We know what you’re thinking, but Georgia’s planned association with the European Union is not about some geopolitical war between Moscow and Brussels, the EU argues in its newly released Myth-Buster, a guide to reassure those Georgians not entirely sold on the idea of integration with the EU.
Yes, commercial farmers will have to meet new safety standards, says the guidebook, but, no, the “size and looks of tomatoes” will not be regulated -- in this tomato-obsessed society, no trivial matter. For now, Georgians also are free to decide in what kind of cages they put their chickens.
At first glance, the need for such pointers may not be obvious. Georgia is, after all, the country that started flying EU flags outside all public buildings before serious talk of an association agreement had even begun. Opposition to the deal has been marginal.
But the Ukraine crisis and Moscow's fancy footwork in Crimea apparently has encouraged Brussels to dip its pen in the ink and spell out the advantages of a free trade deal with Europe over certain customs unions . . . say, like, oh, the one proposed by Moscow.
With Ukraine no doubt in mind, the Myth-Buster underlines that both Georgia and the EU will continue "their sovereign choices over their [economic] policies . . .” Nor will the EU "force Georgia to adjust its export and import duties with non-EU trade partners,” the document continued. (The EU refrained from pointing out that neighboring Armenia is already undergoing this experience with the Customs Union.)
Easier access to needed means of production (largely purchased in Europe anyway), tariff-free access to the world's largest market and hands-on coaching for Georgian businesses concerned about quality, it's all in the bag, readers are told.
As an extra sweetener, the EU also offered, with Tbilisi’s consent, to extend free-trade relations to breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- a gesture unlikely to warm hearts in Moscow, which sees itself as the breakaways' sugar daddy, or among either region's de-facto rulers.
To be honest, though, few in Georgia care to get down to brass tacks about what its June signature of the EU Association Agreement will actually mean. Georgian cultural and political elites are looking forward to becoming European at whatever cost, while more conservative or pro-Russian circles see no reason to second-guess the anti-European propaganda emanating from Moscow.
Will the Myth-Buster change these views much? For now, don't count on it.