ALLS Independent Media Monitoring
Commentary of a Professor in Political Sciences Iraklii Khintba, Abkhaz State University and Centre for Humanitarian Programs on the Resolution 1832 (2011) of CE Parliamentary Assembly adopted on 4 October, 2011
Resolution 1832 (2011) of the CE Parliamentary Assembly «National sovereignty and statehood in contemporary international law: the need for clarification» produces a rather ambiguous impression. On the one hand, it resembles a synopsis of a lecture on international law and practice by virtue of the style and argumentation employed. On the other hand, one can easily detect elements of political propaganda masquerading under a veil of «scientific objectivity».
The Resolution, which in fact is just a recommendation, begins with the acknowledgment that there is «the lack of clear criteria for statehood and for lawful secession» and «the criteria for statehood remain a contentious issue in contemporary international law». The reader expects that further on the document will provide such criteria and clarifications. But unfortunately what follows is just a dogmatic argument on non-acceptance of secession as a form of national self-determination.
So the first question arises: why do they call for elaborating clear criteria and clarification of the issue, if their purpose is just reiterating old but still ambiguous and disputable arguments?
In the concluding part of the document, the PA «invites all member states to refrain from recognizing or supporting in any way the de facto authorities of territories resulting from unlawful secessions». If there is still no certainty on the issue of lawful secessions, how to determine that, for instance, the Abkhazian secession was unlawful? And why does the resolution call for non-recognition in the absence of the criteria for statehood? It proposes that «the criteria for statehood, including those for the emergence of new states by legal secession and the modalities of protection of national sovereignty and territorial integrity of states be examined thoroughly in the framework of a follow-up conference to the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty». Great, but it has not yet been done. If they acknowledge the existence of a certain «legal gap», why not continue to refrain from politically propagandistic statements on the illegality of secessions and movements for self-determination in the region?
The second question concerns the mechanisms or the machinery for resolving conflicts and other disputes stemming from aspirations of different identities in Europe. Why do the authors of the Resolution deliberately confuse the notions of cultural and political conflicts and ethno-political conflicts (ethno-territorial)?
The Resolution refers to the earlier document (Resolution 1334 (2003)), which was to clarify and legitimize the only way to resolve identity conflicts, i.e. autonomization and decentralization. And here again we encounter this substitution of notions. The conflicts they consider are political and primarily non-violent ones, caused by unjust distribution of power and economic gains. Groups that struggle for improving their structural conditions need to be distinguished from groups which have undergone violent wars and claim independence. Decentralization is appropriate for correcting structural inequities and empowering groups. But as an instrument to address strong ethnic and political conflicts it is hardly relevant .
This reluctance to acknowledge the different nature of conflicts in the region contributes to the low efficiency of European engagement in conflict-resolution and transformation-processes in the South Caucasus. For instance, the authors of the Resolution prefer to forget that the reason for the conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia is not what they call «Russian intervention» in 2008. The real reasons are Soviet quasi-federalism, which spurred ethno-nationalism, and the aggression of the illegitimate Georgian government against its own citizens and their state in 1992 (under the Soviet Constitution autonomous republics [such as Abkhazia] enjoyed the status of a state).
The only point that inspires confidence is the final provision of the Resolution «to analyze the origin and trends of self-determination movements by addressing the most salient factors, in particular instances of growing tensions among minority or ethnic groups». Europe does indeed need a far better understanding of the conflicts in the South Caucasus. Maybe this process will help the truth to come out, so that the conflicts are more properly addressed.