Monday, December 26, 2011

Boy or Girl? Child Gender Preference in the South Caucasus

Survey data shows that there is a strong preference for male children over female children throughout the South Caucasus. As mentioned in the March 4, 2010 edition of The Economist, after 1991 there has been an increase in the ratio of boys to girls in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The sex ratio rose from 103-106 boys to 100 girls in 1991 to 115-120 boys to 100 girls by 2000. The 2010 Caucasus Barometer (CB) indicates that gender preferences in the South Caucasus remain skewed in favor of males with 54% of Armenians, 27% of Azerbaijanis and 46% of Georgians prefer to have male children if given a choice.

The 2010 CB asked people living in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia the following question—“If a family has one child, what would be the preferred gender of the child?” The answers were unprompted as respondents were not given a list of possible responses such as “girl”, “boy” or “it does not matter”. Overall, Armenians and Georgians prefer boys to girls while more than half of Azerbaijanis claim gender “does not matter”.

The preference for male children holds when the data is split by male and female respondents. Results from Armenia show the highest preference for a male child with 59% of men and 50% of women who prefer a boy, compared to 5% of men and 14% of women who prefer a girl. In Georgia 57% of men and 36% of women prefer a boy and 5% of men and 12% of women prefer a girl. In Azerbaijan 60%-68% of men and women say the sex of the child ‘does not matter’.

When sliced by settlement type (capital, urban and rural), the data shows that rural inhabitants in all three countries prefer male children over female children. 57% of the rural Georgian population prefers boys and this figure is 71% in Armenia. Azerbaijan, on the other hand continues the trend of perceived impartiality with 32% of rural respondents preferring boys.

Despite a relatively high percentage of claims that gender “does not matter” in the three countries, there is a low percentage of individuals whose overall preference is for a girl. On the whole, Georgians, Azerbaijanis and Armenians are more inclined to say they prefer boys or that it “does not matter”, rather than say they prefer girls. For example, in Azerbaijan—the country with the highest percentage of claims that gender “does not matter”—only 9% of the adult population prefers girls. This trend is similar in Georgia and Armenia in which there is a 9-10% preference for girls. Thus, the data shows that there is a strong preference for male children over female children in the South Caucasus.

Why do you think this is the case?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Can a Cut NATO Supply Route Through Russia Benefit Georgia and Azerbaijan?

The 20th anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union is upon us, and US-Russian tensions have risen as Russia contemplates terminating the NATO supply route through Russia. International news reports such as The New York Times detail the threat as a “death blow” to the U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan and indicate that this could be a blessing in disguise for NATO hopeful Georgia, as well as for Azerbaijan.

NATO has two main transportation routes via the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), which connects Baltic and Caspian ports with Afghanistan via Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus: the NDN North and NDN South. The NDN North transit route initiates in Latvia, crosses through Russian territory and enters Afghanistan via the Afghan-Uzbek border. The potential blessing for Georgia and Azerbaijan lies in NATO’s NDN South transit route that spans from the port of Poti in Georgia to the Afghan-Uzbek border. The potential termination of the NDN North route leaves the NDN South route as a viable alternative. The NDN South route currently facilitates the transportation of 30% of the U.S.-NATO supplies to Afghanistan, as reported by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Should Russia close its borders to NATO, and the NDN North route cease to function, this could provide an opportunity for economic diversification in the way of transit fees for Georgia and Azerbaijan. This move could also open trade possibilities between Georgia, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan, as well as add leverage for future NATO membership.

Map from Google Earth. Courtesy of CSIS

Therefore, the issues at hand are two-fold. Are Georgia and Azerbaijan willing or prepared for further commitments to the NDN South transit route? What implications does this have for both the future of Georgian and Azerbaijani NATO membership as well as commercial trade?

First, CRRC’s 2010 Caucasus Barometer (CB), shows that NATO membership is supported (fully and somewhat) by 70% of the Georgian population. Support for NATO membership is less in Azerbaijan where 44% of the population is supportive (fully and somewhat) (See the previous post by Nikola for more details). Thus, increased use of the NDN South route could generate an opportunity to demonstrate further interests in NATO membership. Based on public support for NATO membership, more use of the NDN South route could be welcomed.

Second, more traffic through the NDN South route could economically benefit Georgia and Azerbaijan. Data from the World Trade Organization (WTO) shows that trade in commercial services (including transport) is a growing industry in Georgia. As indicated below, Georgia has seen an increase from 2009 to 2010 in import and export transportation (excluding government services). Azerbaijan has seen a slight decline in export transportation, but an increase in import transportation.

Data retrieved from WTO website

Thus, Georgia and Azerbaijan could benefit at least economically if Russia decides to cut off the NDN North transit route.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Labor Migration Article | Zvezda Dermendzhieva

In a recent article in Post-Communist Economies, Zvezda Dermendzhieva uses Caucasus Barometer data to compare labour migration from the South Caucasus.

We found one of the more remarkable results to be that "while individuals with higher education are not more likely to become migrants in general, having higher education is associated with up to four times higher probability of migration to a high-income OECD country among Armenians and Georgians. The results are in line with theoretical arguments that skill distribution and returns to education in the host country relative to the home country affect the selection of migrants, and that the cost of migration plays an important role in the migration decision."

Zvezda Dermendzhieva also suggests that migration indirectly contributes to economic development by raising local incomes in demand. In the same vein, she finds "a significant correlation between having a migrant and running a family business in Armenia, which suggests that migrants' earnings can provide scarce capital for business investment and support the development of the private sector in the region."

Interested in finding out more? Check the online abstract here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Graduation Ceremony for the Junior Fellowship Program in Azerbaijan

On October 15, 2011, CRRC-Azerbaijan organized a conference recognizing the completion of its first Junior Research Fellowship Program (JRFP). The conference featured five presentations of individual research projects by the winners of the JRFP essay contest, as well as information about the general activities of CRRC-Azerbaijan office followed by an award ceremony and lunch. More than 30 invitees attended the event, representing civil society, academia, governmental agencies, and international organizations.

The JRFP aimed at building the social science research capacity among students or recent graduates in Azerbaijan. Competitively-selected program participants participated in a three-stage set of intensive trainings on qualitative and quantitative research methods, including introduction to policy analysis and public policy paper writing. The presenters demonstrated their learned skills and research findings at the conference.

