Monday, April 04, 2016

From ‘altruist’ to ‘realist’: changing perceptions of the EU in Georgia

There has been a slowdown in the EU’s ‘values promotion’ in the former Soviet space, according to a recent publication by The Foreign Policy Center. As Frederica Mogherini,  High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission stated in 2015, the priorities of the reviewed European Neighborhood Policy are, “First, focus on economic development and job creation; second, cooperation on energy; third, security; fourth, migration; fifth, neighbors of the neighbors.” The statement has no mention of values. This policy shift may lead to the weakening of the image of the EU as a value oriented power, as described for example in the 2007-2013 European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument, and there is some empirical data supporting this expectation. This blog post looks at the Georgian population’s changing perceptions of the EU’s interests in Georgia and EU-Georgia relations using findings of several waves of Europe Foundation’s Knowledge and attitudes towards the EU survey conducted by CRRC-Georgia.

The share of the population that fully agrees with the opinion that the EU supports Georgia because the country is an exemplary new democracy and the EU wants it to develop declined over the years. The share of those who fully agree that the EU helps all developing countries, among them Georgia, also declined.

Note: Six possible reasons for the EU’s support to Georgia were evaluated during the interviews. This chart presents the distribution of answers regarding only two of these reasons. The distribution of answers for three other reasons are presented in the next chart. 

The population of Georgia also thinks the EU supports Georgia in order to achieve more realpolitik goals. On the one hand, compared to 2011, less people fully agree that the EU is interested in Georgia because it wants Georgia to be a stable country and to use its territory to transport oil and gas to Europe. On the other hand, the share of those who agrees (both “fully agree” and “agree”) that the EU supports Georgia because it wants to reduce the flow of migrants towards the EU rose between 2011 and 2015. The share that agrees the EU supports Georgia because it wants stability in its neighborhood also increased.

Thus, the shift from the EU’s value oriented neighborhood policy to more realpolitik goals seems to have been noticed by the Georgian population and is reflected in its attitudes towards the EU. More people think that the EU is driven by ‘harder’ interests than in the past.

To explore the data in more depth, try out our online data analysis tool or take a look at some of CRRC’s recent blog posts (see here, here and here).

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