Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The South Caucasus population asks for a stronger European Union

The results of the CRRC’s 2008 Caucasus Barometer (CB) reveal that the population of South Caucasus (SC) is in favour of the EU taking on a stronger foreign policy stance. The SC is considered a region as a whole here, as EU policy towards the SC arguably tends to adopt a regional approach. However, it must be said that Azerbaijan is slightly less enthusiastic about the EU overall than Armenia and Georgia (usually 10 points fewer), which each have very similar results.

The EU does not seem to be perceived as a credible military power and the disagreement about the Iraq war among EU member states is still weakening the image of a united EU. Indeed, 88 percent of the respondents think that the EU should have a rapid military reaction force and 92 percent of them estimate that the EU should agree on a unified stance towards a conflict when an international crisis occurs.

The EU should have a rapid military reaction force that can be sent quickly to trouble spots where an international crisis occurs

When an international crisis occurs, EU Member States should agree on a common position

The idea of a European common voice is furthermore promoted by 84 percent of the respondents who agree with the following statement: “the EU should have its own foreign minister who can be a spokesperson for a common EU position.”

The EU should have its own Foreign Minister who can be a spokesperson for a common EU position

The SC arguably supports an independent EU policy, as 87 percent of people are in favour of an EU seat at the UN Security Council. Surprisingly, 85 percent of the respondents consider that the EU should have an external policy independent of the US. This second statement seems staggering when most of the critics regarding the lack of the EU's commitment in the post-Soviet countries evoke the fear of the EU to be “seen by Russia as a 'geopolitical adversary'” (Halbach, “The EU fears being seen by Russia as a 'geopolitical adversary' in post-Soviet space”, Caucaz.com, 10 Sept. 2006).

The EU should have its own seat at the UN Security Council

EU foreign policy should be independent of US foreign policy

Generally speaking, the EU is seen as an ally rather than a threat by people in the SC. Indeed, according to the research done by the International Republican Institute in 2010 for Georgia and in 2008 for Armenia, 24 percent of the Georgians and 29 of the Armenians see the EU as a possible political or economic partners, compared with the 6 percent of Armenians and the 1 percent of Georgians who see the EU as the greatest political and economic threat. However, the EU might suffer to be seen as a weak ally compare to other international powers as Armenia still considers that Russia is its main partner in the region, Georgians ranks the US as their main partner and Azerbaijan historically sees Turkey as its first ally.

For all the information on the data, you can have a look at CRRC and IRI websites on
http://www.iri.org/explore-our-resources/public-opinion-research/public-opinion-polls#three .

This post is also available on CRRC-Armenia blog

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Attitudes toward the West | Caucasus Analytical Digest

Following an article on Georgians’ attitudes toward Russia, CRRC Fellows Therese Svensson and Julia Hon have written a new piece for CAD, entitled “Attitudes toward the West in the South Caucasus”. Their article looks at citizens’ views on three areas of relations — political, economic and cultural — between the South Caucasus and the West, in particular NATO, the US and the EU. The data were derived from the South Caucasus–wide 2007 and 2008 Data Initiatives (DI), as well as from the 2009 EU survey that was conducted in Georgia.

The article highlights several figures which show that citizens in the South Caucasus, and especially those in Georgia, are keen to cooperate with the West on economic and political levels. For example, on a ten-point scale — where '10' equals full cooperation and '1' is no cooperation — 80 percent of the Georgian respondents ranked their desire for economic cooperation with the U.S. in the top five categories, compared with 71 percent in both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The percentages on potential NATO membership, by contrast, vary more widely in the three countries: while 42 percent in Georgia said they are fully in favor of membership, 21 percent said the same in Azerbaijan, and only 10 percent in Armenia.

But the most fascinating figures arise when the subject of cultural relationships comes up. Although citizens in the South Caucasus are open to friendship and doing business with citizens of the West, they seem less keen on Western cultural influences, which they view as potential threats to their own cultural identity and traditions. In all, 64 percent and 63 percent in Armenia and Azerbaijan, respectively, either strongly or somewhat agreed with a statement that "Western influence is a threat to [national] culture". Twenty-four percent in Georgia said the same, while 34 percent chose "neutral" as their answer.

Perhaps understanding exactly which elements of Western culture are seen to be threatening, and in what way, would be a topic of additional interest.

For the full article, go here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What Makes Georgians Happy? Results from World Values Survey

By David McArdle

What makes Georgians satisfied with life? Religion, education, one’s financial situation, and levels of happiness are often assumed to be crucial in determining a person’s overall level of life satisfaction. Results yielded from the World Values Survey (WVS) reveal that religion does indeed play an important role vis-à-vis life satisfaction while levels of education, financial situations, and levels of individual happiness, do so as well, but to a lesser extent.

