MINELRES: ECMI press release on ratification of FCNM by Georgia

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Thu Sep 22 20:23:52 2005

Original sender: Tom Trier <trier@ecmigeorgia.org>



The European Centre for Minority Issues on 19 September organised a
major conference on the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the
Protection of National Minorities at Marriott Courtyard Hotel in
Georgia’s capital Tbilisi. Georgia’s parliament is expected to ratify
this international convention next month, honouring the obligations made
when Georgia joined the Council of Europe in 1999. Ratification will
mark an important milestone in the country’s declared commitment towards
protecting the rights of all of its citizens. Georgia remains one of the
few member states of the Council of Europe that has yet to ratify this
important convention. 
The Council of Europe’s Ambassador to Georgia and Special Representative
to the Secretary General, Mr. Igor Gaon, said in his opening speech that
he welcomed the ratification and that he hoped the ratification would
finally take place in October after 6 years of delay. Mr. Gaon also
emphasised that Georgia should ratify the minority convention without
declarations as was done by Latvia, when this country earlier in the
year ratified the Convention. 

The Regional Representative in the Caucasus for the European Centre for
Minority Issues, Mr. Tom Trier, said at the conference that the
ratification of the Minority Convention would be a milestone in
enhancing the standards for Georgia’s policies on national minority
issues. He also emphasised that “protection of minority rights and the
provision of European standards for governance on minority issues are
high priorities of European institutions, and state practices on
national minorities play an important role in the process of integration
of neighboring countries into European structures”.

The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities is
the first legally binding multilateral instrument devoted to the
protection of national minorities in general. The Convention aims to
specify the legal principles which states undertake to respect in order
to ensure the protection of national minorities.

The conference, which was attended by 140 participants,  marked the end
of a series of events organized by the European Centre for Minority
Issues in Georgia that were designed to raise awareness over the
contents of the Minority Framework Convention. A workshop was held on
15-16 September in Tbilisi for the leading non government organisations
that are concerned with minority rights issues and leaders of many of
the minority communities in Georgia.

On 17-18 September a working retreat took place in the Gudauri mountain
resort for members of parliament and government representatives. This
occasion brought to light a series of concerns regarding the Framework
Convention, although by the end of the weekend it appeared that many of
the concerns had been allayed.

ECMI was fortunate to engage the services of one of Europe’s leading
experts on the Framework Convention, Mr. Alan Phillips from the United
Kingdom, who is former Vice-President of the Advisory Council on the
Convention, the body that monitors the implementation of the Framework
Convention. Mr. Phillips addressed all three occasions and explained in
length the purpose, nature and spirit of the Convention.

The events were all marked by lively debate over the issue of the
Framework Convention and the broader issue of minority rights in
Georgia. It became apparent that while the Georgian parliament and
government is committed to seeking ratification of the Framework
Convention it does not wish for this to be a mere paper signing
exercise. Several parliamentarians and government officials noted that
ratification will presage a series of policy initiatives and reforms
that will lead to the further integration of minorities into Georgian
society while also respecting and protecting diversity. Hence, the
Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights and Civic Integration is
currently preparing a “Concept on Integration and Protection of National
Minorities”, which is expected to be passed by parliament shortly after
the ratification of the Framework Convention.

The outcome of the seminars and the conference is that there is a
groundswell of opinion that the Georgian Parliament should as a matter
of urgency ratify the Framework Convention for the Protection of
National Minorities as this would send a clear signal of intent both
domestically and internationally that Georgia is committed to promoting
genuine harmony and inclusiveness to all members of society irrespective
of their ethnic background.

For further information, please contact Mr. Tom Trier, ECMI Regional
Representative for the Caucasus at tel. +995 99 27 66

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