Foreign Policy

The Anatomy of the Parliamentary Resolution on Foreign Policy

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On 7 March 2013, the Georgian parliament unanimously adopted a Resolution on the Basic Directions of Georgia’s Foreign Policy, according to which both the parliamentary majority and minority agreed upon the foreign political course of Georgia. Ninety-six parliamentarians voted in favor of this resolution, no one abstained. This resolution is a unique product of cohabitation and its adoption was a win-win situation for both political parties. The United National Movement (UNM) benefitted from the feeling that arose amongst the population that they, the minority, imposed this document on the parliamentary majority. Meanwhile, for the Georgian Dream coalition, adopting this resolution helped them avoid a quite uncomfortable discussion about whether Bidzina Ivanishvili’s government wanted to continue the pro-Western foreign policy course or not.

It is also worth emphasizing that in creating this resolution both the majority and the minority cooperated with the non-governmental sector rather constructively, especially with those organizations that, on 13 February, called upon the Georgian Dream and the UNM to “use every legal instrument available to them” to strengthen the irreversibility of Georgia’s foreign course “through all three possible forms (an inter-factional agreement, a law on foreign policy and an amendment to the Constitution of Georgia).” The entire Georgian Association for Reforms (GRASS), an NGO of which I am a member, were directly involved in consultations with both political forces, and I am very pleased that the majority of our comments were accommodated in the final draft of the resolution.

In this article, I will try to provide a brief analysis of this resolution and show readers where the weaknesses of this document lie, where one can see signs of compromise as a result of the joint work of both sides, and what the concessions both sides had to make were.

 

'Preamble

“Relying on the Constitution of Georgia, effective legislation and international treaties;

“Being guided by the interests of the Georgian public, including by the will expressed in the results of the 2008 plebiscite;

“Bearing in mind the primacy of ensuring national security, de-occupation and the restoration of territorial integrity, and the shared responsibility of political forces for the achievement of these objectives;

“Confirming Georgia’s commitment to the non-use of force pledged by the President of Georgia in his address to the international community from the European Parliament in Strasburg on November 23, 2010;

“Aspiring to foster Georgia’s reputation in the international arena as a reliable partner with a foreign policy built upon the principles of international law;

“Believing that for pursuing an efficient policy and ensuring continuity in the sphere of foreign relations it is necessary to have a state strategy developed through cooperation and multilateral consultations between political forces;

“The Parliament of Georgia declares the basic directions of the country’s foreign policy:”

The preamble of the resolution is fairly standard and contains all the most important ideas. However, it also includes several noteworthy and interesting postulates which are worth singling out. First, is the reference to the 2008 plebiscite in which 77 percent of Georgia’s population expressed support for NATO integration. As far as I know, this wording made it into the resolution upon the insistence of the UNM who wanted the people’s attitude towards NATO to be reflected in the document. The majority agreed to this requirement as it would be unacceptable for the new government to ignore the will of the people. It is very important that the preamble contains the term “de-occupation.” By using this term, the Georgian Dream underscored that it does not intend to change the official language used in regards to the occupied territories of Georgia. This is a commendable decision indeed.

It must be noted that the wording concerning the president’s pledge of the non-use of force is very weak as it creates an impression that Georgia’s unilateral legal obligation arises from that statement made in the European Parliament. The reality, however, is that the speech made at the European Parliament was only the first step; Georgia assumed the legal obligation not by that speech, but by those letters thereafter sent to the heads of international organizations. It is precisely those letters that are considered, within the format of the Geneva talks, as the source of legal obligation on the non-use of force. Unfortunately, it appears that the authors of the document were reluctant to refer to “Misha” so many times and therefore limited themselves to mentioning the fact in a neutral and concise manner.

Another statement in the preamble worth noting is about the importance of continuity in Georgia’s foreign course and the need to develop a strategy based on broad consultations between the political forces. This clause is a bit strange because, on the level of executive power, Georgia already has a national security concept, a foreign policy strategy as well as the vision of the foreign minister. Of course, these documents will likely be revised following the elections, but none of them represent a state strategy. Presumably, the authors of the resolution are either making an announcement about developing a new strategic document or were referring to state strategy in general, which can be represented by any of the documents listed above.

