Our Position
What we can expect from Inal Ardzinba
The appointment of Inal Ardzinba as de facto Minister of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia and his meeting with international organizations operating on the territory of Abkhazia have already been widely reacted by the Georgian media and experts. Inter alia, reasonable fears were expressed about the possible desire of the Russian Federation to control the development of the civil sector in the occupied territories and, in general, the activities of this sector. These fears are well-founded. The civil sector in Abkhazia is already talking about a possible step by the de facto authorities to introduce and enact a foreign agenty law, which is applied in the Russian Federation. However, at the official level, nothing has yet been said openly in this regard. What we see is the desire of the newly appointed de facto Foreign Minister to make it clear to international organizations that all their steps should be agreed with the de facto authorities of Abkhazia. Clearly, we cannot conclude from just one meeting that Inal Ardzinba's policy is aimed at banning the activities of locally operating international organizations. In case of such a wish, the de facto authorities of Abkhazia will have to submit a relevant proposal to the so-called Parliament.
So what can we expect from Inal Ardzinba's policy towards international NGOs? First, we can assume that the policy may be aimed at determining their mandate, area and partnership network in the Gali district. It seems that the de facto authorities of Abkhazia have a kind of fear of losing control of the activities of international organizations in Gali, which are implementing important social and infrastructural projects for the health and educational-cultural rehabilitation of the Gali district. Clearly, their activities cover a wider geographical area, including the districts of Ochamchire, Gulripshi and Tkvarcheli, but the Gali district may be an object of traditional jealousy so that to prevent that the local Georgian community does not feel "excessive" autonomy or independence.
Second, according to the Democracy Research Institute, Inal Ardzinba's meeting with representatives of international organizations took place in a not-so-friendly tone. This tone can also be regarded as a belated response to the Georgian Law on the Occupied Territories, which requires international and local NGOs operating in Georgia to agree the projects to be implemented in Abkhazia and South Ossetia with the Georgian Government. We can assume that the newly appointed de facto Minister of Foreign Affairs is not going to simply supervise NGOs and international organizations, but is sending a signal to both the Georgian Government and the international community that Abkhazia is a sovereign state like Georgia, telling the international organization that their activities should be carried out in agreement with Sokhumi, not Tbilisi. It is a completely different matter whether it is possible to implement any project in the Gali district without the consent of the de facto authorities, without political formalities. Clearly, such consent has always been necessary.
The sense of rigidity created after the above meeting may be a kind of political gesture, but at the same time, it may indicate changes regarding the activities of international organizations operating in the Gali district. Of course, time will show all this.