Brussels is going to involve Abkhazia15.07.2010 | 17:10
European Union resident Piter Semneby is going to Abkhazia. The diplomat reckons to hold fruitful meetings with President Sergey Bagapsh and Prime Minister Sergey Shamba in order to discuss Brussels's role in mending Georgian-Abkhaz relations. It is also possible that in Sukhum Semneby will raise the painful issue of the strategy of involvement via cooperation. However, in spring, Abkhaz capital made it clear to the special representative that the document developed in Tbilisi has nothing to do with the independent republic. Will Semneby fall into the same trap this time?
Peter Semneby is a frequent guest in Sukhum who has several times visited the Abkhaz capital with the same message: European Union will not recognize the republic but is open for cooperation. "We want to communicate; at the same time, there are formal difficulties and problems to be realized and considered. However, the disagreement on the republic's status should not prevent the development of projects presenting mutual interest", - he said a year ago.
Despite the proper words, the EU envoy's position often fails to correspond with them. Europe stands for separating political and economical issues, simultaneously preventing the realization of economical projects. The recent ban imposed by the Finnish Foreign Ministry on Nokia company in respect of buying mobile communication equipment for Abkhazia may serve as an example. Let us also remember the Abkhaz' problems with getting visas to European countries: recognizing Georgia's integrity in the context of the Soviet borders, Brussels will simply not look upon Abkhaz passports as documents.
Now, let us come back to EU special representative who is on his way to Sukhum. The question is that this spring a new point was added to Semneby's Abkhaz program: the discussion of the Georgian strategy concerning Transcaucasian republics with the country's government. The Abkhaz refused to negotiate the matter then, considering the document to be full nonsense. "It is unwise to pretend that nothing has happened and offer us absolutely crazy things, - Speaker of the Abkhaz parliament Nugzar Ashuba believes. - Georgia and its supporters should take today's realities into account; otherwise they will not get anywhere. No one has offered us anything except to return to Georgia's lap".
Nevertheless, Tbilisi keeps working on the freshly-devised strategy. Georgia is planning to get first results by the end of the year and is even ready to create certain tools for projects implementation. Trust Fund will be one of such tools; it will accumulate money allocated by foreign donors and the republic's representative office. Thus, it is quite possible that during the current Sukhum voyage Semneby will again promote the Georgian project trying to persuade the Abkhaz to participate, perhaps, in exchange for certain preferences, such as settling visa problems or comprehensive assistance on Europe's part.
What kind of reply will the Abkhaz authorities probably make to Semneby's temptation? GeorgiaTimes correspondent addressed the question to Deputy Director General of Political Technologies Center Foundation Sergey Mikheev and Director for International Institute of Political Expertise Eugeniy Minchenko.
Mikheev: I believe Abkhazia's main priority is obtaining independence and no Georgian reintegration plans will be accepted in Abkhazia. They will be accepted by neither the elite, nor common people. In this case, Georgia has got no target audience to support it. Acquiring an independent status is the number-one aim of the Abkhaz elite, so long as they enjoy greater opportunities as independent state elite than as governors of any autonomy being part of Georgia. The same is about people. Tbilisi has got nothing to offer them in exchange for giving up independence. The visa issue does not settle the problem. I think neither Georgia, nor Europe has got an offer that could make Abkhazia give up sovereignty.
Minchnko: the Abkhaz have decided upon their national independence and the chances of the Abkhaz elite agreeing to a compromise with Georgia are poor. There was a chance before the conflict when Bagapsh made certain steps that could be interpreted as readiness for an agreement with the Georgian party but this chance was lost the moment South Ossetia was attacked.
Today, Georgia insists that the strategy in respect of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be primarily used for settling the problems in the near-border regions. Do you think it possible that the Abkhaz authorities will agree to partial adoption of the document so as to ease the life of the people living at the border?
Mikheev: Perhaps, some points will be adopted in order to set up some kind of communication needed to settle, at least, the near-border issues. In general, concessions are out of the question. I allow a possible local compromise but each of the parties will look at it as its own success.
Georgia will say the strategy is moving forward, while Abkhazia and South Ossetia will assure that they will go through thick and thin to attain independence but they are ready to cooperate on certain points for the sake of reasonableness. Status quo is going to be maintained in the nearest historical perspective.
Minchenko: Perhaps, they will discuss certain matters but the issue of integrating back into Georgia is definitely taken off the table. As to Georgian public opinion, no discussion is possible if the issue is taken out of the brackets. The Abkhaz and Ossetians perfectly understand that the main purpose of the strategy is Georgia's reintegration.