MINELRES: ECMI Newsletter: October 2005

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Mon Oct 17 09:43:45 2005


Original sender: William McKinney <mckinney@ecmi.de>


European Centre for Minority Issues
Volume 2, Issue 3
October 2005

Special Feature: Georgia

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Contents
1. Citizen's Forum established in Georgia's Armenian minority region
2. A New Momentum in Talks on the Settlement of the Transnistrian
Conflict in Moldova
3. Support for the Georgian Government in policy-making on Meskhetian
Turks
4. Conference on Meskhetian Turk Resettlement in Tbilisi
5. ECMI supports ratification of the FCNM in Georgia
6. ECMI Concludes Civil Society Capacity Building Project in Macedonia
7. ECMI-LGI Series on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues
8. External Publications by ECMI Staff
9. Recent ECMI Reports, Working Papers and Briefs
10. Calendar of Events
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1. Citizen's Forum established in Georgia's Armenian minority region

Under the auspices of ECMI, local leaders from the primarily
Armenian-inhabited region of Javakheti established a Javakheti Citizen's
Forum on 23 August 2005. "The establishment of the Javakheti Citizen's
Forum is a major step forward for advancing civil society in Javakheti,"
says Tom Trier, ECMI's Regional Representative for the Caucasus, based
in Tbilisi. "The Forum will play a major role in enhancing the links
between the region's population and the authorities."

With a conflict prevention focus, ECMI aims to defuse inter-ethnic
tension and promote regional integration of the isolated Javakheti
region (Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda rayons) into the Republic of Georgia
by enhancing informed political dialogue between local, regional and
state levels of government and civil society. ECMI conducts independent
research projects and increases the capacity of civil society
organizations and local communities through training and community
mobilization.

"Over 20 civil society organizations are among the founders of the
Javakheti Citizen's Forum and some 150 people representing all groups in
the region have signed up to become members of the Forum," says Tom
Trier. ECMI launched the Javakheti Citizen's Forum project in 2004 and
will continue to support its activities at least until the end of 2007.

On 23 August, the Javakheti Citizen's Forum held its inaugural meeting
with the participation of over 150 people from the region and elected an
organizational committee. The next day, the committee elected 17 board
members and established six working groups on gender, youth issues,
human and minority rights, economic issues, language, education and
culture, and governance and public administration. The next steps
include electing a board chairman and registering the Forum with the
Georgian authorities.

The Javakheti Citizen's Forum is all-inclusive. All of Javakheti's
ethnic groups - Armenian, Georgian, Greek, Russian Dukhobor - and
different religious confessions - Apostolic and Catholic Armenians -
were present at the inaugural meeting. The Forum's membership base
consists of all invitees who signed the inaugural declaration on 23
August.

Socially, economically and geographically isolated from the rest of
Georgia and with a large Armenian minority, the Javakheti region, which
forms the eastern part of the Samtskhe-Javakheti Province of Georgia,
possesses the potential for ethno-political tension. The scheduled
withdrawal of the 62nd Russian military base - a major provider of jobs
to the local population - by 2007 risks exacerbating regional problems.
"Javakheti remains an isolated region of Georgia," Tom Trier says, "but
the Forum will provide new opportunities for enhancing a process of
consultation between government and civil society in the region. It is
important that the concerns of Javakheti's population are heard and
taken into account when the government devises new policies affecting
the region". Collaborative lobbying efforts with Georgia's Ministry of
Justice have led to the opening of a passport issuing authority in
Javakheti, saving the local population from travelling to the city of
Akhaltsikhe, some 75 km away. In consultation with ECMI, Georgian
authorities are planning socioeconomic programs to defuse base
withdrawal concerns and ongoing tensions.

ECMI has been involved with research on ethnopolitical conflicts in the
Caucasus since 2001. As a non-partisan actor, the Centre has established
very close working relations with local authorities in Javakheti, the
governor of Samtskhe-Javakheti, as well as the State Minister for
Conflict Resolution Issues, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of
Education and several NGOs. To support the Georgian government's
capacity to develop national minority policies, ECMI seconds several
local experts in regional development and conflict management at the
Office of the Georgian State Minister for Conflict Resolution Issues,
which works to enhance governmental policy on minorities and to improve
dialogue between governmental structures and the population of
Javakheti.

