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The prospects of ‘status neutral’ documents

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, April 19
The State Minister for Reintegration Eka Tkeshelashvili stated on April 14, 2011 that the documents for the citizens of Georgia’s separatist regions granting them “neutral status” will become available by the end of this year. This will happen in compliance with the strategic action plan for inclusion of people living in the disputed territory. Through this action plan it is envisaged to issue special ID cards and passports to the citizens living in the disputed territory thereby giving them an opportunity to travel abroad as well as benefit from the social services existing in Georgia. Tbilisi’s decision caused a very negative reaction in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali. The puppet regimes there stated that this is a useless initiative without any practical outcome. However this quick and negative reaction from the separatist regimes gives ground to conclude that those documents could be very practical inside Georgian territory.

As the Minister for Reintegration explained, obtaining neutral status documents would not necessarily mean receiving Georgian citizenship. The document will not have the Georgian state symbol nor will it be biometric; however the document will be a means of identifying a person. The minister added that the process will be based on a voluntary principle and, of course, the Georgian government does not expect it to be used in big quantities.

Tkeshalashvili thinks that before the civil registry starts issuing such documents, a certain number of specific legislation amendments should be adopted. Besides there are separate negotiations conducted with different countries so that in the event of adoption of such status a person should not have any problems while applying for a visa to different embassies. The leaders of separatist regions often express their discontent concerning the issue that the population of these regions who hold Russian passports were often refused visas either in European countries or to the USA.

“We can secure all these people's legitimate possibility of moving freely around the world,” stated Tkeshelashvili. Both separatist entities labeled Georgia's goodwill move as a publicity stunt, as nobody will take these documents. We have an agreement with Russia concerning double citizenship so the citizens have Russian as well as Abkhaz passports therefore we do not need Georgian passports,” stated the so called PM of Abkhazia to the Russian newspaper Vzgliad. As for the Tskhinvali puppet regime their leaders stated that the Georgian initiative is obsolete and it is not interesting to anybody in the region. The separatists state that similar issue was discussed in 1998 when South Ossetia was not recognized by anybody, while today South Ossetia is an independent and recognized (by four countries) state. The separatists claim that the majority of South Ossetian citizens have Russian passports; therefore they can travel abroad with no problems. Russian analyst Fedor Lukianov also considers the Georgian initiative as more propagandistic than realistic. The analyst confirms that the situation of Abkhazian and South Ossetian citizens is rather complicated as they are not allowed to enter EU countries with Russian passports. Of course they should be offered some possibility to move around the world but this should have been done earlier.

It is clear that according to international legislation, the Georgian initiative will make it easier for the citizens of disputed regions to move abroad. Secondly it will give more opportunities to those people to enjoy different social or other benefits through the possibility of traveling in Georgia. In particular this concerns the health care system as there are many cases where patients from separatist controlled territories come to Georgia to receive qualified medical care. Moreover this would give the youth of the separatist region a chance to receive education abroad financed by the Georgian state.

So the Georgian government is taking this issue very seriously and will consider practical steps within the framework of the inclusion strategy. It will take some time before we see how effective this strategy becomes.