This paper deals with the role of the EU in supporting civil society in the case of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. It analyses the patterns of development of civil society actors that played a direct or indirect role in the development of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. In the case of Georgia the paper focuses on NGOs representing the interests of internally displaced persons and civil society players involved in promoting dialogue with the Abkhaz. In the case of Abkhazia, the paper focuses on the development of Abkhaz civil society, the relative strength of which is a mini-phenomenon in itself, as well as the Abkhaz approaches to dialogue with Georgia. The paper then outlines the main EU activities vis-à-vis the civil society actors on both sides of the conflict. The paper concludes that in the absence of strong EU political engagement in conflict-resolution, EU assistance to civil society could not prevent the re-escalation of the conflict and the radicalisation of the Abkhaz and Georgian societies. However EU assistance to civil society contributed to the (parallel and separate) strengthening of civil society on both sides of the conflict lines, which can be considered an achievement in itself, however modest.
Paper produced in the context of the MICROCON project (Work Package 11, "Conflict in the European Neighbourhood"), funded by the EU's Seventh Framework Research Programme. Subsequent version published in Nathalie Tocci (ed.), The European Union, Civil Society and Conflict, London and New York, Routledge, 2011, p. 28-49 (Routledge/UACES contemporary European studies ; 19).
1. The conflict
2. Georgian Civil Society and the Conflict
2.1. Grassroots activities: dealing with refugees
2.2. Mid-level activities: political dialogue with Abkhazia
2.3. Media and the Church
3. Abkhaz Civil Society and the Conflict
3.1. The “Abkhaz phenomenon”
3.2. Future uncertain?
3.3. The other civil society
3.4. Russian-supported NGOs
4. EU and Abkhazia: Engagement without Recognition
5. The impact and effectiveness of EU funding
5.1. Constraints on EU civil-society support
5.2. The EU’s engagement with civil society: testing the hypotheses