GFSIS https://gfsis.org/ Georgian Foundation For Strategic and International Studies - events. International Workshop – “Marshall Plan 70 years after: Vision still relevant” https://gfsis.org/events/view/774 On December 6, 2017 Rondeli Foundation in cooperation with the Atlantic Council of Georgia organized an international workshop "Marshall Plan 70 years after: Vision still relevant", dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan. The workshop addressed triple challenges that Georgia and other Eastern Neighborhood countries are facing: domestic reforms, EU and NATO integration and resisting the Russian hybrid pressure, as well as the lessons of the Marshall Plan to respond to these challenges. The distinguished speakers included: Michael Carpenter, Senior Director, Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, Brian Whitmore, Senior Russia Analyst, Author of the Power Vertical blog, Radio Free Europe/Radio and Benjamin Fricke, Scientific Associate, Regional Program Political Dialogue South Caucasus, Konrad Adenaurer Stiftung. The Georgian perspective was presented by Amb. David Sikharulidze, the Chair of Atlantic Council of Georgia. The workshop was moderated by Shota Utiashvili, Senior Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation. Watch the video about the workshop. Wed, 6 Dec 2017 0:00:00 GMT Chronic Poverty and Income Inequality in Georgia: presentation of the final report https://gfsis.org/events/view/773 On December 5th, 2017 Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) hosted a presentation of the final report - Chronic Poverty and Income Inequality in Georgia. The project is implemented by the Rondeli Foundation with the support of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). The study provides analyses of time series and panel estimations of the poverty level against the official subsistence minimum; a study of the dynamics of chronic poverty; analyses of time series and panel estimations of household incomes with and without public social payments and pension; a study of the inequality of household incomes using Decile coefficients; analyses of annual and panel dynamics of the GINI index with and without public social payments and pension; and identification of the trends of interaction between the chronic poverty level and inequality of incomes. The representatives of governmental agencies, international organizations as well as independent experts attended the meeting. The opening remarks were made by the project team leader, Prof. Merab Kakulia, the Senior Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation. Felix Hett, the Regional Director of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in the South Caucasus addressed the participants. Nodar Kapanadze, Senior Researcher of the project presented the final results of the study to the audience. The presentation was followed by a Q&A and discussion. The final report is available on the following link. Tue, 5 Dec 2017 0:00:00 GMT Georgian Parties and the “Euro-Parties” Cooperation, Achievements and Challenges https://gfsis.org/events/view/770 Author: Teona Lavrelashvili, Policy Officer, European Commission, DG NEAR For so many years I have been interested in Euro-Parties and my experiences of the recent years have only strengthened my interest. I believe that the relations between Georgian and European parties are of utmost importance in terms of the process of Europeanization of Georgia. This especially concerns the Euro-Parties. It is becoming more and more important for the Georgian political parties to cooperate with the similar European organizations. One of the reasons for this, one the one hand is that the relations of Georgia with Europe have deepened and the parties have started looking for their international roles, whilst on the other hand, the Georgian parties have realized that international connections represent an important aspect of building a party, especially when, among other advantages, it can also be a source of international political legitimation. It would probably be worth it to describe the current situation in a couple of words. First of all we need to differentiate political parties of the European countries (local ones such as CDU in Germany, or PP in Spain and so on) and the political parties on the EU level, which are also known as the Euro-Parties. These are the unions of parties, or party families that are formed on an ideological basis. In this regard, right wing, and center-right parties make up one family, left wing parties make another with the conservative, green and other movements also being separate. There are a total of 16 Euro-Parties registered in the European Union, three of which are the European People’s Party (EPP), Party of European Socialists (PES) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) with the strongest representation. Euro-Parties are separate legal entities which, apart from other sources, are also funded from the European Union’s budget. It must be pointed out that the role of the Euro-Parties in terms of formulating the EU policies is growing gradually, doing so parallel to the growth of the role of the European Parliament. Now let us talk a little about the relations of Georgian political parties and Euro-Parties, how they started and how they are being developed. The process of becoming a member is preceded by the so-called fact finding mission, which assesses to what degree the party’s structure, procedures and ideology are compatible with that of the Euro-Party. These are the formal procedures that influence the relative democratization of Georgian parties. The first Georgian party which became a member of a Euro-Party (with an observing status in EPP) was the United National Movement in 2008. In 2017, the EPP was joined by another Georgian party, European Georgia – Movement for Liberty, with a similar status. It should also be pointed out that the Georgian parties consider other Georgian parties as their competitors if they become the member of the same European party family that they are in. The New Rights Party tried multiple times to approximate with the European People’s Party after the UNM became a member, yet fruitlessly. Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia is also an observing member of the Party of European Socialists. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, on the other hand, brings together two Georgian parties: the Republican Party of Georgia since 2007 and the Free Democrats since 2012. It must be pointed out that ALDE is the only Euro-Party which allows full membership for the political parties coming from the non-member states of the European Union. Membership in the Euro-Parties presents multiple interesting opportunities to the Georgian parties; however, a part of these opportunities has not been used fully and Georgian parties are expected to develop this potential themselves. For example, Georgian parties participate in the work of the congresses and working groups of Euro-Parties, also contributing to seminars and trainings, which are held by a Euro-Party (or its respective groups in the European Parliament). It is especially important to participate in the congresses of the Euro-Parties, which are attended by the Prime Ministers of European Countries and other high-level politicians. Hence, participating in the so-called networking provides new opportunities for the Georgian parties to develop and gain certain legitimacy on the national level. The problems preventing a more effective cooperation of the Georgian parties and Euro-Parties are definitely worth discussing. One of the major problems is that the motivations for inter-party cooperation are different among the Georgian parties and the Euro-Parties. Apart from legitimation and the growth of authority in the eyes of the people, it is sometimes also important for the Georgian parties to gain additional resources and technical support in terms of increasing the capacities of the party, whilst for the opposition parties it is no less important to have some kind of protection in the case of the conflict with the government. Euro-Parties, on the other hand, are primarily concerned with increasing their international influence and also boosting their chances of affecting policies on the European level. The second problem is connected with the fact that the Georgian parties often do not have clearly formed ideologies and programs and there is often a large divide between the formal documents and their actual practices. Euro-Parties are making some effort to help Georgian parties to resolve these flaws; however, their influence is largely nominal. Cooperation is possible through various formats; however, only some of them are being used at this stage. One part of these formats is the connections between respective women’s and youth organizations. For example, the Women’s Organization of the United National Movement is a member of the EPP Women’s Organization, whilst neither the Georgian Dream, nor the Republicans (or Free Democrats) have utilized this opportunity. As for the youth organizations, there is an interesting trend here. Part of the Georgian youth organizations conduct their work independently from their respective "central" parties. For example, Young Socialists of Georgia is a member of the Young Socialists of Europe, whilst the Socialist Party of Georgia no longer exists and was not part of any Euro-Party even during its existence. It is interesting to note that youth wing of the Georgian Dream is not a part of this organization and yet it became the observing member of the International Union of Young Socialists from 2016. Young Rights is also a member of the Youth Organization of the EPP, whilst the New Rights Party itself is not a member of the EPP. And yet, what can be done better? What other, new forms of cooperation can be put forward? I believe that the Georgian politicians should use innovative approaches, which merits the analysis of the situation from two different levels – from Tbilisi and from Brussels. For example, the medium of party research is completely unused. Euro-Parties have their own research centers such as the Wilfred Martens Centre for European Studies (WMCES) of the European People’s Party and the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) of the Party of European Socialists. It is important for the Georgian parties to find modes of cooperation, be it joint projects or creating similar research centers in their midst. In addition, Georgian parties have the opportunity of getting involved in the formation of the Eastern policies of the European Union more actively. Georgian parties can achieve the adoption of the declarations important for Georgia during the political summits such as the Eastern Partnership Forum, NATO summits and so on. Euro-Parties will, on the other hand, start advocating