Transparency International: Georgian PM manipulating facts to justify air connection with Russia
Transparency International on Garibashvili
Transparency International Georgia has published a study on allegedly manipulative statements by Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili to justify restoration of direct flights to Russia.
The study maintains that:
● The prime minister responded to protests over the resumption of flights with anti-Western rhetoric and manipulative statements.
● The main message of Garibashvili’s statement was that since the EU itself trades with Russia, it is unfair to call on Georgia to end economic relations with it.
● The European Union is not calling on Georgia to terminate economic relations with Russia. The European Union is urging Georgia to join the current sanctions against Russia in the aviation sector so that Georgia does not become a place to circumvent sanctions imposed on Russia, which are likely to increase if flights resume.
● Garibashvili also manipulates EU trade figures with Russia: “The EU, which does not approve of flights to Georgia and trade with Russia, is still trading with Russia.” In 2022, Georgia’s trade with Russia amounted to up to $1 billion, while the EU’s trade with Russia amounted to $270 billion.” In fact, after the start of the war in Ukraine, trade dependence of the European Union on Russia decreased three times, while Georgia’s trade dependence on Russia increased one and a half times.
● Emphasizing that the EU’s trade with Russia is much larger than Georgia’s is manipulation, because the EU economy reaches $20 trillion, and even a small share of trade in it is expressed in large numbers.
● If we are interested in how the EU’s attitude towards Russia has changed since the war, the comparison should be based on Russia’s share of the EU’s foreign trade with Georgia and what they have done to reduce these shares.
● Compared to 2021, the EU imposed sanctions on 49% of exports to Russia and 58% of imports from Russia. The Georgian government has done nothing to reduce trade with Russia. Russia receives funding when its products are imported into another country.
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On May 12, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili stated that Russia’s abolition of the visa regime for Georgian citizens is a positive step. According to him, “friends should be kind” (meaning the European Union) and understand that trade with Russia is in the interests of Georgia.
“I want to reassure our friends in Europe and everywhere, true friends, these are economic trade relations, from the very beginning, after the start of the war in Ukraine, this misfortune, we said that we would not impose economic sanctions against Russia, because [thus ] we will plunge our citizens into big problems and harm our own business,” Garibashvili said.
According to him, after the August 2008 war, the EU bought $2.5 trillion worth of goods from Russia, America has not stopped trade even today:
“You can ask for data, last year they had it, they cut down on trade, but they’re still trading today in the products they need.”
On May 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a document on the abolition of the visa regime for Georgian citizens and the resumption of direct flights from Russia to Georgia.
So far, the visa regime with Russia has been unilaterally canceled by Georgia, and direct flights have been suspended in July 2019.