Manipulations of the Prime Minister in favor of the restoration of direct flights with Russia - საერთაშორისო გამჭვირვალობა - საქართველო

Manipulations of the Prime Minister in favor of the restoration of direct flights with Russia

29 May, 2023

On May 11, the Prime Minister of Georgia responded to the protests over resuming direct flights with Russia with anti-Western rhetoric. The central message of the statement was that while the European Union (EU) itself trades with Russia, it is unfair to call on Georgia to end economic ties with this country. It should be noted from the beginning that the EU does not call on Georgia to terminate its economic relations with Russia. The EU calls on Georgia to join the existing sanctions against Russia in the aviation sector so that Georgia does not become a place to circumvent the sanctions imposed on Russia, the probability of which is likely to increase if flights are resumed.

Manipulating EU trade figures with Russia

Irakli Garibashvili stated that “the EU, which did not approve Georgia’s flights, trade and economic ties with Russia, is still trading with Russia ... In 2022, Georgia’s trade with Russia was up to USD 1 billion, and the EU’s was USD 270 billion.”

The truth

After the war in Ukraine started, the trade dependence of the EU on Russia decreased by three times, while the trade dependence of Georgia on Russia increased by 1.5 times.

Emphasizing that the EU has a much larger trade turnover with Russia than Georgia is manipulation because the EU’s economy is up to USD 20 trillion, and even a tiny share of its trade is a high number.

Suppose we are interested in how the attitude of the EU towards Russia changed after the war. In that case, a comparison should be made based on Russia’s share of the foreign trade of the EU and Georgia and what they did to reduce these shares. Compared to 2021, the EU sanctioned 49% of exports to Russia and 58% of imports from Russia. The Georgian government has done nothing to reduce trade with Russia.

Data source: Eurostat, Geostat

Russia is financed when another country imports its products. According to Eurostat, before the war, in February 2022, Russia’s share in EU imports was 9.5%, and in March 2023, it was 1.9%. In nominal terms, it decreased from 21 billion euros to 4 billion euros. According to Geostat, in February 2022, Russia’s share in Georgia’s imports was 9.4%, and in March 2023, it was 12.2%. It increased from USD 96 million to USD 151 million in nominal terms.

Data source: Eurostat, Geostat

In 2022, Georgia’s trade turnover with Russia did not amount to USD 1 billion, as Garibashvili says, but USD 2.5 billion, 52% more than in 2021. The EU’s trade turnover with Russia is decreasing every month.

Data source: Eurostat

The risk of sanctioning Georgian companies after the resumption of flights with Russia

Another step towards economic and political rapprochement with Russia, such as the restoration of flights, will make it difficult for Georgia to receive the status of a candidate country for the EU.

The government of Georgia has officially declared that it wants to become a member of the EU. The economic and political rapprochement with Russia, a country involved in the war with Ukraine, will hinder the integration of Georgia into the EU because the EU expects sharing of its foreign policy from the aspirant countries.

Three days after the start of the war in Ukraine, on January 27, 2022, the EU decided to close its air space to Russian airplanes, and this decision is still in effect. Any aircraft registered in Russia, as well as owned or leased by a Russian citizen or company, is prohibited from flying within the EU. It is also forbidden to supply any goods and services to Russian aviation. This means the EU sanctions apply to any Russian company, including Azimut, which already operates direct flights to Tbilisi.