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Semneby: EU continues non-recognition policy

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, January 31
The European Union continues its non-recognition policy towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia, EU’s Special Representative for South Caucasus, Peter Semneby said on January 27 at the meeting with the de facto Abkhazian Prime Minister, Sergey Shamba in Sukhumi. “For practical engagement of Abkhazia [with the EU] it is necessary to create relevant conditions and structures,” information agency Apsnypress quoted Semneby as saying.

The de facto Abkhazian Prime Minister, however reiterated the position of Sukhumi, that “Abkhazia is ready to cooperate with the EU, but not via Georgia.” Shamba told Semneby that “except the statements of the European structures about the occupied territories, nothing specific has been said so far.” He said Abkhazia needs assistance in a number of fields, including the spheres of healthcare, education, environment protection and so on. “We need assistance in preparing staff, creating modern medical centers equipped with modern technique, solving problems related with HIV and drugs abuse. We have raised these and other humanitarian issues at the meetings with the representatives of the EU several times,” Shamba noted.

Earlier on January 17 the unwillingness of de facto Sukhumi officials to cooperate with the EU “via Georgia” was expressed by the de facto Foreign Minister of Abkhazia, Maxim Ghvinjia. He said “Sukhumi is skeptical about the formula chosen by the EU.” “We are ready to engage with the European Union, if this cooperation will not be imposed on us via Georgia. We will not contact with the EU via Georgia,” the de facto official said. He expressed hope that “in the future the Europe will be ready to conduct real, civilized dialogue with Abkhazia and the West will sometime change its relation towards the issue of recognition of Abkhazia,” he noted, adding that currently Europe is not ready to cooperate with Abkhazia properly. “However this cannot last forever, it is impossible to ignore the reality for so long,” Ghvinjia noted “non-recognition of Abkhazia by the West and the European Union is their own problem, not ours,” he added.

In addition to the issue of “engagement through non-recognition”, the sides discussed the issue of returning IDPs to Kodori Gorge (Upper Abkhazia). Semneby expressed his concern that the people who fled Kodori Gorge during the Russia-Georgian conflict in August 2008, still have not returned to their homes, Apsnypress reported. “The conditions should be created to return people there,” Semneby said, adding that in two-three years time the houses in Kodori Gorge might be “too damaged to live in.” De facto Abkhazian Prime Minister said that the return of the IDPs and the humanitarian projects are “two different issues which are not related with each other.” “The problem of IDPs is our internal problem. Our state policy is aimed at adapting people who have already returned to Abkhazia and who want to live here and to obey our laws,” Apsnypress information agency quoting him as saying.

The EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus met the Georgian Parliament Speaker Davit Bakradze on January 28. Semneby told journalists after the meeting that the sides talked about preparations for the future Parliamentary Elections and the work on Election Code and the Russian-Georgian relations. “These issues are very important. At the same time I told the Parliament Speaker about my visit to Sukhumi and how we can work on humanitarian issues, sincluding the healthcare field,” Semneby said.