Is Georgia’s Sovereign Choice – an Example for Moldova?

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Sergiu CEBAN
For Moldova, the experience of Georgia, which has a record of waging war with Russia 15 years ago and being one of the post-Soviet leaders of Euro-Atlantic integration, serves as an example of how dramatically circumstances can change if nationally oriented elites come to power in the country and the West’s geopolitical grip is gradually weakened
Due to the known events of 2022-2023, Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia joined the next enlargement package of the European Union. Now all three countries have candidate status. However, only Chisinau and Kyiv have secured the European Commission’s decision to start EU accession negotiations, which will officially start next week. In the meantime, for certain geopolitical reasons, Moldova and Ukraine found themselves, in fact, in a separate basket. And our future path to Europe largely depends on the neighboring state and its prospects, given the ongoing war. The once united Association Trio failed to stand the test of time and disintegrated. The main reason is mainly Georgia, which has been drifting away from the West for the past few years, slowly adjusting its foreign policy course. This causes growing tension in its relations with Washington and Brussels, which not only put this Caucasian country outside the brackets of the Ukrainian-Moldovan tandem, but also significantly slowed down its European integration process. The adoption of the law On Transparency of Foreign Influence was a turning point, when the situation for the US and the EU significantly worsened. It tightens control over the activities of non-governmental organizations and independent media funded from abroad. As is known, this decision of the Georgian authorities provoked mass anti-government protests and harsh criticism of the West, along with targeted sanctions so far. It is likely to be followed by other pressure measures, including from the EU, which is not ready to discuss the start of accession talks with Georgia and even wants to suspend the visa-free regime. But the Georgian elites appear to be determined. In early June, the ruling Georgian Dream party introduced a series of bills in parliament to ban LGBT propaganda and gender reassignment, defying the West yet again. The new regulations do not envisage registration of any form of marriage other than the union between man and woman, and exclude the adoption of children by homosexual couples or unmarried non-heterosexual persons. In addition, it is planned to prohibit gender reassignment surgery, as well as the indication in official documents of gender that differs from the sex received at birth. Despite the obvious difference between the European integration pace of Moldova and Georgia, nevertheless, both countries will face this autumn the most important electoral and geopolitical cycle. In fact, its results will show whether the opposition forces have sufficient capacity to change political regimes. The parliamentary elections in Georgia, scheduled for 26 October, will be a test for the incumbent government in Tbilisi, while at the same time legitimizing the course towards the country’s sovereignty and blocking further implementation of the Western liberal agenda. A week earlier, on October 20, we will hold presidential elections and, along with them, a referendum on amending the Constitution to enshrine the European integration course in the basic law. However, unlike Georgia, the voting in our country will be a consolidation of Moldova’s pro-European and pro-Western path. At the same time, judging by the latest statements of local and Romanian experts, the story of the plebiscite looks increasingly doubtful, and its expected effects will only weaken the position of the ruling group. By the way, in 2018, Georgia amended its Constitution without a referendum, incorporating provisions on EU and NATO aspirations. Thus, Article 78 states that constitutional bodies must take all measures, within the limits of their authority, to ensure Georgia’s full integration into these organizations. But this norm does not bother the current ruling groups in Tbilisi, which nominally still follow the language of law. Even the victory of Maia Sandu and the validation of the referendum will in no way remove the problems and risks which the incumbent regime faces in the run up to the 2025 parliamentary elections. The testing of coalition cooperation with the Socialists at the local level is just another confirmation that PAS is preparing for different scenarios next year. In the new convocation it will obviously not get 51 mandates, and the absence of other pro-European factions in the new parliamentary composition will force the party to make a difficult coalition compromise with the left-wing forces. And this will be a completely different configuration of power, more moderate and pragmatic in nature. It is possible that it will be similar to the current Georgian one, where under a completely pro-Western president there is a nationally oriented government trying to maintain a neutral foreign policy course. Moscow has at its disposal the most sophisticated methods of working with the national elites and, to all appearances, it has found the most sensitive point for the Georgians, convincing them that the preservation of the country and national and cultural identity is only possible if the model of social and state building is radically revised. The rejection of the liberal-globalist idea, the pursuit of own relatively independent policy, coupled with a conservative-traditionalist model of social organization – all these are the main set of characteristics that the Kremlin offers to modern sovereign states as an alternative to Western templates. Of course, geography is also an important factor, and this is perhaps one of the key differences between us and Georgia. It is the economy that largely determines the political vector of the country, so unlike Moldova, which is increasing its dependence on the European Union and consistently refuses eastern markets, even sometimes to its own detriment, Tbilisi has a completely unique situation. Thus, there are no EU countries among Georgia’s five main foreign trade partners. There are only two of them in the top 10 - Germany and Italy. However, the top 5 buyers of Georgian products include all the countries of the former USSR (four of them are EAEU members). The main importer was Kyrgyzstan ($291.6 million), followed by Russia ($230.4 million), Kazakhstan ($208.3 million), Azerbaijan ($191.9 million) and Armenia ($173.8 million). Their share is about 62% of Georgian exports. We don’t know exactly to what extent Moldova and our elites are ready to make such a sovereign turnaround, although we also have strong traditions in our country, with deeply rooted conservative principles. The main problem is that the Moldovan ethno-national code is rapidly eroding and dissolving, and not so much in the pan-European melting pot as in the Romanian identity. Therefore, the internal agenda is smoothly adjusted with such topics as hemp cultivation and legalization of same-sex marriages. Nevertheless, for Moldova, the experience of Georgia, which waged war with Russia 15 years ago and was one of the post-Soviet leaders of Euro-Atlantic integration, serves as an example of how dramatically circumstances can change if nationally oriented elites come to power in the country and the West’s geopolitical grip is gradually weakened.