Tbilisi's integration in EU and NATO - high expectations for autumn - 2011

Tbilisi's integration in EU and NATO - high expectations for autumn - 2011

Trend European Desk commentator Elmira Tariverdiyeva

Georgia's integration into the EU and NATO will be the priority in the country's foreign policy this season. During a visit to Poland in early September, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili stated that "he expects a breakthrough this fall" in terms of integration into the European Union.

A visit by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to Georgia, as well as President Saakashvili's participation in the Eastern Partnership Summit in late September, maybe regarded as the most important political events this autumn.

Tbilisi expects that the visits will move forward the signing of the Free Trade Area agreement with the EU and a provision of a final plan to join the Alliance.

Georgia is still awaiting confirmation regarding the importance of membership in the European institutions, which many observers have doubted in recent years. In statements, Georgian authorities have officially claimed that Georgia meets almost all requirements for entry into NATO.

Moreover, Tbilisi has made it clear that it wants from NATO more than a repetition of the 2008 Bucharest Summit decision that Georgia will someday become a member of the alliance.

Indeed, dramatic changes are unlikely to occur in Georgian relations with the West in the short term. Of course, Georgia will continue to seek necessary preferences in matters of integration into the EU and NATO, but the West will not turn a blind eye to the country's real problems.

Rather, it will limit with assurances of friendship, regular declarations, and statements of a willingness to accept Georgia into NATO and to do everything for integration into Europe.
Insurmountable obstacles exist to Georgia's NATO membership, ones which NATO officials perhaps do not speak of, though which they always remember.

The matter is that the alliance would not accept within its ranks a country with territorial problems. If NATO accepts Georgia without Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it will indirectly confirm the independence of the separatist republics. If it accepts Georgia with these two regions, it will be forced to give alliance membership to territories within which Russian military bases are located.

NATO will also be cautioned against accepting a small country with big territorial problem, in order to avoid becoming involved in possible conflicts with Russia.

Moreover, obtaining NATO membership is based on other factors, including compliance with a country's democratic standards and values, and a relatively strong economic system.

The military-technical aspect also plays an important role; the gradual standardization of armed forces on parameters which are set at NATO cannot be completed by Georgia in the coming years. However, in this respect, Tbilisi has a considerable chance to comply with NATO requirements in the future.

It must be admitted that major European players such as France and Germany are in no hurry to decide on Georgia's membership in NATO and the country's promotion within the EU. Tbilisi's expectations risk lasting for too long and Saakashvili's expectations for the coming autumn prove too high.

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