Georgia – Navigating an Uncertain Path Between Order and Chaos in Europe

I’m back on the Eurostar this morning, this time for a round of meetings in Brussels, some ecumenical but others EU related. This visit comes fresh on the heals of a fraternal visit by his Holiness Ilya II, the Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia.

His Holiness Patriarch Ilya II of All Georgia

Georgia’s EU aspirations are well known. Many Georgian’s believe fiercely that their country is European in outlook and values. If only it could shake of the Russian menace then it too could contribute significantly to Europe’s development.

I’ve heard many Georgian’s draw attention to the fact that while Georgia is not a member of NATO, it contributes more than many NATO members to the ongoing operations in Afghanistan.

A number of points emerged during the course of my conversations with the Georgian delegation that need further reflection.

For many Georgians the advance of globalisation has not been entirely positive. The EU offers therefore not just a safety blanket from Russia, but also a wider buffer by which the risks of globalisation can be managed.

Georgia’s religious identity appears at times interchangeable with its national identity. EU membership is as much an opportunity to preserve this identity as it is an opportunity to embody a wider European and supranational identity.

Connecting these two observations in all of this is the familiar theme, namely that EU membership represents an opportunity to rescue the nation state.

The problem however, is that no one seriously anticipates that Georgia will join the EU any time soon, if indeed at all. This raises the interesting question – What type of future does Georgia have?

Georgia finds itself sandwiched between a pre-modern Russia and a post modern –Europe. It is struggling to make the case to join the latter while battling to prevent itself from being sucked back into the former.

How Georgia and for that matter other post-Soviet states navigate the path between order and chaos is far from clear, but it is the type of question that needs to be high on, if not top of, the EU’s new External Action Service to do list.

The External Action Service has been accompanied by considerable political hype that the EU will now have a mechanism by which it can shape world affairs in a way that reflects its own Kantian principles. The EU shouldn’t give up on these long term aspirations – it is after all what makes the EU different – but for the time being it needs to focus its energy and resources on where it can make the greatest possible difference and that for now is its own backyard.

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