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Georgia As A Part Of Europe – Analysis

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Below is a short overview of how the concept of Europe emerged over the past millennia and why Georgia has always been part of it.

By Prof. Dr. Tedo Dundua and Dr. Emil Avdaliani*

Climate determines eco­no­mics. Hot and less humid environment defined an early advantage of the South over the North – indeed, the Egyptian state and the crafts confront entirely the primitive clan-system which existed in fact everywhere. Then the whole pattern changed.

Times after, some technical improvements towards the North created very comfortable vegetation process, while the Egyptians still needed time to put a seed beyond the reach of the sun. In the 9th-8th cc. B.C. the Greeks are already at the vanguard by means of the technics and the structures. The countries being superb before, like Egypt and Babylon, or India, now face a new hegemonic power – Hellas, already overpopulated and needing grain and the raw materials to be imported. Then the perception of Europe has appeared. Europe is a special term for the part of the earth, which stipulates or will stipulate the same vanguard level of development. Even Scythia with its rough spring was thought to be reorganized in the Greek manner, than those countries which needed the additional finances for irrigation. So, the making of Europe started.

The Greek pattern was as follows: 1. occupying or even frequently being invited to the key points of other economic structures like Caria, Thrace, the Bosphorus or Colchis; 2. establishing the autonomous Greek social structures granted heavily with the technics from the metropolis; 3. the natives being equipped with the best tools for agriculture; 4. Greek industrial structures maintained on this background; 5. exporting supplies to Hellas and receiving back some industrial goods. The Aegean and the Pontic (the Black Sea) areas were supposed to form unique economic space. Economic integration considered several stages to be realized: first it was Asia Minor, in fact mistakenly called so, to be Hellenized due to climatic similarity with Greece, then – West, North and East Black Sea countries.

Two major waves of the colonists passed from Hellas – first one in the 8th-6th cc. B.C., and the next – in the 4th c. B.C. led by Alexander the Great. Asia Minor was a complete victory of Hellenism, even being integrated politically under Mithridates Eupator, king of Pontus, as far back as in the 1st c. B.C. The Roman rule gave a new sense to the economic prosperity of the Greek World. And at last, the Byzantine metropolis was created with all those languages like Lydian, Cappadocian etc. vanished forever. But there were serious failures too. Colchis (Western Georgia) offered a dangerous humidity to the Greek way of life. The Greeks living there had no chance to keep their industrial spirit as agriculture was very slow in development. Soon the Greek community became a bilingual one, and after – totally assimilated within the Colchian society. As to the Bosphorus (at the Northern Black Sea coast), a corn-supply from Asia Minor to Greece broke the traditional scheme and the region soon lost its Greek style.

The Romans did the same job for Gaul and Spain, putting the Latin population there and Romanizing these sites. They also cared much about their Greek colleagues in making Europe – starting from the 1st c. B.C. the Romans were running the whole administration within the Hellenistic World, while the Greeks used to build their integrated industry. Then the whole system collapsed.

Indeed, Italy never cared much for maximum of technical improvement and power revolution. The result was catastrophic – excessive growth of population in Italy, insufficient economic progress, high prices on the Italian industrial export, cheap supply from European provinces, indecisive military advantage of the metropolis over the provinces; the Roman imperial system vanished Italy being forced to receive large numbers of Goths as settlers. New Europe will pay special attention to the technical progress employing more and more hands in heavy industry. But what was supposed to be done with the starving Italy?

East Rome (Byzantium) possessed prominent food stocks from Asia Minor and Egypt. Emperor Justinianput Italy within the Byzantine hegemony. But Byzantium itself was also a very old economic pattern. And Europe struck with the Slavs and the Bulgars penetrating beyond the Danube, establishing their national states in Thrace, Moesia and Dalmatia. The Asian provinces were lost too. From this very point on Byzantium was steadily degrading still being a predominant for East Europe and the Black Sea countries. Besides, the Byzantines kept some of the Italian provinces thus irritating the rest of Europe and provoking the emergence of Catholicism and Holy Roman Empire.