these points in the Council of the European Union. Finally, I would like to once again underline the fact that the deepening of the cooperation between the Georgian political parties and Euro-Parties is one of the major facilitating mechanisms of the Georgian political project and I expect that this process will gather more and more intensity over time. Mon, 4 Dec 2017 0:00:00 GMT Presentation of the Research Findings https://gfsis.org/events/view/772 On November 27,2017, Rondeli Foundation organized the presentation of the research findings assessing the attitudes and perceptions within the Georgian Orthodox Church on the issues of domestic and foreign policy and recommendations on the GOC in state building process under the framwork of the project "Investigating the Attitudes of the Georgian Church on Democracy and Development". The project activities aim to enable various stakeholders to boost the healthy policy debate and discussion among the representatives of GOC and within the educational institutions affiliated with the patriarchate on the ardent foreign and domestic policy issues identified as a result of the research. The welcome speech was delivered by Ekaterine Metreveli, the President of Rondeli Foundation, and the research findings and policy recommendations were presented by Amb. Archil Gegeshidze, the Director of the Levan Mikeladze Foundation. The project was implemented by Rondeli Foundation with the financial support of National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Mon, 27 Nov 2017 0:00:00 GMT The 2017 Eastern Partnership Summit and its Results https://gfsis.org/events/view/771 Author: Kakha Gogolashvili, Director of EU Studies Center at Rondeli Foundation Introduction The general society would probably know little about the Eastern Partnership, were it not the case that its summits are held biennially and generate quite a lot of excitement. There is a view, that nothing is actually decided on the summits and they are a mere formality. Perhaps, this is true; however, if there were no summits, there would be no preparation and the process of preparation is when acute discussions are held about the most important issues, intensive work is on-going for displaying the achievements at the summit, compromises are sought between distinct positions and the institutions are working energetically. Usually, the most important results of the summit are reflected in the joint declaration, which is adopted by consensus among the six Eastern European partner states and the European Union. A declaration, as you are aware, is not an international legal document and therefore the non-implementation of its provisions is not punishable. It should also be noted that neither the Eastern Partnership itself, nor the other forms of cooperation defined by the neighborhood policy of the European Union are under any institutional framework. Despite this, their influence on the process of reforms and the transformation of the state are enormous. Hence, the declaration of the Eastern Partnership Summit is usually considered as a program document for the participating states and greatly influences the direction of the Eastern Partnership’s development. The previous summits – Warsaw, Vilnius and Riga are good examples of this. For example, several points of the declaration adopted at the Vilnius Summit formed a basis for the European Union’s attitude towards the Eastern partners for the years to come. Specifically, as a response to Armenia’s refusal of the Association Agreement, a phrase that "any partner has a sovereign right to define the ambition and goal of its relations with the European Union "was added to the declaration. This provision was automatically transferred to first the Riga declaration and now the Brussels declaration as well. What result does the existence of such a phrase in the declaration deliver? The result is clear – it is the European Union’s "liberal/tolerant" attitude towards the refusal of European aspirations by certain partners. It should be noted, that the declarations of almost all Eastern Partnership Summits are attempts to ensure the equal and maximum involvement of all partner states. It does not matter what results the spent resources and efforts yield – it is important that all six states are involved in cooperation with the European Union, which affords it soft and normative influence. Why does the European Union need to maintain these influences if some of the countries not only do not aspire the membership of the European Union, but are practically in the opposing camp in the new geopolitical struggle taking place in Europe and are members of the structures which exclude future "political association and economic integration" with the European Union, as the goals of the Eastern Partnership state? The answer is that the main interest of the European Union in the Eastern European region is not its economy or resources (in this regard Russia could be more interesting to it), but the necessity of long-term stability. And it would be impossible for it to achieve such stability without developing the rules of democracy and European governance. The "soft power" of the European Union, which is a normative (value based) and transformative force, distributes its abilities almost evenly (even in the case of "more for more" principle) everywhere, where even small improvement can be made. For example, the declaration of the Brussels Summit