(From the left: Gursel Aliyev, Robia Charles, Aynur Ramazanova, Yulia Aliyeva)

During the award presentation ceremony, the top three finalists - Aynur Ramazanova, Nargiz Guliyeva and Shabnam Agayeva - were presented with notebooks. The fourth and fifth finalists--Aysel Aliyeva and Vladimir Rodin - received netbooks. All other participants of the third stage of the program received certificates of participation.

The Junior Research Fellowship Program was generously supported by the OSI Think Tank Fund, Budapest.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Armenian Corruption Survey Retrospective | still relevant

The Mobilizing Action Against Corruption (MAAC) effort in Armenia, led by Casals, has come to an end. We undertook four surveys for this USAID project, three household surveys and one business survey. Unfortunately it proved impossible to do a survey among civil servants. The surveys showed that Armenia made practically no progress against corruption, over the three years.

An overwhelming amount of Armenians believed that corruption is a serious problem, and there was only limited change on the fringes.

The data remains available for analysis, and we believe that it continues to be important. There is a final legacy report that Casals published, accessible here.

To find the data sets, and the corruption reports, click here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

A Further Look at Material Deprivation

Continuing to explore standards of living in the South Caucasus, this blog looks at the between four sources of household income and material deprivation using data from the 2010 Caucasus Barometer. Each of the four sources of income (salaries, pensions or government transfers, sales from agricultural goods, and remittances) are categorized by their importance to the household and then cross tabulated with material deprivation. The findings suggest that families reliant on salaries and remittances are better off, while families receiving pensions and government transfers, or those who sell agricultural products as their primary source of income have higher than average rates of material deprivation.

Salaries and pensions/government transfers are by far the most important sources of income, mentioned by around 50% of people in all three countries. Agriculture is mentioned as an income source by over 25% of respondents in Azerbaijan and Georgia, but is reported by only 17% of Armenians, where remittances are the third most common source of income. Twenty percent of Armenians and 17% of Georgians report income from remittances, but family transfers are relatively rare in Azerbaijan, with fewer than 7% reporting receiving remittances.
Chart 1

In the South Caucasus as a whole, people who list salaries as their household’s primary source of income have half the average material deprivation rate of 32%. By taking the ratio of the average rate of material deprivation (blue bar) and the material deprivation rate for salaries as the primary source of income (red bar), Chart 2 shows that households primarily relying on salaries for income have less than half (44%) the average material deprivation rate in Armenia. This figure is 52% of the average material deprivation rate in Georgia, and 63% of the average material deprivation rate in Azerbaijan. Furthermore, households in the South Caucasus that did not report salaries as an income source are 1.4 times as likely to be materially deprived.
Chart 2
Pensions and government transfers are the second most important source of income in the South Caucasus. Chart 3 shows that households where government transfers are the primary source of income have more than 1.5 times the average rate of material deprivation, while those where pensions and government transfers are the second source of income have three-fourths the average rate of material deprivation. This suggests that government transfers throughout the South Caucasus are not large enough to live without poverty, but can effectively supplement a main income. The trend is most extreme in Armenia where households relying on the government for their primary source of income are over two times as likely to be materially deprived, while households where government funds are a secondary source of income have three-fifths the average rate of material deprivation. In Azerbaijan, government transfers have a much weaker correlation with material deprivation. In fact, data from graphs 2 and 3 shows that households receiving government transfers as their primary source of income are twice as likely to be materially deprived as households dependent on salaries in Azerbaijan, three times as likely in Georgia, and five times as likely in Armenia.
Chart 3
As chart 4 shows, income from sales of agricultural products is correlated with higher material deprivation rates across the South Caucasus, supporting previous findings showing that material deprivation is concentrated in rural areas. Armenia has the lowest percentage of households reporting income from the sale of agricultural goods, and also the smallest changes in material deprivation based on income from agriculture. Georgian households dependent on agriculture for either their primary or secondary source of funding are around 1.4 times more likely to be materially deprived than the country average, while Azerbaijani households are almost 1.8 times as likely. In Armenia and Georgia, relying on pensions and government transfers is the strongest indicator of material deprivation, while in Azerbaijan it is dependence on sales from agricultural products.
Chart 4
Only 13% of respondents in the South Caucasus report receiving money from remittances, but chart 5 shows that households most reliant on remittances are less likely to be materially deprived. The trend is especially strong in Georgia, where households dependent on remittances as the primary source of income have 58% of the country’s average material deprivation rate.
Chart 5

Although overall trends are consistent across all three South Caucasus countries, the importance of each income source on standard of living varies rather widely. Material deprivation in Azerbaijan seems to reflect a large divide between urban and rural areas, with family transfers, salaries, and government transfers much less strongly correlated to changes in material deprivation than in Georgia or Armenia. In Georgia more people mention government transfers than salaries as an income source, and for those reliant on state transfers, the material deprivation rate is over 70%. Although Armenia has by far the lowest material deprivation rate, at under 19%, it has a huge disparity between households with salaries as their primary source of income and households dependent on government transfers.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gender | How Does the South Caucasus Compare?

CRRC’s report “How Does the South Caucasus Compare?” aims to put attitudes towards gender in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, the three countries of the South Caucasus region, into a global context. Comparing data from the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project 2010 with that of the CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer (CB), the report shows that on several crucial questions of gender equality, there are significant cleavages between the South Caucasus neighbors.

To read how Caucasian gender attitudes compare, click here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fancy Living Abroad? 39% of Young Armenians Say "Preferably Forever"

Last year, Ani Navasardyan asked, “Why do so many Armenians leave Armenia?” Migration is also an issue in Georgia and Azerbaijan. Data from the CB 2010 reveals that around half of the respondents in Georgia (47%) and Azerbaijan (52%) are interested in temporary migration. Still, Armenia stands out since 64% of the adult population is open to the idea of temporarily leaving the country.

With regard to permanent migration, only 7% of Georgians are interested in leaving the country, compared to 17% of Azerbaijanis and 29% of Armenians who say that they would be interested in leaving their country for good.

