Benedikt Harzl: "International law in a position to provide interaction with de-facto states"

Crowds gather in Abkhazia and Kosovo’s capitals to celebrate their independence.

Benedikt Harzl is an Austrian lawyer and political scientist working at the Centre for Research in Russia, Eastern Europe and Eurasia at the University of Graz. His main research-interests include topics such as nation-building in post-ethnic and political conflicts, as well as Russian foreign policy. He graduated from the University of Graz and the master's programme at the Free University in Berlin [1]. He has worked at the Institute of European Studies in Minsk (Belarus), the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin and the European Academy in Bolzano (Italy) [2]. Currently, he is carrying out research for a doctorate at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt [3].

The interview with Benedikt Harzl and the notes were prepared specially for Caucasus Times by Sergey Markedonov, political scientist, candidate of historical sciences.

Sergey Markedonov: In academic discourses, the precedential character of Kosovo’s recognition vis-à-vis Abkhazia and South Ossetia is often discussed. You have been focusing on this issue in a number of articles.[4] In which cases is it possible to assume a Kosovo precedence with impact on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and in which ways do these cases differ from one another?

Benedikt Harzl: On the one hand, it is fair to say that the cases of Kosovo, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have much in common. All of them illustrate undeniable problems in defining reliable international guidelines when it comes to secessionist movements and the emergence of new states, especially the basic principles of their eventual diplomatic recognition. Likewise, the International Court of Justice failed to provide clear guidance with respect to the effects of successful secession in its advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence. [5] Particularly, its main legal finding according to which “general international law contains no applicable prohibition of declarations of independence”, was correspondingly acclaimed by the authorities of a couple of de facto states including Abkhazia.[6] Even though the lack of prohibition does not automatically signify an explicit permission, one can easily reason that this legal nebulousness, combined with the perceived one-sidedness of Western states in the case of Kosovo, will strengthen the position of de facto authorities to opt for nothing other than maximal demands such as independence and state sovereignty.[7]

In this respect, we are able to identify a direct impact which Kosovo and the dimension of its international recognition have and will continue to have on the bargaining position of de facto states vis-à-vis their ‘parent’ states.  Furthermore, both the conflicts over Kosovo and Abkhazia emerged within autonomous territorial formations against the background of two communist Federations. These Federations were in many respects different, yet, they managed to provide secessionist movements with elements of proto-statehood by placing political institutions and territory under an ethnically defined roof. The same holds true for the conflict phase in both cases, which were marked by claims and counter-claims of massive human rights violations and acts of genocide. This comparability is equally evident when considering the line of argument of proponents of both Kosovo and Abkhazia, who often justify independence as the only viable and sustainable solution in resolving the conflict and effectively guaranteeing human rights to the citizens now living on their territories.

However, what really distinguishes the cases of Abkhazia and Kosovo is the level of international support which the latter has managed to receive since its declaration of independence in 2008. Hence, while the nature of the Kosovo conflict and its underlying (as well as its proximate) causes cannot wholly be considered to constitute an alleged sui generis case, the nature and extent of international reactions in the case of Kosovo appear indeed to be unique.

Yet, even the case of Kosovo shows the difficulties of turning an intra-state conflict into an inter-state conflict by recognition: The EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) is still obliged to operate in a status-neutral manner [8]; more than five years have passed since its declaration of independence and yet no contractual relations exist between the EU and Kosovo, and it remains to be seen if and when a Stabilization and Association Agreement with Kosovo will come into force.[9]  The fact that five EU member-states and two Security Council members still see Kosovo as an integral part of Serbia illustrates the extent to which even Kosovo – notwithstanding its recognition by 105 UN member-states – remains in a legal limbo.[10] Therefore, the precedential character of Kosovo should be seen in the lack of legal guidelines for its recognition and the corresponding persistence of the authorities of de facto states to go for nothing less than independence.