Till the 11th c. Byzantium was the dominant power, the champion of Christendom against onslaught of Asia and Islam. But it was already very old European pattern of the Mediterranean trying to control North. Soon Empire found itself caught between two fires – the Crusaders and the Turks. Byzantium had to be calmed finally. The Crusaders (after 1204) and the Turks (after the battle of Manzikert, 1071) did this job properly overpopulating the country. Towards the end of the 13th c. Byzantium is nothing but a lot of principalities with different confessional visages (Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim). The Orthodox World starts disputing about a new leader, Serbian, Bulgarian and Georgian kings assuming formally the title of Caesar and Autocrat (and before the Georgian kings formally had been hailed as king and Kuropalates, king and Sebastos, even sometimes, king and Caesars).

The Italians were more pragmatic. Seizing the whole islands and the key points over the Aegean and the Black Sea, they will control the complete economic output there until the 15th c. This was a disaster for building of Europe. Within the Holy Roman Empire Italy was granted only moderate supplies of food and the raw materials from the Northward. And now Venice and Genoa made a commercial onslaught upon what still can be called the Byzantine World destroying the local crafts. e.g. In 1261 the Byzantine Emperor Michael Palaeologos had to sign a treaty with Genoa promising the republic the concessions, own quarters in Constantinople and other ports, and free access to those of the Black Sea.

A comparative analysis of the Hellenic and the Italian periods is as follows: the Greeks took up their permanent residence within the East Aegean and the Pontic areas stimulating economics, while the Italians placed the soldiers and the merchants there to empty the local markets. That is why the Ottoman reintegration was welcomed by the overwhelming majority in Asia Minor. And Greece since has formed a separate economic structure. Thus the Italian overlordship came to an end together with the handsome transit trade.

The Italians did their best to save the maritime empires but they failed. Galata or Pera was lost immediately. And the Ottoman control over the Straits endangered the existence of the Black Sea colonies like Caffa (Theodosia), which passed over to the Ottomans in 1475. Quite soon the whole empire of Genoa had vanished. Venice triumphed at the battle of Lepanto (1571), but little good resulted. Hence the Italian supplies had been tied up neatly with the countries Northwards, while Italy itself being reduced to a modest land.

After this Southern European empire gone forever, new Europe emerged with its rationalism and a traditional division into the West and the East still vital, with a clear perspective of collaboration, even creating the universal whole European architectural style – a certain mixture of the Gothic (Western) and the Byzantine (Eastern) styles – that was Baroque, elaborated still in Italy in the 16th c. The West was lucky in evolution, more severe East had to arrange an economic tension losing the comforts and the services to catch the West. Both of them headed towards Asia for a supply.

The colonial system was established. And if the imperial experiment happened to be used still within Europe, like the Austrians and the Russians did, no economic synthesis was planned. Great Britain and Russia never thought even of America and Siberia as of some agrarian sections while sending the colonists there. World War I created the state-socialist system in the Russian Empire and the USSR appeared. World War II widened the state-socialist system and the Warsaw Pact appeared. The brutal rationalism like state-socialism still did its job neatly. Towards the midst of the 19th c. East Europe with its serfdom seems to be a grotesque European province. Now the differences are hastily diminishing, and the making of Europe is nearing the end. Soon the entire North will face the South within the network of a collaboration affiliating some extremely Southern industrial countries like Australia and the Republic of South Africa, Chile and Argentina.

So, Europe is part of the earth which stipulates or will stipulate the same vanguard level of development. That has been well acknowledged since ancient times. An idea of European integration is as old as comprehension of geographical determinism for technological evolution.

Academic summary for Georgia being a permanent subject of the European integration is as follows: as far back as in the 6th c. B.C. Themistagoras from Miletus made Phasis in Colchis home for himself and his Greek colonists. Thus West Georgia was involved in the European matter. Greek commercial superiority was substituted by the Roman hegemony over the small coastal strip of Colchis, already called Lazica in the 1st c. A.D. And that hegemony was based upon well-manned castellum-system from Pitius up to Aphsaros. Lazi client-kings, dwelling in the hinterland, largely enjoyed Roman pax and prosperity, gaining a handsome profit by trading with the gallant Pontic cities, like Sinope, Amisus and Trapezus.

