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Trade at Enguri – the road to reintegration?

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, January 26
According to the Georgian media, shopping malls will open in villages adjacent to the Enguri Hydro Power station in 2011. The state Minister for reintegration has already issued several licenses for this. Of course these shops will open on Georgian controlled territory and it remains unknown whether the separatist side will participate in the project. Cooperation between the remaining population (following the Russian occupation) on the different sides of the administrative border is envisaged in the Georgian strategy for the occupied territories. The project and consequent cooperation has been approved and welcomed by the Georgian population as well as the international community. This type of cooperation existed before the Saakashvili regime destroyed it in Ergneti, Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia). It was established using odd rules but it was where the conflicting Ossetian and Georgian ethnic populations settled their commercial needs. Analyst Mamuka Areshidze reported that according to unofficial figures Ergneti market employed around 35 000 people from both sides. Of course the place was known for contraband but from a political point of view it was the place where opposing sides came together. Some analysts think that state should have regulated this market rather than destroyed it in 2004.

The state labeled Ergneti market as place for Russian subversive actions against the Georgian economy, while NGOs working on conflict issues mostly saw this place as a place for cooperation. This time it looks like the Georgian authorities realise the necessity for maintaining at least some links with the population near the administrative border. It is difficult to predict now what kind of developments there will be. Some analysts think that there are grounds for optimism that the economy could settle some other problems and people will come if prices are affordable and such spots will become places for people to gather, exchange views and socialise.

Analyst Paata Zakareishvili is sceptical. He thinks that steps are not at all bad but will yield no results. As an example he brings up Ergneti market again. Georgia destroyed the Ergneti market and this artificially created one will yield nothing because it is not genuine; it is simply targeted for PR and propaganda.

The Georgian government is very determined to establish such a mode of cooperation. Its goal is to really help the population of separatist and Russian controlled territories with affordable, good quality products and to further promote the reintegration process. Of course the separatist Russian marionette regime will definitely oppose the possibilities. However smuggling exists right now and it will continue further if the conditions offered by Georgia are beneficial. So once again let’s wait and see.