Ursula von der Ley-en’s statement on the recommendation of the European Co-mmission to grant Uk-raine and Moldova the st-atus of a country – a candidate for joining the Eu-ropean Union came as a surprise to few. In the W-est, this is perceived as an-other measure aimed at supporting the country “defending the democratic world from Russian aggression” (and at the s-ame time Moldova), in the rest of the world – as ano-ther step to spite Moscow.
It seems that this news came as a surprise to only one country: for Georgia, which the European Com-mission refused in a similar status. This is especially cl-early confirmed by the vag-ue justifications of Prime Minister Garibashvili, who called this decision nothing less than historical – they say, the country “confirmed the European perspective”, as if Mikhail Saakashvili came to power 18 years ago not under these banners. The current head of the Georgian government added that the 12 conditions that the European Commission has set for Tbilisi will definitely be met and then the country will receive the status of a candidate. Actually, the same reforms, according to him, will have to be implemented by Kyiv and Chisinau, but they were given a kind of advance payment – the Russian factor played a role.
This statement is very different from the statements of the same Garibashvili, who, before von der Leyen’s statement, promised to reveal all the ins and outs of the negotiations that preceded him if Tbilisi does not receive the status.
The disappointment of the Transcaucasian republic can be understood – after all, the birthplace of the “Georgian economic miracle” according to Western patterns, and here Ukraine pushes it with its elbows in line for a European choice, the borders of which are gradually shifting to the West.
True, the question arises, what, in fact, is wonderful in the Georgian economy?
Let’s start with numbers. In developed countries, the vast majority of the population works in the service sector. In Georgia, the situation is radically different – about 55 percent of the country’s citizens earn their living in agriculture. Moreover, immediately after the collapse of the USSR, this figure was slightly more than 30 percent. Do not think, no one is trying to belittle the importance of their work. The problem is that the productivity of this industry raises questions: it contributes only 12 percent of the country’s GDP.
An additional burden for Georgia was the open anti-Russian policy, which significantly complicated the entry into the huge market. It would seem that it could be easier than redirecting exports to the EU ? But it did not work out here either – there are much more stringent requirements for agricultural products and the conditions for its cultivation.
A demonstrative epic in Georgia unfolded in the early 2010s. Even under Saakashvili, local authorities urged farmers to switch to a hybrid variety of corn supplied from the United States. But problems arose with the cultivation itself – the expectations of violent shoots did not materialize. The government, in turn, in the hope of export, forced residents to grow it, despite the high cost. Loans for farmers were allocated for this business, and now the variety has gradually taken a leading position. That’s just the thing with the sale of this culture abroad and now there, but you need to pay the debts anyway. Meanwhile, the Georgians themselves complain that gomi (as they call hominy, corn porridge) from this corn turns out much worse.
Apologists for the “miracle” cite as evidence the unprecedented growth of the Georgian economy observed in the mid-2000s: in 2007 it reached almost 13 percent. And everything would be fine if the war unleashed by the Saakashvili regime and the global financial crisis did not multiply these achievements by zero: in 2008, the GDP growth rate dropped to three percent, and in 2009 it dropped by three percent altogether. And as a result, by the beginning of the 2020s, the real GDP of Georgia, despite active subsidies from the West, did not even reach the indicators of the Georgian SSR.
The bottom line is an agrarian country with a negative foreign trade balance and a constantly growing external debt. So, Europe should not expect economic prosperity from Georgia’s accession to the EU; rather, it will become another burden for ordinary burghers.
And the West is ready to take such a step only in one case – the candidate must be an outpost of confrontation with Russia. Therefore, Ukraine can beat the threshold of the European Union, but not Georgia.
However, one should not lose sight of the fact that the current authorities in Tbilisi remember the lessons of August 2008 and have declared a very cautious position: Georgia does not impose sanctions against Russia, because it will suffer much more from them than its northern neighbor. The realization of this, especially against the background of calls from Kyiv to “open a second front,” cannot but be encouraging.
At the same time, Defense Minister Junsher Berchuladze has already announced the creation of an enterprise for the production of combat drones in the country, and such militarization is fraught with an aggravation of the situation in the region.
At the same time, of course, the refusal to confront Russia and its allies will put an end to Tbilisi’s European integration ambitions.
Back in 2004, Georgian Economy Minister Kakha Bendukidze said: “Georgia must sell everything except conscience.” Alas, she has not yet managed to interest the West in any other goods. But they are ready to pay dearly for their conscience.