The June 27, 2014 initialing of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, a wide reaching, largely economic treaty, was marked with celebration in Tbilisi as the fruit of a long running diplomatic effort to tighten ties with the European Union over the course of three Georgian administrations. To date, 27 EU member states have ratified the Agreement. The EU has become a more important market for Georgian goods since the signing of the Agreement, with the share of total exports to the EU increasing from 21% in the first eight months of 2014 to 28% in the same months of 2015, according to Geostat data. Using the findings of the 2015 Knowledge and Attitudes towards the EU survey carried out by CRRC-Georgia for Eurasia Partnership Foundation, this post looks at public perceptions of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement one year on and, specifically, examines whether Georgia’s ethnic minority population’s awareness of the Agreement has increased since 2013, when a previous wave of the same survey was conducted.
While in 2013, before the initialing of the Association Agreement, 19% of the population of Georgia reported having heard of the Agreement, today 63% report so. It should be noted, however, that this impressive increase is a measure of reported awareness and does not necessarily reflect the accuracy of information people have about the document.
Characteristics of those aware of the Agreement fall along the lines to be expected. While half of those with secondary or lower education report having heard of the Agreement, the same is true for three quarters of those with tertiary education. People aged 36 to 55 years old are slightly more likely to report knowing about the Agreement. Interestingly, according to findings of other surveys, representatives of this age group tend to be the most informed about other issues as well, such as, NGOs. Representatives of the youngest and oldest age groups are equally aware of the Agreement (60% and 58%, respectively, report having heard of it). Finally, as is commonly found with other knowledge questions in Georgia, residents of the capital are most informed, with three quarters reporting awareness of the Agreement compared with slightly over half of the residents of other urban and rural settlements. Interestingly, men report having heard of the Association Agreement slightly more frequently than women (67% compared with 58%).
Considering that the previous, 2013 wave of the EU survey found a considerable discrepancy between awareness of the Association Agreement between Georgian speakers and ethnic minority populations, it is important to take a look at this issue in 2015. While reported awareness of the Association Agreement increased by roughly five times between 2013 and 2015 among the non-Georgian speaking, ethnic minority population (from 6% to 26%), this is still half the level of awareness of the Agreement that Georgian speakers report.
Importantly, the non-Georgian speaking ethnic minority population who have not heard about the Association Agreement are more willing to get more information about the EU than are Georgian speakers who have not heard of the agreement.
*Note: Only the answers of those who reported that they had not heard of the Agreement, responded that they did not know whether they had heard of the Agreement or refused to answer the question about the Association Agreement are presented in the chart above (74% of ethnic minorities and 34% of ethnic Georgians).
While the majority of the population of Georgia has heard of the Association Agreement with the European Union, slightly over a third of the population is still unaware of its existence. Lack of awareness is particularly acute among representatives of ethnic minorities, but considering that many of those who are unaware of the Agreement are interested in finding out more about the EU, both the Government of Georgia and the European Union could consider public information campaigns on the Association Agreement. As in the past, this is particularly important in ethnic minority settlements where knowledge of the EU and EU-Georgia Association Agreement is much lower than in the rest of Georgia.
To look into the subject more, take a look at the data using the CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool, here.