Georgia sets out its European credentials, Belgium
April 6 2004

Georgia sets out its European credentials

Corruption and border conflicts threaten to slow Georgia’s progress
towards Europe
(Photo: Texas University)
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Georgia is on an irreversible course to
Europe, the country’s President told EU leaders today.

Visiting Brussels on Tuesday (6 April), Georgian President Mikheil
Saakashvili, attempted to set out the Caucasian republic’s
geopolitical stance.

“We are not pro-American, we are not pro-Russian, we are Georgian, we
are European”, he said speaking in the European Parliament.

Since independence the country has struggled to steer a course
between getting the US on board and antagonising its supremely
influential neighbour, Russia.

Although still very much in the his early days as president, Mr
Saakashvili has so far tried to balance these conflicting demands on
Georgia’s independence.

In its three-month tenure his government has done its best to woo the
EU into including the Caucasus into the Union’s wider Europe policy,
which he hopes will create enough breathing room for the country to
manoeuvre of its own accord.

But he is faced with considerable challenges.

Rampant corruption and border conflicts threaten to slow progress
towards Europe.

On top of this, many in the EU who are hostile to Turkey’s membership
bid fear that acceptance of the Caucasus as part of wider Europe
sends out the wrong signal to Ankara.

So far, neither Georgia nor their neighbours Armenia and Azerbaijan
have been included in the EU’s policy which will see the Union’s
neighbours developing economic and political ties.

And the domestic constraints are just as pressing.

Experts say the authors of the ‘velvet revolution’ which unseated
Edward Shevardnadze and which was backed by the vast majority of
Georgians will need to produce results soon, if their support is to
be maintained.

Mr Saakashvili said that the country could receive “asymmetrical”
trading terms with the EU in order to promote economic growth.

He also hinted that Georgia’s trade with Poland and the Baltics would
be hit by enlargement and said the EU should look at redressing this.

Written by Andrew Beatty