The analysis by age group shows that younger people in all 3 countries prefer to migrate temporarily. Three out of four young Armenians (77%) between the ages of 18 to 35 are interested in going abroad temporarily. Equally striking, in its own way, is that many people 56 years and older would leave (38%). In Azerbaijan and Georgia too, interest in temporary migration declines with age. Interestingly, young and middle aged Georgians show a similar interest in temporary migration with affirmation rates of 58% and 52%, respectively.

When looking at the interest in permanent migration by age category, there is also a trend where younger people have more of a desire permanently migrate abroad. Georgia has the lowest percentage of young people (9%) who are interested in permanent migration. There are more than twice as many young Azerbaijanis (24%) who would leave permanently, and more than four times as many young Armenians (39%).

If you are interested in slicing CRRC's data on migration by gender, settlement type, income, knowledge of English or other aspects, we welcome you to analyze our data online.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Armenian attitudes towards opening the border with Turkey

During the 20th anniversary of Armenian independence from the Soviet Union on September 21, 2011, the Armenian news service Hetq reported that the organizers of celebratory events were delivering commemorative T-shirts made in Turkey – which has had closed borders with Armenia since 1993. Despite the fact that trade between Armenia and Turkey flourishes via Georgia, the border between the two countries remains closed. What does the population of Armenia actually think about opening the border with Turkey?

While a majority of Armenians do not support opening the border with Turkey without preconditions and think that opening the border may be harmful for both Armenia’s internal political processes and national security, a large proportion of the Armenian population thinks that opening the border will be beneficial for the Armenian economy.

Data from the 2010 Caucasus Barometer shows that 50% of Armenians do not support the Armenian government opening the border with Turkey without preconditions, while 34% support this action.

In addition, there is a significant difference in opinions on how opening the border with Turkey will affect internal political processes and national security in Armenia. 44% of Armenians think it may be harmful for internal political processes in Armenia, while only 12% see opening the border as beneficial. Moreover, more than half (58%) of the adult Armenian population thinks that opening the borders will have a harmful effect on Armenian national security, in contrast to only 7% who think this will be beneficial.

Unlike internal political processes and national security, 49% of Armenians think that opening the borders with Turkey will be beneficial for Armenian economy. This is 17% more than those who claim opening the border will be harmful.

Similarly, 45% of Armenians approve doing business with Turks (CB 2010). Thus, while there is still a perception of potential threat from Turkey for the internal political processes and national security of Armenia, economic expectations raise the amount support for opening the border between Armenia and Turkey.

For more information, check out the CB 2010 dataset for Armenia which is available online.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Class in the Caucasus | Article by Ken Roberts and Gary Pollock

Using data from the Caucasus Barometer, Ken Roberts and Gary Pollock argue that "in economic and socio-political terms there are as yet just two real classes among actual and potential employees in the South Caucasus – middle classes and lower classes – and that although these classes differ in their standards of living and political dispositions, these are unlikely to become bases for conflict between them."

Interested in more detail? Check the abstract online.

Migration from the South Caucasus

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the “Iron Curtain” opened new prospects for migration for people in the South Caucasus. Comparing data from all three countries in the region shows a tendency that Armenians have a greater interest in both temporary and permanent emigration than Azerbaijanis and Georgians. The blog covers different aspects which may influence the emigration. These are: number of trips abroad, education level, unemployment, average monthly income, family members and close friends currently residing abroad.

According to the 2010 Caucasus Barometer (CB), 64% of Armenians would leave Armenia for a certain period (i.e. temporarily), while fewer Azerbaijanis (52%) and Georgians (47%) would do the same. CRRC data also shows that Armenians are more willing to permanently leave their country (29%), than the Azerbaijanis (17%) and Georgians (7%).

Interestingly, ethnic Armenians within Georgia alone are also more likely to permanently emigrate from the country than the other internal ethnic groups. 42% of the ethnic Armenian population in Georgia reported the desire to leave Georgia forever compared to 7% of ethnic Azerbaijanis and 6% of ethnic Georgians within the country.

Additionally, there is a pattern in which people who have travelled abroad are more inclined to emigrate in all three countries. Nearly eight-in-ten Azerbaijanis (78%) who have once travelled abroad would temporarily leave the country followed by 71% who travelled abroad twice or more and 48% for those who have never travelled abroad. Similarly, 71% Armenians who have been at least once abroad are more interested in temporary migration than their compatriots who have never travelled (48%) outside Armenia. Again, Georgians favor temporary migration the least, but still follow the same pattern in which those who reported at least one trip outside Georgia are more interested to emigrate temporarily than the Georgians who have never been abroad.

Apart from number of trips abroad, education level influences the desire for temporary migration. In all three countries, people with higher education are more interested in temporary emigration. Specifically, this figure is 68% in Armenia, 63% in Azerbaijan and 56% in Georgia. There is no difference in results between people with secondary or technical and lower than secondary education; however, there is a trend in which Armenians with secondary and lower than secondary education (62% and 61%) are more willing to leave Armenia compared to Azerbaijanis (54% and 48%) and Georgians (43% and 42%).

In addition, the fact that unemployment is considered to be most important issue in Georgia (52%) and Armenia (46%), as well as low incomes in both countries, may be some of some of the reasons why people may want to emigrate from the South Caucasus. According to 2010 CB, 47% of Armenians reported that number of available jobs decreased within the past year. This figure is 44% in Azerbaijan and 41% in Georgia. Additionally, according to state statistical agencies in the three countries, the average monthly nominal salary in Armenia in 2010 was equivalent to $292 while it was $335 in Georgia (2009) and $421 in Azerbaijan (2010).

There are also a variety of other political and social issues that may influence the desire to emigrate. For example, more Armenians have family members (63%) or friends (47%) currently living abroad, compared to 41% of Azerbaijanis 41% of Georgians who say the same for family members and 30% of Azerbaijanis and 21% of Georgians who say the same for friends.

There are various reasons why people want to emigrate from the South Caucasus. Despite similar patterns there is a tendency that Armenians are more interested in emigration than the Azerbaijanis and Georgians.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Is the South Caucasus a homogenous region?

