Saturday, April 30, 2011

Week 25-30 April: Guests, at home

As last week post was devoted to guests coming from abroad, this week it's worthy to remind that guests sometimes aren't foreigners.

Is Musavat a political party of Azerbaijan or an unwelcome guest in the country?
Its offices were raided and the leader of its youth wing expelled from University, together with another Musavat activist.
Who's afraid of Musavat? It's not a terrorist association, it doesn't pose a threat to the ruling elite, it simply seems to have turned into a guest, after having been a part of Azerbaijani history for more than 100 years.

On the contrary, Poti had a special guest, warmly welcomed.
President Saakashvili visited the small town to celebrate the installation of a new radar. He picked up the chance to convoy his vision of Poti and its area in the future: "Port of Poti would become a main gait from the countries of Northern China and Middle Asian Countries in the direction of Europe. Poti will become a 100 percent employment city and we would even have deficiency in finding cadres [...]. Our aim is to activate Poti International airport by 2012. It will be an airport that would be able to operate in any weather conditions. [...] We are assuming that in 2012 more than two million tourists will visit Batumi and places nearby. Poti will also cover Mestia, which will become the most famous and successful skiing resorts minimum in Eastern Europe. Poti airport will also cover Anaklia that is on 15 km drive from here. A road will be constructed from Poti to Anaklia as well and Anaklia will be the most developed sea resort in Georgia and in 6 countries of black-sea region." (
What seems alien here is Poti itself, the way it is now.

From Georgia to Armenia.
And the trend is exactly this, not only on the route of import, but also on the path of reforms. Armenia sounds very interested in Georgia experience. Its own way, for sure.
"Armenian way" has proved to be a good remedy against bloody confrontation, so far. After the "deadline" posed by Levon Ter-Petrosyan, 2 out of 3 requests were met by President Sargsyan. Who could go so far as to meet also the third one (release of political prisoners of 2008) and keep the door open, to quote Ter-Petrosyan.
What's behind this new phase? Sargsyan in his first mandate proved to be a firm and stable president, his level of alert towards opposition may be low. Ter-Petrosyan tried his best to ride the wave of revolution, which proved to be an hazard/ a miscalculation. Now he's drawing a new strategy, that may put him at odds with the expectations of a part of his potential electorate.
For many, he may turn from a leader to a guest.

There are a lot of speculation about parliamentary elections in 2012, now that Prosperous Armenia made public that it will run alone.
Who knows, Sargsyan in long term may find convenient to meet even a radical request like early elections, under the pretest of a fragmentation of the winning bloc of 2008. Early parliamentary elections AND early presidential election in 2012. After all, he wouldn't be the only president in CIS countries to try and avoid 2013 to have his mandate renewed.
Unlikely, but not impossible.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Week 18-24 April: Guests

In these days Catholics welcome guests for Easter.
South Caucasus welcomes guests for many reasons.

Coucil of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg visited Georgia. In the last two years he played a positive role in sustaining the security sector in the country, being involved in post-conflict episodes of escalation of tension and in reviewing - like on the occasion of the most recent visit - justice reforms.

The security sectors includes both international and national security, that is to say military, police, judicial and penal systems. Georgia scored well known and broadly appreciated successes in police reforms. Still, the security system in the whole suffers.
Internationally, due to the unsolved conflicts with the breakaway regions and because of tensions with Russia.
Domestically, due to the law rate of independence of the judicial power and to the shortcomings in the penitentiary system. In general, human rights violations are a matter of concern.

Hammarberg's four day visit is connected to the planned criminal code reform and the information gathered will flow into a report, to be released this summer.

Sukhumi and Tskhinvali host Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who hasn't paid a visit to them since 2008.

And while Russia sends the echelon of its diplomatic corps to the two Republics it recognized, USA is sending Tina Kaidanow, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs to Baku, where - again - a belligerent rhetoric seems to gain ground.
And - again - there are reports of ceasefire violations. According to the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry there were some exchanges of fire in two different locations, on the 22nd.

During Easter, people wish each other peace. It's not exactly what echoes in Lavrov's words: "We don't rule out military provocations from Georgia, because anything can be expected from the current regime in Tbilisi; so we will spare no efforts to reliably protect the South Ossetian border and to be ready if someone will again wish to commit the crime of August, 2008".

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Too busy this week ;-)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Week 04-10 April: C/O Oppositions

A key concept of democracy is real competition and alternation to power.
The political trend in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan goes in the opposite direction, with a shift of power within the majority or majority factions… or no shift at all.
Oppositions, especially historical ones, that hardly ever accessed the power in the last 20 (up to 90) years, are marginalized, often either unknown either unpopular.

