Kosovo's Independence Boosts Copycat Seperatists in Georgia     Print Email

Separatist ambitions in the Caucasus region have received their first tangible boost from the example of Kosovo’s independence. The breakaway Abkhazia region in Georgia appealed to international bodies for recognition of its independence in messages sent March 7, the day after Russia announced that it was lifting its trade restrictions on the territory.

The move came two days after a similar move by South Ossetia, another region of Georgia that is in revolt against the central government in Tbilisi. In their appeal, the political leaders of South Ossetia, also heavily pro-Russian, said that “the Kosovo precedent presents a convincing argument” for recognition of the province’s independent because – as with Kosovo in Serbia – “co-existence” had become demonstrably impossible with Georgia. The friction between Georgia and Russia is aggravated, too, by the former’s efforts to join the NATO alliance.

Little practical result can be expected from these two legal appeals, but they can stoke the separatist drives and tensions in Georgia (and elsewhere in the fractious region). The appeals were addressed to the United Nations and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, and neither contained any explicit reference to Kosovo, which proclaimed its independence from Serbia last month. The controversial step was supported by the West and contested by Russia.

Russia’s announcement — that it was clearing the way for a separate trade channel with Abkhazia — was the first concrete follow-up to Moscow’s warnings that Kosovo’s independence could challenge other existing borders. The trade curbs on Abkhazia reportedly had little practical impact on the undeveloped local economies, but the symbolic value of the Russian change in policy seems bound to encourage separatists emboldened by support from oil-rich Russia.

The BBC reported that Georgia’s foreign ministry accused Russia of attempting to violate the country’s territorial integrity when it lifted trade sanctions imposed on the breakaway region in 1996. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov did not specifically mention Kosovo, but diplomats said that the linkage was clear.

Elsewhere in the region, Russia’s move seemed likely affect Moldova, which has semi-autonomous region of its own, Transdnestr — which has a large ethnic Russian population. Officials in Transdnestr welcomed Russia’s decision to lift sanctions on Abkhazia as a move likely to set a precedent for them, too.

  • How Automation Shapes the Labor Market AND Political Preferences

    By Thomas Kurer, University of Zurich and Bruno Palier, Sciences Po, Paris

    We do not believe that Brexit, Trump, or the alarming success of radical right parties in almost all European countries should be interpreted as mere “electoral accidents.” Instead, we suggest that the current destructuring of political systems is connected to the profound transformation of labor markets in times of automation. Our core argument is that the specific effects of current technological innovations are key to understanding their political implications.

    Read more ...

UMD Jean Monnet Research Project

The University of Maryland has received a Jean Monnet grant from the EU to conduct a series of policy exchanges between Europe and the US on filling infrastructure needs and the utility of public/private partnerships as the financing mechanism. If interested in participating in or receiving more information about these exchanges, please contact Rye McKenzie (rmckenzi@umd.edu).

New from the Bertelsmann Foundation

The Bertelsmann Foundation is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit think tank in Washington, DC with a transatlantic perspective on global challenges.

"Edge of a Precipice" by Nathan Crist

"Newpolitik" by Emily Hruban


Summer Course