underlines the new EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and the progress achieved with Azerbaijan with regard to the creation of a new framework agreement, as well as the critical involvement with Belarus represented by the EU-Belarus Coordination Group and dialogue on human rights and trade issues, as highly important and presents it in almost the same way as the achievements with the associated countries. External observers including the general public of these countries fail to notice the difference between the relations of the European Union and its associated partners on the one hand and the relations of the European Union and the Eastern European partners with no European aspiration on the other. European Union managed to veil these differences rather successfully at the 2009 Prague Summit by introducing two dimensions of the Eastern Partnership. Two dimensions make the differentiation between the countries fully possible. Countries which have signed the Association Agreement have also received the visa-free travel regime. They have the opportunity to fully participate in European Union’s programs and agencies and have significantly different goals for their political dialogues, as compared to any other formats. Further Differentiation of the Format The declaration underlines this exact possibility, when it states, delicately and carefully of course, that "the Summit participants welcome the achievements of the Eastern Partnership to date and the strengthened differentiation in bilateral relations between the EU and each of the partner countries." This, of course, means the enactment of the Association Agreements with three Eastern European partners and the beginning of visa-free travel with Ukraine and Georgia. This differentiation is caused by two factors – "…partners' ambitions and needs, as well as the pace and quality of reforms." We should not forget that this declaration is signed by all partner countries, which means that they do not (or no longer) harbor any pretenses towards such a differentiation. The Issue of the European Perspective As is no secret, the issue of granting "the European Perspective" to three associated states, which could not be achieved during the negotiations for the Association Agreement, was being actively discussed during the preparation phase of the Summit. The European Parliament adopted a supportive resolution about this issue back in 2014, remarking that "Georgia as a European state" has a European perspective and can apply for the membership of the European Union. Article 49 of the 1957 Rome Agreement of the European Community speaks about such a perspective, confirmation of which turned out to be highly necessary in our time for the European countries that have European aspirations. However, the resolution by the same European Parliament about the same issue, adopted just ten days before the Summit (15 November 2017) does not use the term "European perspective" in the similar context and indicates only the recognition of "European aspirations". We consequently also have a similar provision in the Summit declaration as well where it says that the "Summit participants acknowledge the European aspirations and European choice of the partners concerned", by which they simply reaffirm their obligations set forward in the Association Agreement. However, such a statement does not include any kind of obligation that would require the European Union to facilitate the institutional integration of these countries, which would not be the case if the "European Perspective" were to be recognized in the declaration. Such a wording by the European Union would practically mean the recognition of the associated states as potential candidates, which would generate certain responsibilities for the Union to at least discuss the issues connected with the future membership of these countries. In the interviews before the Summit, the leaders of some of the member states and institutions of the European Union were quite forward with regard to this issue. The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, for example, said that this Summit is not the "enlargement summit" by which he excluded the possibility of discussing the "European Perspective". Before the beginning of the Summit, President Macron also clearly emphasized that the EU is currently busy with resolving its own problems and talks about accepting new member states are excluded. The positions of all other leaders were almost the same, including the Baltic leaders. It would appear that a consensus has been reached between the member states of the European Union regarding this issue; however, discussions about this topic were underway in the pre-Summit period and some Central and Eastern European states, especially Lithuania and Estonia, were supporting the "European Perspective" provision. Basis for the EaP+ Project has been Created There is an almost unnoticeable phrase in the Summit declaration, which has a very high practical importance for the future differentiation of the Eastern Partnership program. Specifically, it says that "…while preserving the inclusivity of the EaP, it is timely to engage the AA/DCFTA partners in joint discussions on the progress, opportunities and challenges concerning the association-related reforms, as requested by these partners". In order to fully appreciate the importance of this provision, we should look at its origins. Talks about