In a recent datablog, the Guardian published a map visualizing how the former Soviet countries are doing 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. The map compares the 15 former Soviet countries in terms of economic development, demographics and democratic transition. It also divides the countries into five regions: Russia, the Baltic countries, the EU borderlands, Central Asia and the South Caucasus. While the countries in the EU borderland region (Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine) are depicted as going in very different directions, the other four regions are presented as fairly homogenous. This blog will focus only on the South Caucasus region. Is it really a homogenous region as depicted? Survey data from the 2010 Caucasus Barometer (CB) shows that there are striking similarities and differences in the region. This blog will show this by using some questions on gender issues and the perception of the greatest threat to the world in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia as examples.

The Guardian’s datablog compares the performance of the former Soviet countries by making use of statistics from various sources. The result is a map that divides the countries into five geographic regions consisting of countries sharing a specific path of development. The Baltic republics turned west and “never looked back”, Central Asia remains “nostalgic”, and Russia and the Caucasus have “mixed fortunes”. Only Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine – termed the EU borderlands – develop in different directions, according to the datablog.

The perspective is, of course, a rather general one. However, there are differences with regard to the three countries of the South Caucasus. Georgia is slightly more Western oriented. Azerbaijan also stands out in other respects with population and economic growth since 2000. Nevertheless, in comparison to the other four regions, the Caucasian countries seem to be fairly close to each other in many respects. Live expectancy has risen sharply and infant mortality rates have improved. Furthermore, Armenia and Georgia show a very similar development with respect to GDP per capita.

Source: The Guardian Datablog, 17 August 2011, "End of the USSR: visualising how the former Soviet countries are doing, 20 years on"

Does this picture of a homogenous region persist when we look at the values and perceptions of citizens in the South Caucasus? The 2010 CB shows a mixed picture. For example, a vast majority of citizens in all countries agree that a man should normally be the major breadwinner in a family (83% of Georgians, 84% of Azerbaijanis and 85% of Armenians). The perception that women and man equally share the responsibility for earning the income of a household is supported by 14% of people in Georgia and Armenia and 16% in Azerbaijan. There is also overwhelming disapproval for a woman being the major breadwinner of a family – only 2% of Georgians, 1% of Armenians and 0% of Azerbaijanis support this idea (see below).

While people in the South Caucasus largely agree on the question of who should normally be the major breadwinner, there are considerable differences in perceptions of who the actual breadwinner in the majority of their country's families is. In Azerbaijan and Armenia, 75% and 65% of people, respectively say that the man is the actual breadwinner. Only 6% and 17%, respectively say a woman. The situation in Georgia, however, seems to be very different. 39% of Georgians believe a woman is the actual breadwinner in the majority of Georgian families. This is followed by 36% who say a man is the breadwinner and 20% who think there is an equally shared responsibility among women and men.

Armenians, Azerbaijanis and Georgians also show significant differences in the way they perceive the growing gap between the rich and the poor. In the 2010 CB, they were asked to choose the greatest threat to the world on a list of five dangers. The spread of nuclear weapons was the greatest threat for a plurality of respondents in all three countries. However, in Armenia and Azerbaijan the growing gap between the rich and the poor ranks second with 25% and 21% respectively, while this was the least important of the five dangers to Georgians (7%).

These are only a few examples of similarities and differences among the countries of the South Caucasus. Further similarities (mostly on moral issues) and differences (e.g. western orientation or language preferences) can be examined using our Online Data Analysis tool (ODA).
What similarities and differences do you find most interesting?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Georgia's desire for NATO membership

On September 15th 2011, the former American Ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker, delivered a speech at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies about NATO’s past development, present capabilities and future challenges. The second part of the speech addressed relations between NATO and Georgia. According to Ambassador Volker, the enlargement of the alliance will not be on the agenda during the next summit in Chicago.

Even though there is no indication of Georgia’s possible membership in the near future, the majority of Georgians continue to support their country’s membership in NATO.

So what does the data tell us about Georgian support for NATO membership? Data from the 2009 and 2010 Caucasus Barometer (CB) again allows a closer analysis of three aspects that influence Georgian attitudes: age, education and trust towards the executive government.

According to the 2010 CB, 70% of Georgians support NATO membership and this number has increased by more than 10% since 2009 (from 59%).

Additionally, full support for NATO membership has increased among young people. The 2009 CB shows that one third (33%) of Georgians between the ages of 18 to 35 fully supported Georgia’s NATO membership, followed by 31% between the ages of 36 to 55 and 20% for those aged 56 or more. However, according to the CB 2010, full support among the younger generation has increased to 44%, while this figure is 29% for the other two age groups, respectively.

Apart from age, education level influences support for Georgia’s accession to NATO. People with higher education are more supportive of Georgia’s NATO integration. Specifically, 44% of Georgians with higher education fully support Georgia’s membership in NATO (37% in 2009). There is a small difference between people with secondary education (29%) and those with secondary or lower (32% and 22%, respectively in 2009) education.

Trust towards the Georgian executive government is a third pattern that affects support for membership. 61% of Georgians who fully trust the executive government fully support Georgia’s membership in NATO. This figure is 34% among those who fully distrust the executive government.

Thus, the majority of Georgians support joining NATO even though Georgia does not have official candidate status for membership and will not obtain candidacy status during the next NATO summit in Chicago.

The dataset is available online, if you want to pursue further analysis on factors influencing. [LINK]

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Isolation and Opportunity in Eastern Abkhazia. A Survey of Community Security

The Institute for Democracy and Saferworld recently published a report entitled “Isolation and Opportunity in Eastern Abkhazia. A Survey of Community Security” (2011). This blog focuses on four aspects from the report: most urgent problems facing communities in Eastern Abkhazia, perceptions of personal safety and the role of security actors, potential increased tension, and contact between ethnic groups.

People living in Eastern Abkhazia view bad roads (49%) as the most urgent problem facing the area. According to the report, roads in Eastern Abkhazia have not undergone renovation since conflict in the 1990s, with some exceptions. Consequently, this has created a feeling of isolation, particularly among people residing in villages located far from towns. The second most urgent problem is the closure of the Inguri bridge, mentioned by 32% of respondents. While the first two issues highlight insufficient or poor quality transportation connections, the following three problems refer to concerns about the unresponsiveness of authorities, extortion and lack of potable water. Ethnicity-based discrimination (9%) was the lowest-rated result for this question.