Sergey Markedonov: The use and misuse of historical myths has always played a significant role in ethnic conflicts. In one of your articles you write about preachers of hatred and deformation of history in the case of Kosovo.[11] What are the similarities and differences between the ethnic mobilisation in the Balkans and the Caucasus?

Benedikt Harzl: The collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia can be described as a set of processes, which were marked by government breakdown, the corresponding shifts in political power-balances between groups and the accompanying changes in control over economic resources. If we apply an instrumentalist-constructivist approach, one could argue that the demise of both state-efficiency and legitimacy began to plant the seeds of a fear-producing environment, with so-called ethnic entrepreneurs acting as principal performers.[12]  

Paradoxically, most of these entrepreneurs on the political level emerged from Communist nomenclatures and it became evident how easily these Communist platforms took over the nationalist agenda. Even though Abkhazian fears of Georgian domination were often publicly voiced throughout the Soviet period, a breaking-point was reached in March 1989, when 30,000 Abkhazians [recte residents of Abkhazia — editor] rallied at the historic site of Lykhny and adopted the so-called ‘Lykhny Declaration’ demanding the restoration of the Abkhazian Soviet Republic of 1921. Surprisingly enough, this declaration was signed by the entire communist leadership of Abkhazia, even though the text of this appeal criticised the communist party.[13]  

With regard to Georgia, an important corresponding turning point in this respect became the ‘Tbilisi tragedy’ of April 9, 1989: [14] It was particularly this event which set the stage for the official adoption of nationalist demands at the political level. Just a couple of months later, the Communist-dominated Supreme Soviet of the Georgian SSR passed a law according to which the Georgian language was made mandatory in public offices throughout the republic. [15] By the same token, political concessions to nationalist movements in Georgia became obvious, when the Georgian SSR attempted to split the Abkhazian State University along ethnic lines in the summer of 1989, thereby circumventing the authority of the institutions of the Abkhazian ASSR. Likewise, Slobodan Milosevic, who is today regarded as the initiator of the Serb nationalist revival, was initially seen as a typical technocrat, whose rise to power was a normal episode in everyday politics of a Communist state. [16]  

After the afore-mentioned events, there began a ‘mobilisational cycle’, in which the character of formerly communist institutions became subsequently transformed, and the nation and its sovereignty was exclusively perceived in terms of ethnicity, so that ethnic identity became strongly politicised as a prerequisite for any form of state-building. This very identity became an object of mass mobilisation, since cultural élites – who proved to be not immune to nationalist promises – were also involved in this process. And indeed, they contributed by raising national awareness and fuelling fears. The infamous Writers’ Union of Serbia as well as the Georgian Shota Rustaveli Society and other cultural organisations or individual scholars were quite effective in creating we-theyantagonisms and enemy-stereotyping through alleged historical justifications and permanent appeals to the past.

Just to pick out one example: the well-known Georgian historian Mariam Lordkipanidze wrote in 1990 that “Abkhazians were never molested by Georgians, but attacked and plundered one another”, finally reasoning that “the existence of Abkhazian autonomy in any form is absolutely unjustified”.[17] It goes without saying that Abkhazian cultural élites were not less involved in drawing their own picture of alleged historical truth(s) [If such egregious examples of historical distortion exist on the Abkhazian side, should not such examples be illustrated? — editor]. Yet, the main point of these mobilisational processes was the combined effort of political, societal and cultural élites to turn alleged historical dichotomies of identity/difference into the normative dimension of equality/inequality and inclusion/exclusion with regard to state-building projects. And in this respect, again, the pre-conflict phases of the South Caucasus and the Balkans appear to be comparable.

