Georgia is an independent, unified, and indivisible state, as confirmed by the referendum of 31 March 1991 – held throughout the territory of the country, including in the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Abkhazia and the Former Autonomous District of South Ossetia – and by the Act of Restoration of State Independence of Georgia of 9 April 1991.
Territorial arrangement remains an open question
The Constitution of Georgia leaves open the question of territorial arrangement, leaving the issue aside and linking it to the future restoration of territorial integrity. According to Article 2, paragraph 3 of the Constitution of Georgia, “Constitutional law shall determine the territorial state structure of Georgia on the basis of the principle of delimitation of powers after the complete restoration of jurisdiction of Georgia over the whole territory of the country.” The territory of the State of Georgia was determined as of 21 December 1991.
As mentioned above, the Constitution left open the question of territorial arrangement of the country, hence the question, which form of territorial arrangement should Georgia choose: unitary, regional or federal? By analysing some articles of the Constitution of Georgia, the legislation somehow excludes the unitary system. The mentioned 3rd article of the Constitution discusses this issue, as well as the 4th article, according to which two chambers shall be set up within the Parliament of Georgia – the Council of the Republic and the Senate – after appropriate conditions have been created and local self-government bodies have been formed throughout the territory of Georgia.
The Council of the Republic shall consist of members elected under the principle of proportionality. The Senate shall consist of members elected from the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, the Autonomous Republic of Ajara, and other territorial units of Georgia, as well as 5 members appointed by the President of Georgia. The analysis of these paragraphs lets us suppose that after recovery of territorial integrity we will deal with a minimally decentralized and maximally federalized territorial arrangement; however, the distribution of power will be seen in the bicameral parliament and the existence of its upper chamber, Senate, as the existence of representations of territorial units is typical for countries with wide-spread decentralization or federal arrangements. “Legal” regions in Georgia, as administrative-territorial units and units which have the status of legal entity, don’t exist. However, we shall mention that the concept of “region” has different meanings in different issues of Georgian legislation.
“Region”: different meanings for Georgia
According to the current situation, the territory of Georgia includes the capital city Tbilisi and 9 historic-geographic regions; and state governors are assigned in the borders of its territorial- administrative units. In the 2010 State Strategy of Regional Development during 2010-2017 assigned by Government of Georgia, within the realization of state politics of sustainable region development, a region is defined as a functional planning unit, which is the set of administrative territorial units and, as a rule, matches the operational area of Georgia’s State Governor. On the ground of the goals of the strategy, Tbilisi, Autonomous Republics of Georgia and temporal administrative territorial units are also considered regions.
From the historic-geographic point of view in present Georgia the following regions are formed: Abkhazia, Samegrelo and Zemo Svaneti, Ajara, Guria, Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti, Imereti, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Shida Kartli, Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Kvemo Kartli and Kakheti.
Some of the regions mentioned above have different statuses according to the Constitution of Georgia: (Autonomous Republic of Ajara, Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, South Ossetia). Unlike other regions, autonomous republics have their own representative and executive authority, own budget and property.
Besides autonomous republics, municipalities and regions are joined into 9 regions within the remaining territory of the country. There is no uniformity between the regions in size, number of municipalities it consists of and/or population number and ethnic composition. There is no legal difference between the statuses of these regions. Their common characteristics are:
- Mentioned regions, unlike autonomous republics, do not have special statuses. – Most of their borders match their historic-geographic borders.
- The 9 commonly mentioned regions have no independent legal status.
- They do not have their own representative nor executive authorities.
- They do not have their own budget and property.
- Municipalities, established in the framework of regions, unlike the regions themselves, have their own representative and executive authorities, and budget and property.
Unlike the regions, municipalities have the status of self-governed units and their own, representative and executive authorities, elected by direct elections. Self-government units, the status of municipalities, the basis of legislation on local self-government authority, the rights of local self-government, the rules of their establishment and operation, the questions of financing and budget, and other issues within the historic bounds of a region are regulated by the organic law of Georgia of 5 February 2014, “Local Self-Government Code”. Municipalities have their own elective, representative and executive bodies. International support, especially its financial implication is very important for the regional development of Georgia. From this point of view, the activities of the EU, as a partner, are especially important. Since the 1990s, the EU has helped Georgia to eradicate the results of conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and it continues to support projects in the region after the August war of 2008. The EU also helps to substantially improve living conditions of temporarily displaced people in Georgia. In 1999 the relationship between EU and Georgia was regulated by the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. In August 2013, important negotiations regarding the Association Agreement between Georgia and European Union were finalized, which gave the parties the opportunity to negotiate a treaty on the summit of EaP (Eastern Partnership) in November 2013. On 27 June 2014, the Association Agreement between Georgia and EU was signed, as well as the Agreement on Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA).
Future regional development
By the end of the report it can be mentioned that the existence of improved politics of regional development in Georgia is based on many objective conditions. The most important among them is restoring jurisdiction on to the whole territory, which should be followed by determining the constitutional legislation of the state territorial arrangement. After all, it is possible that the country will have complete politics about the country’s regional development. However, when we talk about the regional development of Georgia and its future, we have to mention such constitutional changes, which will help the regional development of the country, and will be realized before the constitutional determination of territorial arrangement.
by Davit GABAIDZE
The Report on the state of Regionalisation in Europe.
More than 40 experts contributed to this work, by delivering detailed reports about the state of regionalisation and multilevel governance in chosen European countries. The study covers 41 countries, and each country report is based on a similar structure, thereby allowing a comparative approach among all studied countries.
- The first part of the report gives the political impetus from the main European stakeholders
- The second part of this report entails a summarised version of the country reports. The objective is to provide interested readers with a short overview of the main features of regionalisation in various European countries. The complete versions of the country reports are available on the AER website, under LINK
- The third part provides a thematic approach based on the main findings delivered by the country reports and the current state of regionalisation in Europe. The trends and outlooks lead to open questions on the future of the regions in the European landscape, and more broadly on the role of subnational authorities in the shaping of the continent.
- The fourth part gives the floor to the actual regional decision-makers in Europe, across a series of interviews and statements by Presidents, Vice-Presidents and elected representatives of the European regions.
Over the next months, we will be focusing on a different European country’s approach to regionalisation. During these months, look out for #RoR2017 on Twitter and/or Facebook and follow us at @europeanregions.
Strong European regions are a pathway to a stronger Europe.