As of early 2019, policy-makers looking for pragmatic and forward-thinking approaches to meaningful engagement with de facto states in the EU's neighbourhood should keep as their point of reference Thomas de Waal's recently published book “Uncertain Ground: Engaging With Europe’s De Facto States and Breakaway Territories”.
In Georgia, the appointment of new President, Salomé Zourabichvili, in December 2018 is unlikely to bring any substantial changes to the unresolved conflicts in the two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This is despite her personal diplomatic experience and the foreign policy competences vested in the Georgian president (primarily, commander-in-chief of the armed forces and a power of representation on the international stage).
Ten years have passed since the end of the 2008 Russian-Georgian war. This five-day conflict (August 7 - August 12) is considered the first European war of the 21st century. The war did not alter the general regional equilibrium but strengthened the balance between the Southern Caucasian republics and extra-regional players (especially the US). However, the crisis militarised relations in the region and allowed the US to take the “Russian seat” in Georgia.
Since the early 2000s, the long-term strategic goal of the European Union in the eastern part of the continent has been to establish an area of stability and security, based on multilateral cooperation and integration, via the EU’s declared intent of serving as an example and a pole of attraction for its eastern partners. The Georgian war of 2008 appeared at the time as the single most significant threat from an external actor to the attainment of this strategic goal.
NATO’s strategy towards Georgia after the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict has been following two key objectives: to intensify relations with Georgia to keep the country on the reform track but to prevent it from joining the alliance in order not to irritate Russia. These somewhat contradictory goals are perhaps the result of complex bargaining between supporters and opponents of NATO’s further enlargement, and hardliners and soft-liners in terms of the alliance’s Russia policy.
The year 2018 marks the 10th anniversary of the so-called “five-day war” or "August war", namely the conflict between Georgia, Russia and the Russian-backed, self-proclaimed republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
European integration remains the top priority for the Georgian government and society at large. The integration process involves many sectors, from good governance and human rights to security, environment, and the economy.
The 2008 August war with Russia, which provoked hundreds of casualties and a huge flow of displaced people, also had some unexpected consequences for the quality of democracy in Georgia. The president at that time was Mikhail Saakashvili who, on the wave of the 2003 “Rose Revolution”, promised to lead the country toward a modern and democratic future.
The Caucasus has been defined as a “broken region” by both practitioners and scholars. Although the regional “protracted” conflicts clearly represent a stumbling block to the development of inclusive cooperation schemes, nevertheless the “broken region” interpretation seems to hide a Western prejudice – i.e. a tendency to label as inefficient or ruinous any political relations regulated by values and interests different from the Western ones.