The second aspect is perceptions of personal safety and the role of security actors. Overall, people do not feel their physical security threatened, but they report a wide range of security incidents such as agricultural theft, robbery and gunshots. Also, about a third of respondents (33%) prefer to rely on relatives and friends or no one (26%) for protection, and 10% of people answered that their local government is responsible for protecting them.

Apart from individual security, a majority of respondents (80%) do not expect to see a deterioration of the overall security situation. However, there are concerns about possible triggers that may increase tensions or renew the conflict. For example, 40% of respondents consider that further political escalation between Moscow and Tbilisi may increase tensions or renew the conflict, while shootings (36%) or clashes between armed forces along the Inguri river (30%) are considered to be possible triggers for increased tensions. Additionally, 27% of the surveyed population thinks that further escalation between Tbilisi and Sukhumi may increase tensions or renew the conflict.

According to the report, hostilities and mistrust between ethnic groups in Eastern Abkhazia are low. People are also supportive of any measure to increase the level of contact. While 9% reports mistrust towards other ethnic groups, no respondents noticed any “open hostility”. Over half of people (60%) in Eastern Abkhazia maintain contact with people from other ethnic groups. 28% of people report friendships with people from different ethnicities. This figure is 21% for family ties and 11% for trade and business relations. However, 29% of respondents have no relation with individuals from other ethnic groups.

In addition, half of those interviewed remarked that the protection of human rights would build trust and confidence with other ethnic groups. This is followed by 21% of respondents who believe this could be accomplished by creating community-level mechanisms to resolve local disputes and 18% who think a better economic situation will achieve the same goal.

This is not a survey undertaken by CRRC, thus we cannot comment on methodology or other aspects of the undertaking. However, we did want to highlight this survey as relevant material that may be of interest. You find a link to the publication here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Does Refusal to Recognize Elections in Abkhazia Reduce Prospects for Resolution?

A recent New York Times article argues that the failure of Western governments to recognize the latest presidential elections in Abkhazia on August 26, 2011 may hamper conflict resolution. According to the authors, Cooley and Mitchell, Western governments have a “counterproductive disdain” of developments in Abkhazia and isolating Sukhumi will reduce prospects for conflict resolution. The article also sparks a debate about the degree of democratic competition in Georgia and Abkhazia by saying that the recent elections in Abkhazia seemed to be fairly competitive by the standards of countries in the South Caucasus. This all comes at a time when popular perception in Georgia is such that the prospects for reintegration with Georgia have decreased over time and there is no preferred method for finding a solution to the conflict.

According to the article, failure to recognize Abkhazia’s efforts to hold somewhat democratic elections is counterproductive in various ways. First, it unintentionally reinforces Russia’s growing influence in Abkhazia. Second, it “further entrenches the counterproductive position that nothing that happens in Abkhazia, or even the views of the people there, have any bearing on any potential resolution to the conflict” (New York Times, Aug 31 2011, "A Counterproductive Disdain"). This argument raises the question of the EU’s strategy of “engagement without recognition” since European governments have shown little engagement before and after Abkhazia’s presidential elections.

In another article from 2010, the same authors point out that Russian-Abkhaz relations have dramatically changed since the 2008 war. According to their view, the ongoing delegation of basic state functions from Sukhumi to Moscow has further reduced prospects for conflict resolution. Russian troops guarding Abkhazian borders, the Russian ruble in the pockets of Abkhazians, and Russian telephone prefixes (+7) in the region are the most visible signs of this change.

With all of these developments, have the prospects for conflict resolution changed? What do Georgian citizens think are the most important activities to solve the Georgia-Abkhaz conflict? According to CRRC’s 2010 Caucasus Barometer (CB), 41% of Georgians think the prospects of Abkhazia becoming an integral part of Georgia have decreased since 2008. 35% think prospects have stayed the same and only 9% believe prospects have increased (14% remain uncertain). Also, a 2010 survey among IDPs in Georgia by CRRC shows that 12% believe Abkhazia will be reintegrated with Georgia within the next 5 years.

When asked what they think is the most important activity as a solution to the Georgia-Abkhaz conflict, 1% of Georgians says recognition of Abkhazia’s independence. An equal amount of the adult population (18%) say civil society should be given a greater role and that a non-use of force agreement should be signed with Abkhazia. A smaller proportion of the population thinks that commencing negotiations with Russia (14%) or signing a non-use of force agreement with Russia (12%) is the most important activity. It is important to note that 17% of Georgians are not sure what would be the most important activity.

What do you think is the most promising approach to resolve the conflict? Do you think the prospects for resolution have decreased?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

How Does Gender Determine Roles and Behaviors of Women in and outside of Georgian Families?

We would like to present the third report from the Caucasus Barometer Report Writing Competition held by CRRC in spring 2011 and written by Mariam Naskidashvili. The first and the second reports were published earlier this summer. The report concerns the roles and behavior of women in Georgian society. Here is a short summary of the report:

Only 1 percent of Georgians say that the main decision maker at home should be a woman, and only 2 percent consider a woman an ideal breadwinner. A majority of the Georgian population does not expect women to drink strong alcohol, smoke tobacco, have premarital sex, or live separately from their parents, according to data from CRRC’s 2010 Caucasus Barometer Survey. Georgia is a traditional society where normative roles are strongly attached to gender, and there are quite different forms of behavior expected from men and women. However, the situation is much more complex than it first appears, with more women than men being seen as the primary breadwinners in Georgian families, and some 60 percent of Georgians being comfortable with the idea of having a woman as an immediate boss. While traditional gender roles are still held to be ‘ideal’, the realities of life supersede this, and strong majorities of Georgians say that women should not face obstacles receiving an education or finding work.

When it comes to social mores, it is clear that Georgia remains a conservative country where the majority of people say it is never acceptable for women to have sex outside of marriage. However, Georgia is not monolithic; young Georgians are less conservative, as are those who live in Tbilisi, and those who are more educated. It is possible that these seemingly deeply entrenched attitudes may be changing.

