Georgian success: aiming for reconciliation?

When you live and work in a country that only managed to restore independence in 1991 and which is developing at a fast pace, it’s no wonder you will experience days on which something live changing and historical happens. Last Thursday was such a day. The European Parliament voted and approved the visa-waiving policy for all Georgians travelling to the Schengen area, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Cyprus. The fact that the policy was approved with 553 votes in favour, and only 66 against and 28 abstentions, shows a definitive EU-backing of Georgia and its current politics. Giorgi Kvirikashivili, Georgia’s prime minister, showed big gratitude and assured Georgians would take the decision as a big responsibility, stating they would become ambassadors of the Georgian nation. Tbilisi lit up shortly after, with the EU-flag being projected on various important monuments and landmarks. The visa-waiver means Georgians can travel visa-free within the listed countries for a maximum of 90 days. However, if this maximum would be abused, or substantially more asylum applications would be made, Georgia could be deprived of the visa exemption again.

8420be6fb235c935adda8adeeb801f59
Publicity in Georgia promoting the visa-free travel to the EU.

Caucasian frontrunner aiming for reconciliation and reunification?

Following the Western Balkans (except Kosovo) and Moldova, Georgia is the next country within the EU-neighbourhood to obtain visa-free travel. It’s noteworthy that Georgia has managed to do so before Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, and also Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan, making it an exception in the Eastern Europe and Caucasus region. Kvirikashivili has translated this to ‘a Georgian pride’, and ‘invaluable European support for Georgia’, opening the path for ‘greater wellbeing, greater democracy, and greater energy and enthusiasm’, as well as even more support on Georgia’s rapid development.The most important part of Kvirikashivili’s speech was perhaps his words on Abkhazians and Ossetians. He called the achievement ‘a success of all Georgians’, and of which all Georgians, including Abkhazians and Ossetians, will benefit. He underlined all the people in Georgia will be unified by the close relations with Europe, be it for travelling, business, or educational purposes. Such a reconciliatory speech seems to be the new path to follow for the government in Kutaisi. After the various wars and conflicts with the breakaway regions, Georgia seems tired of negativity and conflict. The only way forward might actually be showing what Georgia has to offer to the Abkhazians and Ossetians, doing so on such positive and historical days. This was done yesterday in a bold, broad, and courageous manner. Geopolitical challenges still lure and conflict seems to be never far away, but Georgia is trying to take a different approach. This includes an inclusionary position when it comes to relations with the EU, but also good relations with the regional bigger (Russia, Turkey and Iran) and smaller players (Armenia and Azerbaijan). Hopefully, such a positive and reconciliatory discourse could make a change in an otherwise troubled and conflict-ridden region.

From my point of view, this treatment of Georgia by the EU is not only a practical one, and a reward for Georgia’s development, but also a symbolical one. As already stated, Georgia is the first Caucasian country, and after the Baltics and Moldova, only the fifth former USSR republic to welcome visa-free travel. It strengthens believe that Georgia is on the way forward, both in economic and political developments, as well in people’s mentalities. While Georgia has never hidden its ambitions to become integrated within the European Union, it has been carefully designing a path of not alienating its direct neighbours. While the wounds of war and strife may still feel fresh, the Georgians are carefully carving out a 21st-century mentality, aware of their geopolitical location, which requires a balanced position in the international community. Those balanced policies and moderateness, avoiding any type of hostility or extremity within the Caucasus, have brought Georgia this tangible result of progress.

That being said, the symbolical aspect should also be taken into account when discussing the visa waiver itself, which does not mean Georgians have the right to cross European borders without limits. There is still the fair share of paperwork involved that Georgians have to provide at the border, such as a return ticket, a bank statement and their address directions within Europe. The real difference is that there is no application in advance at the embassy of the respective Schengen country required anymore. While this could water down optimism, making place for sarcasm and negativity, I underline the importance of this decision as being symbolical. Only thirteen years ago, the Rose Revolution took place. Only nine years ago, the country still found itself in a war with Russia. Georgia has made rapid progress ever since, including better legislation on human rights and freedom, and a ‘reset’ of bilateral relations with Russia.

