A Look Beyond the Red Lines in Georgian Politics: 5 Major Risks Following the Annulment of the April 19 Agreement
Risks to the Foreign Policy of Georgia
Apart from the internal threats, the country also faces risks of regression when it comes to the country’s foreign policy and international relations. The first concerns Brussels, which has been repeatedly disappointed by its Georgian partners. In parallel with multiple critical statements coming from Europe, some actors from the US also voiced the belief that the EU must be displeased that it wasted its time while negotiating with the Georgian Dream party.
The European Union proved that it is ready to provide a number of opportunities for Georgia to build a healthy political culture, state, and institutions, and that the EU will assist Georgia in the process and protect the country’s interests for as long as it takes. Charles Michel continues consultations to ensure that the political processes in Georgia stay within the framework of democratic institutions. However, thanks to the government’s actions, Georgia is cultivating an image of an unstable partner to the West. From a long-term perspective, the aforementioned process will turn into a strong argument inside the EU against the institutional integration of Georgia. The ruling party’s ambition to successfully submit a formal application for EU membership by 2024 now appears to be decidedly unrealistic.
The second risk is related to the international context beyond Brussels. Washington is closely following the ongoing turbulent political processes in Georgia and reacts quite harshly as well. The working process on the EU-brokered document clearly showed the importance of the agreement and its implementation for NATO. Considering that Georgia already faces a number of recent challenges in terms of NATO-Georgia relations, further risking those relations is especially dangerous for the country. Although Georgian Dream does not see any threats to the country’s relations to the West, withdrawal from the EU-brokered agreement might work as a signal to other dominant forces, especially to Russia, to take a more active stance towards Georgia.
Another significant danger is associated with the practical benefits provided by the West. First and foremost, the EU’s financial assistance provided to Georgia might be affected. During the implementation process of the April 19 Agreement, the EU commission already mentioned that disbursement of the second tranche of macro-financial assistance to Georgia might be conditional. In case Georgian Dream crosses more red lines in terms of reforms and progress, Brussels might apply the conditionality principle to Georgia, considering that the EU’s assistance is not unconditional.
Overall, it can be concluded that Georgian Dream’s withdrawal from the April 19 Agreement might prove to be logical for its own ambitions, but an explicitly risky decision for Georgia’s democratic development in both short-term and long-term perspectives. The ruling party fails to demonstrate its readiness for cooperative politics and considers the annulment of one of the most important political agreements in modern Georgian history as a viable solution. Furthermore, there are a number of risks associated with conducting a decisive local self-government election in a transparent and stable environment as well as building trustworthy relations with Brussels and other Western actors. Considering all of this, the danger of democratic backsliding and regress in EU integration processes is demonstrably increasing in Georgia over the long-term perspective.