The preamble is followed by the main body of the document that consists of 19 clauses. Interestingly, this document is longer than the initial 14-point inter-factions draft agreement.

 

“1. Georgia’s foreign policy course is defined by Georgia’s national interests stemming from the objective of ensuring the wellbeing of its citizens;

“2. Georgia’s foreign policy objectives are: to create guarantees for the country’s security; to protect its independence and sovereignty; to de-occupy its territories and restore the country’s territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders;”

These first two clauses are traditional for every strategic document because they note loyalty to national interests and the objectives of the country’s foreign policy. It is noteworthy that the term “de-occupation” is applied here too.

“3. The key priority of the country’s foreign policy is integration into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures. To achieve the strategic priorities of membership to the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Georgia will take further steps with the aim of building and strengthening democratic institutions; establishing a governance system based on the principle of the rule of law and the supremacy of human rights; and ensuring the irreversibility of sustainable economic development. Georgia will not join such international organizations whose policies contradict these priorities;

“4. The European and Euro-Atlantic course of Georgia’s foreign policy, first and foremost, serves sustainable democratic development and the country’s security; it is not

Bidzina Ivanishvili and Anders Fogh Rasmussen
directed against any other state;

“5. Georgia will pursue a consistent policy for the execution of those decisions made in respect to Georgia at the Bucharest and subsequent summits of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The most immediate objective is to achieve an agreement on the modalities and timeframe;”

The above three clauses repeatedly reiterate the importance of Georgia’s membership to NATO. It is worth noting that in the third clause the authors of the resolution also expressed the “strategic priorities of membership” to the European Union. As a rule, such a declaration is not often made by the government because of the distant prospects of EU membership. Moreover, these clauses clearly indicate the importance of the supremacy of human rights and the democratic development of the country. Some may take these statements as being a form of covert criticism of the UNM, but it should be clear to anyone that respecting democracy and human rights are important criteria in the path towards NATO.

From the clauses cited above, one should single out two messages directed towards the Russian Federation, which were a result of compromises achieved between the two political parties. First, parliament declares that it will never join an organization which opposes the objectives of European and Euro-Atlantic integration. The third clause of the resolution thus once again tacitly confirms that Georgia will not join the Collective Security Treaty Organization or the Eurasian Union, even though these organizations were not explicitly named. Avoiding such clarity is, in my view, strange – especially as the course of European integration has been declared openly. Yet another “message” addressed to Russia is that Georgia’s decision for integration into NATO is not directed against any other state. This is, of course, a significant statement through which the authors of the resolution again remind Moscow that NATO integration does not mean membership of an anti-Russian alliance.

“6. Georgia fully shares the obligation to participate in international efforts responding to challenges posed to the world. In this respect, Georgia’s contribution to international peacekeeping, police and civilian operations represent one of the important components in protecting national interests;”

In the sixth clause parliament unambiguously confirmed that Georgia does not intend to say no to the participation of Georgia’s military forces or law enforcement bodies in international peacekeeping and other operations. It is important that the resolution does not place emphasis on peacekeeping and military operations alone, but also mentions police and civil missions. This is an especially positive message in a setting in which Georgia intends to sign an agreement with the EU on its participation in the security and defense missions of the union. Georgian security officers have already taken part in several “competitions.” Similarly, over the past few years, Georgia has been motivated to play an increasing role in peacekeeping operations occurring under the UN’s aegis. Unfortunately, for a number of objective reasons, that did not happen. It is a welcome development that parliament has identified this direction as one of country’s priorities.

“7. The Georgian authorities will ensure the fulfillment of all those conditions which will enable Georgia to successfully complete negotiations with the European Union on the Association Agreement; the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement and the Visa Liberalization Agreement;

“8. The cooperation with the EU within the frameworks of the Eastern Partnership and European Neighborhood Policy will develop in four main areas: democracy and human rights; economic integration and approximation with the EU legislation; environmental protection and energy security; and people-to-people relations. Cooperation in the development of peace processes is also considered a priority area;”

The two clauses quoted above concern the relations between the EU and Georgia. That these clauses come after those clauses on NATO is both correct and noteworthy. While I still think it would have been good to have openly declared here as well that Georgia wants to become a member of the EU, the ambitions cited in this clause perhaps suffice at this stage. With regard to the EU, the authors of the resolution mention all the most important issues – the association agreement, free trade and visa liberalization. Against this backdrop, it would be important to declare that, after taking these steps, we have the ambition to embark upon the difficult, but extremely important, path of EU membership.

