Protests in Tbilisi: What can be learned about the role of Russia as an issue in Georgian party competition?

Levan Kakhishvili[1]

Protests and demonstrations are not uncommon in Georgia. However, the recent wave of protests that started on June 20 was still unexpected. The demonstration started against the Russian MP from the Communist Party, Sergei Gavrilov, who is also the President of the General Assembly of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO). Protesters were unhappy when he addressed the delegates of the IAO in Russian from the seat of the speaker of the Georgian parliament.[2] This means that the trigger for the Georgian public’s outrage was Russia, even if the root causes were related to economic and social grievances as well as issues related to Georgian-Russian relations, which Georgian citizens expect to be handled delicately. Demonstrators’ demands shifted to internal politics, however, following the violent dispersion of the June 20 rally by the police.[3] In response, the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) made some concessions. One, Parliament Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze resigned. Two, the GD committed to election reform: the majoritarian vote will be abolished for the 2020 elections and the polls will be fully proportional.[4] Although these issues require in-depth analysis, this article focuses on the spark that started the protests: Russia and its role in Georgian party competition.

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Foreign policy and domestic constraints: what political regimes can and cannot do in Georgia

Kornely Kakachia, Bidzina Lebanidze

Sparked by the presence of Russian Duma members in Georgia’s parliament, anti-governmental protests in Georgia have rattled the ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party and caused a political crisis. The incident, including the disproportional amount of force used in cracking down on protesters, has further tarnished GD’s already declining image. It has also laid bare the radical nature of the main opposition party, the United National Movement (UNM), which attempted to storm the parliament.

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The 2019 European Parliament elections – lessons for the Eastern Partnership?

Laura Gelhaus[1]

The 2019 European Parliament elections were marked by one of the most visible campaigns in the EU’s history, even declared “decisive for the future of our continent” by French president Emmanuel Macron.[2] In its immediate aftermath, much is still uncertain. This includes the final formation of parliamentary groups and the decision over posts including the President of the Commission, the Commission’s make-up, the President of the Council, as well as the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Nonetheless, a broad overview and cautious look towards what the elections may mean for the Eastern Partnership and Georgia may be useful.

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What does the Dutch request to the European Commission over Albania mean for Georgia?

Jelger Groeneveld[1]

The Dutch government has decided to request the European Commission to suspend visa-free movement for Albanians, who enjoyed this since 2010. The decision comes after a group of four Dutch MPs submitted a motion to temporarily cancel visa-free traveling for Albanian nationals in the Schengen Zone, which was backed by the Dutch Parliament. Can this decision of the Dutch government influence Georgia’s visa free travel to the Schengen Zone and the challenges it faces?

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Why Can’t Georgia Take Full Advantage of Opportunities Provided by the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA)?

Natia Daghelishvili

The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) provides a preferential regime for trade between Georgia and the EU and creates opportunities to increase access between the markets based on harmonized regulations. More specifically, DCFTA enables Georgian entrepreneurs to sell their products in one of the biggest markets in the world – the EU single market – without tax burdens and quotas. Between 2013 and 2017, the share of Georgia’s overall export to the EU increased from 20.9% to 24%, (more…)

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Trendy Tbilisi: where Georgian fashion meets public diplomacy

Lorraine Vaney

In the last three years, the Georgian fashion scene has gone through an unprecedented development. Tbilisi became a new hot-spot for buyers and opinion makers looking for authenticity, avant-gardism and exoticism. The capital of Georgia certainly took advantage of the dynamics ruling and extending the global fashion market – as did other capitals with less success.

In a highly competitive market, it has somehow become a requisite for capital cities to have their own fashion week like those in NY, London, Milan, Paris and Berlin as a visual demonstration of wealth and taste. So why and how did Tbilisi become the new fashion destination in Europe? How could this attractive industry serve as a soft power tool on the road to European integration? Part of the answer has to do with shared European culture and public diplomacy. (more…)

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Beyond top-down democratisation: protests of Georgian students, ‘ravers’ and workers

Tornike Bakakuri

Over the last couple of years, Georgia’s protesting scene has experienced an interesting transformation – the emergence of self-organised groups and networks, exerting direct pressure on the state instead of relying on political parties and the international community. This blog post focuses on three examples of such collective action – student, ‘raver’ and worker protests.

  • Georgia’s protesting scene: turning complaints into action

From ‘Solidarność’ to ‘Gilets Jaunes’, recent European history shows the sweeping power of protest movements in the process of democratisation and social transformation. However, such developments have largely been hindered in Georgia and some other Eastern European countries by civil wars, conflicts and economic collapse in the early 1990s. (more…)

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GIP Commentary: When an Election Damages Democracy: Lessons from the 2018 Georgia’s Presidential Election 

Kornely Kakachia, Bidzina Lebanidze

Georgia’s recent presidential elections exposed many of the problems that have been aggravating the country’s democratization process over the last few years. By electing the country’s first female president, Georgia has made one step forward — but the violations that were documented during the vote represent two steps back  in its efforts to consolidate its fragile democracy. International and local observers believe that the process of democratic consolidation is slowing down even as fundamental democratic norms are increasingly under threat, including wide political acceptance of the election results and the values associated with a responsible opposition. The country finds itself stuck in a semi-democratic limbo with the ruling party caught between the conflicting objectives of completing the democratization of the country and retaining political power. (more…)

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Russia’s Information Warfare: A Menace to Georgian National Security

Irakli Jgharkava

Following the Russo-Georgian war in 2008, Russia’s Information Warfare (IW) campaign targeting Georgia has become a threat to the country’s national security and has put a damper on its European agenda.  As the Facebook pages that disseminate anti-West propaganda proliferate alongside mounting fake news, it is worth exploring how Russia conducts its IW against Georgia and in what ways it endangers Georgian national security.  

Although a decade has passed since the 2008 war, Georgia’s political agenda, with its Western leaning policies and aspirations, remain a thorn in Russia’s side. Russia continues to perceive liberal Western ideals as a threat to its sphere of influence and is particularly weary of Georgia’s pro-EU, and pro-NATO stances. (more…)

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The Future of the Eastern Partners: 6 Lessons from the Western Balkans

Frauke Seebass

In the fifteen years since the Thessaloniki declaration confirmed the European accession partnership with the Western Balkans, only Croatia has succeeded in joining the Union. However, a new momentum has emerged this year, with the Commission seeing a new “credible enlargement perspective for and enhanced EU engagement with the Western Balkans”, and the possible opening of accession talks with Albania and (Northern) Macedonia in 2019.

As for the Eastern Partnership countries (EaP), none of them has submitted a membership application yet. During her recent trip to Tbilisi, German chancellor Merkel confirmed Georgia’s EU-perspectivetogether with Ukraine and Moldova promoting closer cooperation, but at the same time dimming hopes of a fast accession track. (more…)

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