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Rights defenders tough on Georgia for ethnic issue14.10.2009 | 22:46
EU representatives are displeased with the situation of national minorities in Georgia believing that involvement of non-title nations in all spheres of Georgian life is limited. The nationalities question has long been Georgia's heel of Achilles. What is in store for the multi-national state?
The Council of Europe Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities has recently published hard-hitting conclusions on Georgia's policy.
Generally speaking the first report of the Europeans contained the same claims toward official Tbilisi that were continually addressed by the ethnic minorities themselves.
"Participation of persons belonging to national minorities in the country's cultural, social and economic life and in public affairs remains limited", - the report underlines as reported by ITAR-TASS.
According to European rights defenders the right of national minorities to use their own language is not fully exercised. For instance, the schools with non-official language education are underfunded.
The EU committee remarks it is essential for Georgia to ensure equal access to higher education and eliminate any obstacles to the representatives of national minorities participating in the country's social life.
Remarkably Georgia has always been multinational. According to 2002 data Georgians make 83% of the population, Russians - 1.5%, Azerbaijanis - 6.5% and Armenians - 5.7%. In spite of conflicts with Sukhum and Tskhinval there are representatives of two neighborly republics in the country: 0.1% of Abkhazians and 0.8% of Ossetians. There are also Greeks, Ukrainians, Kistins, Jews...
The Georgian nation is really tolerant and there is no nationalism in common life, has never been and hopefully will never be here. However the country's political elite continually steps on the rake of nationalism turning Georgia into a permanent conflict zone.
Georgia's first president Zviad Gamsakhurdia was yelling "Georgia - for Georgians", again and again now ruling United National Movement wounds representatives of non-title nations proclaiming equality of all citizens regardless of nationality.
In the meantime Georgian polyethnicity is characterized by compact communities of national minorities in territories adjacent to their historical motherlands. So any population oppression, say, in Samtskhe Javakheti (inhabited by Armenians) or Kvemo-Kartli (inhabited by Azerbaijanis) is fraught with new ethnic and territorial (!) conflicts.
Opposition politicians keep frightening authorities with new trouble zones in these tricky regions. Georgian-Armenian relations are particularly gloomed by malevolence of neighbors.
Recently a conflict between residents of near-border Bavra village and Georgian border guards that forbid peasants to work near-border lands burst out. The Armenian President Serge Sarkisyan's statement on necessity to confer the Armenian language a regional status was returned by the statement of Vice PM of Georgia Temur Yakobashvili who inter alia remarked: "We are glad that Armenian is the only official language in Armenia".
Armenologist Bondo Arveladze believes that proclamation of the Armenian language as regional is practically a push toward setting up an autonomy. It is believed in the Georgian government that Armenia is allegedly under serious pressure of Russia in this respect.
Meanwhile several protest actions have already been held in Samtskhe Javakhetia. Voice of Armenia newspaper observer Azat Shinaktsyan notes that today the issue of the regional status of the Armenian language in Javakhetia is acquiring great significance, Day.az reports.
The language issue was also touched upon by the European rights defenders. "The lack of resources invested in tuition provided in minority languages means that the pupils concerned are not on an equal footing with other pupils", - the report runs.
Georgia is neither good at dealing with Azerbaijanis in Kvemo-Kartli. Conflict situations with ethnopolitical background were not rare here. Socio-economic and legal problems have always been in focus.
Solving interethnic collisions Azerbaijani communities outlined the following claims to the Georgian authorities: personnel discrimination of Azerbaijanis, lack of career prospects for them in Georgia; discrimination in land appropriation; closure of Azerbaijani schools; corrupt practices of Georgian border guards and customs officers.
It is planned to solve all these issues at an inter-state level. Recently school leavers of national minority schools of Georgia were allowed to take entrance exams to higher education institutions in their native language. But will it change the current situation?
Alongside with the aforementioned claims to the authorities the rights defenders point out that efforts of the Georgian authorities to give ethnic minorities opportunities to study the Georgian language "do not constitute an appropriate response to existing needs."
Until recently official Tbilisi was putting all blame on Moscow: for aggravating the situation in Samtskhe Javakhetia and boat-rocking in Kvemo-Kartli. How will Tbilisi treat the EU conclusions? As everybody knows the Georgian government has a head-whirling lot of problems without the ethnic issue.