the fact that it was possible to further differentiate the format in the Eastern Partnership program had been on-going in the academia before. Differentiation is already a given in its two-dimensional model; however, the issue of creating a separate multilateral format for the three associated partners has not been discussed before. In this context, the need for the new approach was discussed in the resolution of the European Parliament published prior to the Summit (15 November 2017). The resolution directly demanded the creation of the EaP+ format specifically for the three associated states, granting the preferences important to them, including the right to participate in the Schengen Area. The Summit declaration presents this idea in a much more veiled form; however, it quite adequately makes it possible for the three associated states and the European Union to meet in terms of the Eastern Partnership format, without the presence of the remaining three states. This is a very important breakthrough in the European Union’s approach, creating a prerequisite for the further differentiation of the Eastern Partnership. No Direct Indication about the EEA+ A gradual creation of a separate format for the three associated states and its expansion will create the basis for the implementation of the EEA+ idea. This idea was officially mentioned in several documents of the European Union, including the 2016 EU Global Security Strategy. The Brussels Summit declaration, unfortunately, says nothing about the creation of such an area; however, there was an indication to it in the 2015 Riga Summit declaration. It says that the gradual integration of the associated states will facilitate the creation of an "economic area" within the internal market of the European Union. The "economic area" refers to the 1992 bilateral agreement between the European Union and EFTA member states, granting Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland a privilege of full participation in the internal market of the European Union, including exercising all four European freedoms. The creation of EEA+ would enable close economic integration between Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia on the one hand and their economic integration to the European Union on the other, which would double the possibility of the future ambition of the European Union to enlarge towards this region. It would seem that the governments of the three countries could not form their positions about this issue and failed/did not wish to lobby it. Functional Integration Elements for Everyone Above in the paper, the focus was on the topics which seemed to be the most interesting for our public; however, the largest part of the Summit declaration does not present something unexpected or new, as its logic is based upon the document authored by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union – 20 key deliverables for 2020 for the Eastern Partnership, aimed at the close cooperation of the Eastern European partners with the European Union and their multi-directional integration. Of course, the realization of the goals mentioned in the declaration, including the clause about cooperation in terms of the protection of human rights, close connections of the Eastern European are with the European transport corridors, involvement in the European energy networks and the creation of a single energy union, participation in the green economy, as well as the Defence and Security Policy of the European Union, development of green and sustainable economies in the partner countries, facilitation of the growth of the "endurance" of the countries and joint discussion about avoiding hybrid and new types of threats, harmonization of the digital markets and the establishment of the electronic commerce around the whole area, facilitating the maximum involvement of the civil society, cooperation between the partner countries in the fields of culture, education and science and many others, will facilitate peace, cooperation and development in Eastern Europe. In Place of a Conclusion The 2017 Eastern Partnership Summit was mainly dedicated to the issues of further approximation of the European Union with the Eastern European partner states and the practical tasks of functional integration with them, as well as the establishment and announcement of the obligations connected with the implementation of these tasks. Politically, the Summit was significantly successful, as even the countries such as Azerbaijan and Belarus agreed to maintain the clauses about human rights and functional democratic development in the text of the Summit declaration. Hence, the on-going bilateral work with the three less Europe-aspiring countries has also been presented as successful. The agreement signed with Armenia underlined the necessity and possibility of cooperation in Eastern Europe, even when certain countries are joining opposing and competing political-economic alliances. In total, the Summit revealed the strength of the attractiveness of the European Union, which maintains a serious influence in the neighborhood even in the times of crisis. Finally and what is very important for the fast movement of Georgia and other associated states towards European integration, the Summit declaration remarked the need of creating a separate, multilateral format with these three countries, which enables their further integration with the European Union. It