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Research Report

Why Georgia matters

Dov Lynch
Copyright Date: Feb. 1, 2006
Pages: 96
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 7-16)

    Does Georgia matter for the European Union?

    Georgia is not on the EU’s immediate external borders. It is a country ridden with conflict, in which two regions have declared themselves separatist ‘states’ and there has been little progress towards conflict settlement. The Georgian government does not have access to its external borders in these self-declared ‘states’ and has but weak control over other sections of its borders with the Russian Federation.¹ Corruption remains a problem in the public and private spheres, and poverty levels are desperately high. Since the ‘Rose Revolution’ of November 2003, the country has been run by...

  2. (pp. 17-22)

    What was Georgia like before November 2003?

    A state that was hardly a state at all. To cite The Economist at the time, ‘it is not so much a country as a loose association of fiefs.’18 This image of pre-revolutionary Georgia as a medieval place arises frequently. In 2001, the then Head of the Parliamentary Anti-Corruption Committee and now prominent opposition leader, David Usupashvili, stated: ‘There are two ways to survive here: to become financially strong yourself or to place yourself under the protection of someone who is strong. But there is no way to be a citizen, there is...

  3. (pp. 23-34)

    In November 2003, after flawed parliamentary elections where massive fraud was reported, tens of thousands of Georgian citizens took to the streets of Tbilisi in a protest that lasted twenty days before ending peacefully with the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze and the organisation of new presidential and parliamentary elections in early 2004. These elections brought Mikheil Saakashvili to power in an overwhelming sweep of national support, and gave birth to a parliament dominated by the alliance of parties tied to him.

    In the analysis of one participant, four factors drove events: first, the activities of the youth movement Kmara;...

  4. (pp. 35-44)

    This chapter examines the policies undertaken by the Georgian government since the Rose Revolution towards the conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Given the importance of this question for Georgia and the international community, it is worth considering it distinctly from the previous discussion. The argument here is divided into three parts. A first part discusses the legacy that Tbilisi inherited of two separatist ‘states’ residing on its sovereign territory. The second section examines new approaches taken by Tbilisi after the Rose Revolution. A final part highlights enduring problems with regard to these conflicts.

    In 2004, the new Georgian leadership...

  5. (pp. 45-58)

    This chapter will examine the policies of major players towards Georgia. The focus is limited to the Russian Federation, the United States, and the policies of EU member states and candidate countries. The aim here is not to present an exhaustive review of international engagement.

    Tbilisi is a town of rumours and whispers. External engagement in Georgia occurs in a poor setting. There is very little clear or open information about the policies of foreign states, which lends power to exaggerations about their intentions and actions. External actors have not coordinated their policies between themselves well, even in areas where...

  6. (pp. 59-70)

    This chapter will review EU policy towards Georgia since 1990s. The first section will examine the evolution of EU policy. Subsequent parts will clarify EU interests in Georgia, and explore the stakes that Georgia raises for Europe. In this discussion, ‘interests’ are defined as those concerns that arise specifically in Georgia, while ‘stakes’ are concerns that arise at a wider international level and that are being played out in a Georgian context. While overlapping, interests and stakes are not the same.

    EU thinking about Georgia and the South Caucasus has been subject to an evolving debate between various member states...

  7. (pp. 71-82)

    Is EU policy in tune with European interests in Georgia?

    Clearly, it is not. The Union’s involvement in Georgia is relatively comprehensive, ranging from humanitarian support and capacity building to economic cooperation, but the EU’s political profile remains restrained and ad hoc. Especially since the Rose Revolution, EU policy has been pulled by events and less by strategic considerations. EU engagement remains caught between hesitation and uncertainty.

    How can policy be brought in harmony with European interests? How can the EU promote the peaceful settlement of Georgia’s conflicts? Should it become involved in mediation or remain active at the level...

  8. (pp. 83-86)

    The Rose Revolution of 2003 challenged three pieces of accepted thinking about Georgia and the region.

    First, before the revolution, most foreign observers saw Georgia as a lost cause of corruption and unpredictability. Georgia was hardly seen as a rational state and more as a collection of fiefdoms. At best, Georgia was considered dysfunctional; at worst, it was seen as failing. The second piece of accepted wisdom held that the former Soviet Union was becoming a ‘losing bet.’ By the late 1990s, a post-Soviet order had arisen across the region, characterised politically by ‘managed democracies,’ economically by endemic corruption, and...