Georgia’s post-election transition from the Saakashvili era is proving bumpier than many hoped, with Bidzina Ivanishvili’s new coalition government under pressure from enormous public expectations, but without a clear strategy for Georgia’s future. A strong helping hand from the EU could make the difference between Georgia growing closer to Europe or turning away.
Georgia is still on the long transition from being a nearly-failed state only a decade ago to the well-functioning democracy it hopes to become. Up to now, the EU’s Georgia policy has been on autopilot. Now it needs to step up its involvement in the country. This means building trust with the new government and aligning its assistance closely with Georgia's needs – whilst maintaining an impartial assessment of the political developments on the ground. In “Georgia’s bumpy transition: how the EU can help” Jana Kobzova argues that Europe should:
- Send experts to match the financial assistance that it already gives, for instance in areas like regional development and agriculture. Georgia needs such expertise to underpin sustainable growth across its economy.
- Be critical of the government when necessary, based on a non-partisan appraisal of the developments on the ground. The treatment of government's political opponents should remain in a spotlight. Europe also needs to communicate better with Georgia's people and its politicians, outlining opportunities from closer integration
- Support the economy, especially shorter term growth orientated initiatives. A failure to improving living standards may lead to the government undermining Georgia’s fragile democratic institutions in search of popularity.
“Georgia’s main political forces face a choice: either they learn to coexist and adopt a democratic political culture or they continue their zero-sum approach to politics. The former would bring Georgia closer to Europe; the latter risks alienating not only the country's society but also its Western allies.” Jana Kobzova
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