As far as differences regarding ethnic mobilisation in Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union are concerned, I found the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict particularly interesting. Even though the Abkhazian nation-building project was and continues to be an exclusive ethnic one, the Abkhazian people managed to establish cross-ethnic coalitions with all the other non-Georgian groups of Abkhazia. This happened at the political level in terms of coordinated strategic voting within the ASSR Supreme Soviet, but coalitions were also formed at the socio-political level between such organisations as: the Abkhazian “Aidgylara” [Unity], the Russian “Slavic House”, the Armenian “Krunk” [Crane], as well as the Greek cultural association.[18]

This gained particular momentum in the military dimension, since the Armenian Baghramian battalion was crucial in recapturing the capital Sukhum/i in 1993. Therefore, mobilisation in Abkhazia became a mass phenomenon through cross-ethnic solidarity, notwithstanding the exclusive ethnic nature of the Georgian-Abkhazian antagonism.

Sergey Markedonov: You are working at a European university. At present, the European Union demonstrates great interest towards the post-Soviet space. Do you think that European politicians have an idea of what has to be done for conflict-resolution in the Caucasus? How do European approaches in this regard have to be changed, and is there any perspective of cooperation between the EU and de facto states?

Benedikt Harzl: 
Even though the EU is carrying out major tasks in managing conflicts over disputed territories in its immediate neighbourhood such as in Kosovo, its capacity to act as regional conflict manager has not yet become fully evident. The most recent elections in Northern Kosovo, which failed due to organised violence, have to be seen as serious setback in the strategy of Brussels to normalise relations between Serbia and Kosovo.[19]  At the same time, the still unresolved Cyprus question is limiting the prospects of enhanced cooperation between Brussels and Ankara, let alone eventual Turkish membership in the EU. And let us not forget that the EU also lacks the competence of addressing such conflicts within its borders and is, therefore, unable to act (i.e.) in Northern Ireland or Catalonia.[20]   This leaves us with open question-marks regarding the perspectives and added value of stronger EU involvement in conflict-management elsewhere.

Some refer to the historical example of Franco-German reconciliation through economic integration after WWII and view it as transferable best practice for conflict-management abroad. Even if there is a grain of truth in such an approach, the reconciliation between France and Germany was a process between equals, who did not object to the sovereignty of their respective counterpart. Hence, this can hardly be applicable to the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, in which this existence of equality is denied by one of the parties to the conflict.[21]  Nevertheless, the EU has been an important actor, not only by brokering the six-point agreement of August 2008 or by moderating the Geneva talks [22], for it has also taken core-responsibilities in rehabilitation-projects in this region. In the same vein, it has financed the crucial work of a number of NGOs operating in de facto states.

Yet, a more robust role of the EU in conflict-management over disputed territories would require Brussels to deal more substantially with core-questions of sovereignty and statehood in its foreign policy dimension. And in this regard, the logic of ENP and/or Eastern Partnership[23] is still driven by contractual relations with fully recognised states, which leave de facto states, which are beyond the jurisdiction of Tbilisi or Baku, uncovered by potentially positive provisions. It was also for this reason that the new flagship-approach of “engagement without recognition” towards the de facto states of the South Caucasus was proclaimed by the EU already in 2009, a step which was supported by academic circles.

However, political disagreements began to unfold rapidly over the very substantial interpretation of “non-recognition” and “engagement”: Georgian authorities reacted quickly and proved to be successful in capitalising on this policy by drafting their own state-strategy on the ‘occupied’ territories. [24]  Yet, the ideological objective of Georgia has not shifted with this document. As a matter of fact, this document was dictated by Georgia’s interests in pleasing Western audiences in order to maintain support in terms of firm non-recognition. Substantially, the isolationist policies of Tbilisi vis-à-vis Abkhazia/South Ossetia have remained unchanged. Just recently, this logic of isolation took again a rather questionable form when the Georgian authorities officially asked the Estonian beverage company “A. Le Coq” to stop exporting their products to Abkhazia due to non-compliance with the Georgian law on the occupied territories. [25]  It remains to be seen how acts like these will contribute to conflict-management.

