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Do ordinary people in Georgia want to join NATO and the EU

A blogger conducted his own opinion poll on the streets

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko called Georgia’s possible inclusion into NATO a “red line” for Moscow.

“…The deployment of shock weapons systems on its territory is a ‘red line’ for us, because such actions <…> would pose a direct threat to the security of Russia and its allies in the region,” Rudenko said.

Declarations of European and American (and indeed Georgian) politicians on Georgia’s joining the North Atlantic Alliance or the European Union are supported by regular sociological surveys. Surveys are conducted by both American and European companies.

The top three are the National Democratic Institute NDI, headquartered in the North American state of New Jersey. In second place is the International Republican Institute IRI, headquartered in Washington DC, and Edison Research, which is also headquartered in the US.

According to the latest NDI survey, 76% of the Georgian citizens are in favour of joining the European Union. Only 11% considered the EU aspiration unacceptable, while 13% refused to answer the posed question.

The picture is almost the same with Georgia’s accession to the North Atlantic bloc. 74% of the respondents are for, 11% are against and 14% abstain. A total of 2016 people aged between 18 and 45 years old participated in the survey. The margin of error of the results, as noted by NDI, was +/- 1.3%.

Similar figures are given by IRI. According to the International Republican Institute’s latest survey, 68 percent of those surveyed support the integration of Georgia into the European Union, while only 15 percent are against it. When asked about joining Georgia to NATO, 61% of the respondents gave a positive answer, 17% were against, and 11% strongly disagreed. The survey involved 1500 respondents aged 18 to 40. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 2.5%.

I tried to find out from ordinary citizens on the streets of Tbilisi how true the given figures are, and what are the prevailing moods in Georgia (in terms of joining NATO or the EU).

Maryam, a woman in her 30s, has in fact heard about Georgia’s NATO and EU aspirations on TV screens all her conscious life. Now she is not interested in such conversations.

Eh…” she says with a sigh, fixing the collar of her five-year-old daughter’s jacket (we accidentally met on Rustaveli Avenue, when Maryam was taking her daughter to the Christmas party). – Our prime minister and ministers talk about it every day, but apparently my old age will overtake me faster than Georgia’s membership of NATO. Maybe I’m putting it in the realm of humor, but Georgia’s membership in NATO has been stretched to the point where it’s not even particularly interesting.

Dito, a 37-year-old dairy worker, is sceptical about Georgia joining the EU and NATO. In his opinion, Georgia should have reformed the country first.

“There are European flags all over the city, and ministers are speaking with Georgian and EU flags in the background. Yes, we can aspire to join the EU and NATO, but after this (accession) how will life change in Georgia? Will they raise salaries and pensions, or will we be able to travel to the EU countries on holidays and spend more money on shopping? The EU already has countries with poor economies, why do they need us? So before they hang EU and NATO flags, let our ministers reform the country,” said Dito.

 

Ani, a 19-year-old student at Tbilisi State University, welcomes Georgia’s accession to the European Union. She believes it will somehow help eradicate poverty in the country.

“People in Georgia have huge problems with money. People have to work several jobs, if they can find enough money not to die of hunger. Maybe Georgia’s accession to the EU will give an impulse or a bit of air to the country’s economy and we will live like normal people,” Ani believes.

43-year-old shop assistant Tamara, laughing, reminded what “heights” her compatriots have reached by going to the EU to earn money.

“Where to? Don’t be ridiculous! There are 3 million people living in the country, of whom 60-70% do not work. They let us go to Europe – so what? Most of them went there to steal or to work as nurses for 1000 euros. Why do they need us in the EU or NATO? – the woman wonders.

Vakhtang, a 63-year-old baker, a native Tbilisian, considers American and European politicians’ statements on Georgia’s imminent accession to NATO and the EU populist.

“I have seen a lot of things during my years. I belong to the category of people who were born during the Soviet times, lived in this country for dozens of years and I am proud of it. Yes, very, very much has changed today. What did this 10-15 year long strive towards the European Union and NATO bring us? You remember that they used to burn EU flags in front of the Parliament in summer. And why were they burning them? Because the Europeans are using their tactics to impose LGBT policy on our people. NATO and EU do not need Georgia; they need our territory, our natural resources,” says the man with deep experience.

Worker is sure that declarations of Georgia’s admission to NATO are primarily aimed at “intimidating” the Russian leadership.

“No one will accept Georgia into NATO. They are not completely idiots there, and they know very well what will follow. There is a powerful Russian base deployed here, in Gyumri, on the territory of Armenia. NATO is deliberately making such statements just to “intimidate” Russia. Russia does not care about this,” Vakhtang believes.

Giorgi Makharashvili

Do ordinary people in Georgia want to join NATO and the EU









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