Access the full report here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Georgia's EU aspirations

CRRC has just completed a second wave of the survey entitled “Knowledge and Attitudes toward the European Union (EU) in Georgia” (2011). Just over half of the Georgian population thinks that Georgia will actually join the EU at some point in the future and they have high expectations from EU membership. Many Georgians also support membership in the European Union (EU) despite uncertainty over whether or not European citizens share the same views about Georgian accession. This new survey also lets us compare data with the first survey conducted in 2009.

A large percentage of Georgians (69%) support the idea of potential EU membership despite the economic and debt crisis across the EU. Moreover, they are keener on EU membership than citizens of Croatia (52%) and Turkey (38%) even though the latter two states are more likely candidates for EU membership. In addition, according to EU attitudes survey, 53% of Georgians trust the EU, while data from the 2010 Eurobarometer shows that only 37% of Croatians express trust towards the EU.

Georgians also stay optimistic about the timeline for EU accession. According to CRRC’s 2011 survey of attitudes towards the EU in Georgia, 35% of Georgians believe that the country will be ready for EU membership in five years or less, compared to 32% of Georgians who said the same in 2009. Nearly one fifth of the population (19%) thinks that the country will be ready to join in five to ten years, compared to 21% of Georgians who said the same in 2009.

Opinions on when Georgia will actually join the EU are slightly different. In 2011 30% of Georgians believe the country will join in five years or less, while 17% think Georgia will become a member in five to ten years. In 2009 results were almost the same. 31% of Georgians said Georgia would become an EU member in five years or less and 20% claimed the country would join between five and ten years. However, quite a large proportion of Georgians (42%) answered “don’t know” on the same question in 2011 (38% said “don’t know” in 2009).

Support for the idea that Georgia will become an EU member may lie in the fact that just over half (55%) of people in Georgia agree with the statement: “I am a Georgian and therefore I am a European”. Younger Georgians are more likely to agree with this statement. 64% of those between the ages of 18 to 35 agreed, followed by 58% of Georgians between 36 and 55 years old. This figure is 46% for the older generation (age 56+).

However, a majority of Georgians are not sure whether or not European citizens share the same attitude towards possible Georgian accession. 35% of the Georgians think the majority of European citizens would like to see Georgia as a new member state, while 57% answered “don’t know”.

High expectations about EU accession may partially explain why Georgians are so supportive towards EU membership. The majority of people in Georgia think that the EU membership may improve the general political, economic and social situation in the country. For instance, 46% say that the EU membership might decrease poverty. 52% think that EU membership may increase the number of available jobs, and 64% of Georgians believe that EU membership can increase the possibility of restoring territorial integrity.

Thus, the data shows that despite the economic and debt crisis in the EU, Georgians are overwhelmingly supportive towards EU integration and have high expectations from possible membership. Are these expectations justifiable? Share your opinion with us.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Georgia and Russia: Can positive relations between the populations overcome the political turmoil?

On the third anniversary of the 2008 August war the Russian Foreign Minister said that Russia will not renew ties with Georgia as long as the Georgian President Mikhail Saakhashvili is in power. Relations between the Georgian and Russian governments have been at a standstill since the conflict in 2008. Nevertheless, the attitudes of Georgians towards Russians remain positive.

While relations between the Georgian and Russian governments can be described as troublesome, Georgians remain positive towards the Russian people. According to the Caucasus Barometer 2010, 73% of Georgians approve of doing business with Russians, compared with 79% who approve of doing business with Ukrainians (the highest rated result for this question). Moreover, 42% of Georgians approve of Georgian women marrying Russians which was the second highest rated result for this question after Ukrainians (45%). In addition, data from the Caucasus Barometer suggests that people who have a better knowledge of Russian are more likely to approve of Georgian women marrying Russians. The data also shows that 90% of Georgians think they have at least a beginner’s level knowledge of Russian, while 32% think they have at least a beginner’s level knowledge of English.

Socio-cultural characteristics such as a sizeable Georgian diaspora in Russia and Orthodox religion may also play a role in the positive perception of Russians by Georgians. The Georgian Ministry of the Diaspora estimates that the number of Georgians residing in Russia varies between 800,000-900,000 people. Also, the strong role of religion in Georgian society might help to explain positive attitudes towards Russians. Relations between the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) are good. For example, the ROC recognizes the canonical authority of the GOC over the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as was confirmed by both patriarchs during their August 2011 meeting in Kiev to commemorate St. Vladimir Equal-to-the-Apostles the Baptizer of Russia.

Nevertheless, positive attitudes towards the Russian people do not influence Georgia’s predominant pro-Western orientation. According to the 2010 Caucasus Barometer, 70% of Georgians support membership in NATO and 71% think that English should be a mandatory language in schools, while only 16% think that Russian should be a mandatory language in Georgian schools. Georgian-Russian political relations are also at odds with the different approaches towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Tbilisi claims both territories as an integral part of Georgia, while Moscow has recognized their independence.

Georgians have positive attitudes towards the Russian people despite political turmoil between the Georgian and Russian governments. We do not have data on Russian attitudes towards Georgian people. However, do you think that positive attitudes between people could pave the way to a Georgian-Russian rapprochement?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Intermarriage in the South Caucasus

As a continuation of the blog, Forbidden Love: Attitudes Toward Interethnic Marriage in the South Caucasus, this blog focuses only on approval/disapproval rates and the socio-cultural preferences of women marrying men from different ethnic and national groups.

According to the 1996-1997 World Value Survey, 98% of both Azerbaijanis and Armenians and 99% of Georgians considered the family to be important in their lives. Marriage can be viewed as an important step towards the formation of families and the family itself can have an important impact on individual identity formation.

Data from the 2010 Caucasus Barometer shows that 54% of Azerbaijanis approve of an Azerbaijani woman marrying a Turkish man and this was the highest rated result for the question. Similar Turkic identity and linguistic similarity between the nations may be part of the reason behind this. Azerbaijanis have much lower levels of approval for marriage with other groups, ranging from 74% disapproval of marriage with Iranians to 98% disapproval of marriage with Armenians.

