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European Union Process in the South Caucasus: Georgia

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The Eastern Partnership (EaP) Project, initiated by the European Union (EU) in 2007, involves six Soviet countries. Georgia, which stands out in the South Caucasus from these countries, has always displayed an active attitude in its relations with the EU and has formed an important branch of the union in the Caucasus. The Association Agreement, officially signed on 27 June 2014, is considered an important step in Tbilisi’s approach to the EU. With this agreement, which entered into force on July 1, 2016, Georgia’s EU membership perspective has officially begun. Since 1 September 2014, the EU has allowed almost entirely untariffed imports from Georgia.

EU membership is an important part of Georgia’s political and economic reform agenda. As a young democracy interested in the construction of law and democracy after separation from the Soviet Union, Georgia has made remarkable progress in the establishment of democratic institutions. In this context, it continues its efforts to comply with EU standards on issues such as anti-corruption, press freedom and human rights. It draws a credible profile by adopting an overlapping position with the West in the Russia-Ukraine Crisis. It should be noted that the EU Observation Mission is trying to strengthen stability in the region by monitoring the regions of Abkhazia and Ossetia, which have been under unjust occupation by Russia since the South Ossetia War in 2008.

In March 2022, Tbilisi’s application for EU membership resulted in the announcement by the supranational organization that Georgia could receive candidate status if it fulfilled its obligations.[1] However, the EU refused to grant the countries the status of candidacy, which is important on the road to full membership European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said the Georgian government has implemented [2] only three of the Council of Europe’s 12 recommendations, stressing that it lags one step behind Moldova and Ukraine.

In response, Irakli Kobahidze, head of the ruling Georgian Dream Party, said it was manipulation.[3] In addition, it is possible to say that such reasons as the recent launch of visa-free flights by Georgia with Russia and the law on foreign agents have also delayed the accession process There is a prevailing view in Tbilisi that the EU’s concerns stem specifically from geopolitical concerns. More than 80 percent of Georgia’s population wants EU membership. However, recent developments have led to anti-government protests in the capital.[4] On the other hand, along with Georgia, two other former Soviet countries, Ukraine and Moldova, have received candidate status Georgia’s appearance as a potential candidate points to its future membership application, with reference to 2024. Currently, Tbilisi plans to formally apply for EU membership in 2024.

Georgia’s strategic location on the Southern Gas Corridor is one of the reasons why it prefers EU integration due to its energy relations with the EU, being a neighbor with Russia, drawing a young democracy profile and being pro-Western both religiously and politically. In addition, it has a serious potential for east-west trade. The creation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area under the Association Agreement will deliver concrete results by enabling Georgia’s faster integration into the European market. [5] About 21% of Tbilisi’s trade is with the EU.[6] At the same time, Georgia’s membership in the Energy Community since 2017 and its accession to the Trans-European Transport Network have further strengthened its transit role for the EU. The European Union and its European identity play a critical role both for Georgia’s accession and for the EU’s enlargement goals. In the context of the South Caucasus region, it is important that Georgia is not marginalized within the EU.

Political polarization in the Georgian Parliament is hindering the country’s EU integration process. The EU accession process should be treated as an issue beyond party lines and cross-party cooperation should occupy an important place. The potential that the EU sees in Georgia should form a coherent whole with elements such as political will and commitment to EU values. In this context, the vast majority of the country sees EU membership as an opportunity. Parliament is also trying to coordinate in accordance with this request. Although the Georgian government determined its preference years ago, it has not been able to reach a consensus on the EU by providing political stability today. The opposition, which is not willing to cooperate, has left the people and the government for EU membership inconclusive. Political polarization in the country is one of the unfulfilled obligations for the EU. In this context, the Tbilisi administration will have to reach a consensus on the issue, take steps with cooperation and ensure political unity, which is an internal precondition for applying for EU membership for 2024. Georgia, which is planned to be part of the Eastern enlargement of the European Union as a result, has an active membership process despite long political deadlocks. However, the complex and deep structure of the European Union has created an environment in which Georgia has not reached the full membership stage despite its progress to the EU conditions.


[1] “EU Enlargement Policy ‘Georgia’”, Consilium, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/enlargement/georgia/, (Erişim Tarihi: 16.09.2023).

[2] “Georgia Has Implemented 3 Out Of 12 Recommendations, Now Every Minute Counts- EU Commissioner”, https://jam-news.net/georgia-and-eu-recommendations/, (Erişim Tarihi: 16.09.2023)

[3] Aynı yer.

[4] “Why Is Georgia Struggling to Join The EU?”, Economist, https://t.ly/9Ntng, (Erişim Tarihi: 16.09.2023).

[5] “Georgia-EU Relations Within Georgia’s 2024 Objective to Apply for the EU Membership”, Georgian Journal, https://web.archive.org/web/20210103123745/https://www.georgianjournal.ge/politics/36727-georgia-eu-relations-within-georgias-2024-objective-to-apply-for-the-eu-membership.html, (Erişim Tarihi: 16.09.2023)

[6] “EU Trade Relations with Georgia. Facts, Figures and Latest Developments”, Trade EC, https://policy.trade.ec.europa.eu/eu-trade-relationships-country-and-region/countries-and-regions/georgia_en, (Erişim Tarihi: 16.09.2023).

Zehra ALİGÜL
Zehra ALİGÜL
Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü