If a referendum were held tomorrow, a majority of the Georgian population (61%) would vote for the country’s membership in the European Union, according to the fourth wave of the Knowledge and Attitudes towards the EU survey carried out by CRRC-Georgia for the Eurasia Partnership Foundation in May of 2015. But anyone familiar with the situation in Georgia and the politics of EU enlargement understands that EU membership is, at best, a long term prospect for Georgia. The country’s democratic consolidation and economic development, in addition to the settlement of the oft mentioned territorial conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are crucial to Georgia’s prospects for becoming a candidate for EU membership. With this in mind, what does the Georgian public think about the country’s EU membership prospects?
Generally speaking, Georgians are optimistic in their outlook on the country’s EU membership prospects. This optimism though appears to have declined in the last two years. While in 2013 roughly a third of the Georgian public believed the country would become an EU member state within five years or less (from the period of survey fieldwork), today roughly a fifth of the population believes so.
Skepticism about eventual membership also appears to have increased. While a negligible share of the population once reported that Georgia would never join the European Union, today approximately one in ten Georgians think so. Over time, the share of Georgians who are unsure of whether Georgia will ever be an EU member state has remained relatively stable at approximately two fifths of the population.
Despite the optimism still remaining about eventual membership prospects, most Georgians recognize that the country has a fair way to develop. Between 42% and 52% of them believe that Georgia is not yet ready for EU membership when it comes to Georgian legislation’s harmonization with the EU’s, having a competitive market economy, the protection of human rights and, specifically, minority rights, rule of law, and the formation of democratic institutions. The share of the population that believes Georgia is more ready than not for EU membership in the fields noted above is between 20% and 32%.
The Georgian public recognizes a number of structural barriers as impetuses to eventual EU membership. The most commonly reported barrier is the unresolved territorial conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia (43%). This is followed by political instability (28%) and an underdeveloped economy (21%). The next two most frequently reported barriers are related to foreign policy – Russia (17%) and a lack of political will from the EU (12%).
Note: A show card was used. The respondents could choose up to three answer options.
The Georgian population is aware of the barriers to the country’s membership in the EU, and between 2013 and 2015 the assessment of the country’s prospects to become an EU member have become more realistic. Take a look through the 2015 Knowledge and Attitudes towards the EU survey data using CRRC’s Online Data Analysis tool, here.