Bidzina Ivanishvili’s decision to return to a formal role as Chair of the Georgian Dream (GD) is more interesting for its timing than for the action itself. Ivanishvili, despite his protestations to the contrary, has never fully removed himself from Georgian political life since stepping down as Prime Minister in November of 2013. Over the last four and a half years his role has diminished somewhat, but major Georgian Dream, and government, decisions are rarely made without his input.
Support for the European Union in Georgia is surprisingly high. When Georgia was granted a visa-free travel to the Schengen area, former British Ambassador to Georgia Alexandra Hall Hall wrote: “While this [visa-free travel] is a landmark achievement for Georgia, counterintuitively, in some respects it is a bigger deal for the EU.” The logic behind this statement is that against the background of Brexit, Georgia celebrating a “small step” on its path to Europeanization is a heartening sign that “the post-Cold War ideal of a Europe ‘whole, free, and at peace’” was still alive.
A draft law on the “Status of the Armed Forces” was introduced by the Parliamentary Committee on Defense, Security and Anti-Corruption in mid-November, and on 1 December it was heard by Parliament. The amendments were adopted upon a second hearing with a majority vote on 15 December. The issue was first on the agenda back in 2012 and 2013, when it was announced that the Parliament Committee on Defense, Security and Anti-Corruption would introduce a new law on the Status of Armed Forces and Other Armed Units. However, clearly, the law only happened recently.
Can an exercise of democratic elections jeopardize a nation’s foreign relations? Not necessarily, but when combined with the non-democratic exercise of foreign policy, it probably can. The 2017 presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan, much praised as a rare case of peaceful power transfer from one elected leader to another in Central Asia, has also gained prominence for its major foreign policy implications.
If four years ago, someone suggested that a relatively small student protest camp in Ukraine, violently dispersed overnight by police , would have a profound influence on European history, many would simply laugh at the thought. For many years, EU policymakers have been walking a tightrope between integrating neighboring countries into its institutional orbit and keeping said neighbors at arm’s length, making sure that these countries do not actually “become” Europe in the full sense of the word.
The latest verse in the ballad of Misha and Petro may be the strangest one yet. The former Georgian President, Misha Saakashvili, and current Ukrainian President, Petro Poroschenko, were friends from their student days. When Poroschenko was first elected President of Ukraine in 2014, it was seen as logical that he appointed Saakashvili first as a senior advisor and then later governor of Odessa.
The Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit on 24 November in Brussels, represents another important milestone in Georgia’s path of European integration. After having signed an Association Agreement with the European Union that entered into force in July 2016, and having been granted visa free status, Georgia is now looking forward to seeing its position as a frontrunner in the EaP community confirmed by the EU leadership. The current challenge for the EU is to find ways to maintain Georgia committed to the agreed reforms in the absence of significant new political incentives.
Today’s Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels represents a never-ending question for the EU: how to retain the format’s effectiveness, and maintaining motivation among all participant states given increasing divergences in what they want from the EU. So far, the three countries that have signed Association Agreements get more benefits, especially within the EaP format, while Armenia and Azerbaijan are on track to signing comprehensive new agreements outside the scope of the EaP format, and Belarus’s stance remains less clear.
Relations with Azerbaijan represent a challenge to the EU and its Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). This is largely due to Azerbaijan’s difficult balance between its strategic importance for EU energy security, Baku’s commitment to a multi-vectored foreign policy, and the defense of normative values that underpin European integration and the EU’s external relations rhetoric.
As it was originally conceived, the EDSN project was envisioned to be a long-term endeavor that would cultivate Eurasia-focused scholars and policy entrepreneurs to advocate for Euro-Atlantic conditionality, while also making the organic case for internal reforms. Long-term success is the goal, but some more immediate evidence of impact is always nice to see.
Writing for the London School of Economics’ comment section, LSE Visiting Fellow Max Fras explores the “future of the EU’s Eastern Partnership” ahead of the upcoming EaP summit in November 2017. The analysis is worth a read, as it provides a broad and incisive review of the state of the EaP today, and how the upcoming summit is framing the initiative for the future.
Notably, the piece links to a recently-published EDSN analysis on the Eastern Partnership to advocate for an EaP focus on “highlighting and strengthening the benefits of internal reform in all EaP member states instead of moving goalposts and offering only token rewards and declarations” [emphasis mine].
A link, even from LSE scholars, a critical mass does not make. But it’s at least some evidence that EDSN is gaining traction in the community.