The whole Black Sea area might be looked upon as a multicultural region of which the general principles were still based on Hellenism, but that was facilitated mostly by the Roman money and defended by the Roman soldiers. Further towards the East, Iberian kings, sometimes even possessing Roman citizenship, welcomed Graeco-Roman transit from Central Asia and India. Spices, precious wood and stones were brought to Europe via “Transcaucasian” trade-route (http://georgiatoday.ge/news/20876/Silk%2C-Spices-and-Oil–%27Transcaucasian%27-Trade-Route-and-Georgia).

Byzantium was not a betrayal of all that was the best in Hellas and Rome. Great oriental bastion of Christendom, she seems to be a formulator of the Orthodox Christian Commonwealth. The Georgian kings being within were hailed as king and Kuropalates, king and Sebastos, king and Caesars. Again dual citizenship was applied. For the Christian monarchs, there were the Byzantine titles to make them feel as the citizens of the Orthodox Empire, being at the same time ascribed to their own country.

After the adoption of Christianity, Eastern Slavonia, with Kyivas capital, joined the Byzantine Commonwealth. That clearly meant enlargement of the Eastern European unity towards the Eastern section of humid continental Europe, into the direction of the river Volga. Russians were the loyal subjects of the Commonwealth, looking calmly at the decline of Constantinople’s hegemony, and the Bulgar and Georgian kings seizing the titles of “Tsar” and “Autocrat”.

Becoming stronger, Russia vividly protested Ottoman reintegration of what was formerly known as Byzantium, and Muslim overlordship over the Orthodox World by taking the title of “Tsar” for Grand Prince Ivan in 1547. New center of East Europe was shaped, and then long-term war started for hegemony, Russia being victorious.

Seeing itself as East European super-power, thus Russia claimed Byzantine political heritage. For Russians Georgia had to be within the East European Union, and at the beginning of the 19th c. Kartalino-Kakhetian Kingdom (Eastern Georgia) became a part of the Russian Empire. The USSR was a substitute for the Russian Empire. And now Georgia is searching for her room within unified Europe (T. Dundua. The Making of Europe (Towards History of Globalization). The Caucasus and Globalization. Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies. Volume 2. Issue 2. Sweden. 2008, pp. 38-45).

Towards the Modern Period

Georgia and EU established close bilateral relations since the 1990s. Significant progress was made in 2004-2011 paving the way for further cooperation. In June 2012, the EU opened a visa dialogue with Georgia. By early 2013 a visa liberalization action plan was laid out. In March 2016 the European Commission proposed to allow visa-free travel to the Schengen area for Georgian citizens (https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/eastern-partnership/georgia/).

Major developments took place in the economic sphere. In June 2014, the EU and Georgia signed an Association Agreement (AA). This, along with the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) Agreement, builds a foundation for far-reaching Georgian political and economic integration with the EU (https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/49070/Georgia%20and%20the%20EU).

Modern Georgia aspires to become an economic part of Europe, and enjoy its monetary system, unified currency – euro. Major steps have been made to this end since the break-up of the Soviet Union. The current EU-Georgia close relationship is based on the EU-Georgia Association Agreement. More importantly, the latter involves a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), which came into force in mid-2016 and along with closer political ties aims to achieve deeper economic integration between Tbilisi and the EU (http://georgiatoday.ge/news/20981/%27Attic-Standard-Zone%27%2C-Eurozone-and-Georgia%3A-Historical-Comparative-Analysis).

Since the signing of the DCFTA EU-Georgia trade ties have seen a radical change. True that only a modest growth of exports to the EU has been seen so far. However, there was a considerable decline in Georgia’s trade with the former Soviet states due to the unfavorable economic situation of CIS trade partners. By 2020 Georgia trades more with the EU than it was before the DCFTA. Over the long term the positive effects of the DCFTA are likely to build up considerably (Deepening EU-Georgian Relations. What, why and how? Ed. M. Emerson, T. Kovziridze. London. 2018, p. 5).

On 27 June 2014 the European Union and Georgia signed the Association Agreement (AA), including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). The DCFTA has an ambitious objective of integration with the EU’s internal market, therefore is considered as the unique free trade agreement. As the main pillar of the AA, it contributes to modernization and diversification of economy in Georgia (https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/georgia/49070/node/49070_uz).