It is a bit strange to see the Eastern Partnership and European Neighborhood Policy grouped together in the eighth clause, especially considering the fact that over the past few years Georgia, as well as other states of the Eastern Partnership, have clearly declared that their priority is membership of the EU via the Eastern Partnership format rather than using the possibilities of the European Neighborhood Policy.

“9. Georgia conducts its relations with the United States in accordance with the terms defined in the US-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership. Four key areas are considered within the framework of this Charter:

- Cooperation in defense and security, including the implementation of an enhanced program in the defense sphere aimed at strengthening Georgia’s capabilities and preparing for NATO membership, as well as the implementation of a training and equipping program for the armed forces;

- Cooperation in the spheres of economy, trade and energy, including reaching an agreement on the issue of free trade;

- Strengthening democracy;

- Deepening people-to-people contacts, including reaching an agreement on a visa-free regime;

“10. Georgia considers the implementation of objectives set in agreements with the United States and the EU, the main strategic partners, first and foremost as a commitment undertaken before its own society;”

Mikheil Saakahsvili and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. June 2008
With regard to the United States, the resolution expressed all those important messages that represent priorities for us. Especially welcoming is that these messages highlight two points of strategic orientation: the execution of an agreement on free trade with the US and the achievement of a visa-free regime. It should be noted here both that discussions about a free trade agreement with the US have significantly abated of late and that the government does not display activity in this regard. However, it is good that this topic has made it into the resolution, again presumably upon the insistence of UNM MPs. As regards a visa-free travel regime with the US, Georgia will first have to work hard to diminish the refusal rate of the issuance of US visas to Georgian citizens, which will enable Georgia, at some future stage, to move onto a dialogue about visa facilitation.

“11. Georgia conducts dialogue with Russia by using the ongoing international mechanisms in Geneva as well as in the bilateral format. The goal of this dialogue is to resolve the conflict, and establish and develop good neighborly relations;”

In my opinion, the above clause is one of the weakest in this resolution. First, the terminology is inaccurate – “ongoing international mechanisms in Geneva” do not exist, what exists are the “Geneva talks” or the “Geneva international discussions.” Second, putting the Geneva talks and the bilateral dialogue in one group yet again gives rise to doubts, to say the least, that these two formats can be used against each other. Even more important, is the suggestion that both formats have similar objectives to “resolve the conflict, and establish and develop good neighborly relations.” I think it was necessary to spell out in the resolution what the aim of each format was. The Geneva talks are the only international format for conflict settlement and must be used for de-occupation and solving the problem of Tskhinvali and Sokhumi, whereas the format of the bilateral dialogue can be used for settling other relations between Russia and Georgia. Such a vague statement begs questions about whether the currently declared course will change and if conflict-related issues will shift to the bilateral format. Furthermore, the eleventh clause should have necessarily contained the term “de-occupation” because this is the key aim of our relations with Moscow.

“12. Georgia will contribute to rapprochement of the positions of the United States, the EU and the Russian Federation and other states in the South Caucasus in accordance with the interests of our country and the principles of the Helsinki [Final Act];”

The twelfth clause is clearly the weakest link of this resolution. In this clause, the parliament of Georgia is acknowledging the South Caucasus as a sphere of interest for the US, EU and Russia. This approach, in general, runs counter to the approach the developed world has towards the concept of “spheres of influence.” It seems that Georgia still has such politicians who are ready to “acknowledge” that we fall under a sphere of influence. Fortunately, this clause contains reference to “Helsinki principles”, which means sovereignty, the independence of countries and non-interference into their domestic affairs. In any case, this clause appears very weird. It would have been better if it were deleted from the final wording of the resolution.

