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Old reality, new approach

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, May 21
For several weeks the Georgian parliamentary majority has been trying to achieve the adoption of the several amendments pertaining to the Law on Occupied Territories. The United National Movement (UNM), which is now in the opposition, is doing its best to prevent the parliament from adopting these amendments.

During the UNM's governance, the ruling team attempted to compensate for its irresponsible steps with regard to Russia with pseudo “strict measures” toward the Russian occupiers. The country’s new leadership however, is trying to exercise common sense and aims to relax the situation somehow, showing its powerful northern neighbor a different approach.

The current Law on Occupied Territories creates serious problems to those people who enter occupied territories of Georgia from sides other than Gori (South Ossetia) and Zugdidi (Abkhazia).

So, if a person enters these territories from the Russian side they are considered to be criminals for violating Georgian border regime. The stamp they receive while crossing the border at any place other than Zugdidi and Gori, automatically will create problems for them while entering Georgia any time afterwards.

The punishment for this is severe. Offenders are detained for several years. According to the information we possess, there are over hundred people serving sentences at Georgian prisons for this violation. Mostly innocent tourists suffer, who are less informed regarding the rules. A tourist is an occasional wonderer, who comes and goes, exploring new places, and accidentally they violate the law. And later if they enter back to Georgia, they are automatically sent to jail.

Now the new parliament wants to abolish such a severe approach and for the first time if a person enters Georgian breakaway territories from the Russian side and later enters Georgia they will be penalized by paying fines. And only if afterwards they commit the same crime for the second time will they face jail time.

The ruling coalition explains such an approach to be tolerant towards the people who accidentally violate the law. Of course, the legislation should be stricter if there is repeated deliberate crime.

The UNM meanwhile, labeled this initiative as a betrayal of the country’s interests from the ruling Georgian Dream’s side.

During the Parliamentary hearings they asked how should the soldiers from the occupiers armed forces deployed in the breakaway territories be treated. They also bring some absurd suppositions by asking: what will happen if a spy is sent to commit some intelligence surveys on Georgian territories?

Of course such possibilities exist, but they have always existed even when the country had good relations with its neighbor. As for the soldiers, nobody in the world can control the Russian soldiers entering the occupied territories.

UNM also suggests that such an amendment will indirectly prove that Georgia is accepting a new reality – that these territories are lost. Of course, the interpretations may differ. Everybody can understand in their own way, but if Georgia wants to relax the tension between Georgia and Russia, it should take the appropriate steps very cautiously, not to disturb the fundamental position of the country that it wants its territories back from Russia. But of course to do everything carefully will take some time.