Georgia’s EU interest16.11.2011 | 12:36
On November 16 Georgia greets Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The distinguished guest is expected with anxiety: after all, the EU is one of the main donors for Georgia. Against reports that Sakartvelo will soon be given EUR 19 mln to support development of agriculture, the country's foreign office announces the EU's interest in Georgia. Aren't the authorities overly optimistic? GeorgiaTimes correspondent discussed that with Valery Khomyakov, a well-known Russian expert.
"The visit of EU high commissioner for foreign affairs and security policy Catherine Ashton to Georgia demonstrates the EU's particular interest in the republic", - deputy FM Nino Kalandadze stated at yesterday's briefing. According to the diplomat, the European guest will be greeted by President Mikheil Saakashvili and FM Grigol Vashadze in Tbilisi. Kalandadze did not miss a chance to remind that at the time of Ashton's previous visit in summer 2010 the sides launched talks on Georgia's associated membership in the European Union treaty. "The talks over this agreement are very active", - deputy FM said. - We have had several rounds of negotiations already hoping for successful continuation".
Indeed, Georgia sets serious hopes on Brussels. Agreeing to take part in Eastern Partnership program, Tbilisi planned to accede to the EU in earnest or at least have the visa regime facilitated. Yet, Europe was not in a hurry to accept Georgians in its fold having enough problems at home. In order not to disappoint "friends" in Sakartvelo, the republic is regularly given "carrots" - multi-million tranches to support the country's development.
That is why when a few days ago Georgian vice PM Georgi Baramidze and head of the EU representation to the republic Phillip Dmitrov signed a financial agreement as part of "the sector policy support program of regional development" stipulating EUR 19 mln to be assigned to Tbilisi, no one was surprised. This time Brussels focuses on development of agriculture and infrastructure projects. Yet, Dmitrov warned his colleagues from Sakartvelo that the tranche should be used "optimally", for the purposes stipulated in the agreement.
It is a serious question where this money will go. Many in Georgia say that the ruling regime embezzles donors' money. Now there is a more curious thing. Realizing that Georgia has no chances to become a EU member, Saakashvili obstinately convinces Europe of Tbilisi's importance for the EU. In what way can Georgia be interesting to Brussels?
In reply to this question Valery Khomyakov, director general of the National Strategy Council made an assumption that Brussels really can have interest. "Europe's game in Caucasus continues", - he remarked. - This is a serious game and it would be simply ruinous to underestimate its meaning for Russia. There are many, also unrealistic plans, including establishment of a quasi-state of Big Caucasus to embrace Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. It is not incidental that the EU is now trying to reconcile Turkey and Armenia. The idea has certain preconditions. Brussels has its levers of influence on Caucasus - economic, mainly - and tries to use them.
On the other hand, our interlocutor believes, the optimism Saakashvili has over Georgia's attractiveness for Europe, has no grounds. "Europe is interested in Tbilisi because this republic represented by Saakashvili has de-facto given up sovereignty. Today it would be naïve to consider Georgia a sovereign state. The republic depends on external influence - both economically and politically. Due to Saakashvili, the country's dependence is great. Not only Americans take advantage of that. With the help of Georgia's current leader the republic is viewed as a sort of foothold on Russia's underbelly in Caucasus aimed at alienation of Russia's North Caucasian republics. Though I believe this idea is rather utopian", - Khomyakov highlighted.
In conclusion the expert reiterated pragmatism of European foreign policy. "Soon Europe will drop the issue of Georgia's EU membership, - Valery Khomyakov said. - It is unclear what is in store for the Eurozone, they have enough problems inside it. Knowing this, Tbilisi's statements sound lame, strange and far away from realities that Europe (not EU high commissioner that comes to Georgia) is facing".