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. Thus, for EU-aspiring states such as Georgia–which also operates under the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) framework–the crisis presents a growing concern over the security of the Eurozone, as well as the overall health of EU integration. Despite these economic problems, Georgians remain overwhelmingly positive about the future of EU integration. This is because not only do Georgians have high expectations that economic conditions would improve in the country, but that territorial integrity and national security would significantly increase upon joining the union.

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A 2011 CRRC survey (and its associated report) entitled “Knowledge and Attitudes towards the EU in Georgia” show that support for EU membership has increased from 81% in 2009 to 88% in 2011. The report also presents an analysis of Georgians’ perceptions towards EU integration and shows that the desire for EU membership is partially tied to a desire for strengthened national security, territorial integrity and economic improvement. According to the survey, the top three most important issues facing Georgia are unemployment/jobs (58%), territorial integrity (42%) and poverty (31%).

Respondents were asked to indicate what they considered to be the three most important issues facing Georgia at the moment. The 2011 survey on Knowledge and Attitudes towards the EU in Georgia also had a target population of adult speakers of the Georgian language. See the report for information on the methodology used for this survey.

When asked, “How will the following issues change if Georgia becomes an EU member?” 59% of Georgians say national security would increase and 58% feel territorial integrity would improve. Just over half (56%) of Georgians anticipate that the number of available jobs would increase, and 48% of Georgians think poverty would decrease.

The data also shows that 40% of Georgians think the EU currently provides Georgia with financial support, while 15% say that the union provides solutions to social problems, and 10% believe the union helps Georgia to develop relations with Russia. 35% of Georgians think that the EU will help restore territorial integrity, thereby addressing one of the issues that many Georgians consider most important.

Many EU candidate (or potential candidate) countries see the current economic crisis as a warning of the risks associated with full European economic integration. Indeed, economic stability (e.g., jobs) is also a concern for many Georgians. However, Georgian motivations for membership are somewhat sated with the knowledge that EU membership could strengthen national security and territorial integrity even if membership may not provide a solution to the current economic woes facing the country. 

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