Georgian NATO Accession and Potential Impacts on the Georgian-Abkhaz Peace Process

On June 12-15, 2007 South Caucasus Regional Office of the Heinrich Boell Foundation together with University of California, Irvine, organized a conference "Georgian NATO Accession and Potential Impacts on the Georgian-Abkhaz Peace Process".

Since the events that transpired in Kodori last summer official negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations and the “Geneva Process” respectively have seen no progress. Informal civil society dialogues appear strained and a certain fatigue has set in. Organizers and supporters of these dialogues from both sides are increasingly criticized by their governments and domestic political opponents who consider such dialogues pointless and ineffective.

Instead of direct exchanges on official and unofficial levels, both sides are concentrating on courting and presenting their case to the international community. Through these efforts, they hope to gain an advantage in the constantly changing geopolitical situation. In this context two issues important to international politics play an important role: the decision about the future internationally recognized status of Kosovo, which is scheduled for 2007, and the possible accession of Georgia into NATO within this decade.

Both these issues provoke serious, political controversies and contradictory political analysis between and within the conflicting parties. These two topics also evoke connotations and emotions, which themselves have repercussions on the negotiation process and trust-building between Georgians and Abkhaz. This is particularly the case with NATO accession talks which incite fears or hopes in Abkhaz and Georgian societies.

Consequently, the organizers believe it is extremely important to offer a forum to their Georgian and Abkhaz partners where the public on both sides of the divide can transparently discuss the requisites and possible consequences of Georgia’s accession into NATO among themselves and together with international experts. Even though fundamental controversies and clashes of interest will not be resolved at this conference, the discussions and resulting published conference proceedings will help clarify the issues, and provide insight into the motivations and interests behind the different positions.

The discussions will be structured by the three following questions:

I. What is the role and function of NATO today?

  • Symbolic level: Perceptions in the East and West
  • Legal level: What does NATO demand of its members? What does it guarantee for them?
  • The transformative power of NATO accession: The case of Croatia
  • What does a Membership Action Plan imply?

II. What international political and economic interests will influence the decision about Georgia's accession into NATO?

  • The differences between the US and the EU in their relationship with Russia
  • The 2008 presidential elections in the USA and Russia
  • The West’s energy interests in the South Caucasus
  • The West’s strategic interests in the South Caucasus

III. Euroatlantic Integration of Georgia and the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict

  • Does accession into NATO increase the likelihood of a military option to bring Abkhazia back under Georgian control?
  • Does Georgian accession before a resolution of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict confirm and preserve the existing de-facto separation?
  • What role can NATO play to resolve the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict in comparison to other international organizations like EU, UN etc. (taking into account the experience from the Balkans) 

Political and civil society representatives from Georgia and Abkhazia, NATO and EU representatives, and experts from NATO countries and Russia will participate at the conference.

Before the multilateral conference a bilateral meeting between the Georgian and Abkhaz participants will take place. The aim of this meeting is to promote informal information exchange regarding current developments on both sides.