While there is more disapproval than approval of intermarriage in all three countries of the South Caucasus, Georgians expressed higher rates of approval towards intermarriage than Azerbaijanis. 45% of Georgians approve of Georgian women marrying Ukrainian men, followed by the second and third highest approval rating for marriage with Russians (42%) and Greeks (41%), respectively. There are slightly lower levels of approval (between 39% and 35%) for marriages with Italians, Americans, Germans, Ossetians and Abkhazians. The highest rate of disapproval (between 77% and 80%) was for marriages with Iranians, Turkish, Indians, Kurds and Chinese. Analyzing these data, it is possible to notice that Georgians have the highest levels of approval for marriages with predominately Orthodox groups, while they show the highest levels of disapproval for marriages with some non-Christian groups. The strong role of the religion in Georgian society might explain preferences to marry with Orthodox and other Christian groups. For example, according to the CB 2010, 90% of Georgians consider religion to be important in their daily lives.

Armenians have lower levels of approval for intermarriage than Georgians, but they show more approval for such marriages than Azerbaijanis. Russians have the highest approval rate (49%) followed by Italians, Americans, Ukrainians, Germans and Greeks with slightly lower levels of approval ranging from 41% to 37%. The highest disapproval levels are for marriages with Kurds, Iranians, Turks and Azerbaijanis. Levels of approval/disapproval for Armenian women marrying other ethnicities may be influenced by political preferences. For example, both the Armenian government and Armenian people have positive attitudes towards Russia. Also, the fact that Armenians have more positive attitudes towards marriage with Russians than with other groups might include the fact that there is a large number of Armenians living in Russia (2,250,000 according to, and both knowledge and use of the Russian language is widespread in Armenia. The CB 2010 suggests that only 5% of Armenians have no basic knowledge of Russian.

This data show that attitudes towards intermarriage in the South Caucasus may be influenced by a variety of different factors in this diverse region. Thus, it is interesting to consider what roles factors such as religion, political alliances and ethnicity, among others, can play in marital preferences.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Material Deprivation in the South Caucasus

Material deprivation is a non-monetary measure of poverty which measures ownership of durable goods considered valuable by a society for a good standard of living. The CRRC’s 2010 Caucasus Barometer provides a limited assessment of material deprivation by measuring household ownership of nine durable goods in South Caucasian homes: TVs, DVD players, washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioners, cars, landline telephones, cell phones, and computers. The results indicate a great deal of variety in levels of material deprivation by country, but show that material deprivation is mostly prevalent within rural areas and among the poorly educated in the South Caucasus.

When the ownership of durable goods is defined as the possession of fewer than four of the nine items, 32% of the South Caucasus is materially deprived. Armenia has the lowest level of material deprivation at just under 19%, while Azerbaijan has a material deprivation rate of around 25%, and Georgia has a rate of 48%. When the definition of material deprivation is expanded to include households possessing fewer than five of the household items, the material deprivation rate increases dramatically to 38% in Armenia, 47% in Azerbaijan, 64% in Georgia, and to 51% in the entire South Caucasus.

Despite the percentile difference between the countries, living in a rural settlement and low education are similar characteristics shared by most materially deprived people throughout the South Caucasus.

In the South Caucasus as a whole, as well as within each state, the capital has the lowest rate of material deprivation, rural areas the highest, and urban non-capital areas lie in between. For example, in the South Caucasus as a whole, only 15% of capital inhabitants own fewer than four of the items, while this figure is 30% for urban non-capital areas and 47% for rural inhabitants. Georgia and Armenia’s material deprivation rate in the capital is half that of urban non-capital areas, and one third that of rural areas. In Azerbaijan the biggest gap in living standards is between rural and urban non-capital areas, rather than between the capital and urban areas. In all three countries the rate of material deprivation in rural areas is over three times that of the capital.

In addition to the high variance based on location, material deprivation is negatively correlated with the education level of the respondent. The material deprivation rate for people with only a primary education or less is over 50%, while it is only 16 % for people with completed higher education, and just 7% for those with post-graduate degrees. In fact, in Azerbaijan and Armenia, no survey respondents with post-graduate degrees and less than 8% of those with higher education are materially deprived. In Georgia, 15% of those with post-graduate degrees and 27% of those with completed higher education own fewer than four of the durable goods. However, these rates are still far below the country average of 47%.

In each country and in the region as a whole, the achievement of at least a secondary technical education is the threshold for a lower than average level of material deprivation. Despite some trend-defying findings such as the relatively low rate of durable good possession for those with no education in Armenia, the overall trend in the South Caucasus clearly shows that a higher level of educational achievement corresponds with a lower rate of material deprivation. Moreover, a failure to move past high school education is linked with a higher than average risk of living in a materially deprived household.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Upswing of Transition in Georgia

This past summer, Freedom House launched the 14th edition of its Nations in Transit (NIT) report. The publication comprehensively monitors democratic developments in 29 countries from Central Europe to Eurasia, amongst them Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. CRRC is represented in the report with data from the 2010 Corruption Survey in Armenia.

Each chapter of NIT assesses a country with regard to media independence, judicial framework fairness of jurisdiction, freedom of elections and levels of corruption. The overall analysis finds that the ever-growing tenures of authoritarian leaders in the former Soviet Union have contributed to a number of looming governance problems (e.g., including the inability to develop law-based systems or tackle corruption).

As for the South Caucasus, Freedom House reports a deteriorating situation for Azerbaijan and Armenia in the fields of democracy and local governance. The assessment for Georgia is more positive. The country improved its ratings in democracy, national governance, electoral processes and corruption. Yet, Georgia’s judiciary was marked down due to persisting inconsistencies in interpretation, enforcement of legislation, and inhumane conditions in detention facilities for example.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rule of Law in Georgia - Opinions and Attitudes of the Population

As a part of the Caucasus Barometer Report Writing Competition held by CRRC in the spring of 2011, we would like to present the second report (the first report was published recently) written by Salome Tsereteli-Stephen. The report deals with the rule of law in Georgia and here is a short summary of Salome’s findings and an analysis of the subject.

Establishing a sustainable, law-based system of governance is central to Georgia’s aspirations of becoming a full-fledged member of the democratic family of nations. This goal is repeatedly held up by politicians of all stripes as essential to the country’s development.