This is particularly true in Azerbaijan, where continuity of power makes its political system look like a monarchy legitimized by periodical elections.
In March historical oppositions – Musavat and Popular Front – held a common meeting in Nardaran, a place characterized by strong Islamic/patriarchal traditions. At the end of the month in the district of Fountan square protesters confronted police, a scene due to be repeated two days later, on the so called Day of Anger. Results: massive arrests, oppositions’ worsened relations with Ministry of Internal Affairs and with presidential administration.
Baku Mayor didn’t allow a further meeting (Islamic Party) for the 8th, and on the 16th tensions may newly raise on the occasion of another planned action.
According to the Minister of Internal Affairs the majority of the population fully supports the President and his Government. Still, due to the extreme polarizing of positions, worrying episodes are occurring in different layers of the civil society. In Djalilabad a teenager – son of an opposition activist – killed another one, perpetrator of the harassment he had been the victim of.

In Armenia the press suffers from the amendments of the law on “Defamation and Insult”, while political landscape becomes more and more complex. Opposition is fragmented, composed by various parties, including ex majority party Armenian Revolutionary Federation, which had/has/will have strained relations with the Armenian National Congress. The latter twinned its 17 March event with a new demonstration, on Friday, basically a week after Heritage’s leader Raffi Hovanisian ended his hunger strike. Notwithstanding the support Heritage ensured to Levon Ter-Petrosyan before last presidential elections, now the two parties have very different positions.

In Georgia opposition keeps its tradition to have very strict ties with the international community. Sometimes an external observer may sense that Georgian opposition invests more on its popularity abroad than at home.
On the 7th eight “allied” parties met NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, James Appathurai. While it makes sense, of course, to have their voice heard and their positions legitimized by international interlocutors, it should be kept in mind that the international community is not almighty. And, for sure, none of its members - powerful as it might be - enjoys the right to vote in Georgia.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Week 28th March-03rd April: Sovereignty and Paradoxes

According to the Georgian Law on Occupied Territories, 23 Oct. 2008, article 2, Russia is occupying:
a) Territory of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia;
b) Tskhinvali region (territory of the former Autonomous Republic of South Ossetia);
c) Waters in the Black Sea: territorial inland waters and sea waters of Georgia, their floor and resources, located in the aquatic territory of the Black Sea, along the state border with the Russian Federation, to the South of the Psou river, up to the administrative border at the estuary of the Engury River, to which the sovereign right of Georgia is extended; also the sea zones: the neighboring zone, the special economic zone and the continental trail where, in compliance with the legislation of Georgia and international law, namely the UN Convention on Maritime Law (1982), Georgia has fiscal, sanitary, emigration and customs rights in the neighboring zone and the sovereign right and jurisdiction in the special economic zone and the continental trail;
d) The air space over the territories stipulated in Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of this Clause.

Now there’s a new statistics about who’s living in point a. Sukhumi released the 2011 preliminary census, assessing a total population of 214 000 inhabitants, 64 478 of whom live in the Capital (plus 12 000 in its rural area), 39 342 in Gagra, 37 143 in Gudauta, 30 437 in Gali, 25 235 in Ochamchire, 18 146 in Gulripshi, 16 000 in Tkvarcheli (= tot. 242 781?).

Who are these 242 781/214 000 citizens? Abkhazians or Georgians under occupation? For the International community, save Russia-Nauru-Venezuela-Nicaragua, they are citizens of Abkhazia, may they be Russian passport holders. With an exception: the village of Aibga. If the Law on Occupation states in clear letters where are the borders between Georgia and the Russian Federation. On the contrary the borders between Abkhazia and Russia are a matter of dispute for the village of Aibga. A mixed commission Sukhumi-Moscow held its second meeting in Moscow to clarify the issue of sovereignty over an area of 169Kmq. A non-State with problems of territorial integrity? It sounds a bit a paradox.

But it’s not a unique case. Nagorno-Karabakh as well – which is universally unrecognized, save by some unrecognized/partially recognized States – has not only territorial claims but also a weird inner gerarchy in what it believes to be its territory. The recent OSCE mission entitled its report “Report of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs' Field Assessment Mission to the Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh” . Fair enough, Zangilan, Gubadii, Lachin, Kelbajar, Agdam, Fizuli, Jabrail were not part of the Autonomous Region of NK.

Now, the point is that the whole territory which now falls under the "sovereignty" of Stepanakert, is going to be connected via direct flight to Yerevan… which officially never recognized its existence. As for Georgia in point d. of the Law on Occupation, Azerbaijan protests the violation of its air space, assumed to cover NK, as long a sit doesn’t recognize it.

The first passenger of the first flight, scheduled for May, should be the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan who coming from NK, in absence of recognition, may be considered an Azerbaijani born citizen, as his predecessor Robert Kocharyan.

Sovereignty, non recognition and paradoxes!