Developments in Georgia

Published: 17 June 2009 Updated: 5 October 2015

Georgia regained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. But internal divisions and the military conflict with Russia have slowed down the development.

Ever since the Soviet Union was dissolved, Georgia has been characterized by violent internal conflicts. As early as 1989, the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia started a campaign to become independent from Georgia. Both regions have since then declared independence, something that has not been recognized by the outside world.

In 2004, Mikhail Saakashvili came to power after the so-called Rose Revolution. He then sought the assistance of the US and advocated a NATO membership, something that led to a further deterioration of the relations with Russia.

In 2008, the conflict between Georgia and Russia escalated further. During the summer gunfire took place along the border between South Ossetia and Georgia and in the beginning of August war broke out between Russian and Georgian troops, after Georgia attacked South Ossetia. Russian forces repelled the Georgians, and battles erupted in Abkhazia where the Georgian military was driven out. In August 2008 EU negotiated an agreement. There are still Russian military in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both of which signed an agreement on "strategic partnership" with Russia. The conflict resulted in an additional 25 000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) in addition to the 250,000 already in the country.

Change of power

The parliamentary elections in 2012 rapidly turned into a war of words between the camps around President Saakashvili and the challenger, the billionaire Bidzine Ivanisjvili. As the Election Day passed without incident, the opposition won and President Saakashvili admitted loss. When the presidential election was held in 2013, Giorgi Margvelashvili, a close associate of Ivanisjvili won in the first round.

In 2014 Georgia took a decisive step towards closer cooperation with the EU by signing an Association Agreement. In return, Georgia has committed itself to comply with EU standard and rules, including respect for democracy and human rights.

Law and order

The Georgian judicial system is weak and permeated with corruption. Under the Constitution, the courts must be independent, but in practice they are often vulnerable to pressure from the government and other political bodies.

Prior to the 2012 elections the opposition suffered from legal measures that could be interpreted as an attempt to hamper the election campaign. After the change of power a number of representatives of the old government where arrested. Both before and after the election, the EU urged the Georgian authorities and political parties to respect the Constitution and to refrain from political harassment.

The authorities' attempts to weed out corrupt police officers and raise the morale of the police force have led to improvements, but there are reports of beatings, torture and deaths in custody and prisons.

Despite urgings from the EU that the judiciary systems should not be used for political vendettas, criminal charged were filed against Saakashvili in 2014 over alleged abuse of power. Several of Saakashvili's leading ministers were also jailed for abuse of power, murder and torture.

Business and Economy

Georgia is rich in natural resources and provides good conditions for fruit and wine production as well as tourism. Georgia has no oil and gas resources of its own, but the country has an important position as a transit country.

The armed conflict in 2008 led to a sharp decline in foreign investments. In 2009, Georgia's GDP declined by almost four per cent. The following years the economy started to grow again and in 2012 the GDP growth was approximately 6 per cent.

Agriculture remains Georgia's most important industrial sector and accounts for about a fifth of exports, employing over half the workforce. The percentage of Georgians living below the poverty line was, according to official data, 40 per cent in 2005. For 2010, data indicates that 13 per cent of the population remains poor, but it is unclear if these figures are comparable.

Page owner: Department for Europe and Latin America

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