The most significant event of last week was a visit of Secretary of State of the United States Hillary Clinton in Georgia. The main message of this visit was associated with parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled in Georgia. But there was something else also quite important and worth of attention. It concerned the occupied territories of Georgia.
In her speech, Hillary Clinton said the U.S. recognized neutral identification cards issued to the population of the occupied regions of Georgia. Issuance of such international travel documents is stipulated in Georgia’s State Strategy on Occupied Territories, approved by the international community, including the EU, the OSCE, the United States and other leading countries. Today, Georgia-issued neutral identification cards are recognized by the United States, Japan, Czech Republic, the Baltic States and Ireland. Georgian authorities are holding negotiations with other countries, especially Turkey, EU member states, etc to achieve recognition of neutral identification cards. The Clinton statement may further encourage recognition of neutral identification cards by these countries travel to where is more in demand in the Abkhazian society, such as Germany, France, Greece, Israel, the other major EU countries, as well as former Soviet countries. This, in turn, may lead to increase in demand of neutral documents.
A travel document (Laissez-passer) is a temporary international passport issued by a national government to persons residing in a country and that do not possess citizen’s identification. The document allows its owners to enjoy all rights enjoyed by citizens of the country issuing the document. The country that issued the document is responsible for its owners and its consulates anywhere in the world are obliged to protect interests of owners of a neutral passport.
Today such documents are used, for example, in Israel. There they have two types of international documents – the Israeli passport (darkon) and Laissez-passer. First is issued to a citizen of Israel after one year of residing in this country. Others may use the “Laissez-passer” and get almost all those privileges that are provided by darkon.
The purpose of introduction of neutral passports in Georgia was to introduce same rights and opportunities for the population of the occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali that are enjoyed by the citizens of Georgia residing in the rest of its territory. That is, residents of the occupied territories will be able to enjoy privileges that exist in the territory of Georgia in the field of healthcare, education, grants. Their owners also have the opportunity to travel abroad unhindered, whether for education, work or simply entertainment. Getting a neutral identification card is a voluntary process and no one is forcing no one to get it as it was stated by some Russian propaganda media. The document is issued to all persons who lived in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region until 1992, do not have Georgian citizenship, as well as their descendants.
The statement made by Hillary Clinton as part of her visit to Georgia, has sparkled great interest in Abkhazia. In any case, her statement led to serious discussions in the various social networks and forums. It is very difficult to clearly answer the question as to what people of occupied Abkhazia think about this, since there were very different approaches. And the Sukhumi puppet regime did not fail to make a statement in which through deputy foreign minister Irakli Khintba we were told that "Abkhazians will not fall into this trap." But, first, the proposal of Georgian and international companies regarding neutral identification cards were made not to Abkhazia, i.e the virtual state unit that is to discuss acceptability of the proposal. Therefore, the statement of Khintba is more like a squeak of panic of an ordinary official who is fighting to defend his Russian master rather than for welfare of his own people. Neutral identification card proposal addressees are ordinary residents of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region, which, unlike Khintba, have no prospects of good education, healthcare and welfare. In case, if the puppet regime creates artificial barriers for local population in real implementation of all these perspectives, it will be possible to unequivocally say that the puppet authorities are opposed to development of their own population.
What can the puppet regimes offer today to its population, and what this population is offered by official Tbilisi and the international community?
Offers of Sukhumi and Tskhinvali (later we will talk only on the example of Sukhumi, since Tskhinvali is in even more dire straits) are very limited, primarily because of their financial and technical capabilities, also in terms of professionalism in all those areas in which a neutral identification card may be attractive to the population of these regions - in education, healthcare, travelling abroad, etc. Sukhumi capabilities are defined by its loyalty to Moscow, which itself cannot offer its own population high-quality service in these areas. The Russian system of education compared to the one in the West is on a very low level, the same goes for health care, which in addition is also very expensive, even for Russian citizens themselves, not to mention population of the occupied territories. It should also be noted that Russia has set certain privileges for them. But even in this case, the population of Abkhazia has no guarantees of getting professional service, since overall professional standards in education and healthcare are very low (except for special clinics, where the rich and Russian officials are treated). Even if we do not take into account all the above, attitude to them in Russia is the same as to all Caucasians in general. As to travelling abroad, it is also very problematic for the population of the occupied territories since these territories are not recognized by the international community and they have been illegally issued Russian passports, and this is recognized even by the EU special committee headed by Heidi Tagliavini. Thus, there is no legal reason to grant them the right to travel abroad, even with a Russian passport. And this has again created problems for them, for example, even in going abroad to get treatment.
