The dynamics of the global political processes (Europe, Eurasia and the South-East Asia) is accelerating. New time brings new responsibilities, obligations and conditions of peaceful coexistence of the states. Needles to say that historical velocity is growing dramatically every year. The world has changed since the end of the World War the II and many positions became less visible. Cooperation through contradiction became new reality of the modern system of the international relations. Such realism in the international politics is a recognized tool for the policy of double standards. Idealism is confronted by practicality and benefits. Moreover, all countries which are in transitional democracy, and particularly Abkhazia, need to accept such realism and establish relations with the International Community based on the mutual benefits. Such benefits have to be achieved only through regional and inclusive approaches otherwise this process may result in miscalculation of perspectives and strategies for the future.


In the light of the global democratic movement some former communist newly independent countries just declared democracy to become a full member of the International Community. Despite massive human rights violations and unbelievable increase of corruption worsened by the growth of the organized crime these countries were intensively supported and such quasi-states based on the geopolitical interests and political realism had appeared. Unfortunately these newly democracies while proving their adherence to democracy reflect their weakness to effectively implement the latter on their regional neighbors or former friends from the soviet block.


Today’s World is transforming towards a new system of international relations based on the regional cooperation and development of the common frameworks and measures to enhance security, stability and economic growth. Without such cooperation modern countries can hardly correspond to standards of the globalization and challenges. Indeed one can hardly name a single country which may absolutely decline reality of the present day and confront the notion that future world’s growth is in unity and integration of markets and economies. Sovereignty as it stands for itself does no longer correspond to its notion. Cooperation and interdependence based on respect of commonly developed and mutually respected standards is the long-term perspective for global and regional relations.


Europe is still in transition. Countries of the former Soviet Block are still in transition too though the prospects for all are quite encouraging – they are all democratic. Some succeed some are still on the way. Many are confronting each other trying to detach themselves from the past and communist heritage. Unfortunately for most of them communist heritage is still deeply rooted in their public and social administration systems.


Like everywhere in the former USSR transitional period for Abkhazia was ignited with the collapse of Soviet Union. Unfortunately this positive process of transition was aggravated by severe war with Georgia. Even more Abkhazia faced strict blockade and embargo, non-recognition and destroyed economy and inherited soviet type infrastructures. It is extremely hard to continue transition and succeed on the way towards democratic reforms and even to address the needs and requirements of present international political and economic standards being limited by economic, political and partly information sanctions. Stagnation within transitional period had isolated the country and society resulting in inadequate perception of the international economic processes going around Abkhazia. One of the factors affecting objective long-term comprehension of the global processes is the isolation of Abkhazia from the processes in Europe and The West which lasted for about 100 years. Unambiguous support of the West to Georgia also forms Abkhazia’s negative attitude towards the processes of Europesation and democratization. Isolation and military threat from Georgia on the one hand and the expansion of Europe on the other hand makes some scholars to believe that in such circumstances Abkhazia should rather be a buffer state. A state, a divide between expanding NATO and defending Russia. Such buffer strategy for Abkhazia is very fragile and old style structure which may bring a country into a more isolation from the global processes especially Black Sea cooperation. Buffer states exist until the superpowers need to be divided. Buffer states can not effectively implement independent long-term policy since the geopolitics is wide diverse and flexible. Former enemies may find themselves in another realities. Cooperation and development of the regional networks does not foreseen the existence of the buffer states. Buffer state never corresponds to a long-term and stable development and completely depends on relations between superpowers.


Would be more than impractical to be a Black Sea countries and exclude each other from common trade space. Some people believe that globalization and the European Union expansion is a subjective process which Abkhazia may influence accept or decline. Whatever the attitude towards the Europe is the Europe is here. It is almost a year since common border emerged between Abkhazia and the European Union after Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU. It is time for the European Union and Abkhazia to recognize that both are regional neighbors. Abkhazia is on the direct European periphery which is not only a geographic notion but a set of new roles and responsibilities that Abkhazia is bound to implement in order to gain profits and to be an effective regional actor.


Abkhazia is gradually getting absorbed into the zone of direct European interests through the enlargement of the European Union and external European borders (European Periphery). In this situation European interests in Abkhazia are becoming more shaped and detailed creating more space to quest for compromises for EU, Russia, Georgia and Abkhazia in particular.


Currently the EU has no clearly articulated policy towards the de-facto countries. However issues of security and stability of the European external borders put Europe in a condition when exclusion of de-facto states from EU regional policy undermines stability in Europe. By not recognizing Abkhazia Europe can not transfer Abkhazia from this geographic point or isolate from it. Abkhazia’s message to Europe is to be a reliable neighbor to all countries of the region especially Europe and Russia which is on its track towards winter Olympics 2014. While analyzing common interests it becomes obvious that basic interests of the regional actors like EU, Russia and Abkhazia are quite similar.


