Amendments on neutral documents passed with first hearing
By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, June 20Georgian Parliament passed at the first hearing a package of legislative amendments which envisages issuing neutral IDs and neutral travel documents to the residents of Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The amendments are part of Georgia’s state strategy on occupied territories, which was adopted last year.
According to the amendments, the residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will be able to receive the neutral documents which will enable them to travel abroad or benefit with social services in Georgia. Receiving the document does not mean receiving a Georgian citizenship though. A neutral travel document will cost GEL 35 and the neutral ID will cost 10 GEL, according to the proposed legislation. The documents, which will have no Georgian state symbols will be filled in a “foreign language”, however the exact data about this issue have not been specified so far.
For the holders of the neutral documents it will not be considered illegal to cross into Georgia’s breakaway regions through the checkpoints which are listed as illegal by the Georgian authorities. However, if a neutral document holder wants to enter Abkhazia and South Ossetia through other checkpoints rather than from the checkpoints located in Zugdidi and Gori, he will have to notify the Georgian authorities about his intention.
The de facto South Ossetian and Abkhazian officials have downplayed Tbilisi’s initiative on neutral travel and ID documents, calling it “yet another PR action.” Speaking to journalists earlier in April, the de facto Abkhazian Prime Minister Sergey Shamba said the residents of Abkhazia will not accept the neutral documents proposed by Tbilisi. “We have an agreement with Russia about double citizenship and our citizens hold Russian, as well as Abkhazian passports,” the de facto Premier said “So, we do not need Georgian documents. The proposal of Tbilisi is yet another delusion and will bring no results,” he added.
De facto authorities in Tskhinvali have been critical too. The statement of the de facto South Ossetian Foreign Ministry says that Tbilisi was proposing working out neutral passports in 1998 as well, because the residents had no internationally recognized documents. “Now this problem does not exist any more,” the de facto Foreign Ministry’s statement reads.
According to the Georgian authorities the aim of the document is to enable the residents of Georgia’s breakaway regions to travel abroad and to give them an opportunity to benefit with Georgian healthcare, education and other social programs. “By issuing this document, Georgia fully confirms that as a sovereign, it considers them its subjects and is responsible for them as their citizens, however it does not put these people in the situation when they would have to recognize themselves as citizens of Georgia in order to get this document to travel abroad,” Georgian Minister for Reintegration, Eka Tkeshelashvili told lawmakers on April 14, when presenting the initiative to the Georgian Parliamentary Commission on Territorial Integrity Issues.