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2. A New Momentum in Talks on the Settlement of the Transnistrian
Conflict in Moldova

Two events, the failure of the federalization talks that dominated the
Transnistrian conflict settlement agenda during the first term of the
communist government in Moldova (2001-2005) and the Ukrainian Orange
Revolution, have led to the beginning of a new period in Transnistria's
conflict resolution talks. This time, the initiative came from the
Ukrainian President, Viktor Yushchenko, in May 2005. The Yushchenko Plan
reiterates the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of
the Republic of Moldova and proposes that a special legal status be
granted to the Transnistrian region within the Republic of Moldova. The
plan envisages early free and fair elections to the Transnistrian
'Supreme Soviet' under international monitoring before Moldova
recognizes this assembly as the legitimate representative body of the
region.

The Moldovan parliament approved Yushchenko's plan in June 2005 and the
OSCE reacted positively to this initiative and to the first steps taken
by the Moldovan parliament. There remain, however, many questions as to
whether or not the Transnistrian authorities will accept the plan that
was proposed by Yushchenko and
elaborated on in the decisions of the Moldovan parliament.

ECMI has been involved in Moldova for a quite some time, supporting the
Moldovan authorities' search for an optimal solution to the conflict
through its network of international specialists on conflict resolution
and through the active engagement with the local expert community. These
ECMI activities are set to intensify in the forthcoming months. A number
of international experts' missions, as well as several seminars and
local expert group discussions, are planned for the autumn months of
2005. Hopefully, the concerted efforts of all domestic and international
actors involved in conflict resolution in Moldova will help to bring
about democratization in Transnistria and to find a lasting solution for
the Transnistrian problem.

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3. Support for the Georgian Government in policy-making on Meskhetian
Turks

Georgia today has the veneer of relative stability and progress, but
many of the elements that tore the country apart 15 years ago still
prevail. The standstill in the relations with the unrecognized republics
of South Ossetia and Abkhazia remains an important concern of the
government. The post-Soviet socioeconomic situation in Georgia has not
significantly improved either. At the same time, Georgia's new
leadership is determined to eventually become a member of the EU and
strives to transmit the image of a country sincerely committed to
democratic principles.

Whilst having signed a range of international agreements and
conventions, Georgia still has many obligations remaining to be
implemented. One of the commitments made when Georgia acceded to the
Council of Europe in 1999 was to begin the process of repatriation of
the Meskhetian Turks, who were deported from the country in 1944.
However, the government has been frustratingly sluggish in addressing
this issue. Despite pressure from the Council of Europe, this issue
remains at the margins of contemporary Georgian politics. However, the
government's inefficacy cannot solely be attributed to its deliberate
unwillingness to address the issue of repatriation. This issue is indeed
very sensitive, as the concept of repatriation enjoys little support
amongst the population. Moreover, the Georgian government lacks both the
knowledge on the current situation of the deported population and the
experience for adequately initiating a process of repatriation. At the
same time, the international community has been reluctant to get
involved until a law on repatriation has been passed by the Georgian
parliament.

Against this unpromising background ECMI has been the only international
organization that has attempted to provide concrete assistance to the
government in its efforts to tackle the issues pertaining to
repatriation. The large scale ECMI research project "Between
Repatriation and Resettlement: The Meskhetian Turks", currently being
conducted by ECMI (see page 5), has turned out to be most timely,
allowing ECMI to provide policy makers with facts on the current
situation of the Meskhetian Turks. Acknowledging the highly sensitive
nature of the problem, ECMI has positioned itself outside a
controversial political debate over the ethnic origin of the Meskhetian
Turks and refrained from voicing an opinion about the timeframe for
repatriation and the locations of settlements for those to be
repatriated. Instead, ECMI has made a commitment to rendering assistance
in the following areas:

a) To provide state structures with objective and up-to-date
information. Dearth of information about number of Meskhetian Turks, the
location of their current settlement and their intentions with regard to
repatriation has significantly impeded the government's efforts to deal
with the problem;

b) To enhance the dialogue between the state structures and the
population. The Georgian population is barely aware of the government's
position and activities regarding repatriation. Although this issue has
been frequently raised by NGOs, until recently the government has tended
to disengage from a public discussion on this matter;

c) To assist in devising a viable action plan for repatriation. Clearly,
the international community is reluctant to accelerate assistance for
repatriation as long as the Georgian government fails to work out a
realistic plan with a feasible timeframe and clear division of
responsibilities.