The Bridge of Peace in Tbilisi lit up in EU colours after the decision was made.
The Bridge of Peace in Tbilisi lit up in EU colours after the decision was made.

Public Lecture Series on Russia’s Foreign Policy Finished

The public lecture series on the Russian Foreign Policy, organized by the Caucasian House, were successfully held in the Tbilisi State University (TSU). The lectures were delivered by Dr. ANDREY MAKARYCHEV, Guest Professor at the University of Tartu, Estonia.

During the first lecture, the issues of the Russian identity and the sources of the Euroscepticism were discussed. The next lecture was focused on the Russia’s neighborhood policy. The cases of Georgia, Estonia and Ukraine were discussed as exemplary. The last lecture was dedicated to the debate on securitization in Russia.
Students, researches and other interested attended the lectures.

The lectures were conducted during November 28 – December 1 as part of the project Georgian-Russian Dialogue for Peace and Cooperation, funded by the British Embassy Tbilisi.

 

2 4

1 3

Conference on: Policy of Conflict Resolution: Achievements and Challenges of the Last Three Years

The Centre for Cultural Relations – Caucasian House and the Institute for Study of Nationalism and Conflicts are organizing the conference “Policy of conflict resolution: Achievements and challenges of the last three years” which will be held on November 27th, 16:00 at Tbilisi Marriott.

The conference aims at formulating the proper recommendations while assessing the existing approaches of the government’s policy regarding the Georgia’s conflicts.

Focus of the meeting will be on the state policy of conflict resolution during the last three years. This period of time requires objective analysis and assessment in order new ways of solving problems to emerge and to avoid new challenges.

The meeting will bring together the members of the government and non-governmental organizations, experts and representatives of embassies accredited in Georgia.

Meeting is held in the frames of the project “Revitalizing Dialogue Process through Engaging Young Professionals” with the financial assistance of the Embassy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Public Lectures in Russia’s Foreign Policy

The Centre for Cultural Relations – Caucasian House is organizing public lecture series in Russia’s Foreign Policy. The lectures will be delivered by Dr. ANDREY MAKARYCHEV, Guest Professor at the University of Tartu, Estonia.

 

Since the year 2012 “Caucasian House” is conducting analytical researches related to Russia’s foreign and internal policy and Georgian-Russian relations while analyzing deeper the different aspects of it. Considering current situation in Georgia, it is extremely important to have professionals and researchers, who understand Russia’s foreign policy, internal processes and can contribute by working in academic field as well as participating in development of relevant state policies. It should be noted that it is already second year when Caucasian House is conducting public lectures in Russian Foreign Policy and aims to increase the knowledge of students and young researches about Russia. 

 

VENUE: Tbilisi State University, Building I. Ilia Chavchavadze Ave 1.

SCHEDULE:

Nov 28,  12:00 pm room 302, 1st building Russian identity-in-the-making: between the Soviet and the post-Soviet
Nov 28,  14:00 pm room 302, 1st building Russia’s normative project: the sources of Euroscepticism
Nov 30,  16:00 pm room 115, 1st building Russia’s neighborhood policy (the cases of Estonia, Ukraine and Georgia)
Dec 01,  16:00 pm room 115, 1st building After Syria: a new security debate in Russia 

Participants who will attend all lectures will be awarded a certificate of completion.

Other details:

Working language – English

Attendance is free

For additional information please contact project coordinator Ana Dvali by e-mail ana.dvali@caucasianhouse.ge or call +995 577 77 04 09

To attend the lectures, please register below.

REGISTRATION FORM

Name (required)

Last Name(required)

Mobile Number(required)

E-mail (required)

Organization or University (required)

For the further information about the event, please see the attached file.

 

The lectures are held in the framework of the project “Georgian-Russian Dialogue for Peace and Cooperation” funded by The British Embassy Tbilisi