If the EU is really interested in obtaining a stronger role in conflict-management in the South Caucasus, it should abandon viewing these conflicts exclusively through the prism of the Russian-Georgian conflict. It is indeed easy to consider Abkhazia or South Ossetia as Russian puppet-states; it is equally easy to refer to them as ‘occupied territories’, but all of this poorly reflects the reality on the ground. If the EU wishes to be seen as an attractive and impartial actor, not only by the citizens of Georgia but also by the citizens of the de facto states, it needs to adopt independent policies which have to be recognisable as such and which must not replicate old isolationist approaches. And to this end, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Even though de facto states lack wide diplomatic recognition, they still have a legally cognisable existence in terms of international law, and many historical examples have shown that international law is capable of accommodating de facto states, of contributing to regional security and the respect of human and minority rights, without necessarily recognising them. This is the only way through which the EU can gain levers regarding some pivotal domestic issues within the de facto states.

Sergey Markdonov: After 2008, the role of Russia in Abkhazia has considerably grown. How does this have an impact on the development of the de facto statehood of this republic?

Benedikt Harzl: The role of Russia in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict has always been a very ambiguous one. There is no doubt that ethnic conflicts – particularly in regions at crossroads such as the South Caucasus – always serve as comfortable gateways for external influence by neighbouring powers. In this context, it goes without saying that Russian assistance was provided in many ways over different periods to the Abkhazian national movement. However, the diplomatic recognition of 2008 and the prior conferral of Russian citizenship – which indeed removed an important incentive for the Abkhazians to return under the roof of Georgian statehood – have only been one side of the coin. Prior to this, Russia was engaged in peace-talks and served as the internationally recognised chief conflict-mediator when Western states were quite intensively occupied by the dramas in the Balkans. For instance, it imposed a strict embargo on Abkhazia in the 1990s, and even in the Adjarian crisis of 2004, Moscow proved capable of contributing to peaceful conflict-solutions in the post-Soviet space.[26]  There would be many other examples which illustrate that Russia has been both contributing to and countering a solution acceptable to all sides of the conflict.

My point is that this ambiguity holds true also for the dimension of Russian-Abkhazian relations. As far as the economic level and investments are concerned, Russia remains in this sense a conditio sine qua non for Abkhazia and its survival. Yet, when it comes to the realm of foreign and domestic politics, one should not overestimate Moscow’s levers of influence. The integration of Abkhazia into the international community through diplomatic recognition by Russia has been – at least for the time being – a failed project in many respects. On the one hand, only four [recte five — editor] countries have followed Russia by recognising Abkhazia. Likewise, this has strengthened the outside view, according to which Abkhazia is more than ever before an isolated de facto state, and explains to some extent why there is much less international engagement than before 2008. Even in the Geneva talks, Abkhazian and South Ossetian representatives are not taking part as official delegations, but only as individuals within informal working groups.

But those limitations in terms of Russia’s international capacity to push for wide acceptance of an independent Abkhazia are compounded by Russia’s limitations for influencing domestic politics in Abkhazia. The fact that property-disputes – such as the return of apartments and houses to former Russian refugees – remain widely unsolved not only signifies the lack of rule of law in Abkhazia, it also means that Russian and Abkhazian interests do not necessarily coincide, and that Abkhazia’s aim to be independent makes it pro-Russian only out of necessity, not out of pro-Russian passion. And indeed, the aim of Abkhazians to elaborate their state-building project will not necessarily meet Russian interests. Three years ago, then-President Sergey Bagapsh promised to revise Abkhazia’s real estate law, thereby allowing Russian citizens to buy property in Abkhazia.[27]   As of today, this has not been the case. And in this context, the recent assassination of a Russian diplomat and his wife in Abkhazia must have produced unprecedented shock-waves in the corridors of the Russian Foreign Ministry. [28]

To put it in a nutshell: The influence of Russia in Abkhazia can be defined according to an interplay between the realisation of Russian interests and Abkhazia’s efforts to become an independent state, not only a de facto state, solely backed by Russia.

Sergey Markedonov: If you were invited by the Georgian government to serve as adviser for these issues, what would you tell them? In which way will Tbilisi need to revise its approaches towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia?

