Georgia’s Commitments and Obligations to the Council of Europe
In the past few years, Georgia has made significant steps forward in enhancing policies on national minorities and developing institutional structures for policy implementation in accordance with European standards. Since its accession to the Council of Europe (CoE) in 1999, Georgia has agreed to implement a number of commitments and obligations to the regional organization. Accordingly, several of these commitments and obligations concern the protection of national minorities and related issues, particularly Georgia’s commitments and obligations to sign and ratify the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM), to sign and ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML), to pass a Law on Repatriation thereby facilitating the return of people deported in the 1940s – mainly Meskhetians – and to prepare and adopt a Law on National Minorities.
In accordance with some of these commitments, the FCNM has been ratified in December 2005 and entered into force in April 2006. Furthermore, a Law on Repatriation of Deported People was passed by the Parliament of Georgia in July 2007. Despite this approved legislation, the commitment and obligation to ratify the ECRML remains. Moreover, a Law on National Minorities continues to be debated up until today by the Georgian legislature to decide whether a new law must be passed to fulfil the obligation or existing legislation can be amended instead. There is also a significant number of problems related to the implementation of the Law on Repatriation, which must be addressed before the commitment to facilitate the return of deported people can be considered as fulfilled. With the process of actual repatriation to begin in early 2011, time is of the essence to solve the obligations of the Georgian government.
Overall, however, Georgia has made noticeable progress with regard to the accession to major Council of Europe instruments and treaties on issues related to national minorities and it is expected that the country in the near future will also address the remaining commitments and obligations. ECMI Caucasus’ Programmes and Initiatives
Since 2004, ECMI Caucasus has carried out a multitude of programmes to advance governance on national minority issues and empower civil society in minority regions of Georgia with the support of several donor agencies, specifically the Danish and Norwegian Ministries of Foreign Affairs.
In this way, ECMI Caucasus has invested considerable efforts in developing the governmental and institutional capacities of state structures to manage as well as be responsible for national minority and civil integration issues. Under Denmark’s Caucasus Programme 2008-09, a whole series of training sessions, together wtih seminars and consultations, have been conducted for a range of key stakeholders, in particular the staff of the Office of the State Minister for Reintegration Issues, which since June 2008 has been mandated as the state body responsible for issues relating to national minorites and integration. In collaboration with the Council of Europe, ECMI Caucasus has organized several events to address issues related to CoE’s treaties and conventions, while enhancing the stakeholders insight into European best practices in the field. Suitably, these intitatives have included the training of the staff of the recently established State Inter-Agency Commission. which is responsible for the coordination of minority issues and is chaired by the Deputy State Minister for Reintegration Issues.
In relation to specific legislation, from 2005 onwards ECMI Caucasus has held a number of conferences and workshops, facilitated consultations with the Georgian authorities, provided assistance and carried out several projects to enhance awareness on the issue of deported people. ECMI Caucasus continues to stay committed to assisting the Georgian government with the repatriation and resettlement of the deported people, both during the process of reviewing applications and during the repatriation itself. Accordingly, from March 2010 ECMI Caucasus has supported the Refugees and Migration Division of the Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation of Georgia with the processing of applications for repatriation submitted to the Georgian authorities.
Following is a list of Georgian governmental institutions and agencies that ECMI Caucasus continues to assist in advancing responsible governance concerning minority issues:
Public Defender of Georgia
Office of the State Minister for Reintegration Issues
Ministry of Internally Displaced persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees
Ministry of Education and Science
Human Rights and Civil Integration Parliamentary Committee