Thursday, October 15, 2009
Protection of national minorities: Council of Europe publishes first report on Georgia
The Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) today published its first Opinion on Georgia, together with the Government´s comments. The committee adopted this Opinion (which does not cover Abkhazia and South Ossetia) following a country visit in December 2008. The main conclusions are:
· The Advisory Committee welcomes the fact that the ratification of the Framework Convention by Georgia has triggered a debate on the introduction of a more comprehensive legal framework for protecting national minorities.
· The Committee encourages the Georgian authorities and all the parties concerned to find a peaceful solution to the conflict over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which is adversely affecting the implementation of the convention in the entire Georgian territory.
· Protecting the linguistic rights of persons belonging to national minorities is a major challenge. Many of them have limited skills in Georgian – which is the official language - and the efforts of the authorities to offer them the possibility to learn it are far from adequate.
· The authorities should ensure that the policy of promoting the Georgian language is not detrimental to the right to use minority languages. This requires more resolute measures both in law and practice.
· Additional measures are needed to promote equal access to education for persons belonging to national minorities, including higher education. The lack of resources invested in tuition provided in minority languages means that the pupils belonging to national minorities are not on an equal footing with other pupils.
· Participation of persons belonging to national minorities in the country's political, cultural, social and economic life remains limited. The authorities should take vigorous measures to remove legislative and practical obstacles they encounter so that they can participate in elected bodies and in the executive, and work in the public service. They should also further promote their participation in the socio-economic life of the country.
· The Committee is concerned about increased religious tensions, which are particularly affecting persons belonging to national minorities.
According to the state report presented by Georgia in July 2007, the 2002 census stated that persons belonging to national minorities represented 16% of the population (Abkhazia and South Ossetia excluded).
The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities includes a monitoring system whereby the Committee of Ministers, assisted by an advisory committee, evaluates its implementation.
Press Release: Council of Europe, Strasbourg. Published on 12 October 2009