Benedikt Harzl: The new Georgian government will have to start from scratch in dealing with these conflicts. The legacy of Saakashvili has to be left behind and fundamentally new approaches must be applied.[29] I think that the appointment of Paata Zakareishvili as Minister for Reintegration was a very positive signal in this context[30]. However, it is high time for the Georgian government not only to talk but to ‘walk the talk’.

The question of territorial integrity – the major point of reference in Georgian legislation and foreign policy – is indeed an important one from both the legal and the political perspective. Yet, it seems to me that any discussion about the future status of these territories is temporarily misplaced and should be skipped for the time being. Instead, much has to be invested in conflict-transformation, through which perceptions of all people – directly or indirectly affected by the conflicts – will have to be changed.

This will require Georgia to address its own past failures. The Georgians underestimated the strength and potential of the nation-building processes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and – misled by their own myths – depicted minority groups as being remote-controlled by Russia and instigated by them against Georgia. Instead, Georgians will need to understand that Abkhazians and Ossetians are not will-less appendices of a Russian plan to re-conquer the Caucasus. They had their own concerns – legitimate or not – of living in a unified Georgia and proved to be sublimely successful in activating political institutions and sympathies, both Russian and cross-ethnic ones, for their cause of secession. As a consequence, the Georgian government will have to realise that the key to conflict-resolution is not (only) to be found in Moscow, but also in Sukhum/i and Tskhinval/i. The increasing alienation between Georgians and Abkhazians or Ossetians has to come to an end and encounters of inter-ethnic exchange have to be elaborated. It is in this respect necessary to re-activate projects like the former Ergneti market[31], which indeed constituted a hub for smuggled goods. Yet, one cannot over-emphasise the positive side-effects of bringing different people together and getting them to forget about their different ethnic identities.

I would even argue that Georgia can gain something positive from the Russian recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This unexpected diplomatic thunderstorm cleared the air in two different ways: on the one hand, Russia became undoubtedly a party to this conflict and lost – by crossing this red line of diplomatic recognition – the last remaining levers over Georgia. It cannot any longer use both de facto states as bargaining chips vis-à-vis Tbilisi, which makes Georgia more independent than ever both in domestic as well as foreign political choices. On the other hand, this recognition removed the widespread view among Abkhazians and Ossetians according to which Georgia represents a constant threat to their physical security. Both the recognition by Russia and the deployment of Russian troops in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia make an eventual Georgian military option of ‘resolving’ the conflict totally inconceivable and absurd. Hence, these new underlying conditions should be used in reaching out to both de facto states and creating links between Tbilisi, Sukhum/i and Tskhinval/i.

Most importantly, the de-isolation and internationalisation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be in the best interest of Georgia. The continuation of isolationist policies will only produce the very opposite of what is intended, namely the possibility of full absorption of these de facto states by Russia.

It is clear to any observer that these processes of conflict-transformation will not bring about immediate results and that easy snapshot-solutions are not available. It is also clear that Georgia is in a real dilemma between the necessity to apply these policies and its understandable desire to control them at the same time. Yet, Tbilisi will have to do its utmost to signal to both Abkhazians and Ossetians that Georgia is not an obstacle to their development.


[1] University of Graz is one of the oldest in Austria (founded in 1585) and the second by the number of students and teachers in the country.
Free University of Berlin (Freie Universitat) - the second largest university in the German capital. Was founded in 1948 in the western part of the divided Berlin.

[2] Institute of European Studies in Minsk - a division of the European Humanities University (private non-profit institution, founded in 1992). In 2004, it stopped its work in Minsk. Beginning in 2005, it operates in Lithuania (Vilnius).

German Council on Foreign Affairs ( Deutsche Gesellschaft F x R Auswärtige Politik ) - an independent non-partisan organisation that takes an active part in the development and promotion of foreign policy decisions, as well as German foreign policy in the international arena. It serves as a platform for interaction between active politicians, the non-governmental sector, and academic experts. It was founded in March 1955.