Religion is of paramount importance across Georgia. For instance, a staggering 94 percent of those who claimed to be completely satisfied in life felt that religion was ‘very important’. Yet, those respondents who were completely unsatisfied with life as a whole displayed less emphasis on the prevalence of religion as a significantly lower 76 percent judged religion to be ‘very important’.

A university education also slightly increases the chances of life satisfaction as a whole as 42 percent of those respondents who claimed complete life satisfaction had obtained a university-level education. Interestingly, however, 31 percent of respondents who asserted to be completely dissatisfied in life satisfaction also had a university-level education. The majority of those who stated they were completely dissatisfied in life as a whole were respondents whose education reached complete secondary: university preparatory type education (33 percent) thus showing that whilst one might expect those with lower levels of education to have less life satisfaction, this is not always the case.

Perhaps Georgians do not always equate money with overall life satisfaction. With regard to the financial situation of the household, 23 percent of those completely satisfied in life as a whole were also completely satisfied with the financial situation of the household. Oddly, however, the most common response to this query given by those who were completely satisfied with life as a whole stated that they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with the financial situation of the household. In other words, they appeared indifferent which suggests that the financial situation of the household is not a key factor in determining overall satisfaction in life.

In many cases, people who are satisfied with life also indicate that they are happy. Comparing overall life satisfaction with levels of happiness shows that fully 92 percent purport to be ‘very’ or ‘rather happy’. But life satisfaction and happiness are not always synonymous. Paradoxically, from those who claim to be completely dissatisfied in life, for instance, 32 percent still claim to be ‘very’ or ‘rather happy’. Georgians, hence, appear to find satisfaction in other forms rather than a conventional factor such as individual happiness, as 8 percent of those completely satisfied with life also say that they are not very happy. Further research on the aforementioned paradox may be beneficial for those interested in the region and/or on the topic of what factors provide overall life satisfaction for people.

Interested in finding out more? The Georgian data (collected by GORBI, sponsored with the help of CRRC) is available for your online analysis, here.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Post-Soviet States’ Democratic Decline: Results from Freedom House Report

Freedom House has just released its Nations in Transit report for the year 2010. The report attempts to quantify democratic development in Central European and Eurasian states by observing 8 separate factors – for instance, Electoral Process and National Democratic Governance - which affect the level of democracy in a given country. Each category is graded on a score of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress, and 7 representing the lowest. Much of the media attention has typically focused on Russia. The report concluded with a new low for Russia with regard to its democracy score (6.14) and an overall rapid decline in the last decade attributed mostly to the Putin’s extreme centralization policies. However, it is important to look too at the lack of progress being made in the South Caucasus countries and what this may mean for future democratic efforts in a region prevalent to Russia’s foreign policy goals. Of the South Caucasus countries, democratic development in Georgia and Armenia remained stagnant, while in Azerbaijan it deteriorated.

Armenia’s scores remained exactly the same as those in the previous year, having fluctuated up and down by half a point over the last decade. Of particular concern is the level of corruption in Armenia, which many Armenians claim as having a negative impact on their everyday lives. The corruption rating remained at 5.5 and down from a decade-long trend of 5.75. Similarly, ratings for the country’s electoral processes, national democratic governance, and judiciary remained the same as the year before. To view CRRC's reports on corruption in Armenia, please click here.

Georgia’s scores also remained the same as those in 2009. Of great concern is Georgia’s level of national democratic governance. Whilst the national democratic governance rating remains at an uncomfortable 6.0, the report notes that despite political unrest and demonstrations, both protestors and the government mostly refrained from violence, which had been a severe problem in previous years. As a result, it may be construed that Georgia is making certain attempts at progress in this realm.

In Azerbaijan democratic progress regressed somewhat from the previous year, particularly in the area of judicial independence. In the NIT report, the judiciary is characterized as dependent upon the executive branch, whose power it helped to expand by supporting the 2009 referendum on the constitution. It is also judged to be highly corrupt, inefficient, and that it provides no mechanism for human, property, or civil rights violations. Like Russia, overall democratic progress in Azerbaijan has steadily deteriorated over the last decade.

Each category measured by the report for Russia has experienced either a decrease in democratic scores or has remained the same. In other words, the report has found no signs of improvement in any of the 8 categories. The overall democracy score has slipped from 4.58 in 1999-2000 to an “abysmal” 6.14. Whilst Russia views the South Caucasus as within its sphere of influence it is clear that Russia can offer little in the way of guidance when democracy promotion is concerned.

To see other posts on this blog on previous Freedom House reports, please click here.