Can the Association Agreement be Georgia’s Pathway into Europe?

Photo Credit: European External Action Service (CC-BY-SA-ND-NC-3.0)

When it comes to the Association Agreement, one country whose experience has much in common with Georgia is Moldova. Moldova also signed its Association Agreement in 2014 and it entered into force on July 1, 2016. Moldova believes that its place is among the EU member countries. Accordingly, it’s actively fighting corruption, pursuing economic development, and strengthening the rule of law. Just like in Georgia, Moldova’s government is working to peacefully solve a conflict with a Russian-supported separatist region (Transnistria) and believes that it can become a member of the European family of nations without being expressly anti-Russian.

Moldova, like Georgia, is currently dependent on Russia as a trading partner. Thus, joining the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) is of great importance for the county. Both Moldova and Georgia are working to establish democratic and market-oriented political and economic systems, a process aided by pursuing closer relations with the EU maintaining peaceful relations with neighboring states.

That brings us back to Georgia. The country signed its Association Agreement in June 2014, which entered into force on July 1, 2016. Currently, the country has a defined association agenda that covers all the reforms that must be implemented by the country. It starts with emphasizing the need for better political dialogue and reforms, moves on to foreign and security policy, and ends with economic cooperation. According to the agenda, Georgia needs to ensure adequate balance in the political system, especially now, when the country is undergoing the process of transition from semi-presidential to parliamentary system. It’s also vital to ensuring further democratic consolidation.

In addition, addressing any flaws in the legislative framework and election administration is an issue of great importance. In the framework of the requirement of peaceful conflict resolution, Georgia needs to continue its efforts toward full implementation of the August 12, 2008 Six-Point Agreement and support peaceful conflict resolution with Abkhazia and South Ossetia through strengthening communication with local population. As for economic reforms, the country is expected to improve and simplify its tax legislation, harmonize its policies against fraud and smuggling, and strengthen the independence of the National Bank of Georgia (NBG).

The Association Agreement itself does not guarantee that Georgia will become a full member of the EU; it is another means for getting closer to the union. As we have seen above, most of the Western Balkan states have been candidate countries for more than 10 years, demonstrating that the accession process can be a long, drawn-out process. Although Georgia has signed and is currently implementing the Association Agreement, much work remains to be done. Any diversion from the EU integration path carries the risk of stagnation.

To conclude, a key point is that context and local dynamics matter. What happens in one part of the world (the Western Balkans) should not be expected to occur the same way in another (the South Caucasus). Even within a single region, the situations in respective countries can vary tremendously. The experiences of other states can provide useful reference points, but they are not defining. Georgia’s future depends entirely on Georgia itself.

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