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Commentary on the Resolution of the European Parliament for Georgia, 17 November 2011

SPECIALLY FOR ALLS by Iraklii Khintba

On 17 November 2011, the European Parliament by a majority vote adopted a resolution on Georgia, which the government of Saakashvili has already christened "historic". The resolution’s text comprises exceptionally strong language, unusual in the rhetoric of European representatives: “to recognise the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as occupied territories”, “to call upon Russia to withdraw the recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and stop the occupation”, “to welcome Georgia’s Strategy on [the] Occupied Territories and Action Plan as an effective instrument to promote reconciliation”, etc...

This resolution, from a purely formal viewpoint, may be deemed a definite achievement for Georgian  diplomacy. However, in essence it is another example of the advancing of a fallacious and ineffective strategy regarding the post-August reality vis-à-vis the South Caucasus. To ignore the existence of the ethno-political Georgian-Abkhazian conflict and the problems surrounding the ethnic compatibility between Georgians and Abkhazians after the bloody war of 1992-93, concealing all this under the guise of confrontation between Georgia and Russia and a purely mythical occupation, is utterly useless from the point of view of the actual situation on the ground in the region and the still unresolved conflicts.

It should be underlined that this resolution has a recommendatory character, and yet it is hardly able to achieve any cardinal changes in the region. Furthermore, it is unlikely that it will have any influence whatsoever on the official rhetoric of those European officials who participate directly in what is going on with regard to the unsolved Georgian-Abkhazian conflict. And there is absolutely no doubt that even such toughly worded formulations will not make Russia abandon its own national interests and obligations.

Another matter is that the adopted resolution strikes yet another blow on the negative image of Europe and the West as a whole that has already formed in the consciousness of the people of Abkhazia. The majority, who do not scrutinise the refinements and nuances of European politics with regard to the Southern Caucasus, are more and more disposed against Western influence in their country. As a result, the legitimacy of any possible joint-action in the sphere of culture, education and democratic development might be lost. Who will be the winner here? I do not think that it will be Europe.

If one speaks of specifics, the peremptory nature of the formulations contained in the resolution is surprising. And the resolution itself looks extremely partial and unjust. Attention can be drawn to the fact that in the preamble there is no reference to any document or evidence that takes into account the position of the authorities of Abkhazia, whereas there is mention of Mikheil Saakashvili’s speech in the European Parliament is indicated. It is clear that no groundwork had been done for the collection of facts, just as the position of the Abkhazian side was not listened to and its opinion was simply ignored.

Conclusions are drawn in the resolution regarding the “occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia” without any definition of clear criteria for “occupation” or the application of appropriate argumentation and facts. Not one of those who voted for the resolution bothered to find the time to visit Abkhazia and see everything with their own eyes. For example, where did information about “ethnic cleansings” come from? Nothing of the kind has appeared in any document, even the most critical, regarding Abkhazia since 2008. Why has it become possible to adopt such an unprecedentedly biased document?

In our opinion, quite apart from other reasons, there is a prosaic political logic at work here: after the “bitter pill” it is necessary to offer a “sweet bon-bon”. Georgia had to abandon its basic negotiating position on Russia's WTO accession under pressure from the West. Having withdrawn its demand for Georgian custom officials to be present at the Russian-Abkhazian border on the River Psou, Tbilisi, one can say, has recognised these borders as not its own. A private audit at the border will quickly in time become a mere formality, and, after three years can be done away with altogether. Moreover, in Georgia irritation has long been brewing over the unwillingness of European officials to identify for Tbilisi at least some prospects of EU membership. We recall how the bitterness of another failure in fixing the time-frame for membership of NATO was similarly sweetened for Tbilisi by means of the odious Resolution of NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly, adopted a few days before the Lisbon Summit.

In general, the said resolution once again marks out a problem that prevents the effective participation of the EU in resolving the conflicts and promoting development in the Southern Caucasus. In particular, it undermines the efforts of the EU Southern Caucasus office regarding cooperation with Abkhazia. If the Abkhazian authorities are just puppets who decide nothing, as follows from the resolution, then why do European officials visit Sukhum and meet with Abkhazian officials? However, just recently, the new EU Special Representative for the Southern Caucasus, F. Lefort, visited Sukhum and noted the importance of contacts with the authorities of the republic.

Consequently, the main problem is the total lack of coordination in Europe’s involvement in the region. Firstly, there is lack of agreement at the level of EU policy-formulation, comprising rivalry between the branches of European power, and within certain structures (opposition between K. Ashton and P. Semneby). Secondly, there is a dramatic gap in the real understanding of the situation existing between a small number of EU officials and the expert-groups supporting them, on the one hand, and the bulk of not only European officials and MEPs, but Europeans in general, on the other hand. The crises that are shaking the European Union at the present time have an impact on this situation.

As a result, we have a resolution that has little impact on the rhetoric and political tactics of Europeans who interact directly with Abkhazia, and which, naturally, will have no bearing on Russian politics but will clearly worsen the overall perception of the West in the eyes of the residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. If the adoption of such a one-sided resolution is also able to encourage the morale of the Georgian leadership, then it is doubtful that it can play a positive role in strengthening stability in the Southern Caucasus.

Source: ALLS Media Monitoring, Sukhum, Abkhazia

- Русская версия: Комментарий на Резолюцию Европарламента по Грузии от 17 ноября 2011 г.

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