“13. Georgia will support a political dialogue in the Caucasus and economic cooperation for harmonizing the basic interests of the states of the region. Relations with the peoples of the North Caucasus will rest on historic experience and the traditions of good neighborly, cultural and humanitarian cooperation;”

The final wording of this clause concerning the Caucasus is much better than the wording in the initial 14-point draft in which the Georgian side was actually admitting that it could only maintain such a relationship with the North Caucasus which would please Moscow. This idea is no longer in this clause, which clearly indicates that Georgia has the ambition to be a determiner of its own politics towards the North Caucasian republics.

“14. It is important to deepen bilateral political and economic relations with neighboring Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Georgia should become an area for realizing mutually beneficial political and economic relations and business opportunities for these countries.

“15. Bearing in mind the favorable geopolitical location for trans-national projects, one of the priority directions of Georgia’s foreign policy is the enhancement of economic relations with the countries of the Black Sea basin, the Caspian Sea basin, the Middle East and Asia;

“16. Georgia will actively cooperate with the Baltic States. Experience and support of these countries in the issues of European and Euro-Atlantic integration is important for Georgia;

“17. It is important for Georgia to deepen economic and political relations with the countries of Central and South-Eastern Europe as well as with the Scandinavian states, and gain the support of these countries for Georgia’s ongoing reforms and sovereignty;”

In the above quoted clauses Georgia concisely outlined those priority regions which it wants to deepen relations with. The fact that Turkey, Azerbaijan, Armenia, the Baltic and Scandinavian states are mentioned separately is to be welcomed. However, it is strange that nothing is said about other regions important for Georgia. Let me recall that, in the past few years, Georgia has opened embassies in such significant countries as Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, South Africa, Ethiopia, Indonesia, India, South Korea, Japan, Australia and China. This shows that, despite its solid course towards Europe and Euro-Atlantic integration, the country has developed a multi-vector foreign policy vision and, as a result of this, has “appeared” in the international arena. It is very regrettable for Georgia’s new foreign policy team that this approach of “reaching the world” has been absolutely overlooked.

It should also be noted that in recent years Georgia has become a country whose capital city, as well as Batumi, Rustavi and other major cities, have been visited by people from almost every country of the world to learn about the reforms implemented here. During the past three years, more than 300 delegations arrived here to learn about our reforms, whilst representatives of Georgia paid more than 100 visits to “export” those reforms. Naturally, this area has become an important direction in the country’s foreign policy. Unfortunately, this resolution says nothing about “the export of reforms.” This is understandable – the Georgian Dream, of course, did not want to admit in this document that the reforms implemented by the previous government are of “export” quality. Nevertheless, I still hope that Georgia will very soon recover the practice of sharing its experience with interested countries.

“18. Georgia cannot have diplomatic relations or be in a military, political or customs union with those states that recognize the independence of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/former autonomous district of South Ossetia or have occupied Georgia’s territory. Georgia will carry out a consistent foreign policy in order to secure unwavering international respect for its territorial integrity and sovereignty;”

In the eighteenth clause of the resolution the parliament reiterated the condition expressed in the third clause that Georgia will not joint such organizations which threaten the country’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration. This time around, this condition has acquired more clarity; stating that Georgia will not join a military or political organization or a customs union which involves an occupier or a country recognizing the “independence” of the occupied territories. One can again assume that this wording appeared in the resolution’s text after consultations with the parliamentary minority as in the initial 14-point draft this idea was entirely absent. Naturally, some experts with more radical attitudes would maintain that the eighteenth clause should have openly named Russia. Such an opinion has the right to exist, but it is more correct in diplomatic language to speak not about a country being a problem, but about the threats (recognition and occupation) emanating from that country being the problem which discourage us from being in any organization together with Russia.

“19. Given the interest of strengthening national and regional security, also for ensuring irreversibility of the development of the peace process and the ‘non-recognition policy’, Georgia will significantly deepen multilateral diplomatic relations within the formats of the UN, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the European Commission, the GUAM, and the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.”

This last clause is also rather strange as it contains a number of suspicious ideas. First, for the conduct of the non-recognition policy, Georgia must be active not only in international organizations, but also in various countries across the world. Second, working on the issue of non-recognition with the UN, the OSCE, the GUAM, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and the Council of Europe is, at the very least, confusing because Georgia has a different agenda with each of these organizations. That said, the threat of recognition indeed comes from some member states of these organizations.

 

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