაბათი

One step forward, two steps back? European integration in Georgia after the Association Agreement

So far, 2014 is shaping up to be the year that Georgia might begin to reap the benefits of its pro-EU and pro-NATO foreign policy. In June, Georgia signed the EU Association Agreement despite fears over Russian agitation. NATO has indicated its readiness to discuss a “substantive package” for Georgia, if not a Membership Action Plan. However, despite these gestures towards closer cooperation, some elements of the decision to sign the Agreement have caused friction.
20.10.2014 | ორშაბათი

Do Armenians Still View Integration with the EU as Part of a Positive-Sum Game?

On September 3rd 2013 Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan surprised many observers, including some in his own government, when he announced that Armenia would sign an agreement with Russia to join the Eurasian Customs Union (ECU) and spurn a long-negotiated Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union. The move has been dubbed a “U-Turn” as well as a “sudden shift in policy,” although it was predated by landmark Armenian-Russian agreements in 1997 and 2006.
22.12.2014 | ორშაბათი

Does public opinion accurately gauge government performance in the South Caucasus?

Robert Putnam’s 1993 work Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy marked a seminal moment in the development of institutionalism. Putnam’s exhaustive study of the relationship between the governed and governing in the Italian regions contained the discovery that public opinion provides an accurate picture of actual government performance: “The Italians’ gradually increasing satisfaction with the regional governments … corresponded to real differences in performance,” and in each region Putnam’s measurement of performance was “remarkably consistent with the appraisals offered by the regional attentive public and by the electorate as a whole.”
09.11.2015 | ორშაბათი

Household income and consumption patterns in Georgia

After the collapse of the Georgian economy in the 1990s, the country slowly started to recover, and between 2000 and 2014, the gross national income grew from $3.4 billion to $16.7 billion (in current USD). According to the National Statistics Office of Georgia, the official unemployment rate in Georgia was 12.4% in 2014, but according to numerous surveys the rate is much higher.
27.11.2015 | პარასკევი

Awareness of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement in Georgia, one year on

The June 27, 2014 initialing of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, a wide reaching, largely economic treaty, was marked with celebration in Tbilisi as the fruit of a long running diplomatic effort to tighten ties with the European Union over the course of three Georgian administrations.
30.11.2015 | ორშაბათი

Parenting, gender attitudes and women’s employment in Georgia

In Georgia, unemployment is high, and it is higher among women than men. Policy changes are definitely needed not only to increase the employment opportunities, but also to ensure more equal employment opportunities for men and women.
16.12.2015 | ოთხშაბათი

What We Know About Volunteering in Georgia

[This post originally appeared in investor.ge]

By Nino Zubashvili

Following the June 13, 2015 flood in Tbilisi, hundreds of volunteers helped to clean the disaster-affected zones of the city, which stirred the hope that volunteerism is on the rise in Georgia. In the past, studies on volunteering in Georgia conducted by non-governmental organizations (such as Helping Hand and the Civil Society Institute) claimed that volunteerism had not taken root in Georgian society, and CRRC-Georgia surveys have consistently shown a mismatch between attitudes and actions regarding volunteering in Georgia.
22.12.2015 | სამშაბათი

No, Putin is not winning Georgia away from Europe. Here are the facts.

[Editor's Note: This post was originally published on the Washington Post's Monkey Cage on Monday, December 21, 2015. The original post is available here. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of CRRC-Georgia or any of the sponsors of the survey which this article is based on. The data on which this article is based is available here.]

By Dustin Gilbreath

Last Friday, after years of diplomatic wrangling over the course of two administrations, the Republic of Georgia received a report from the EU green lighting visa free travel within the European Union in the near future. Yet, media accounts from earlier this year suggested that Georgia was undergoing a “Russian turn”.
14.03.2012 | ოთხშაბათი

Georgia and the EU’s Economic Woes

Why hasn’t the economic crisis in Europe deterred Georgia’s desire to join the European Union? The majority of Georgians (and the Georgian government) want to join the EU despite crisis in the Eurozone. Yet, the continued crisis, including the Eurogroup’s recent (and second) rescue of Greece’s economy and Hungary’s harsh austerity measures, illustrates that the crisis is not isolated to the Eurozone.
12.09.2011 | ორშაბათი

Does Refusal to Recognize Elections in Abkhazia Reduce Prospects for Resolution?

