How European Are We? Explaining Georgia`s Westward Aspiration

"How European Are We? Explaining Georgia's Westward Aspiration"

(Working Paper)

Salome Minesashvili

September 2013




Georgia's European foreign policy choice is often claimed to be the reflection of its national identity, more specifically its self-perception as a European nation striving to return to the European family. The following paper analyses this claim. More specifically it explores the extent to which mass attitudes conform to this officially voiced stance of the country. First, it explores Georgian society's concurrence with aspirations of Euro-Atlantic integration and seeks to scrutinize the extent to which these aspirations stem from shared values, that is to say to what extent European identity is embedded in Georgian society. For this purpose, I refer to a thin version of European identity implying universal values. Based on the analysis of mass attitudes via public opinion polls, I argue that, although official aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration are massively shared, some of the basic values of European identity have a weak support in Georgian society. Low awareness of Europe in terms of its values, institutions and policies is pointing to the fact that Georgians have an abstract idea of Europe. Thus this paper suggests that general support for European integration in Georgia is better explained by the anticipation of economic benefit than it is by Georgia's sharing of European values. Moreover, the analysis suggests that Westward aspirations are mainly a project of the political elite.