A neutral identification card actually removes all these problems. By recognizing neutral identification cards the international community allows people of these territories to obtain high-quality service in areas that are inaccessible to them, even in conditions of Russia-set favourable terms.
There should also be noted that fears of Khintba, and above all, of Russia regarding neutral identification cards are not entirely unfounded. Today Russia's influence on the population of Abkhazia is as great as great is the difference between its development compared to development of Abkhazia. Of course, if the population of Abkhazia (the same as the population of Tskhinvali) sees more development than in Russia, if it can touch democratic values and easily feel their privileges, the Russian dictate in the occupied territories could come under threat. This, and only this is the cause of fear expressed by the Abkhazian pseudo-patriots. Otherwise, it is unclear why they should prevent population of any territory from getting what has long been the norm throughout the civilized world and that they are unable to provide their population with. However, their fear that, as they say, Tbilisi is trying to please the population of Abkhazia and lure them to its side (which is indeed the case) is founded. But then they already have a case of imposing of the Russian dominance, when their own people are not given opportunity to see great benefits apart from that Russian ones and get them. Why is Khintba so afraid that Abkhazians might like contacts with the Georgian society and one day they may express their wish for greater integration? Is this not a fundamental right of the Abkhazian population? Why is the Abkhazian leadership so happy to be under the Russian yoke and is trying their best to prevent individuals from their desire to have a better life? Is that because there was a war between us? Was it not Russians that destroyed the Abkhazian elite and driven Abkhazian ethnos to extinction (the rest should be grateful to the Georgians)? And their officials are now praying to Moscow. Do they not realize that recognition of their "independence" from the Russian side is of pseudo-nature, or that actually neither Nicaragua nor Venezuela has approved it on the parliamentary level, and in reality these relations are just on the level of verbal recognition of their authoritarian leaders? Don’t they know that Russia cares about its interests in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region, and that both Abkhazians and Ossetians are second-rate subjects for trading for them?
Also, it should be noted that the use of neutral identification cards by the population of the occupied territory will not return this territory to Georgia in the literal sense, but it can change attitude of the population in these regions towards Georgians in general, to values that are exist in Georgian society today; it can lead to more trust and mutual relationships, so that we, Georgians and Abkhazians, could talk to each other peacefully and calmly on all topics, including future coexistence. Statements that "Georgia should recognize the independence of Abkhazia and then we are ready to speak on any subject" are counterproductive, since it will never happen. And time goes by, so that it bypasses Abkhazians and Ossetians, whose demographic picture day after day more and more starts to resemble the magic skin.
Persons wishing to receive status neutral documents should apply to the Public Service Hall of Georgia. They can do this by visiting this place, as well as via the Internet. Application can be filled in person, in the online mode (via the Public Service Hall web page), through a third party (trustee) or through international organizations operating on the Georgian territory. Personal presence is required only once - when receiving or making application for the document.
Travel documents are issued within 10 days. The application must be accompanied by:
1) passport of the former Soviet Union; or
2) birth certificate a birth certificate or identity card issued by the legitimate authorities of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region (officials)
3) other document establishing identity
4) birth certificate or any ID document of a minor (under 18 years) or incapable person as well as of a person born after December 31, 1992, together with any abovementioned document of a parent/legal guardian that establishes the residence of the person on the relevant territory, or their Neutral Identification Card.
Neutral Identification Card