A recent New York Times article argues that the failure of Western governments to recognize the latest presidential elections in Abkhazia on August 26, 2011 may hamper conflict resolution. According to the authors, Cooley and Mitchell, Western governments have a “counterproductive disdain” of developments in Abkhazia and isolating Sukhumi will reduce prospects for conflict resolution. 
02.11.2011 | ოთხშაბათი

A Further Look at Material Deprivation

Continuing to explore standards of living in the South Caucasus, this blog looks at the between four sources of household income and material deprivation using data from the 2010 Caucasus Barometer. Each of the four sources of income (salaries, pensions or government transfers, sales from agricultural goods, and remittances) are categorized by their importance to the household and then cross tabulated with material deprivation. The findings suggest that families reliant on salaries and remittances are better off, while families receiving pensions and government transfers, or those who sell agricultural products as their primary source of income have higher than average rates of material deprivation. 
07.12.2011 | ოთხშაბათი

Can a Cut NATO Supply Route Through Russia Benefit Georgia and Azerbaijan?

The 20th anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union is upon us, and US-Russian tensions have risen as Russia contemplates terminating the NATO supply route through Russia. International news reports such as The New York Times detail the threat as a “death blow” to the U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan and indicate that this could be a blessing in disguise for NATO hopeful Georgia, as well as for Azerbaijan.
30.03.2010 | სამშაბათი

2010 Big Mac Index | Increased differences between Baku and Tbilisi

In 2007 we wrote a blog post on the Big Mac Index, an index published by The Economist as an informal way of measuring purchasing power parity (PPP). The idea is that a dollar should buy you the same amount in all countries, and as a Big Mac is assumed to be produced in the same way everywhere it can serve as a point of comparison. You can thus determine how far off the exchange rate is between countries, in terms of citizens’ ability to buy the same “basket” of goods and services (in this case a Big Mac hamburger).
 
27.02.2008 | ოთხშაბათი

Inflation in Armenia? | Lecture by IMF Representative

Readers here may not be aware that actually our Armenian CRRC also runs its own blog, to announce and describe CRRC's events. One of the most recent events was a lecture by the IMF Resident Representative in Armenia, Dr. Nienke Oomes.
12.09.2008 | პარასკევი

Doing business in Azerbaijan: easy in theory

Results of the World Bank’s Doing Business 2009 project, claims to present "objective measures of business regulations and their enforcement across 181 economies and selected cities at the sub-national and regional level", were made public today.
08.11.2008 | შაბათი

World Public Opinion: Azerbaijan in Focus

World Public Opinion is the initiative of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of the University of Maryland that explores public opinion on a variety of topics in 25 countries across the globe, including Azerbaijan, the only South Caucasus country represented in the survey. Russia and Ukraine are the other two former USSR countries that the project includes.
02.12.2008 | სამშაბათი

Exploring Azerbaijani Views on Alternative Energy

We have written previously about the World Public Opinion project of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. The project has recently released interesting data on energy issues based on the poll conducted in 21 countries. According to the WorldPublicOpinion.org publication, the majority of Azerbaijanis favor alternative energy development. 64% (compared to 77% average of 21 world countries) think that solar and wind power should be promoted more strongly in the country. Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings is also favored, while opinions split on the expansion of coal/oil-fired and nuclear power plants.
08.05.2017 | ორშაბათი

Debts and Loans in Georgia (Part 1)

In Georgia, where, according to the World Bank, a third of the population live on under USD 2.5 per day, poverty and unemployment are consistently considered the most important issues facing the country. For those who are struggling financially, borrowing is a widespread coping mechanism. While access to credit can have benefits, debt can also have psychological costs, such as increased stress and anxiety. CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer (CB) data show interesting patterns about having personal debts in Georgia. The first part of this blog post focuses on the characteristics of those who report having personal debts in Georgia, while the second part looks at the money lending patterns, as well as reported well-being of people who are owed money or who borrow it