The Georgian government approved on July 3 an Action Plan for Engagement – a document laying out steps for implementing goals of Tbilisi’s Strategy on Occupied Territories: Engagement through Cooperation.
The Strategy and its Action Plan, according to the government, provide “human-centered approach” designed to reduce “isolation” and “improve welfare” of people living in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The Action Plan, which has been developed and which will be overseen by the Office of Georgian State Minister for Reintegration, centers around seven “instruments” the government offers to put in place to achieve the goals of the Strategy.
These seven instruments are: status-neutral liaison mechanism; neutral identification card and travel document; trust fund; joint investment fund; cooperation agency; financial institution and integrated social-economic zone.
Status-Neutral Liaison Mechanism
The goal of this mechanism, according to the Action Plan, should be facilitation of communication between the Georgian government and “the authorities in control in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia” – the term which the Strategy refers to the Sokhumi-based and Tskhinvali-based authorities, which usually are described by the Georgian officials as Moscow’s “proxy” or “puppet regimes”.
The same mechanism, the Action Plan says, should also be in charge of executing “mutually approved projects and support implementers in their operations.”
The status-neutral liaison mechanism will consist of liaison officers appointed with the consent of the both sides and their “small staff” based in Sokhumi, Tskhinvali and Tbilisi.
The Action Plan notes that this mechanism can be based on previous arrangements, in case of Abkhazia such as the Georgian-Abkhaz Coordination Commission (or Council). There was the attempt back in 2006 to revitalize this Commission. But only one meeting in frames of this arrangement was held in Tbilisi in May, 2006.
Neutral Identification Card and Travel Document
The Action Plan proposes amendments to the Georgian legislature that will allow issuing of neutral identification cards and travel documents (neutral with respect to citizenship status) to the residents of the breakaway regions.
Authorities in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali have often complained that the residents of the regions, which hold Russian passports, are denied in entry visas to Europe and the United States.
Apart of allowing holders of these documents to travel abroad, they will also be able to gain access to social and education services available in the rest of Georgia, according to the Action Plan. For the residents of Abkhazia, such documents will be written in Abkhaz and Georgian languages, which are official language in Abkhazia, according to the Georgian constitution.
An international organization-managed trust fund, according to the Action Plan, will be established, which will serve as an advisory body for donors, providing grants to implementing organizations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Joint Investment Fund
It will be a privately operated body, funded by donor and business organizations, to provide seed money for ventures on the both sides of “division lines”.
Cooperation Agency will be a legal person of public law under the Office of Georgian State Ministry for Reintegration, established to assist in carrying out state-funded programs.
“It will assist organisations that seek help in finding partners across the division lines, coordinate the efforts of local authorities to improve the local operating environments, ensure that project activity and business development complies with Georgian and international law,” the Action Plan reads.
The Action Plan offers setting up of Financial Institution in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali to facilitate cash transfers and other transactions. The document says that such institution can be operated by a bank, which already operates in Georgia.
Integrated Social-Economic Zone
The Action Plan proposes creation of this zone in the adjacent areas of the administrative borders with facilities for business and social services. Enterprises and population in these zones “may be exempted from some taxes,” according to the document.
Both Tskhinvali and Sokhumi have rejected for number of times to even discuss Georgia’s Strategy. Abkhaz leader, Sergey Bagapsh, said in February that the Strategy was “a guideline of what Abkhazia should not do.”
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