Abkhazia speaks out on Georgia’s candidate status

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This article was originally published on the Ekho Kavkaza website. The text and terminology of the article have been transferred without changes. All rights belong to Ekho Kavkaza. Date of publication: December 14, 2023.

Author: Vitaly Shariya

Looking at today’s celebration in Tbilisi, Abkhazian society is thinking about the question of how the decision of the EU summit may affect Abkhazia.

As is known in Abkhazian society from the media, today in Georgia there is a celebration of the decision made in Brussels last night to accept Georgia as a candidate for membership in the European Union. Georgian society widely regards it as an historic victory.

How did Abkhazia feel about this event? This topic has not been actively discussed yet, but Ekho Kavkaza asked the opinion of two of its regular Abkhazian expert interlocutors. We should note that Georgia has long proclaimed a course of joining NATO and the European Union.

But the first organization is a military one, and here Abkhazia would be categorically against it.According to the NATO charter, a country that has unresolved territorial problems cannot be admitted to the North Atlantic Alliance. The European Union is an economic organization, and there should be no such rejection. Although a candidate for the EU has certain economic advantages, its admission to this international association may be delayed for a long time for various reasons.

The most famous example is Turkey, which was accepted as an EU candidate decades ago. As for the possible impact of these prospects on Abkhazia in the current realities, we should first of all take into account the black market along the Ingur River, which successive presidents of Abkhazia have intended to legalize.

When we contacted Akhra Aristava, a researcher at the Institute of Economics and Law of ANA, he saw in these prospects positive consequences for the Republic of Abkhazia:

 Akhra Aristava

“It is hard to say yet how it will all work out. But I think it is good for Abkhazia to border two such associations as the Customs Union and the European Union. Everywhere has its own standards, and in the economy, of course. And the fact that we need to meet these standards will stimulate our entrepreneurs to raise the level of economic activity. We already have, for example, Sukhumi Brewery.

It has undergone modernization so that its products could go to the Russian market. I think it will be the same in the future if Georgia is admitted to the European Union. You have correctly noted that this is only the first stage. Some countries have been waiting for 20 or 15 years and still they are not accepted. In any case, I think that Georgia, Georgian authorities are striving for this, and there are standards there, of course, to which they will have to adjust. Those who are neighbors… And it turns out that we will be neighbors of the European Union, and this is good for the Republic of Abkhazia. I do not see any problems regarding the economic union in the future.”

Another of our interlocutors is also an economist by education and in his time worked for many years as chairman of the State Customs Committee of the republic. This is the Hero of Abkhazia Aslan Kobakhia, and he has a different view of the situation:

Aslan Kobakhia

“Until Georgians find a common language with Abkhazians… and it is easy to find a common language here, if they turn on their brains… they will not see any EU. Either Abkhazia must voluntarily join Georgia, and this will never happen, or Georgia must recognize the independence of Abkhazia. They will be eternal candidates until they find common language with the Abkhazian state. So my vision is like this.

As for trade on the Ingur River, until there are normal interstate relations between Georgia and Abkhazia, all this is smuggling. And no one will earn anything in favor of the state until the state machine works on both sides.

– But we do not know whether the EU has the same rule as NATO regarding territorial disputes. The EU has not presented anything here so far. And if we assume that they will be accepted …

– It won’t happen, they don’t have such a practice. Well, name at least one state that is in the EU with the same problems….

– Moldova is also a candidate…

– So what?  They will be eternal candidates.

Observers, however, cite the example of the Republic of Cyprus, which has long been a member of the EU, but still does not agree with the separate existence of Northern Cyprus. One way or another, time will tell.”

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