Presentation of the survey: Knowledge and Attitudes towards the EU in Georgia, 2009 – 2017
On October 10, Europe Foundation presented the results of its recent survey entitled Knowledge and Attitudes towards the EU in Georgia, 2009 – 2017. The biannual survey, which is commissioned by Europe Foundation and conducted by CRRC Georgia, presents the results of a study into the Georgian citizens’ knowledge of and attitudes towards the European Union, attempting to identify trends and to highlight changes. The recent report looks at the results of the five waves of surveys conducted in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017.
Mr. Carlo Natale, the Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to Georgia, Ms. Martina Quick, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Sweden to Georgia, and Mr. Johannes Douma, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Georgia made opening remarks and Ms. Ketevan Vashakidze, the President of Europe Foundation presented the findings of the survey.
In his welcoming speech, Mr. Natale stressed the importance of the survey, as a “reality check,” for the officials and policy makers, to understand the needs and sentiments of those who they serve. He also noted that beyond declarations, commitments and politics, a lot of work is being done on daily basis to bring benefits and real results to Georgian citizens, which need to be communicated effectively. The survey has shown the gaps and opportunities for improvement, to achieve better results. “I am personally pleased that for the sequence of the eight years, shown by the surveys of Europe Foundation, the enthusiasm of Georgian people toward European Integration remains consistently high. This is probably the most important observation and we shall draw inspiration and more energy for these positive results.“
Her Excellency Martina Quick underlined that well-functioning democracy rests not only on only free and fair elections and transparent and stable institutions, but also on informed decisions that citizens make. Reforms need to be based on broad, inclusive, and fact-based discussions about what society should look like. The survey has shown those gaps that need to be filled to ensure that citizens are informed enough to take part in these discussions. Therefore, the survey of the knowledge and attitudes towards the EU in Georgia is an important contribution to Georgian reform process. She also noted that even though support to the EU integration process continues to be strong, it still rests on hopes and expectations rather than genuine knowledge of what the integration really means, which the EU Delegation, as well as Member States have been trying to address. “We can see from the survey that there still exists a perception in Georgian society that EU Integration is threatening to Georgian traditions. This perception has decreased, but it is still quite widespread and this is an obvious result of the lack of information and, to some extent, perhaps also incorrect information, that in some cases can be deliberately spread. It is a very damaging perception that will be important to address properly and, at the same time, it shows how important it is to counter attempts of false information and also, to close the knowledge gaps, where false information can spread and grow, by providing easily accessible and easily understandable facts.“
His Excellency Mr. Douma noted that the critical attitudes toward the EU among population is not something uncommon in the EU itself, which is confirmed by semi-annual Eurobaromerter results. However, as the survey is mirroring the attitudes of people, both the EU Delegation and the Member States need to be convincing and offer information. “What I have learned from the survey is also that sometimes we, as EU, focus on the issues, which are not near to the public.”
After the opening remarks, EPF President, Ketevan Vashakidze, took the floor and presented the results of the 2017 survey. She also highlighted the changes in both, knowledge and attitudes of the population of Georgia, occurring between 2009-2017, as demonstrated as a result of the five waves of surveys.
Some of the findings that Ms. Vashakidze highlighted in her presentation, included:
- Georgian citizens associate the EU with democracy. A vast majority of citizens agree that the EU is a source for peace and security in Europe and that it is a democratic union that promotes democracy in countries outside the EU.
- The citizens are now better aware of the EU, than they were in 2009. However, the population’s knowledge of a number of issues is still limited; for example, Georgians require more information about the EU institutions, agreements reached between Georgia and the EU, and the interventions implemented in Georgia with support from the European Union.
- As expected, there are disparities between the levels of knowledge between the country’s rural and urban populations, with the widest gap observed between the knowledge reported by the residents of Tbilisi and ethnic minorities residing outside Tbilisi.
- The majority of Georgian citizens believe that they do not receive sufficient information about the EU, with almost half of the respondents noting that they would like to receive more information about the EU.
- The majority of the Georgian population believes that, compared with the United States and Russia, the EU can better assist Georgia. However, a large segment of ethnic minorities disagrees with this view.
- The majority also believes that Georgia needs the EU’s assistance. However, the population believes that the EU support primarily benefits Georgian politicians and officials and questions the purposefulness of EU assistance.
- Georgian population’s direct support for the EU integration that decreased to 62% in 2015, has increased to 71%. This proves again that the overall attitude towards the EU is highly positive and Georgians strongly support the country’s European integration.
- Current state of country’s market economy is named most commonly as the factor impeding Georgia’s accession to the EU, followed by the rule of law, the approximation of Georgian legislation to EU legislation, the protection of human rights, the development of democratic institutions and the protection of minority rights.
- A large majority of the Georgian population is somewhat informed about visa liberalization. However, only 16% are confident that they will enjoy the visa-free regime within the next 12 months.
- The share of Georgian speakers and ethnic minorities who think that the government should be like a parent rather than an employee hired by the citizens, remains unchanged since 2009.
The survey was commissioned by Europe Foundation and conducted by CRRC Georgia with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Georgia, and the Danish International Development Agency (Danida).