Presentation Summary | Georgian-Abkhaz ‘Dialogue through Research’

On March, 30 2011 Archil Gegeshidze and Ivlian Haindrava presented findings on the politics of non-recognition as well as results from a forthcoming study on the de-isolation of Abkhazia. Abkhaz and Georgian researchers compiled their findings after conducting interviews and focus groups analyzing the perceptions of each side. The results revealed some interestingly ambivalent attitudes amongst respondents: Abkhazians expressed reluctant feelings towards the West through a rejection of democratic values. At the same time, there was a fear of being absorbed by Russia. 

Both scholars concluded that the current Georgian ‘Law on the Occupied Territories’ is a counterproductive policy approach towards the breakaway regions – even in light of Georgian national interests. The current situation carries a danger of further alienation that might cross the threshold of non-reconciliation. Georgia, however, faces a serious trade-off in tailoring its strategy adequately; while the necessity to engage with Abkhazia eventually is acknowledged, engagement would somewhat dilute the ultimate goal of reintegration. Hence, both scholars emphasized the mediating role of the European Union. The EU, while being engaged in the process, follows no clear strategy yet. In contrast, the US has a strategy but refrains from engagement. Such sluggish policies by the West are further alienating Abkhazia and leave the breakaway province with no alternative to closer cooperation with Russia. The possibility of rapprochement is thereby increasingly jeopardized.

Conflict mitigation is the path to take instead of conflict resolution. This means providing the conditions for the de-isolation of Abkhazia and stimulating political debate in the breakaway province. Working successfully with Abkhazia could provide an opportunity for the EU to exemplify its protection of minorities. However, for now Abkhazia is left with few options other than further cooperating with Russia all while fearing its loss of sovereignty, self-preservation and distinctiveness.