Armenia, Georgia and the Customs Union

Gita Elibekyan

Armenia could have problems with Georgia after joining the Russia-led Customs Union, taking into consideration the free trade agreement between the two countries, some Georgian politicians say. At the same time, they consider that Armenia and Georgia are able to find a rapid solution to all merging problems.

As for the perspectives of Georgia’s membership in the Customs Union, experts say its hardly possible and consider that yesterday’s statement of PM Bidzina Ivanishvili was a gesture to Russia.

One day after Armenia said it will join Russia’s Eurasian Union, Georgia’s PM said it might, in due course, do the same. The remark puzzle d the Georgian politicians and analysts. The issue of joining the Customs Union had never been considered in Georgia before. However, some politicians, mostly from the opposition, consider that the PM’s statement puts the issue on the agenda.

Representative of President Mikhail Saakashvili’s United National Movement Party David Darchiashvili says there could be two explanations to Ivanishvili’s statement. “First, it may be the result of lack of experience. Second, there could be a force behind these words trying to change the political course of the country.”

Members of the Prime Minister’s Georgian Dream bloc view the statement as a step targeted at improving the relations with Russia. One of the leaders of the Republican Party Levan Berdenishvili noted that “PM Ivanishvili says we can discuss all unions, but that does not mean we’re going to join them.” “Besides, the Prime Minister is leaving politics,” he added.

“As member of the Georgian Parliament, I declare that Georgia does not have the intention to join the Customs Union or the Eurasian Union. Georgia opts for the EU and NATO,” he told Public Radio of Armenia. He added that the situation with Armenia is unique, and this should be taken into consideration.

Both MPs consider that Armenia could have certain problems with Georgia by joining the Customs Union. The two neighboring countries have a free trade agreement and a number of other agreements providing for favorable conditions for the development of economic ties. They believe, however, that all problems will be solved after some changes are implemented.

“I’m sure there should be no problems between Armenia and Georgia. We’ll solve them thanks to our friendship. Irrespective of the fact which unions our countries join, we’ll remain friends and will do our best to maintain good economic relations,” Levan Berdenishvili said.

Director of the Center for EU Studies Kakha Gogolashvili says the free trade between Armenia and Georgia may continue if the Customs Union allows Armenia to maintain free trade regime with certain countries. “Whatever, all this will have no impact on the process of shipment of Armenian cargoes through Georgia,” he said.

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