Idealistically speaking, Black Sea actors implementing regional policy based on the understanding of the present reality and each others interests would bring a compromise not only in the conflicts in the Caucasus as well as stability related issues of the Russian South, European maritime borders and the European Wider Neighborhood Policy.


One of the common priority for all regional actors is: stability and security on the wider borders and economic growth what corresponds to the interest of all actors involved in the Black Sea and Caucasus regional policy. Unfortunately there are still some political forces in countries like Georgia which are interested in destabilizing situation in the region thus trying to resolve its internal problems or gain political scores.


Black Sea integration strategy is an ideal platform for respect of each others interests. The Black Sea dimension is a tool through which we can achieve peace and stability. Abkhaz position is independence from Georgia. Through this position the basic Abkhaz nation’s interest of self-preservation and determination is safeguarded. The other vital issue for Abkhazia is internationally recognized and granted right of repatriation of Abkhaz people back to motherland. Abkhazia is not a unique country protecting its statehood by prioritizing the issue of Diaspora’s repatriation like Israel, Greece or Germany. Current EU’s position in Georgian-Abkhaz conflict is – territorial integrity of Georgia. Studying this position through the prism of the European interests it is easy to see simple desire of the European Union to have less small different independent neighbors with fragile economy and unstable political system affected by random colored revolutions on the EU’s periphery. Even at the time of globalization geography means a lot. The Europe’s interest is that the EU neighboring countries would be well governed. Neighbors involved in intensive conflict are weak and spreading organized crime and trafficking which is a problem for Europe. In given context Georgia is such a neighbor and all sufficient financial and political investments of the European Union into Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are the reason of the Europe’s intention to surround itself with security and stability as well as implement definite standards of wider neighborhood. Besides pan European values one of the main elements of the Euro-neighborhood in the South Caucasus is strengthening strategic partnership in the fields of energy. EU is a biggest gas and oil importer and second energy consumer in the world. EU is bordering the main exporters of energy like Russia, Caspian Basin, Middle East and North Africa. EU’s dependency on energy import had increased up to 80% during decade. Countries the neighbors are playing vital role in safeguarding secure energy supplies. South Caucasus plays important role as it is an energy linking route from Caspian Basin and Central Asia to Europe. Besides greater democratic and human rights dimensions the energy approach describes Europe’s precise interest in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.


Considering some flexibility of European approaches to conflict resolution there is a space for more productive mediation and facilitation of the peace initiatives and negotiations. Regretfully the European Union attitude towards Abkhazia is based on the Georgian perspective, saying that Georgia fails to be a stable EU neighbor because it is territorially disintegrated. Georgian potential to lobby its interests in American and European political establishments is greater than Abkhaz what picture the Abkhazia as basic factor undermining regional stability.


At the same time Georgia in the frames of the “European wider neighborhood policy development program” (such program is implemented by Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia and all Mediterranean countries except Turkey Turkey is EU candidate) is also a probable candidate for the EU membership. While accepting Georgia EU will not build its approach only on political aspects within NATO expansion or Caspian Oil transit through the South Caucasus or territorial integrity of Georgia. Expressing common position towards Abkhazia, the EU and Georgia are driven by different interests. Though Georgia’s membership in the European Union may become reality in the next 15 years European Union is dealing with more concrete tasks in the field of security on its external borders.


Secured borders, stable periphery and predictable neighbors (judicial system and independent courts, economic stability and developed civil society and human rights protection), corresponding to the European standards are serving for direct European interests.


When the European Union will see that the recognition of Abkhazia will serve for stability in the region and will not threaten neighbors then EU’s position concerning the territorial integrity of Georgia will become more flexible (the Kosovo case). Indeed independent Abkhazia corresponds to the European interests rather then Abkhazia incorporated into unstable militarized Georgia with its discriminative approach to minorities. It is obvious that return of Abkhazia into Georgia could be achieved only through long lasting military operation which will turn the region into a much longer economic stagnation. Such prospective are unacceptable for any EU politicians even those who desperately believes in the peaceful ambitions of Georgia towards conflicts in Abkhazia and South Osetia.


Like the North Cyprus Abkhazia is a direct neighbor for Europe. Considering that EU lacks tools of cooperation with de-facto states we can believe that approaches that rendered by EU to the North Cyprus could be applicable to Abkhazia. Realistically speaking this could be most probable scenario for Abkhazia and EU relations in the next decade. Opening Black Sea ports for Abkhazia and development of the trade links between all neighbors would be more than desirable for Abkhazia.


