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Is federalization an answer for multinational Georgia?

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Presentation on theme: "Is federalization an answer for multinational Georgia?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Is federalization an answer for multinational Georgia?
Vakhtang Darchiashvili PhD Candidate Faculty of Social Science Charles University in Prague

2 General points: The title of the dissertation prepared for PhD studies is Case study of the Conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Research started in 2009, and the dissertation is envisaged to be finalized in February 2012 The current presentation is a “side product” of the research carried out for the above-mentioned dissertation The objective of this presentation is to answer whether it is necessary to federalize Georgia in order to decrease/eliminate ethnic tensions (potential or existing) on the Georgian territory controlled by the central government The hypothesis of the presentation is as follows: currently, federalization is neither demanded by national minorities in Georgia, nor is it suitable to accommodate the needs and expectations of these minorities

3 Main adjacent questions:
General points: Methodology: interdisciplinary interpretative study with comparative analysis Expected results: to confirm or rebut the usefulness of federalization in Georgia at the current stage of the state-building process in Georgia Main adjacent questions: - As we shall see, federalization always depends on the internal decision of the state. Nevertheless, to what extent may/will outside factors influence the possible decision of Georgia to establish a federal state? - How may the situation with minority rights protection leverage resolution of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia?

4 Overview of the right of Self-Determination
Exercise of the self-determination right involves a wide range of political choices, including a certain level of guaranteed minority rights, various forms of self-government, various forms of autonomy, federation or in extreme cases, independent state (secession or external self-determination). Most scholars agree that secession as a mode of the self- determination right was only applicable to the people under colonial rule. Under current practice and legal theory, the right of secession applies when the people are collectively denied civil and political rights and are subject to egregious breach (the so-called remedial right of secession). The result of exercising internal self-determination rights may have different forms, from implementation of internationally recognized minority rights in legislation to a loose federation. In every case, all self-determination activities are done within the state borders of the internationally recognized state.

5 Overview of the concept of federalization
Federalization is the process of transforming a unitary state into a federal state which consists of constituent units with shared authority between the central and local governments. Autonomy is considered as the highest possible level of rights which minority groups can enjoy in domestic law in a certain territory whilst remaining within the borders of the mother state. Thus, minorities are put in an advantageous position given that they may enjoy autonomy in addition to minority rights.

6 Overview of the concept of federalization
It is a generally accepted idea in international law that there is no right to autonomy (or to a federal state) under the umbrella of the self- determination right. Nevertheless, autonomy may be reached as a consequence of exercising the self-determination right, subject to the central government’s decision. Autonomy/federalization is related to constitutional theory and the domestic structure of sovereign states, whereas the right of self-determination is a theory developed within the framework of international law.

7 Overview of the concept of federalization
The difference between a mere minority rights guarantee and a minority rights guarantee within autonomy is mainly that the guarantor of minority rights in a unitary state is the central government, whilst the guarantor of minority rights in an autonomy is mainly both the local and central governments. This setup gives more security to minorities that the decision regarding minorities will not be only at the discretion of the central government. Many states are reluctant to grant a territorially defined autonomy to its ethnic minorities, as central governments consider such autonomy as the first step to secession on the path to state dismemberment. Even the creation of autonomies and the federalization of the state on the grounds of ethnic division is not a guaranteed success for the settlement of ethnic diversities in a multiethnic state. Other preconditions for success are also very important: rule of law, participatory democracy, strong civil society and functioning state institutions. The question is, if these preconditions exist and the central government is fully guaranteeing international minority standards, is autonomy necessary? Let’s take a look at Georgia's example.

8 Ethnic minorities in Georgia: needs and expectations

9 Ethnic minorities in Georgia: needs and expectations - Armenians in Samtskhe-Javakheti
the most problematic issue for the Armenian population of the region is the language barrier, which prevents them from being more active and better represented in the local government. They are also worried about the intention of Tbilisi to intensify the Georgian language study program in schools and in local government bodies. Major concerns are also related to the stronger presence of Georgian law enforcement bodies. As the region is economically not well developed, unemployment continues to be a significant problem. The resettlement of eco-migrants to the region seems to have only a small impact on the ethnic balance of the region. The central government is taking steps to address these problems. Recent developments show that the region is slowly starting to take small steps towards its integration into the rest of Georgia. As of today, the region shows an expectation of economic growth and is more stabilized than ever before during the independence of Georgia.

10 Ethnic minorities in Georgia: needs and expectations – Azeris in Kvemo Kartli
Several NGOs had considerable significance in the region. For example, Geyrat, which was formed in 1990 and gained significant influence. However, the movement began to divide in the late 1990s as several prominent members of the organization took up positions in state structures. Today, Geyrat exists as a small NGO with no major influence. The more radical National Assembly of Azeris in Georgia (NAAG) was founded in 2001; its leader Dashgin Gulmamedov has called for the creation of a Georgian confederation of constituent regions, and for Azeri to be made an official state language of Georgia. In March 2009, Gulmamedov was arrested by the Azeri authorities, charged with swindle and jailed for two years. Generally speaking, the authorities in Baku support the Georgian authorities' policies towards groups in Georgia that are seen as promoting Azeri separatism. A more moderate group was established in March 2008 to represent the interests of the Azeri community in Kvemo Kartli: the Congress of Georgian Azeris, an umbrella group uniting at least twelve Georgian-based Azeri NGOs (ECMI Working paper 44). In general, political participation, political representation in local government and political activities of Azeri groups are much lesser than that of Armenians in the Samtskhe- Javakheti region.

