Opinion: Abkhaz authorities are dangerously inert
Will Georgian-Abkhaz relations change?
The editor of JAMnews in Sukhum(i), Inal Khashig, discusses whether the Abkhaz authorities can take advantage of the global crisis to resume economic relations with Tbilisi?
One of the chronic problems of any Abkhaz government is the fear of making sudden movements. But now circumstances require a very active position, including in the Georgian-Abkhaz negotiation process.
I recently found out that the authorities of South Ossetia are going to arrange the transit of cargo through their territory. That is, the republic, whose political elite considers the country’s independence as a transitional stage to joining Russia, is thinking about how to revive its own economy a little in this difficult time.
At the same time, Tskhinval did not have to sweat at all. Annual subsidies come regularly from the Russian budget, and this money is enough for a quite tolerable existence.
When the window of opportunity opens, Russia will accept the republic into its territory with all the socio-economic benefits that will follow.
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But in South Ossetia they made a different decision. If there is an opportunity to earn money on your own, then why not do it? A very applaudable decision indeed.
Abkhazia’s budget is also dependent on Russian financial assistance. Of course, not to the same extent as in the case of South Ossetia, but, nevertheless, the figures are very solid – more than 50% of direct or indirect budget revenues come from transfers from Moscow.
However, there is one fundamental difference from South Ossetia – despite such a significant economic dependence on Moscow, Abkhazia is not going to be part of the Russian Federation. A consensus has long been formed in the Abkhazian society – the course towards building an independent state is unshakable and is not subject to revision.
But the elites succeeding each other in power could not, or perhaps did not want (sometimes it is more satisfying) to back independence with an economic component.
It was in the nineties, when Abkhazia was in complete isolation, including from Russia and the government was looking for all sorts of options to somehow implement some kind of economic project.
Later, when the geopolitical situation changed, and Russia turned from an enemy into the main ally and guarantor of Abkhazian security, the government’s functionality changed a lot.
All the former creative approach to work that the Abkhaz government had, was soon reduced to one function – the development of Russian assistance.
However, the entire struggle of the elites with the endless assaults on the presidential palace and the early change of power stems from this acquired work skill.
Now that Russia, the main contributor to Abkhazia’s economic well-being, has been heaped on all sides with a thick layer of all sorts of sanctions, financial flows from Moscow will most likely be significantly reduced.
And this means that it is time for the government of Abkhazia to stop with the inert style of behavior.
In Tskhinval, it seems, they have already understood this, but in Sukhum, they have not yet been able to readapt to the new realities.
Meanwhile, the global crisis caused by the war in Ukraine presents some new opportunities. For Abkhazia, as well as for Georgia, the current situation provides a chance to reset relations and give a new impetus to the negotiation process.
Today, establishing economic, humanitarian and communication cooperation is quite realistic.
Even last year, this was impossible to imagine, but now, when the collective West and Russia are dangerously, obscenely, grappling with each other, breaking the entire structure of the world order that has been created for decades, the old rules cease to operate, and new ones have not yet been created.
In order not to be drawn into this battle of giants, the states of the South Caucasus urgently need to change their established approaches to existing conflicts.
There is already some progress in this direction. Armenia and Azerbaijan are close to signing a peace treaty, which also implies the opening of communications.
In turn, Georgia, the main ally of the West in the region, refused to support anti-Russian sanctions and open a “second front” in Abkhazia and South Ossetia at the request of Kyiv.
Moreover, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, commenting on the refusal to support sanctions, said that this instrument of pressure has never brought the expected results.
Under the new conditions, South Ossetia is also looking for opportunities for development, trying to establish transit of goods from Georgia to Russia through its territory.
Everyone is trying to do something in the current circumstances. Only Sukhum keeps silent, as if Abkhazia is territorially located somewhere in Oceania, and not in the Black Sea basin.
Such inertia of behavior is counterproductive. It’s time to take a more active creative position. Otherwise, the small window of opportunity may close.
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