should also be underlined that it is an absolute interest of Georgia for all six countries of the Eastern Partnership program to get actively involved in the process, with the elements of their positive transformation, modernization and Europeanization. Hence, it is welcome that the declaration names maintaining the inclusiveness of the format as a prerequisite for the differentiation of the Eastern Partnership. Sun, 26 Nov 2017 0:00:00 GMT HR Networking Workshop https://gfsis.org/events/view/769 On November 22, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) organized another round of workshop for Human Resources management specialists. Swedish expert Hans Norgren, Consultant of Human Resources Management (SIPU International) led HR networking seminar. During the workshop the representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Civil Service Bureau and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented reports on the achievements in respect to Performance Evaluation system implementation process, while Hans Norgren talked about the Model of Social Dialogue in the Workplace. Human Recourses managers representing various governmental agencies attended the seminar. HR specialists shared their working experience and focused on the current problems and changes required in human resources management field. The HR workshop is conducted in the framework of the project "Capacity-building of the Georgian Leadership Community for Improved Decision-making and Negotiation Skills" implemented by Rondeli Foundation since 2009 with the financial support of Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and in partnership with Swedish Institute for Public Administration (SIPU). Wed, 22 Nov 2017 0:00:00 GMT 5-day Training Course in Tbilisi for the Group of Journalists https://gfsis.org/events/view/768 On November 13-17, 2017 Rondeli Foundation organized a 5-day training course in Tbilisi for the group of journalists under the framework of the project ""Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) Awareness Raising Trainings for Journalists and Civil Society Organizations". The training participants were introduced to the following topics: Free Trade and Economic Integration Models, Trade Related Energy Provisions of DCFTA, Trade in Services, Electronic Commerce, Establishment, and Operation of Businesses, Transport Services, Government Procurement and many more. The participants were awarded with the certificates of successful completion. Previously, the training sessions were conducted for the local journalists and the representatives of CSOs in Telavi and Akhalkalaki, the future training locations also include Batumi, Gori, Marneuli and Kutaisi. The project will enhance the quality of journalists’ reporting on trade and DCFTA as well as improve the capacities of the central and regional NGOs dealing with DCFTA and strengthen the support towards DCFTA-related policy reforms. The training program is implemented by Rondeli Foundation with the support of USAID/Governing for Growth (G4G) in Georgia. Mon, 20 Nov 2017 0:00:00 GMT Call for Applications – Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) Awareness Raising Trainings for Journalists and Civil Society Organizations https://gfsis.org/events/view/756 The Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS) is pleased to announce a call for applications for a professional training program in DCFTA Awareness Raising. The training aims to increase the capacity of the media and civil society representatives on informing the population and monitoring of DCFTA implementation process, to raise awareness of journalists to report on DCFTA and to enhance the knowledge and skills of civil society to monitor, communicate, advocate and participate in DCFTA implementation throughout the country. The training program is implemented by GFSIS and supported by USAID/Governing for Growth (G4G) in Georgia. · The five-day training course for journalists and civil society representatives will take place in Gori between December 18-22, 2017; The training participants shall be awarded with the certificates of completion. The topics covered: Free Trade and Economic Integration Models General overview of EU-Georgia Association Agreement (AA) and DCFTA DCFTA: Tariff elimination and Rules of Origin Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Sanitary/Phytosanitary issues (SPS) in DCFTA DCFTA: Competition DCFTA: Sustainable Development Intellectual Property Rights in DCFTA Trade Related Energy Provisions of DCFTA Trade in Services Electronic Commerce Establishment and Operation of Businesses Transport Services Government Procurement Coordination of DCFTA implementation Who can apply: local journalists reporting on economic policy, business climate, agriculture, trade, regulatory environment and other relevant topics as well as Tbilisi based SMEs, industrial, agricultural unions, Professional Unions, NGOs working in DCFTA related fields as well as representatives of local governments and municipalities. Application Process: To apply, please submit your CV in English or Georgian mbiniashvili@gfsis.org no later than 18:00, December 14, 2017. Shortlisted applicants will be required to pass an interview. For additional information about the program, please contact the Program Coordinator Ms. Meri Biniashvili: 599170013. Mon, 20 Nov 2017 0:00:00 GMT Panel Discussion “Middle East – Current Challenges” https://gfsis.org/events/view/767 