European Academy in Bolzano (Italy) -- founded in 1992. From 2009 it has 3 Missions (Rome, Sarajevo and Pristina).

[3] University of Frankfurt Johann Wolfgang Goethe (Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main) is among the ten largest universities in Germany. It was founded in 1912, and it opened in 1914.

[4] See one of the works of Benedikt Hartzl in English: Nationalism and Politics of the Past: The cases of Kosovo and Abkhazia / / Review of Central and East European Law (2011). # 36 (2), pp. 53-77.

[5] International Court of Justice ( International Court of Justice ) -  one of the six principal organs of the Organisation established by its Charter.

Kosovo's declaration of independence was adopted by Act of Parliament, an unrecognised entity at the time (17 February 2008). The document was adopted unilaterally without agreements with official Belgrade and without compromise with the Serbian side. See the text of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice:

[6] See an example of such a reaction to the advisory opinion of the International Court (view of then-Prime Minister of Abkhazia Sergey Shamba):

[7] Lawyers usually refer to the so-called "Principle of the Lotus". In the judgment of the steamer "Lotus" between France and Turkey (1927), the Permanent Court of International Justice of the League of Nations defined the phrase "principles of international law" as "the meaning of international law, which acts between all independent states". It is believed that, in accordance with this principle, sovereign states can act as they want, as long as they do not contradict a clear prohibition.

[8] The EU Commission on Kosovo was created

[9] Although usually the Agreement on Stabilisation and Association ( SAA, Stabilisation andAssociation Agreement ) is signed between the EU Member States and an individual signatory State, focused on European integration, the agreement will be signed by the EU with Kosovo as a single entity because of non-recognition by Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Romania and Cyprus. Representatives of the European Commission at the same time declare that "the signing of the document does not mean that the EU or any country recognises Kosovo as a state." Cm . more :

[10] Data as of 26 September 2013 (the last recognition of Kosovo for the time being was by Thailand).

[11] See for details the work by Benedikt Hartzl:  Preachers of Hatred and Deformation of History: The Case of Ethno-Mobilization in Kosovo / / Southeastern Europe, 34 (1), 2010, P. 38-54.

[12] For details see: Marko J., Human Rights and ethnopolitics, in Karl Cordell and Stefan Wolff (Eds.): Routledge Handbook of Ethnic Conflict, 2011, pp. 236-248, at p. 241.

[13] For details see: Kaufman S., Modern Hatreds - The symbolic politics of ethnic war, Cornell University Press 2011, p. 103.

[14] On this day, an anti-Soviet and anti-Abkhazian demonstration was harshly suppressed by using a division from the Transcaucasian Military District. The deaths of 19 participants of the meeting (another 200 people were injured) radicalised Georgian leaders and society as a whole.

[15] The fact that only 2% of the non-Georgian population of Abkhazia at that time spoke Georgian explains why the conflict between Tbilisi and Sukhum received additional impetus.

[16] Slobodan Milosevic (1941-2006) - Yugoslav and Serbian statesman. On 1 April 2001, he was arrested and transferred to the International Tribunal for War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia. Milosevic did not recognise the legitimacy of the tribunal. The trial was interrupted by the death of the accused. 

[17] Mariam Davitis-asuli Lordkipanidze (born 22 August 1922) - Soviet and Georgian historian, academician of the Academy of Sciences of Georgia (1993), Doctor of Historical Sciences (1963), Professor. Quote taken from her work "Abkhazians and Abkhazia" (Tbilisi, Ganatelba. 1990. S. 74).

[18] According to the Constitution of the Republic of Abkhazia (Article 49), the president can only be an ethnic Abkhazian. In 1989, the Abkhazians were only about 18% of the total population of the former Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. 