However this process is not a unilateral. To achieve these goals Abkhazia needs to accept concrete strategy concerning the European Wider Neighborhood policy. All Black Sea countries are implementing the ENP as well as Russia. By the way Russia is the main EU partner and direct neighboring country. Russia and EU are developing cooperation and strategic partnership in four common spheres: economy, security, education and culture. Russian EU dialog on energy issues is dominant in these relations.


What Abkhazia may propose to Europe? By not accepting the ENP strategy Abkhazia exclude itself from prospective economic cooperation in the region. On the other hand considering unique geographic and political position Abkhazia may become vital economic link in the Black Sea. By accepting common trade economic and custom standards Abkhazia at unbind and unlimited by the EU obligations in financial policy could become a unique free economic zone on the EU periphery. There are countries which don’t have such convenient transport communications to gain direct access to the European markets while Abkhazia is possessing all benefits of such neighborhood. The project to implement the Southeast Asian economy boost in Abkhazia is on the way and may create new economic and financial center in the Black Sea. Other countries can hardly implement such strategy since Bulgaria and Romania are EU, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are probable candidates and dependants of the conditions and obligations within Euro-Atlantic memberships. Turkey and Russia are developing independent economy systems and approaches.


To brake through the blockade and embargo we need to develop and initiate all means of cooperation between Abkhazia and EU in the frames of common standards and better governance. We have to give our partners a chance to trade with us legally. Considering aspiration of Turkey towards the European Union Turkey may cut its small scale economic ties with Abkhazia if EU asks to do so. If Abkhazia does not meet the requirements of neighborhood it will be affected by even more strict isolation and blockade. Cruisers with hundreds of thousands of tourists showing up on the lonely horizon will never enter sea ports of Abkhazia and the number of tourists entering through the Russian-Abkhaz border will increase up to millions per season jamming people in long lines under the hot sun. External window for Abkhazia will be of the size of the border. This will affect the return of repatriates from Turkey to Abkhazia.


Though Abkhazia has the potential to respond to such challenges there is mistaken perception that global processes such as the European Union expansion and the global worming is something happening very far away and not affecting Abkhazia.


Besides its aspiration to join the Black Sea economic cooperation Abkhazia in its turn may serve as regional integration link. More intensive economic integration with our brother nations of the North Caucasus will preserve stability and serve for the development of the favorable economic climate and restoration of communications between North and South Caucasus. Regional networks should no longer be isolated. The project of restoring the road to Kabardino-Balkaria over the Caucasus range could bring revive more intensive trade communication in the region which serves to interests of all countries. The railroad between Russia and Armenia going through Abkhazia and Georgia as well as many other network transnational projects will bring more economy and stability to the Caucasus. However both of the aforementioned projects are halted by Georgia’s intention to destabilize any of the trade link which may bring incomes to other neighbors.


Abkhazia’s growth in the frames of the European standards will serve to the interests of all neighbors and will improve political image of Abkhazia. What Abkhazia may give to Europe? It is not a rhetoric question. Independent Abkhazia is a regional stability factor a link in the revival of the infrastructure in the Caucasus. And for sure Abkhazia has no other option but to be equal regional actor corresponding to the European Standards in the sake of peaceful and free Caucasus.


Abkhazia has to undertake a number of constructive steps. To make a preliminary comparative analyses of the social and economic aspects of life in Abkhazia which directly relate to implementation of the ENP. Article 49 of the European Treaty reads that any European state may apply for the European membership after candidate meets the criteria. Concerning the Abkhazia’s ambition on EU, the latter should receive clear message that Abkhazia is not aspiring for membership it is rather going to build its relations with Europe based on the ENP.


Privileged relations with neighbors are founded on adherence to common values in the spheres of legal affairs, good governance, human rights protection and stable developing market economy. Relations between EU an neighbors will depend on how common these values will be.


None can blame Abkhazia for its aspirations for better standards and economic stability and indeed such processes will be supported by the International Community. EU will not provide official action plan for Abkhazia however EU may give access to its institutions, experience and practices in order to support the European reforms in de-facto countries like Abkhazia and North Cyprus.


In its effort to establish favorable social-economic climate in line with the ENP, Abkhazia’s choice is to break through – “the Abkhaz Miracle” – example for all other post crisis countries. This will be a rational reason for the International Community to recognize Abkhazia’s statehood.


Sukhum - Abkhazia, October 30-31, 2007

Maxim Gunjia


Vice-Foreign Minister of the Republic of Abkhazia