On November 16, 2017 the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) organized the panel discussion on the current challenges in the Middle East. The discussion was moderated by Irakli Menagarishvili, the Chairman of the Center for Strategic Studies and the speakers included Davit Batashvili, specialist on International Relations and Zurab Batiashvili, the Expert of Oriental Studies, Doctor of Historical Sciences. The presenters discussed the situation in the Middle East after the collapse of DAESH, the Sectarian confrontation in the region, military and political situation related to the Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as the policies and relations between Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran, the roles and impacts of EU and U.S. and the increasing influence of Russia in the ongoing regional conflicts. The speakers also talked about potential threats endangering the political stability and security of other states. The representatives of expert community, governmental and non-governmental organizations attended the event. The presentations were followed by an engaging discussion between the audience and the speakers. The event was conducted in the framework of the series of expert panel discussions about the current situation in Middle East. Thu, 16 Nov 2017 0:00:00 GMT Russia’s Influence over the Field of Security in Tskhinvali Region is Growing: Support for Full Integration https://gfsis.org/events/view/766 Author: Mamuka Komakhia, Analyst After the 2008 Russia-Georgia War, the control of Russia over the security field in the occupied regions of Georgia is growing every year. The level of influence of the Kremlin is especially high in Tskhinvali region, leaders of which talk about merging with Russia openly. The events unfolding recently make it clear that Russia is taking full responsibility over the field of security in Tskhinvali region. The Fourth Russian Military Base and the Integration in the Military Field After the 2008 Russia-Georgia War, the protection of the interests of the Russian Federation in the field of defense in Tskhinvali region is ensured by the Fourth Russian Military Base. Aleksander Kravtsov has been commanding the base since September 2016. The Fourth Russian Military Base has been in Tskhinvali region since 2009 and it houses about 4,000 military personnel. The Fourth Russian Military Base, much like the Seventh Russian Military Base operating in Abkhazia, is subject to the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation. The District has been headed by Aleksander Dvornikov since 2016. Dvornikov personally oversees the processes and projects taking place in the field of defense in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region, inspecting them being his direct responsibility. The steps recently taken by the parties indicate that Tskhinvali region will not be retaining its illegitimate military units for much longer. On 31 March 2017, the Minister of Defense of Russia and the de-facto Minister of Defense of Tskhinvali region signed an agreement on the incorporation of certain separatist military units into the armed forces of the Russian Federation. According to the new agreement, the soldiers of Tskhinvali region will now be able to serve on the Fourth Russian Military Base as well. Before the full abolition of the Tskhinvali region armed forces, Russian militaries retain top positions in the de-facto armed forces of Tskhinvali region. The First Deputy de-facto Minister of Defense and the Head of the General Staff of Tskhinvali region is the representative of Russia, much like it is in Abkhazia as well. Before being appointed as the Head of the General Staff, Viktor Fedorov, who has been living in Tskhinvali since June 2011, worked on various positions in the armed forces of Tskhinvali region. Integration in the Russian Law-Enforcement System Unlike Abkhazia, where implementing joint projects in the field of security with Russia is openly criticized by parts of the public and political elite, in Tskhinvali region the integration of the local law-enforcement structures in the Russian law-enforcement system enjoys strong support. Hence, the Kremlin has taken over much more authorities in terms of law-enforcement in Tskhinvali, than it has in Abkhazia. The decision of the de-facto Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tskhinvali region to reduce the number of employees from 1,600 to 1,150 from 2019 also indicates a high level of integration with Russia. Signing the agreement on creating the Joint Information-Coordination Center among the Ministries of Internal Affairs of Russia and Tskhinvali region, signed on 4 July 2016, is also a significant step towards deepening cooperation in the field of law enforcement. From the Russian side the agreement was signed by the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Russia, Igor Zubov, who supervises the occupied regions of Georgia on the part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation. According to Zubov’s assessment, the Center will be a legally independent service, whilst practically it will be an international organization, the first head of the structure being a local person. The aim of the Center is to coordinate the work of the Russian and Ossetian law enforcement structures in terms of battling organized crime and other violent criminal activity. In order to achieve its