[19] Reference is to the municipal elections of  3 November 2013. According to the Plan, signed in April 2013 between Belgrade and Pristina with the mediation of the European Union, it was assumed that municipal elections would be held in northern Kosovo (Serbian enclaves). However, voter-turnout in the Serb enclaves was only 15%. In the key of the region, Kosovan Mitrovica, it was even less -- 7.09%. After the smashing of the polling station in Serbian Mitrovica, the OSCE, fearing for the health of its employees, withdrew them from several other polling stations and then suspended the vote in this town. On 1 December 2013, a second round of municipal elections is planned in Kosovo, which cannot take place in the Serb enclaves.

[20] Catalonia today is autonomous. The Catalan language is recognised as the official one, and the Catalans as a nationality separate from the Spanish. However, the Catalan movement is one of the most powerful separatist movements in Europe. In 2014, there will be a referendum on the status of Catalonia (the will be a vote on its separation from, or retention within, Spain). 

[21] See interviews with the renowned Belgian political scientist Bruno Coppieters, "There is no Kosovo model for international recognition" (16 March 2008):

[22] Consultations were launched in Geneva on 15 October 2008. As of November 2013, 25 rounds of discussions have been held.

[23] The European Neighbourhood Policy is a course to strengthen the EU's socio-economic, political and cultural contacts with the countries neighbouring the EU. Key-ideas and approaches of this policy were formulated in the report "Wider Europe - Neighbours: a new framework for relations with eastern and southern neighbours of the EU" (2003). The start for the policy was given in 2004 after the latest enlargement on account of the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, and also in 2004 Cyprus and Malta (10 countries in total).

Eastern Partnership is the EU project initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland and Sweden. The project is aimed at rapprochement between the European Union and six post-Soviet countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine). The founding meeting of the programme was held on 7 May 2009 in Prague.

[24] The Law on [the — editor] Occupied Territories of Georgia was signed by President Saakashvili on 31 October 3 2008. In spring 2010, the Georgian government launched a strategy for the reintegration of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

[25] A . Le Coq is a manufacturer of alcoholic and soft drinks in Tartu, Estonia. It is the second largest beer-producer in Estonia. On the case of Georgia and the Estonian company see

[26] The leader Aslan Abashidze did not recognise the legitimacy of the "Rose Revolution" which occurred in Georgia. After receiving reports about the resignation of President Eduard Shevardnadze, Abashidze introduced on the territory of Adjara a state of emergency and launched a campaign to boycott the presidential elections in Georgia, scheduled for January 2004. After the presidential elections, Abashidze again introduced a state of emergency in Adjara and began to exploit the notion of a possible repetition of the Abkhazian scenario. The newly elected President Mikheil Saakashvili issued an ultimatum to Abashidze. However, there was no repetition of the Abkhazian scenario. The visit to Adjara or the then-head of the Russian Security Council, Igor Ivanov, who held talks with Abashidze and persuaded him to renounce violence as a means of resolving conflict with Tbilisi, largely led to a break-through in the situation. On the night of 5 to 6 May 2004, Abashidze left Adjara.

[27] Sergey Bagapsh (1949-2011) was the second president of Abkhazia (2005-2011).

[28] The role played by the diplomat Dmitry Vishernev in organising assistance to Russian citizens over the return of their property in Abkhazia was widely discussed.

[29] Michael N. (Nikolozis-dze) Saakashvili (born in 1967) was the third president of Georgia (2004-2013).

[30] Zakareishvili (b. 1958) became Georgia's Minister for Reintegration in October 2012. He is one of the leaders of the Republican Party, a political scientist and public figure.

[31] The Ergneti market allowed the establishment of trade-relations between Georgia and South Ossetia after the first armed conflict of 1991-1992. As rightly noted Thomas de Waal of the Carnegie Endowment, low prices at the Ergneti market allowed "poor people to make ends meet". The market was closed by the Georgian authorities in 2004 under the pretext of combating smuggling and illegal business. But in the end, this not only caused the loss of thousands of jobs among both Georgians and Ossetians and the erection of new barriers between them, but it also became one of the elements in the newly stoked ethno-political conflict which broke out in the summer of 2004.




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