Azerbaijan, Baku, Nov. 16 /Trend/
Elena Kosolapova Trend commentator
There was a government change in Georgia, as a result of which opposition coalition Georgian Dream led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili came to power.
During the election campaign Ivanishvili positioned as a pro-Russian politician by Western, Georgian, and even by Russian media.
Perhaps this view was triggered by the statements of Ivanishvili, who has promised to improve relations with Moscow, and by the facts of his biography closely connected with Russia, where he lived for a long time and created a multi-million dollar fortune. Some people even call him a "project of Moscow" and accused of colluding with the Kremlin.
However, one and a half months since the announcement of the election show the baseless of these statements.
To date, it became clear that the policy priority of the new government of Georgia led by Ivanishvili will be the continuation of Mikhail Saakashvili's rapprochement with the West and to join the EU and NATO. This was announced by the Prime Minister himself during the meeting with the leaders of NATO and the European Commission. However, the very fact that Ivanishvili made his first visit as prime minister to Brussels speaks volumes.
As for relations with Russia, there are grounds to believe that there will be improvement in this direction under the new government. It is too early to speak about the restoration of the Georgian-Russian political relations. Ivanishvili himself said about it more than once.
Restoration of political relations with Russia is closely associated with the restoration of Georgian territorial integrity for Georgia. Russia is principled in its position on the status of the breakaway regions of Georgia. Thus the changes in the issue are possible in case of concessions from both sides, which aren't assumed yet.
But the restoration of economic ties between the two countries is possible, and Georgia is interested in it. The Russian market are more familiar and understandable for Georgian businessmen than distant markets in Europe and the U.S..
In addition, Georgian production was aimed at Russia due to historical factors. For example, the main market of the famous Georgian wine was Russia before the break of the relations in 2008.
Saakashvili has also made attempts to establish economic relations with Russia recently. In particular, Georgia unilaterally abolished the visa regime with Russia at the end of February 2012. As a result of this measure the flow of Russian tourists doubled in the first half of 2012, and it is not a bad achievement for Georgia, which main budget revenues source is tourism. However, the dialogue between the leaders of Russia and Saakashvili was complicated by chilly relations.
But Russia is ready to sit down at the negotiating table with Ivanishvili. And the head of the government of Georgia pursues much more flexible policy with regard to Russia, and shows interest in developing bilateral relations, at least outwardly.
In particular, Ivanishvili created a new post of Special Representative of the Prime Minister for relations with Russia, to which former Georgian ambassador to Russia Zurab Abashidze appointed.
It is still unclear if Russia will resume economic relations with Georgia. On the one hand, the Russian market is not in need of Georgia, and its opening for Georgian goods can only be a good gesture on the part of Russia. But on the other hand, the economic relations will give opportunity to Russian Federation to recover at least a little influence in Georgia, which completely died out under President Saakashvili. And Russia, which is now taking active steps to strengthen the influence over the neighbors are unlikely to miss such an opportunity.
One should not rule out the return of Georgia to CIS, although the country will have no special economic privileges from membership in the Commonwealth. Russia has already expressed a positive attitude to this issue. Georgia hasn't made a statement yet.
Thus, the basic principles of the foreign policy of the new government of Georgia will be not much different than the previous government. However, the policy of Ivanishvili will be more flexible and cautious.