Recently the EU has published an Eastern Partnership (EaP) policy which outlines the Union approach for 2020 and beyond towards the six former Soviet states bordering Russia. This comes amid fears that the EU has not been able to fully implement its previous Eastern Partnership policy as Georgia and Ukraine, the states which most successfully implemented the reforms, have not become EU members (https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/03/01/despite-troubles-eastern-partnership-will-remain-operational-in-one-form-or-another/).

The new policy document is therefore an important step, serving as a continuation of the EU’s resolve to further integrate the 6 former Soviet states into the Union’s institutions.

The new policy document is a result of consultations launched in 2019 by the European Commission. The previous document made an emphasis on engaging with civil society to ensure effective reforms. There also was a focus on increased public accountability, advanced human rights and local development.

The new policy document outlines changes in 3 out of 4 priority areas. The EU again will work on building stronger economy, connectivity and stronger society as a guarantee.

In the new policy, EU-Georgia cooperation will remain the main way to ensure the implementation of policy recommendations. According to the document, “the EU will continue to provide support in bilateral, regional and multi-country fora, including targeted sectoral assistance in line with the principles of inclusiveness and differentiation. In addition, the EaP will continue to be flexible and inclusive, allowing countries to tackle common and global challenges jointly in a wide range of areas, fostering regional integration” (https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/joint_communication_on_the_eap_policy_beyond_2020.pdf)

Overall, there are the following long-term Eastern Partnership policy objectives the EU plans to implement with Georgia beyond 2020: building resilient, sustainable and integrated economies, accountable institutions; increasing the rule of law and general security; making progress in building environmental and climate resilience; implementing a resilient digital transformation; building a fair and inclusive societies.

The new EaP strategy also underlines the importance of increasing bilateral trade which builds upon the previous progress. For example, in the 2010s, EU-EaP trade has nearly doubled, turning the partner countries into the EU’s 10th largest trading partner.

This has the geopolitical ramification of Russia gradually losing the economic battle as the EaP states diversify their economies. The EU is the first trading partner for four partner countries (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), while for Armenia and Belarus the EU is the second biggest trading partner.

The diversification in exports of goods of EaP states helps to better integrate those states into the global value chains. Another sign of closer interaction between the EU and EaP states is the number of companies trading with the Union. In Georgia, the number increased by 46%, from Moldova by 48% and from Ukraine by 24% (https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/joint_communication_on_the_eap_policy_beyond_2020.pdf).

Building upon this achievement, the new document calls for deepening of “the economic integration with and among the partner countries, particularly that of the three associated countries through continued support for the full implementation of the current DCFTAs”.

Another geopolitical realm covered by the new document is transport. The EU will be focusing on upgrading key physical infrastructure in road, rail, port, inland waterway and airport facilities, and logistics centers, in order to further strengthen connectivity between the EU and the partner countries and among the partner countries themselves. This is in connection with the energy connectivity in the South Caucasus, as the Southern Gas Corridor is nearing completion with first gas from Azerbaijan likely reaching the EU in 2020 (https://moderndiplomacy.eu/2020/03/21/the-eu-introduces-new-vision-for-eastern-partnership-states/).

Yet another important sphere of cooperation will be strengthening the EU’s cooperation with the partner countries to create a strong financial system for sustainable economic growth.

Within the measures to minimize organized crime, the EU will continue its support for the EaP states to cooperate with EU justice and home affairs agencies to fight human trafficking and trafficking of illicit goods (notably drugs and firearms), etc.

Among other policies, the EU’s support for the cyber resilience of the partner countries stands out. This is particularly important for Georgia as the country was recently subject to massive external cyber-attacks.

Thus there is a clear progress in EU-Georgia relations with likely advancement to follow in the coming years.

*Prof. Dr. Tedo Dundua, Dr. Emil Avdaliani, Institute of Georgian History, Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Georgia

Emil Avdaliani

Emil Avdaliani

Emil Avdaliani has worked for various international consulting companies and currently publishes articles focused on military and political developments across the former Soviet sphere.

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