Daniel Fried: Georgia Should Not Lose Hope

With the election of Donald Trump in the United States, and Brexit, the populist wave has the supporters of the European project worrying about the future of liberalism on the continent. At a panel discussion at the Johns Hopkins University, America’s top diplomats and analyst discussed the future of the European Union following the recent elections in France. The discussion touched upon the issues of EU and NATO enlargement for the Eastern partners, among them Georgia. Voice of America’s Georgian bureau talked with some of the panel members.

Constanze Stelzenmüller, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, suggests that to advance its Western bid, Georgia needs to lobby its case together with its Ukrainian counterparts.

“You [Georgia] might be a tugboat behind the frigate of Ukraine. It is somewhat easier for Europeans to ignore Georgia, and they were very much irritated by Saakashvili. They did not like him and he did not make himself popular, including with my chancellor. This made it easier for Europeans to dismiss what was going on in Georgia as irrelevant. What is going in Ukraine is not only not irrelevant; it is essential to the European project, in my view. It is a tipping point for the future of Europe’s eastern periphery. It’s the spearhead for the Russians regaining a sphere of influence in a most nasty and authoritarian way. And the spearhead for the EU achieving a Europe which is whole and free, and democratizing the arc between Belarus and the Caucasus. Ukraine is the key pawn on the chessboard, Ukrainians understand this and they have been working very hard despite the efforts of their oligarchs and some of their political elite, to make sure it happens,” said Stelzenmüller.

The best way to convince the European partners about Ukraine and Georgia is to take a page from the book of the unification of Germany, he adds.

Daniel Fried, longtime member of the American diplomatic community, calls upon Georgia to continue reforms and not to lose hope for the prospect of membership.

“I wish I could tell Georgia that the West will resume the enlargement of its institution. After 1989, the West and its institutions, the NATO and the EU, took around 110 million Europeans. Georgia was not among those countries. I was in Bucharest at the NATO summit when Georgia did not receive the MAP. And I remember a few months later, Russia attacked Georgia,” Fried told VoA Georgian.

However, he says that Georgia should not fall into despair but hope for the future.

“I wish that Georgia’s Rose Revolution and Georgia’s successful reforms had taken place 10 years earlier than they did, but by the time Georgia was a serious candidate, the West was less certain of itself and Russia was a far less benign country. But every day that Georgia maintains sovereignty and freedom of choice is another day that you get to wait for history to turn again and for Europe and the United States to regain confidence. Don’t write off the future,” Fried concluded.

Despite the pessimist outlook among observers in the West, the French elections represent a candle that can signal the revival of the European project.

Ani Chkhikvadze, Voice of America, Georgian Bureau

18 May 2017 18:25