German experts: The Caucasus needs serious answer from Russia
German political scientists Daniel Hamilton and Stefan Meister analyze the current situation in the countries participating in Eastern Partnership in the article Eastern Voices: Is the West Listening? for DGAP. They cite opinions of local experts who are Eastern Voices which the West has to listen to, according to Hamilton and Meister. Vestnik Kavkaza presents a part of the article dedicated to Georgia and Russia's role in the region.
"Georgia has gone most far in its reforms but has bumped up against limits in its efforts to deepen its relations with the EU and NATO. It now has an Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehenesive Free Trade agreement and visa-free travel with the EU. But what comes next? As Kornely Kakachia argues, despite the many flaws in its strategy the West remains the main guarantor of Georgia’s democratic consolidation and its security, which remains understrain. Because of its geopolitical location and the crisis of the West, Georgia has to remain flexible in its foreign policy. It needs strategic patience with regard to Euro-Atlantic integration, but has to perform as the best kid on the block when it comes to implementation of democratic reforms and the EU Association Agreement. A successful reform process will make it more difficult for the EU to refuse Georgia deeper integration.
Even though the Georgian governement has to manage popular expectations regarding the future prospects of integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, the West can do more. The EU needs to develop a more differentiated approach towards EaP countries based on their democratic achievments and their strategic importance. EU member states have to counter Russian propaganda and stepped-up activities in the common neighborhood. Individual Georgians need to experience the benefits of being part of the EUs EaP policy on a daily basis. What is needed, according to Kakachia, is access to the EU labor market, and greater financial assistance ties to the reform agenda in such crucial areas as strengthening the rule of law and good governance. Stuttering implementation of reforms is the main weakenss of the Georgian government and of that of many other countries in the region.
The sustainability of Georgia’s reforms, and in fact the survival of the Georgian state itself, is dependent on the country’s security situation. Russia’s occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the ongoing security threat it represents, renders Georgia vulnerable. EU and U.S. support for good governance, the rule of law and social and economic reforms by the EU must be linked in the popular mind with an improvement of the country’s security. Ultimately, prosperity will only be possible in a safe enviroment. The games Russian leaders play with the security of their neighbors need a more serious answer. At the same time, the EU needs to step up its engagement with the occupied territories, and not leave Georgia alone. For Benedikt Harzl, the EU has to invest more in communication and academic mobility with the occupied territories. Thomas de Waal argues that the EU’s policy of “non-recognition and engagement” for Abkhazia and South Ossetia is the right strategy for both the EU and the United States."