Georgia’s fast development might become a clue to civil reconciliation
By Vladimer Napetvaridze
Friday, September 22Experts say Georgia will need strong international support on this path
The issue of the occupied territories has a vital importance for Georgia, therefore, all statements made by international experts concerning this topic are given great significance in the Georgian society.
This September, Kurt Volker the U.S. State Department Special Representative to Ukraine stated that the level of the economic and political development of Georgia has a big role in the process of reintegration.
“The more Georgia is successful, the more those territories will look for ways to reintegrate. You have to play a long game here. You need to be successful as a country. You have to implement all the reforms, have the best economic system, best universities, airports, best healthcare system. And you will be a pole of attraction to people who live in South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” Volker stressed.
There are a number of problems that need to be addressed in Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian- South Ossetian relations, one of them, is mistrust. However, the biggest problem that prevents Georgia's territorial integrity and the possibility to restore trust among people is Russia's aggressive foreign policy. Since 2008, international organizations have officially announced that Russia is an occupant of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Thus, the issue of conflict resolution has two main aspects: first, civil reconciliation and second, prevention of the Russian aggressive foreign policy.
The recent statements of Volker and Senior Adjunct Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis Donald Jensen, who spoke with the Voice of America in the beginning of month, make it clear that one of the solutions to conflict settlement might be to ensure a fast development of Georgia. However, it is also evident that no matter how attractive Georgia might become to the populations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, further breakthroughs to reintegration will not be possible without the robust support of international community.
In the interview, Jensen noted that the Georgia’s creeping occupation is really an issue between the U.S., NATO – the West, and Russia. According to him, Georgia cannot be effective on this ground alone and international partners must have enough pressure on Russia to "curb" its ambitions.
If we discuss the state policy towards the two above-mentioned aspects, we will get a general picture of how the process of reintegration of the occupied territories goes on. The cooperation between de facto Abkhazia and South Ossetia with the rest of Georgia has already begun in a number of directions and it is becoming more and more intense.
• In May 2014, the International Center for Education under the supervision of the Prime Minister of Georgia was opened, which aims to give students including Abkhazians and Ossetians, the opportunity to study master’s and doctoral programmes in the leading Western universities;
• From 2015 to 2017, Georgia financed the study of 187 students from the occupied territories including Kodori Valley and the Gali District.
• In 2013-2016, Georgia spent more than 14 million GEL to provide health care services for the population living in the occupied regions of the country. In 2014 - 450 Abkhaz used this service, in 2015 – 875 persons from the region, and in 2016 – 1316 patients from Abkhazia received treatment in Georgia.
• Hepatitis C elimination program is available for the residents of the occupied territories and rest of Georgia;
• In order to simplify the health care service delivery for the population in Abkhazia, near the occupation line, in the village Rukhi, the 220-seat multifunctional, hospital construction has been completed this month. The project is financed from the state budget and its value is 41 264 000 GEL;
• To protect children's health, Abkhazia was also given the ultrasound examination equipment;
• Medicines and vaccines worth more than 500 000 GEL are supplied regularly. The occupied region is also provided with the medical equipment, emergency vehicles, and various medical supplies.
These projects support civil reconciliation, however, many do not have information on services that Georgia offers to residents of breakaway regions. Some residents who have received certain services in other parts of Georgia have to hide the information being afraid of reprimand or other expressions of discontent.
Talking to the Voice of America on September 5, Jensen highlighted that without the support of international allies to Georgia, Russia will always be there to prevent the reconciliation process.
Today, there is no doubt this process is slowed down as Georgia does not have an opportunity to talk directly to its breakaway regions under the observation of the international community, which respects Georgia’s territorial integrity, and monitors the adherence to international law and human rights.