On 6 June 2005, ECMI organized a conference with participation of key
experts on Meskhetian Turks (see page 5). At the event, ECMI experts
informed Georgian officials, activists, scholars and other stakeholders
on the results of its comparative research project in nine states of
Meskhetian Turkish settlement. A special emphasis was put on the
Meskhetian Turks' intentions with regard to possible repatriation to
Georgia. The conference cemented relations between ECMI and the Georgian
government and encouraged the Commission on Repatriation to intensify
its work.

ECMI regularly updates members of the Commission on the project's
progress and on the findings of the ongoing research. Due to this
research the government has now obtained more reliable statistics as to
the total number of Meskhetian Turks and information on the locations of
their current settlement.

Equally vital is ECMI's contribution in devising an action plan for
repatriation. ECMI has seconded a noted specialist in the field, former
Acting Ombudsman of Georgia Mr. Teimuraz Lomsadze, to work with the
Office of the State Minister for Conflict Resolution. He is working in
close cooperation with the State Minister for Conflict Resolution
Issues, Mr. Giorgi Khaindrava, on issues related to the repatriation of
Meskhetian Turks. Mr. Lomsadze has almost singlehandedly authored a new
action plan, which is now being considered by the government and
president. The new action plan is envisaged to carry more weight in the
eyes of the international community.

ECMI's assistance is welcomed and highly appreciated by the Georgian
authorities. The Centre is regarded as a leading expert on Meskhetian
Turks. It remains to be seen, however, whether the government has the
political will to join the dots and utilize these efforts for beginning
a process of repatriation.

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4. Conference on Meskhetian Turk Resettlement in Tbilisi

On 6 June ECMI held a conference entitled "Finding Durable Solutions for
the Meskhetians" in Tbilisi, Georgia, as a part of a large-scale
comparative research project "Between Integration and Resettlement: The
Meskhetian Turks".

In light of the Georgian government's growing attention of to the issue
of resettlement of Meskhetian Turks in Georgia, the conference aimed at
presenting and discussing the research results of recently conducted
studies in the countries of Meskhetian settlement. By bringing together
different stakeholders involved in the issue, the conference was
envisaged to contribute to discussion on the problems of the Meskhetian
Turks and how they can be addressed. The conference featured
presentations on Meskhetians based on case-studies in Georgia,
Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey
and the USA. The case studies covered a wide range of issues relating to
the situation of the Meskhetian Turks, with a particular focus on their
attitude toward repatriation, resettlement, their notion of
home/homeland and their plans and aspirations. In addition to the
country case-studies, the conference shed light on the role and
interests of the actors involved in discussions about solutions for the
Meskhetian Turks.

The conference was a great success. It was chaired by the State Minister
for Conflict Resolution Issues, Mr. Giorgi Khaindrava, and was attended
by a significant number of MPs as well as Georgian ministers. Overall,
it attracted an audience of over 100 experts, politicians, scholars and
NGO activists. The conference received very positive media coverage and
gave a boost to the work of the Government Commission on Repatriation.

So far, the Commission on Repatriation has not been very efficient. It
was tasked to devise an action plan and a strategy for repatriation.
Since its establishment in November 2004, the Commission has worked out
two plans (in addition to previous plans developed by former
commissions), but neither has been presented to the government or the
president. Postconference developments, however, have brought some signs
of hope. The Commission has managed to get representatives of all
ministries and the parliament involved in its work and has completed an
action plan. In contrast with numerous previous plans, it implies a
clear division of responsibilities and a feasible timeframe for
repatriation. However, this plan is still pending the president's
approval.

Meanwhile, ECMI continues its research project on the Meskhetian Turks,
which is funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. Studies in the nine
countries of settlement are close to completion. The project will lead
to the publication of a 600-page research volume; a unique comparative
and multi-disciplinary study of the Meskhetian Turks, serving as a solid
base for the process of finding possible solutions to the problem of the
Meskhetian Turks. It is expected that the volume will be published in
Autumn 2006. The research findings themselves as well as a set of
recommendations will provide policy-makers and practitioners with an
invaluable tool in addressing the problems of the deported Meskhetian
Turk population.

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5. ECMI supports ratification of the FCNM in Georgia

During the last year, ECMI has developed a dual strategy to better
address the issue of minority rights protection in Georgia. Together
with a grassroots approach that aims at raising awareness among citizens
and representatives from local and regional authorities, the Centre has
also developed a top-down approach to support the parliament and central
government's efforts to ratify and implement the Framework Convention
for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM), as well as to
strengthen its capacity to deal with minority issues.

