Bendukidze spoke about European opposition to Georgia's liberal labour reforms in a presentation at "Georgia's Transformation into a Modern Market Democracy" - a Policy Forum at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC, 13 May 2008.
"One of the most controversial reforms we underwent was labor reform. Why controversial? Maybe it is difficult to explain in the USA, as the USA does not have a labor code or someone dictating how can I be hired or fired and that is the difference to all other countries, especially Europe where the contractual agreements between employer and employee is practically not allowed.
Why was it controversial? Not because of the result of how it was done but because there is now huge pressure from EU trade unions to reverse the situation. ILO is pressing the EU to withdraw the GSP+ system (import duty preferences for Georgia, rewarded 2 years ago) and that if we want to maintain those preferences we should abolish our labor code. That means that sometimes not just the political processes within the country can change the regulations, but also some international organizations can be very active on changing institutional situation within the country."
A radio interview with Bendukidze broadcasted on Radio Ekho Moskvy, 21 January 2007 (transcript [in Russian]) also discusses the EU:
"In 20 years the EU will be already a different organization. And it's even a question, whether it will remain an organization at all, whether it will exist at all in 20 years. No one knows what the EU will be like… So it's not clear how it's possible to want to join something if you have no idea what it will look like in the future."
Speech by Bendukidze on Dutch television "Riverside Conversation Talk Show" (Dutch broadcaster VRPO) aired on 3 April 2005. Video is in Dutch and English; Bendukidze's remarks are in English with Dutch subtitles, starting from 05:50; around 37:00 on Europe)
"I do not want Georgia to be part of the European sclerotic civilization. Many things in Europe, they would kill our growth, of course. There is too much regulation in Europe. Our government has declared that it wants to put a lot of energy into economic cooperation and the harmonization of regulations with Europe in the next ten years. I fear that ten years may become an eternity."
Bendukidze's frustration with Europe was shared by many in the government. This appeared to be a big change from 2004, when the EU decided to include the whole of South Caucasus in the European Neighbourhood Policy, the EU flag was flying everywhere and Georgia seemed determined to join the EU as a full member, not just as part of the ENP. However, as Barbara Lippert put it (2006):
"In the context of negotiating new and enhanced agreements the Eastern European and Southern Caucasus countries explicitly seek a membership perspective or at least its discussion as a medium or long-term option. This issue is highly contested and controversial among (and sometimes inside) the member states. At present, the cleavage runs mainly between old member states which are mostly opposed, or at least undecided, toward an accession perspective and new member states which tend to favour a membership perspective."
(Barbara Lippert, "The EU Neighbourhood Policy
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