According to data from the 2010 Caucasus Barometer, 47% of Georgians believe that the country is governed by the rule of law, with 27% disagree. While Georgians’ opinions are divided on whether the country is governed by the rule of law, there also seems to be confusion about what the rule of law actually entails. Thirty-eight percent of Georgians agree that the winner of elections is entitled to govern the country as he or she sees fit, with only 31% who disagree and a further 25% who said they did not know. This indicates a strong lack of awareness regarding the rule of law as a concept.

The full report available at the CRRC's website.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Engagement without recognition?

The Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts did not emerge in the 2008 August war. However, they escalated in the early 1990’s when both territories engaged in wars of secession and there are different approaches to the resolution of these conflicts. For the EU, these are regional issues with broad security implications. However, from the viewpoint of the Georgian government, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are primarily internal political issues. Tbilisi claims both territories as integral parts of Georgia even though it has not been exercising full control over either entity for several years.

Georgian public opinion supports government claims over these two territories. Data from CRRC’s 2009 survey entitled, “Knowledge and Attitudes Towards the EU” in Georgia shows that territorial integrity was the most mentioned issue of significance for Georgia.

The question in this survey asked the respondents to name up to 3 most important issues facing Georgia without ranking. This methodology is different than that used in the Caucasus Barometer where respondents are asked to indicate the most important issue facing the country.

Moreover, 43% of Georgians mentioned the restoration of territorial integrity as an important issue with which the international community can help. For example, many Georgians believe that issues involving territorial integrity (65%) and national security (68%) will improve if Georgia joins EU. This is in light of the fact that 46% of Georgians expect a major military conflict with Russia in the next 5 years and 80% of Georgians consider joining NATO to be an important issue (CB 2010).

No approach to resolving these conflicts (e.g., neither the August war, nor isolation of both territories) has brought any resolution to date. With regard to the Abkhaz conflict specifically, data from the CB 2010 shows that ideas about what would be the most important activity to resolve the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict is split between 18% of Georgians who would like to see greater involvement by civil society, 18% who prefer the signing of a non use of force agreement with Abkhazia, and 20% of Georgians who don’t know what would be best.

In contrast to the Georgian view, the EU sees the cases of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as regional issues with broader security implications, rather than as internal Georgian problems. Many academic circles in the EU and USA suggest a policy of “engagement without recognition” towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia. For example, in the 2010 October edition of the Washington Quarterly, Lincoln Mitchell and Alexander Cooley wrote that “pledging enduring support for Georgia’s territorial integrity is somewhat meaningless” because the more both breakaway regions are pressured to choose between Tbilisi and Moscow, they will choose latter. According to them, the more these areas are isolated by the international community, the more likely they are to increase their dependence on Moscow. In addition, the European Union Institute for Security Studies suggests that the “engagement without recognition” policy might be beneficial for Georgia as well because it does not question Georgia’s territorial integrity, nor does it force Georgia to recognize the self-proclaimed independence of both regions.

How do you think Georgia should deal with its "breakaway" territories?

Which way to go?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Georgia in the European Union?

Three striking aspects of the Georgia-EU relationship are: 1) Georgian’s overwhelming desire for EU membership, 2) large differences in attitudes on social values between Georgia and the EU, and 3) lack of consensus as to whether or not Georgia belongs to Europe, Asia or “Eurasia”. Data from CRRC’s 2009 survey entitled, “Knowledge and Attitudes Towards the EU” in Georgia shows that Georgians are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about EU membership. In fact, Georgians are more keen on EU membership than the Western Balkan states and Turkey, even though the latter two are more serious candidates for the next wave of enlargement.

Data from a poll conducted by the Italian Foundation, Compagnia di San Paolo and the German Marshal Fund show that Turkish public support for joining the EU dropped from 73% in 2004 to 38% in 2010. Support for EU membership in Croatia is 56% and 53% in Serbia. In contrast, 79% of Georgians in 2009 would vote for EU membership and 61% think it is very important for the Georgian government to strengthen ties with the EU. In addition, about a third of the population believe that Georgia will be prepared to join the EU in less than 5 years, while one fifth answered in 5-10 years. The opinions on if Georgia will actually join the European Union in less than 5 years or in 5-10 years period are almost the same.

However, data from the 2008 World Values Survey in Georgia shows that the country is divided by this EU aspiration and opinions on social values—many of which are at odds with social values in EU societies. For example, trust in religious institutions is much higher in Georgia (95%) relative to EU member states (19% EU average). A higher percentage of Georgians specifically would not want a neighbor who is HIV+ (40%) or a homosexual (87%) compared to the EU average of 17% and 20% who say the same on each question, respectively. Also, 50% of Georgians think that their way of life needs protection against European influences (CB 2009).

Another important question is whether Georgia can be defined as a European country. 54% of Georgians agree with the statement that “I am Georgian and therefore I am European” (CRRC’s 2009 EU survey) However, there is still tension around defining Georgia as a European country, not least because of its location east of Turkey. Vallery Giscard d’Estaing mentioned that Turkey is a non European state because its capital lies in Asia and 95% of its population lives outside of Europe. If Ankara is in Asia, then how is possible to recognize Tbilisi as a European capital when it lies further to the East? It is difficult to speak about the prospect of EU integration in the South Caucasus without the integration of Turkey. It might be unrealistic to expect a map of the EU in which there is a huge gap for Turkey and the inclusion of a small Caucasian country. This may be one reason why 52% of Georgians think Turkey should become a member of the EU (CRRC’s 2009 EU survey).

Europe or Asia?

Besides EU aspirations, differences on social values and geographic and cultural identity, the current economic and financial crisis might impact Georgian attitudes towards the EU. The EU has been a symbol of wealth, liberal policies and open society for many years. However, the bailouts in Greece, Portugual and Ireland, as well as severe financial crises in Spain and Italy make the EU seem less attractive. In any case, despite the government’s membership ambitions and further reforms, accession does not seem to be realistic at the moment. The EU also may not be ready for enlargement as it has to adopt new institutional reforms in order to absorb additional members.

A second wave of the “Knowledge and Attitudes Towards the EU” survey in Georgia will be available this August. It will be interesting to compare the 2009 and 2011 results. What do you think? Do you think that Georgia should be a member of the EU? Does the country have a serious chance of becoming an EU member?