Despite Georgia’s 12-year long commitment to the membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the plan to secure a visa liberalisation agreement with Brussels has to be postponed again. Although it should have been signed this week during the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga, the agreement has to be put off probably because of political reasons. The possibility to travel to the block visa-free would likely be among the first tangible benefits for Georgians since the country signed a major EU Association Agreement and a free trade deal in summer last year.
In September 2014, Tbilisi failed to take one step closer to the membership in the NATO as it was unable to push a long coveted “membership action plan” through. As a result, NATO is seen as avoiding its commitment while the EU is seen as failing to help Ukraine, whose conflict was triggered off when ex-president Viktor Yanukovich refused to sign an Association Agreement with the EU.
The conflict in Ukraine has had a negative impact on Georgia’s struggle for a “membership” in the Western world as both the EU and the U.S. are getting wary of antagonizing Russia by stepping further in its traditional sphere of influence. Moreover, because of Georgia’s inability to make a tangible progress in the negotiations with the West, many Georgians have started turning back to Russia and increasingly see Europe as being “indecisive and weak”. In contrast, “Putin looks like a strong guy who’s getting his way,” Ghia Nodia of Tbilisi’s Ilia State University explained.
A recent survey by the U.S. National Democratic Institute revealed that about a third of Georgians is supportive of joining the Eurasian Union, Vladimir Putin’s integration project among the former Soviet states. EU’s potential geopolitical rival already has five members – Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan.