GFSIS Georgian Foundation For Strategic and International Studies - events. Discussion “Georgia’s Next Step Towards the EU” On May 23, 2017 Dr. Ekaterine Metreveli, the President of the Rondeli Foundation and Mr. Kakha Gogolashvili, the Director of the EU Studies Center of the Foundation participated in the discussion - "Georgia’s Next Step Towards the EU" organized by the Georgian Center for Security and Development (GCSD). The event was attended by Ambassador Janos Herman, Head of the EU delegation to Georgia, Ambassadors of the EU member states and the representatives of non-governmental organizations of Georgia. Tue, 23 May 2017 0:00:00 GMT Turkey’s Domestic and Foreign Policy in the Context of Regional Security Author: Zurab Batiashvili – Expert of Oriental Studies, Doctor of Historical Sciences Turkey is a neighbor and a friend to Georgia. It is the only NATO member in our immediate neighborhood, also being the top trade partner for Georgia over the years. Besides the fact that thousands of Georgian citizens work in Turkey, the two countries are also connected by myriad of transport or energy projects. Turkey also serves as a bridge to Europe for Georgia. Among our neighbors Turkey is the only candidate country to the membership of the European Union. Hence, the events unfolding in and around Turkey are of vital importance to Georgia. Domestic Political Situation Turkey has not had a leader as charismatic as Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which has been governing the country for the past 15 years, since Ataturk. The institutional changes initiated by him are also very important for Turkey. In terms of fundamental changes, 16 April 2017 can definitely be considered to be the most important date in the history of Turkey after the declaration of the Turkish Republic in 1923. According to the results of the referendum held on the aforementioned date, Article 18 of the Turkish constitution is being amended, part of the changes already having entered into power whilst the remaining part will be enacted in 2019. About 51.4% of the Turkish voters supported the constitutional amendment package, which envisages a sharp increase in the powers of the President, including the abolition of the position of Prime Minister. In addition, the results of this referendum once again showed the weakness and lack of organization of the opposition parties in Turkey. According to the statements of the representatives of the Turkish government, these changes were unavoidable in order to resolve the security problems and challenges presently facing the country. Of late, Ankara has definitely had to fight on several different fronts: About 248 civilians died and 2,200 were injured in a single night on 15 July 2016, during the attempt of a coup d’état in Turkey. Despite the fact that government managed to eradicate this attempt rather quickly, with the help of the people coming out in the streets, healing the wounds and fully addressing the dangers turned out to be a difficult task. The Turkish government has accused the former ally of the governing AKP (Justice and Development Party) and Muslim spiritual leader currently living in the United States, Fethullah Gülen and his supporters, of inciting the coup d’état. However, Gülen’s supporters have denied their involvement in the coup and even condemned the attempt; however, the Turkish law enforcement agencies have still commenced the proceedings and officially charged them. After 15 July 2016 the Turkish government instituted a state of emergency, which has been in effect ever since. Parallel to this, tens of thousands of Turkish citizens have been accused of and jailed for participating in the attempted coup and being the member of FETÖ (Fethullah Gülen Terror Organization). In terms of the state of emergency, the country is being governed through special decrees which are equivalent to laws by their power. According to these decrees, various media organizations (TV channels, journals, newspapers and radios), commercial entities belonging to FETÖ have been closed down, properties confiscated and tens of thousands of public servants have been sacked. It is highly likely that these "purges" will continue in the future as well. Domestic problems have been further exacerbated by the renewed clashes between the Turkish security services and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is a recognized terrorist organization) in Eastern and South-Eastern Turkey in summer 2015, followed by considerable number of deaths. The PKK and its close affiliate TAK (Kurdistan Freedom Hawks) have, from time to time, organized attacks on major Turkish cities through bombings, which have taken the lives of both civilians, as well as Turkish military servicemen. Daesh (or ISIS), consisting of Turkish citizens among others, has also been organizing terrorist attacks in various Turkish cities. Usually, the main targets of their attacks are radical left-wing organizations, pro-Kurdish powers and tourists. In addition to all this, Turkey is also struggling to deal with 3.5 million refugees (most of them from Syria) and the associated problems – Ankara is tasked with providing them with healthcare, accommodation, food and education. This is also compounded with the challenges to the Turkish economy: part of the Western investors have been leaving the country, in April 2017 the inflation grew by 11.9% as compared to the same period of the previous year, the trade deficit has increased by 15.8%, the unemployment rate has reached 13% whilst the Turkish national currency is depreciating. Foreign Policy As in many other countries, the issues of domestic and foreign policy are closely connected in Turkey as well. For the past several years, the greatest foreign policy problem facing Ankara has been the events unfolding in Syria. Turkey considers the formation of a Kurdish state entity in the northern part of Syria as a major challenge to its own security and does its best to go against such an endeavor. To this end, it does not shy away from using either diplomatic or direct military means. In addition, it should be noted that the territories in northern Syria which were controlled by Daesh have been bordering Turkey for years and have been creating a myriad of problems for the country. Parallel to this, Ankara considers the YPG (pro-Kurdish People’s Protection Units) to be the continuation of the PKK. In order to remove Daesh from the Turkish borders, as well as to prevent the unification of the cantons controlled by the YPG, on 24 August 2016 Ankara started a military operation with the name of Euphrates Shield together with the FSA (Free Syrian Army), a military player supported by Turkey. The operation managed to reclaim over 2,000 square kilometers of land. It was finished in seven months and generally managed to fulfill its mission. It should be noted, that after Turkey bombed the YPG positions in northern Syria on 25 April, Russian forces showed up in the Afrin province to protect the YPG whilst the US military appeared on the Qamishli-Kobani line. It would appear that both Moscow and Washington are overtly trying to limit the area of operation for Ankara. There are two major issues in the relations of Turkey and the United States, which will probably decide the future of mutual cooperation between the two countries. Ankara still demands of Washington to extradite Fethullah Gülen, currently residing in Pennsylvania, and to stop providing support to the YPG. In case the relations between Turkey and the US sour, it is not unlikely that the issue of the functioning of the only US military base in Turkey (Incirlik Air Base) will be under question. Despite this, the role of Turkey in regional security is so great that no one in the West questions Turkey’s membership in NATO. Ankara and Moscow still retain differing views about the issues of regional security, causing an array of problems from time to time. It is hard to imagine these issues being resolved in the nearest future. This is exactly why Moscow is in no hurry to lift all of the sanctions placed on Turkey after the downing of its fighter jet. At this point, Turkish citizens still need visa to enter Russia. There are also certain restrictions as regards the import of certain types of agricultural goods produced in Turkey. Relations with Europe remain among the thorniest issues in Turkish foreign policy. European countries as well as European institutions have been severely criticizing Ankara on the issues such as human rights, democracy, as well as freedom of press and minority rights. Because of all this, the negotiations about Turkey’s accession to the European Union, which started years ago, are practically frozen. The issue of Cyprus remains unresolved as well. As a response to this Ankara has been accusing Europe of being biased, saying that the Turkish people express their will during the elections and referenda which are sure signs of a democracy. As for the so-called purges, Ankara explains that they were necessary given the security situation of the country. The relations between Turkey and Europe worsened even further after the OSCE observing mission assessed the 16 April referendum in Turkey to be incompatible with European norms and standards. Parallel to this, PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) instituted monitoring on the events unfolding in Turkey. As a response, President Erdogan has been talking about the possibility of another referendum, which will ask the voters whether or not they want the reestablishment of a death penalty in Turkey and whether they still support integration in the European Union. It is highly likely that such a referendum will distance Ankara even further from Europe. As we have seen, Turkey is facing a multitude of problems and challenges as regards its security. Both the future of Turkey, as well as the security of its neighborhood largely depends on how Ankara manages to tackle these challenges. Any kind of difficulties or instabilities near the Georgian borders will have negative influence on the security of our country, as well as its foreign policy and economy. Hence, it is in Georgian interests to have a stable, democratic and successful Turkey in its neighborhood. Mon, 22 May 2017 0:00:00 GMT Public Debates of Policy Documents On June 16, 17 and 18, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies organized the public debates of policy documents under the framework of the training program "Capacity-building of the Georgian Leadership Community for Improved Decision-making and Negotiation Skills". During the debates the program participants presented actionable policy documents related to issues of national importance. The topics of the policy documents included: "Dissemination of Russian Anti-Georgian Propaganda", "Strengthening Women's Role in the Ministry of Internal Affairs", "Efficiency of the Job Seekers’ Training and Re-training State Program", "Enhancing the Motivation of School Teachers" etc. The program "Capacity-building of the Georgian Leadership Community for Improved Decision-making and Negotiation Skills" is designed to assist the Georgian government to respond to the governance challenges. The project aims at engaging directly with middle level public servants and civil society representatives in practical exercises in policy development and negotiation techniques. The program is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and is implemented by the Rondeli Foundation in partnership with Estonian School of Diplomacy (ESD). Thu, 18 May 2017 0:00:00 GMT International Conference – „Georgia at the Nexus of Democratization and Europeanization: Prospects and Challenges” On May 16, 2017 Mr. Kakha Gogolasvhili, the Director of the EU Studies Center at the Rondeli Foundation participated as a speaker in the international conference – „Georgia at the Nexus of Democratization and Europeanization: Prospects and Challenges" hosted by the Georgian Institute of Politics. Civil society representatives, public officials, academics, and members of the business community were invited to discuss the state of democratization and Europeanization in Georgia, and to identify obstacles and opportunities for further democratic development. The conference included 3 panels: • Party Politics and Democratization - this panel addressed issues related to the further development and strengthening of political parties in Georgia. • Parliamentarism - this session was devoted to discussion of the role that parliament can and does play in Georgia’s political system. • Europeanization and Democracy - panelist discussed how Georgia can develop a coherent strategy to guide its relations with both the EU and NATO. Tue, 16 May 2017 0:00:00 GMT Discussion in Akhalkalaki on Regional Conflicts in Georgia On June 11, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) organized a discussion on regional conflicts in Georgia for the representatives of ethnic Armenian community at the regional office in Akhalkalaki, Samtskhe-Javakheti. The presentation was delivered by Shota Utiashvili, the Senior Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation. The speaker introduced the main challenges and threats facing Georgia, made a brief overview of the regional conflicts, evaluated the situation across the both sides of the Administrative Boarder Line (ABL), and discussed the existing alternatives and ways of confidence-building. The discussion was held under the series of lectures on issues of nationwide importance. The aim of the series of presentations is to increase the capacity-building of ethnic minority community of Javakheti and to forge a common understanding and vision of the Georgian state among the citizens of Georgia despite their ethnic origin and promote a national integration process in line with the principles of modern, democratic state. As a result, the minority community representatives are better equipped and empowered to become agents of change. Thu, 11 May 2017 0:00:00 GMT The New Round of the Training Program in National Security and Public Policy On June 8, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) launched the new round of its flagship training program in National Security and Public Policy. Professor Ross Harrison, School of Foreign Service, Intercultural Center at Georgetown University, delivered a lecture on the Introduction for Strategy. The program in National Security and Public Policy is designed to prepare analysts for national security community for careers as government policymakers in defense/security agencies, diplomats, non- governmental policy analysts and business leaders. It offers training in analytical methods and approaches to national security and public policy and focused on skills and knowledge necessary to participate in the national security policy process and shape the future. The abovmentioned program is implemented by the Rondeli Foundation with the financial support of U.S. Government. Mon, 8 May 2017 0:00:00 GMT Discussion in Akhalkalaki on 25th Anniversary of U.S.-Georgia Diplomatic Relations On June 8, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) organized a discussion on 25th Anniversary of U.S.-Georgia diplomatic relations for the representatives of ethnic Armenian community at its regional office in Akhalkalaki, Samtskhe-Javakheti. The lecture was delivered by Amb. Archil Gegeshidze, the Executive Director of the Levan Mikeladze Foundation and Ambassador of Georgia to the United States of America in 2013-2016. The speaker made a brief overview of the historical background of bilateral relations between the two countries, emphasized the importance of the assistance of U.S. in development of Georgia’s security sector and its permanent support of the territorial integrity of Georgia. The speaker also discussed the prospects of development of bilateral cooperation in various sectors. The discussion was held under the series of lectures on issues of nationwide importance. The aim of the series of presentations is to increase the capacity-building of ethnic minority community of Javakheti and to forge a common understanding and vision of the Georgian state among the citizens of Georgia despite their ethnic origin and promote a national integration process in line with the principles of modern, democratic state. As a result, the minority community representatives are better equipped and empowered to become agents of change. Mon, 8 May 2017 0:00:00 GMT Post-Soviet States – Struggle for the Legitimation of Power Author: Giorgi Turmanidze According to the study conducted by the international organization Freedom House (Nations in Transit 2017, see the research), eight of 15 Post-Soviet states (all five Central Asian states, Azerbaijan, Russia and Belarus) have ended up in the category of consolidated authoritarian regimes which indicates the lowest level of democracy in these countries. Armenia was put in the category of semi-consolidated authoritarian regimes whilst Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova were assessed to be among transitional government or hybrid regimes category. Only the Baltic states, members of NATO and the European Union, were named among the consolidated democracies. In such studies conducted by the international organizations, the level of democracy is assessed based on various criteria, one of which is the ability of voters to replace the incumbent government through elections. In this sense, the majority of the leaders in the Post-Soviet countries think about the means of maintaining their power, rather than thinking about the elections. That said, however, even the authoritarian rulers of the Post-Soviet states try to legitimize the hereditary transfer of their power and position, through referenda and/or constitutional changes. In this regard, there are two main trends noticeable in the Post-Soviet area: First, in the Post-Soviet states with clear authoritarian governments, the state leaders legitimize transferring their power to their family members through referenda and/or constitutional changes, planning out the careers of their potential political successors with special care. Second, in the Post-Soviet states with relatively higher levels of democracy, the Presidential models of governance are replaced with the Parliamentary models, which enables the incumbent presidents to continue their political careers as Prime Ministers, even after their Presidential tenures have expired. Dynastic Governance In the democratic countries transferring power to family members is either forbidden by the law or considered to be an unacceptable norm. In Azerbaijan and the majority of the Central Asian states, however, the main concern and objective of the incumbent leaders is to legitimize the transfer of power to family members or close friends. Azerbaijan The only successful example of transferring power from father to son in the Post-Soviet area is Azerbaijan. The tenure of the third President of independent Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, started in 1993. In 2003, his son, Ilham Aliyev became the President through elections. The presidency of Aliyev junior had been under preparation for years. His career started to advance since 1994. He served as the Vice-President of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan, Member of the Parliament, President of the National Olympic Committee and Prime Minister, appointed several months before the 2003 elections. Mehriban Aliyeva, the Vice President and First Lady of Azerbaijan The preparations for Ilham Aliyev’s eternal presidency started in 2008, when the legal restriction about only two presidential tenures was abolished with the "support" of the electorate, given that according to the governing party, such a restriction was "non-democratic." Based upon the constitutional amendments adopted through referendum, Ilham Aliyev can run for presidency for an unlimited number of times. In 2013, Aliyev was elected with a five-year tenure for the third time. According to the 2016 constitutional amendments, however, he will be elected for a seven-year tenure on the following elections. Despite the fact that Ilham Aliyev is a relatively young President (only 56 years old), he has already started thinking about a potential successor. The new constitutional amendments create well-founded suspicions that Aliyev’s successor and the major figures in Azerbaijan’s political elite will be his family members. Based upon the 26 September 2016 referendum, the article of the constitution, stipulating that no citizen under the age of 35 can become President of Azerbaijan, was removed. The age threshold for the membership of Parliament has been reduced from 25 to 18 years. This will enable Ilham Aliyev’s 19-year-old son, Heydar, to start his carrier from the Parliament. The main change, however, was the establishment of the position of the Vice-President. The suspicions that this change was designed for Aliyev’s spouse, Mehriban Aliyeva, proved well founded on 21 February 2017 with her appointment as the first Vice-President of Azerbaijan. It should be pointed out that if the President is unable to perform his duties, the Vice-President becomes the Acting President. Since 2003, when she became the First Lady, Mehriban Aliyeva has been actively involved in both domestic as well as foreign policy of Azerbaijan. Tajikistan The constitutional amendments and appointments in Tajikistan point to the fact that the incumbent President, Emomali Rahmon, is most likely getting ready to the hereditary transfer of his power. In order to create appropriate legal conditions, numerous constitutional changes have been made in the period of 2014-2015 in Tajikistan, including reducing the age threshold for presidency from 35 to 30 years, which is an amendment designed for the President’s eldest son, Rustam. In 2020, during the next Presidential Elections, Rustam, who will be 33 at that moment, will be able to participate, should his father deem it necessary. He has already gathered some experience of serving in the public sector. During different periods of time he headed the customs and anti-corruption services of Tajikistan. On 12 January 2017, 29-year-old Rustam assumed the position of the Mayor of Dushanbe. Turkmenistan In 2016, as a result of secretive elections held in order to fill the free position of MP in the Parliament, the son of the current President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, Serdar, became the Member of the Parliament. Before this Serdar worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as for the State Natural Resource Governance Institute. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who is only 60, has enough time to legitimize the transfer of power to his son. Kazakhstan The President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev who is 77 years old, has three daughters, which complicates the matter of transferring power from father to his child in a traditional society such as Kazakhstan. The family members of the President play important roles in the life of their country. In this sense, the most important figure is the President’s eldest daughter, Dariga, who heads the Senate International Affairs, Defense, and Security Committee. Dariga Nursultanqyzy Nazarbayeva, Member of the Parliament of Kazakhstan and Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of Kazakhstan She also served as the Vice Premier and has a rather ample political experience. Dariga’s children also hold important positions. The 32-year-old Nurali Aliyev worked as the Vice-Mayor of Astana and is currently in the business sector. The 26-year-old Aisultan Nazarbayev is also very active. In the case of Nursultan Nazarbayev’s wish and the agreement between the political groups, one of his family members could become his successor. Uzbekistan The transfer of power took place in Uzbekistan in a rather calm environment in 2016. The President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, who led the independent Uzbekistan for 25 years, had two daughters. The eldest daughter, Gulnara, was also considered to be his potential successor; however, her participation in well-publicized corruption scandals and the court intrigues removed her from the competition for the seat of the President. From Presidential to Parliamentary Republic Georgia In October 2010 the Parliament of Georgia adopted the constitutional amendment package, based on which the country transferred from Presidential to Parliamentary governance model in 2013. The changes raised suspicions that President Mikheil Saakashvili, coming to the end of his second and last tenure as the President of Georgia, wanted to continue his political career as Prime Minister of Georgia, which the law did not prohibit. Saakashvili used to answer to the questions about this issue rather vaguely, which further fueled the suspicions. Saakashvili clearly stated his position only after the defeat of his party in the 2012 Parliamentary Elections became obvious, saying that the position of Prime Minister was not interesting to him anyway. Kyrgyzstan In 2011, Almazbek Atambayev became the President of Kyrgyzstan, elected with one tenure of six years. According to the current constitution, Atambayev cannot run for President for a second time. However, the 11 December 2016 referendum points to the possible future political plans of the current President, as it has increased the powers of the Prime Minister and reduced those of the President. Such changes made a year before the Presidential Elections raise suspicions that Atambayev might be attempting, without harming his positive image of a democrat, to retain power in the position of Prime Minister after 2017 Presidential Elections. Armenia The model of political governance was changed through a referendum in Armenia as well. As a result of changes based on 6 December 2015 referendum, the power of the President will be diminished since April 2018 and the country will move to the Parliamentary model of governance. The main reason for the transfer to the Parliamentary model is considered to be the end of the second and last Presidential tenure of Serzh Sargsyan. Sargsyan, which is the most powerful politician in Armenia, appears to be creating appropriate legitimation for maintaining his power. Given the fact that Sargsyan cannot be elected as President for the third time and has refused to make changes to this rule, transferring to the parliamentary governance model is the most legitimate way for him to remain in power. Situation in other Post-Soviet States Both Ukraine and Moldova have seen many Presidents change through elections from their independence to date; however, some important flaws can still be observed in the election processes. In Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko is 63 years old and there are already talks that he might want to transfer power to his son, Kolya, who has been attending all important events together with his father for the past several years. As for Russia, Vladimir Putin also tries to follow the rules of the game of democracy at least formally. In 2008, he refused to be elected as President for the third time in a row and waited for the 2012 Presidential Elections in the position of Prime Minister, continuing to govern the country through an informal arrangement with Dmitry Medvedev. Conclusion Changing governments peacefully, through elections, remains among the top challenges for the Post-Soviet states even after 25 years of independence. Given the weak democracies they find themselves in, the leaders find it difficult to cede power; however, they still want to be seen as democrats. Hence, even the authoritarian rulers of the Post-Soviet states attempt to legitimize maintaining or transferring power to their family members by democratic means, with popular "support" through referenda. The constitutional changes adopted through these referenda are usually made in the name of improving the level of democracy and maintaining stability. Fri, 5 May 2017 0:00:00 GMT Workshop for Human Resources Managers On May 3-4, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) hosted a workshop for Human Resources managers. The two-day long workshop was headed by Swedish experts: Hans Norgren and Eva Falck, Consultants of Human Resources Management (SIPU International) who talked about how to apply Swedish experiences in Georgia, discussed organizational culture, environment and climate, the development of future human resources, the importance of team-working and other related issues. HR managers representing various governmental agencies and LEPLs attended the workshop. The event was implemented by the Rondeli Foundation with the support of Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). Thu, 4 May 2017 0:00:00 GMT Meetings with Tserovani and Zugdidi Schoolchildren On April, 25-26, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) organized the meetings for students of Tserovani public school #4 and Abkhazian public school #1 in Zugdidi under the framework of the project "My World". The Rondeli Foundation handed over the magazines - "My World" #14 and #15 to the high school students. Prof. Vladimer Papava, the Senior Fellow and the Director of the Center for Applied Economic Studies of the Rondeli Foundation delivered a lecture on the economy of Georgia in Tserovani while Revaz Topuria, one of the authors of the magazine talked about Ilia Chavchavadze - one of the first Georgian liberals in Zugdidi. Since April 2013, the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies has been implementing the project "My World", funded by the US Embassy in Georgia. The overall objective of the project is to produce Georgian-language youth magazine – "My World". The magazine offers reading material for high school students and covers a variety of subjects and sectors. The articles published in the magazine touch upon politics, economics, literature, science, the arts, interesting news and events, and influential persons for the country or humanity. "My World" is issued on a quarterly basis, and each issue includes nine sections, as well as crossword puzzles, with questions regarding the material covered in the preceding issue. Articles are drafted specifically for this magazine, and the circulation is 2,000 copies. Wed, 26 Apr 2017 0:00:00 GMT