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Analysis, book reviews and photography from Abkhazia and the wider Caucasus — updates when time permits

Tuvalu re-establishes diplomatic ties with Georgia following EU pressure

On 31 March Georgia and Tuvalu re-established diplomatic relations. Georgia had previously broken off diplomatic relations on 16 February 2012, after Tuvalu had recognised the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The signed document reportedly includes a statement that Tuvalu considers Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be part of Georgia. This is a political victory for Georgia — even if it is dubious whether recognition can legally be withdrawn and even though Abkhazia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Irakli Khintba reported that as of 31 March, Tuvalu had not formally broken off diplomatic relations with Abkhazia. It would not be so significant had Abkhazia and South Ossetia managed to obtain further recognitions in the meantime, but they haven’t, so it is.

But this decision is also significant for another reason. In an interview with Radio New Zealand International, Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Taukelina Finikaso explained the recent about-face by stating that he hoped that financial assistance from the European Union would now increase, after having slumped following Tuvalu’s original recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This demonstrates the hypocrisy behind complaints that recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was ‘bought’ by Russia through financial assistance. One should not have doubted that western countries are not above such tactics, but it is nonetheless instructive to receive explicit confirmation.

Filed under: Abkhazia, European Union, Georgia, South Ossetia, The Great Recognition Game, Tuvalu

Some thoughts on the Ukrainian crisis

For what it’s worth:

  • There can be no doubt that Viktor Yanukovich and his government are autocratic and corrupt, and that the opposition has faced harassment and worse. Simultaneously, Yulia Timoshenko in particular has been unduly martyrised by some. Her trial was politically motivated, but that does not in itself mean that she is innocent accross the board. She should receive proper medical care and a fair retrial, but not immunity from all future prosecution.
  • Ukraine is a deeply divided country. Despite the enormity of the protests, it cannot be taken as a given that the opposition enjoys the support of a majority of Ukrainians. Therefore, the most desirable outcome is not a change of government per se, but good elections and a political system that is not winner-take-all.
  • Strangely, as popular uprisings go, the protesters do not have an overly strong case. Occupying and damaging government buildings (indeed entire city centres) has a revolutionary quality to it, which can be acceptable as a protective measure when the government is itself acting illegally, for example in the case of election fraud or police violence (like on 30 November). But failure to sign an international agreement, however symbolic, does not legitimise revolution. At the same time, the protests are hugely important for planting the seeds of structural reform.
  • Given the economic choice Russia presented him with, Yanukovich’s decision not to initial the association agreement with the European Union may have been rational. The European Union must itself avoid presenting the issue as a choice between being a European country and being with Russia. Ukraine is European even if it never associates itself with the EU. If it wants to associate Ukraine, the ultimate goal for the EU should be to sign (the equivalent of) an association agreement with Russia itself.

All open to correction by anyone better informed.

Filed under: European Union, Russia, Ukraine, ,

For twenty years now the West has shirked its responsibility in Abkhazia

I have written a commentary for AbkhazWorld.com on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the end of the 1992–1993 war between Georgia and Abkhazia.

It can be read here.

Filed under: Abkhazia, Chechnya, European Union, Georgia, Human Rights, Kosovo, United States of America, , , ,

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