Georgia has signed but not yet ratified the FCNM. With Resolution 1415
(January 2005), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has
encouraged Georgia to keep up with its commitments and obligations by
urging that the Georgian government ratifies the FCNM by September 2005.

During recent months, the Georgian government has achieved significant
progress in the FCNM ratification process: the Parliamentary Committees
for Human Rights and Civic Integration, Foreign Relations, European
Integration and Legal Issues, which are in charge of the reviews of the
FCNM's provisions, have recently issued positive opinions about the
Convention. Furthermore, a Concept for the Integration of National
Minorities has been drafted by the Parliament's Human Rights and Civic
Integration Committee and will, most likely, be adopted during the
Autumn Session.

So far, ECMI has made major efforts in consulting with those
parliamentary and executive bodies in the government involved in the
FCNM ratification process and has established contacts with relevant
officials. Through meetings and consultations, ECMI has been able to
identify the major gaps and obstacles impeding the setting of a clear
agenda for the implementation of the FCNM.

Despite its efforts to improve standards for democratic and transparent
governance, the government's capacity in policy formulation and
implementation of minority governance standards seems to remain limited
and is impeded by the existence of parallel structures and lack of
efficient coordination. Georgia still faces severe difficulties in its
ongoing attempt to set a clear agenda and a precise distribution of
responsibilities in addressing the issue of minority rights protection
and regional policy issues. This process has been further undermined by
the lack of a consensus amongst government officials and
parliamentarians regarding the definition of the term 'minority' as it
applies to the Georgian context, as well as a generally held concern
that the implementation of the FCNM may encourage separatism in minority
populated regions, thereby threatening Georgia's territorial integrity.

To efficiently address these problems, ECMI is currently working in
close cooperation with the relevant parliament committees to elaborate a
capacity-building action plan, whose main target group will be
government's officials and members of parliament, for which expert
consultations on the specific provisions of the FCNM will be provided
along with briefing sessions on implications of the ratification and
steps to be taken for follow-on measures in the process of
implementation of the Convention. In early October, ECMI will organize a
seminar for parliamentarians and government officials to address the
remaining obstacles for ratification of the FCNM. Mr. Alan Phillips,
former Vice-President of the Advisory Committee for the FCNM and a
leading expert on the Convention, will attend the seminar along with
other experts and will hold separate consultations with Georgian
parliamentarians.

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6.  ECMI Concludes Civil Society Capacity Building Project in Macedonia

ECMI has been present in Macedonia since 2000, working with local NGOs
in six regions - Skopje, Tetovo, Bitola, Gostivar, Shtip and Kumanovo.
The objective of ECMI's project, the "Regional and National NGO Network
for the Improvement of Interethnic Relations", was to promote
interethnic cooperation amongst all Macedonia's communities. Over the
course of three years, more than 80 NGOs participated in the Network and
received assistance from ECMI in the development and implementation of
projects and activities with cross-cultural themes and implementing
partners. In December 2004, this Network transformed into three Regional
Coalitions with thematic focuses: education, human rights and health
care. With the assistance of ECMI staff in
Skopje, Regional Coalitions consisting of Network members were formed in
Bitola, Tetovo and Kumanovo, while a number of NGOs from Skopje,
Gostivar and Shtip, along with several from the Bitola, Tetovo and
Kumanovo regions, formed the Society Development Initiative - a national
network of NGOs in Macedonia.

In January, the Regional Coalitions, with the assistance of ECMI staff,
registered themselves as independent entities in their respective
regions and have since developed and begun implementing action plans
that will facilitate the civil society element of the decentralization
process in Macedonia.

August 2005 marks the end of ECMI's role in the development of civil
society in Macedonia, but with the creation of the regional and national
coalitions, at the behest of the Network members themselves, ECMI has
been able to finalize the project with the knowledge that it has
produced viable and sustainable mechanisms for the continued development
of civil society and, thus, the democratization process in Macedonia.

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7. ECMI-LGI Series on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues

The Fate of Ethnic Democracy in Post Communist Europe
Edited by Sammy Smooha and Priit Jarve
ECMI-LGI Series on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues, Vol. 3
ISBN 963-9419-74-9

The break-up of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia has
unleashed two grand forces: a drive for democratization on Western lines
and the resurgence of ethnonational conflicts. It is anticipated that
these post-Communist states may develop a new regime that combines
institutionalized dominance of an ethnic majority with democratic rights
for all. This mixed, non-Western type of system is amenable for analysis
by Sammy Smooha's model of ethnic democracy, based on Israel.