goal the Center is expected to record, analyze and exchange the information connected with criminal activity. The work of the Center will entirely be funded by the Russian side. Despite the negative attitudes towards the formation of such a Center in Abkhazia, it has already started operating and the Head of the Center has already been appointed. In Tskhinvali region, there are still some preparatory works taking place. During his meeting with the de-facto President of Tskhinvali region on 26 June 2017, Zubov stated that "the creation of the Information-Coordination Center in Tskhinvali is a done deal". According to Zubov’s statement, the funding for opening the Center already exists and it must be used up until the end of 2017, with money being spent on the capital rehabilitation of the building and equipping the Center with modern technologies. The Center will employ 23 people from the de-facto Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tskhinvali region and seven people from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation. It is interesting to note that due to the discontent with the formation of the Center in Abkhazia, it will have 20 employees (10 from each side) there. At the same time, in the case of Tskhinvali the agreement specifies that the working language of Center will be Russian. Unlike Abkhazia, the Officers of the Center in Tskhinvali region will also be authorized to hold, carry and use weapons, also being allowed to conduct operations and carry out investigations. Due to the delays of the activation of the Center a new panel was created in the de-facto Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tskhinvali region in October 2017, tasked with resolving the issues connected with the creation of the Center. Strengthening the Occupation Line On 30 April 2009, an agreement was signed between the leaders of the Russian Federation and Tskhinvali region on the "Joint Measures for Protecting the State Border of South Ossetia". It is the responsibility of the Border Police Department of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation to "protect" the 467.4 km de-facto border of the occupied Tskhinvali region, which also includes the 391.4 km "border" with Georgia. Since March 2017, Major General Anatoly Utkin, the Head of the Border Police Department has been in charge of "protecting" the de-facto border of the occupied region with Georgia. On 30 June 2017, the newly elected de-facto President of Tskhinvali region, Anatoly Bibilov held a meeting with Utkin, demanding that he improve the border security with Georgia. More specifically, according to Bibilov, the "violation of borders" by the Georgians must be eradicated fully. It is Utkin’s structure that is arresting Georgians near the occupation line. Since 2009, his Department has arrested and detained over 900 Georgians with the charge of crossing the so-called border. After 2008 Russia-Georgia War, in terms of the illegal process of "borderization", the Department has been installing barbed wires, fences and so-called border demarcating banners, as well as digging the trenches and making anti-fire structures, as a result of which the land that has been controlled by the Government of Georgia since 2008 War end up within the occupied territories. The occupation line, which has practically turned into Russia-Georgia border, has become even more "secure" lately. A so-called border zone has been created in Tskhinvali region, where the citizens of Tskhinvali region and Russia can only enter through special passes. The overall area of the border zone is 693 sq. kilometers. The minimum distance between the occupation line and the border zone is 100 meters whilst maximum is 8 kilometers. Principal Conclusions After the 2008 Russia-Georgia War and the recognition of the independence of Tskhinvali region by the Russian Federation, the aim of the Kremlin’s policy is to establish full control over the domestic processes taking place in Tskhinvali, including the fields of defense, policing and securing the de-facto border, in which the Kremlin has the support of the local illegitimate government as well. The recent steps taken by the Kremlin in Tskhinvali region indicate that the full or at least partial integration of the armed forces and law enforcement structures of Tskhinvali region into the corresponding structures of the Russian Federation is a practically irreversible process. The growth of the influence of Russia over the security field of Tskhinvali is further reinforced by the existing consensus in the separatist republic about the issue of integrating with Russia. However, at the same time it should also be noted that in Abkhazia, where there is no such consensus on the issue, the Russian influence has been growing regardless. The actions of the Border Police Department of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation have turned the occupation line into a de-facto Georgia-Russia border. The actions of the Russian border control forces on the occupation line endangers the security, private property and economic activity of the Georgian citizens, especially those living near the occupation line. The growing control over the field of security in both Abkhazia as well as Tskhinvali region exerted by Russia and the development of military infrastructure near the occupation line since 2008 is the main challenge for the security of Georgia. Wed, 15 Nov 2017 0:00:00 GMT