In an open letter to parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili, ambassadors of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in Georgia welcomed adoption of amendments to the Liberty Charter by the Georgian Parliament last month, aimed at actual enforcement of measure to prevent public display of symbols of totalitarian communist regime.
“Adoption of these amendments… show again that the Baltic States and Georgia share common European values and understanding of our history. We strongly believe that in a state, which has chosen a democratic path, it is unacceptable to glorify Soviet or any other totalitarian regime,” reads the letter released on January 10.
In May, 2011 the Georgian Parliament adopted Liberty Charter, which, among other issues, also envisaged creation of a state commission at the Interior Ministry in charge of gathering information about existence of symbols, monuments, statues, inscriptions, names of streets or squares, reflecting or containing elements of communist or fascist ideology and propaganda. This commission, however, has never been established.
The amendment to the Liberty Charter, which was passed by the Parliament on December 25, 2013 and which went into force on December 30, sets timeframe of two months within which the state commission, which will also include representatives from parliamentary factions, should be established (its members should be selected within a month and commission’s statute should be approved by the Interior Ministry within two months). The amendment also made it legally binding to enforce decision of the commission in case it finds that a symbol violates provisions of this law. Failure to enforce the decision will result into “warning” and repeat failure will carry fine of GEL 1,000.
Ambassadors from the Baltic States said in their joint open letter that they “fully support” establishment of the state commission.
“We are also ready to involve historians of the Baltic countries to help develop the new concept for the museum in Gori, as well as share our experience with Georgian historians and scientists.
In April, 2012 then leadership of the Ministry of Culture announced about the plan to transform the museum of Stalin in Gori and to rename it into Museum of Stalinism to focus on the Soviet regime’s repressions – something that has yet to be implemented. Current leadership of the Culture Ministry says it sticks to this plan and for that purpose established a commission with invited historians and experts to elaborate a new concept for the museum.
The amendment to the Liberty Charter, according to one of its co-sponsors MP Levan Berdzenishvili from the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority group, was prompted by several cases of restoration of Stalin monuments in the provinces. One of such monuments was removed in the town of Telavi on December 31.
Concerns over those cases of re-erecting Stalin statues were raised, both privately and publicly, before the Georgian authorities by some EU-member states, mainly by the Baltic and Eastern European states. The issue was also raised by Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs when he met Georgian parliament speaker Davit Usupashvili in Riga in November.