In this volume, the model is applied by country specialists to Estonia,
Latvia, Georgia, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. From
these seven case studies, Smooha draws comparisons and conclusions about
the model and regimes in post-Communist Europe.

To order this book please send an email to: LGIpublications@osi.hu.

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8. External Publications by ECMI Staff

National Minority Rights in Europe
Tove H. Malloy, ISBN 0-19-927443-6

National Minority Rights in Europe reviews the European
inter-governmental approach in international law and politics through
analysis of issues related to the moral recognition and ethical
acceptance of national minorities. Examining issues of sub-state
nationalisms, group recognition, identity, and political participation,
Malloy reveals assumptions in international law and politics about state
sovereignty, collective rights, loyalty, and political inclusion.
Employing both theoretical analysis and practical examples, Malloy
provides a new framework for the accommodation of national minorities in
Europe, which aims to address the problems that have emerged from both
international law and European relations since 1989.

This publication may be ordered directly from the publisher, Oxford
University Press. For telephone credit card order please call: +44 (0)
1536 454534. Alternatively, please visit:
http://www.oup.co.uk/bookshop/order.html for an order form.

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Autonomy, Self-governance and Conflict Resolution. Innovative Approaches
to Institutional Design in Divided Societies
Edited by Marc Weller and Stefan Wolff,
ISBN 0-415-33986-3

This book compares and contrasts recent cases from Europe, Africa, Asia
and Latin America in which new forms of autonomy regimes have been
implemented in ethnically diverse societies. Acknowledging the
significance of recent developments in the design of complex and
innovative autonomy regimes and focusing on different options that are
available for their design, this book makes an important contribution
to, and moves forward, the current debate among scholars and
practitioners on institutional design in ethnically diverse societies.

For further information about this book, please see the ECMI Library
Catalogue.
This publication may be ordered directly from the publisher, Routledge,
Taylor & Francis Group. Hardback ?65.00. Telephone credit card orders:
+44 (0) 20 7017 6000. Fax credit card orders: +44 (0) 20 7017 6699.

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9. Recent ECMI Reports, Working Papers and Briefs

ECMI Report #56
Denika Blacklock.
Finding Durable Solutions for the Meskhetians. A Presentation of
Preliminary Findings and a Roundtable Discussion with Government and
Civil Society Actors in Georgia: Report on the Joint Conference
organized by the ECMI and the State Minister of Georgia on Conflict
Resolution Issues.
August 2005, 20 pp., appendix.
http://www.ecmi.de/download/Report_56.pdf

ECMI Report #55
D. Christopher Decker and Roxana Ossian.
Enhancing Minority Governance in Romania. The Romanian Draft Law on the
Status of National Minorities: A Consultation with Civil Society
July 2005, 35 pp., appendix.
http://www.ecmi.de/download/Report_55.pdf

ECMI Working Paper #24
Tove H. Malloy.
National Minority 'Regions' in the Enlarged European Union: Mobilizing
for Third Level Politics?
July 2005, 44 pp., appendix
http://www.ecmi.de/download/working_paper_24.pdf

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10. Calendar of Events

July

1 July          Academia Baltica Seminar at the ECMI

14 July         Visit by the "Ostsee Jugend Mediencamp" , Co-operation between
the Landesmedienanstalt and the Landesjugendring, Flensburg

August

11 August       Meeting of Working Group on Minorities, Integration and
Intercultural Competence

22 August       Book Presentation and Press Conference organised by Author at
ECMI

25 August       Interview with the Spanish Newspaper "El Mundo" regarding
ethnic and national minorities in Europe, Flensburg

25 August       Opening of the Minority Film Festival, Flensburg

26-28 August      Minority Conference at Akademie Sankelmark in cooperation
with Landeszentrale fur politsche Bildung

28 August       Minority Marathon, ECMI Info desk and Press Office, Flensburg

September

25-26 September   "ECMI Ombudsperson Network Project - Training Event",
Sofia, Bulgaria

27 September       ECMI National Conference on "Improving Minority
Governance in Bulgaria", Sofia

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Publisher:  European Centre for Minority Issues
Schiffbruecke 12
D-24939 Flensburg
Germany
www.ecmi.de
tel. +49 (0) 461 141 490
fax +49 (0) 461 141 4919
Print ISSN:  1814-1366
Online ISSN: 1814-1447

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