11 Ethnic minorities in Georgia: needs and expectations – Azeris in Kvemo Kartli
In political terms, the main demand of Azeri activists is for real representation in local state structures, which as mentioned above is more or less lacking at the present moment. Few Azeri activists call for full political autonomy of Azeri- speaking regions; the most radical demand is to grant the Azeri language official status in Georgia. More mainstream groups merely seek to promote the integration of the Azeri-speaking population into Georgian society by, for example, encouraging local Azeris to learn Georgian and work in the public sector. Of the further main problems, it is important to mention the need for just and fair land distribution within the privatization process.

12 Applicability of autonomy and federalization in Georgia
The process of integrating Georgia's national minorities into Georgian society gained strength following the Rose Revolution. On the positive side, the government has made a real effort to end the isolation of geographically concentrated minority communities, both by taking positive steps to improve the infrastructure and by making a genuine effort to improve proficiency in the Georgian language amongst remote minority communities. On the other hand, the government has generally failed to introduce real methods of participatory democracy. The government should give real incentives to minorities: First, to learn the state language, which requires providing effective and well-organized training in the Georgian language in educational facilities, as well as in local government bodies. Second, it requires an education policy that encourages the most capable young people to remain in the country and study in Georgian institutions of higher education. Third, it requires an economic policy that creates genuine job opportunities. Finally, it requires the establishment of genuinely democratic procedures at the local level that allow members of national minorities to participate in the way they are governed and therefore generate new local elites who believe their home country is Georgia.

13 As we can see, ethnic minorities are not claiming to have the above-mentioned problems solved by granting them autonomies. Therefore, there is no real request from Armenians and Azeris to create a federation in Georgia in order to deal with the problems of minorities. Tbilisi, as well as national minorities, seems to believe that the current problems may be resolved in the existing state framework. Partial success in the integration process of minorities is a good example for the start. Even though the question regarding autonomy is not on the political agenda, granting autonomy to the Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti regions in the future might be a possible scenario. For such development, at least two conditions should be fulfilled: 1) the Georgian government’s further steps for improving the integration process of minorities in Georgia must be successful, and 2) the jurisdiction of Georgia over the whole territory of the country should be completely restored (a requirement of the Georgian Constitution). From today’s perspective, no Georgian government may acquire a mandate for granting autonomies and federalizing the state without prior fulfillment of the two mentioned conditions. Conclusion: national minorities do not require autonomies or the federalization of Georgia. Currently, minorities as well as the central government expect to be able to accommodate their needs and requirements under the current state arrangement. Therefore, the question of the federalization of Georgia is not presently on the political agenda.

14 The role of outside factors/actors on ethnic stability in Georgia and claims on federalization
Currently, both Armenia and Azerbaijan have a stabilizing factor in Georgia in terms of potential ethnic tensions. Baku is more positively motivated than Armenia to have Georgia as a strong partner and ally. Armenia as a strategic partner of Russia is interested in keeping Russia’s presence in the Caucasus, which is against the national interests of Georgia; nevertheless, Armenia does not seem to threaten its relations with Georgia using the ethnic minority issue. All three - Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan – have the real capacity to use the ethnic question in order to destabilize the situation in Georgia. Until Armenian and Azeri minorities are fully integrated in Georgia and feel like full-scale Georgian citizens, outside factors/actors shall always have some degree of ability to use the minority question against the Georgian state. Tbilisi understands this fact and is making efforts for ethnic minority integration; nonetheless, much should still be done in order to gain the full trust and loyalty of Georgian Armenians and Azeris in Georgia.

15 Well balanced interethnic policy and conflict settlement in Abkhazia and South Ossetia
Ethnic minority related problems caused two conflicts in Georgia and threatened its territorial integrity. This harsh experience should motivate the Georgian government to find a way to accommodate all the needs and expectations of ethnic minorities in Georgia. The goal should be the real integration of Armenians and Azeris in Georgian society. There are concrete reasons for making the best effort to enhance the process of minority integration. From the state-building process perspective, integration decreases possible ethnic tensions and encourages democratic and multiethnic dialogue, which results in the formation of a more democratic and stable state. The only way for Georgia to reintegrate occupied territories is to make Georgia a democratic, economically strong and ethnically equal and tolerant country. If Georgia proves that it is a “rights partner” to its ethnic minorities, the attractiveness of Georgia will increase and the chances of the peaceful settlement of Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian conflicts with the preservation of Georgia’s territorial integrity will grow. Therefore, maximum efforts should be made to allow ethnic minorities in Georgia to feel like real citizens of the country they live in. This may set a very good example for people living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Taking into account the fact that Armenians are very strongly presented in Abkhazia, and, needless to say, if Armenians in Samtskhe-Javakheti have all their problems solved in cooperation with Tbilisi and they are successfully integrated in Georgia, Abkhazian Armenians might become natural allies of Georgia in the process of initiating the discussion in Abkhazia on the reintegration with Georgia. No doubt that the successful integration of ethnic minorities will have long-term positive impacts on Georgia.

16 Conclusion There is no right to secession, autonomy, or federalization under the self-determination right. Granting autonomy or federalization is at the discretion of the state. Depending on the needs and expectations of ethnic minorities, a central government may agree to establish a federal state with ethnic minority autonomies. The nature of the expectations and demands of Armenian and Azeri ethnic minorities may be accommodated within the current state arrangement of Georgia without federalizing the state. Full-scale integration of ethnic minorities in Georgia will strengthen the Georgian state and its democracy, diminish the threat of destabilizing outside factors/actors, and increase the chances of a peaceful settlement of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia with the preservation of the territorial integrity of Georgia.

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