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International Advisors Monitor Border Management in South Caucasus

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, October 6
Achievements concerning a common system of border administration in the South Caucasus were discussed in the Hotel Ambassador in Tbilisi, on October 5. International advisors of the South Caucasus Integrated Border Management (SCIBM) Programme got together and reviewed the progress made by the programme since its inception in 2010, and heard the presentations of the three country offices in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Representatives of the European Union, embassies of the EU member states and the United States in Georgia, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) attended the meeting.

The EU is assisting the governments of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to maintain open but secure borders. The EU-funded programme demonstrates the advantages of Integrated Border Management as one of the most effective mechanisms for facilitating the movement of persons and goods while at the same time maintaining secure borders.

The SCIBM programme works closely with the relevant ministries and agencies in the three South Caucasus countries. The programme implements pilot demonstration projects at the border crossing points. Furthermore, it enhances the strategic capacities of the South Caucasus countries for effective border management and assists in establishing relevant policies and procedures.

According to Jean–Charles de Cordes, SCIBM Project Manager in Brussels there have been significant achievements in this field in the South Caucasus and arranging border-related issues will make these states closer to the EU.

As a Georgian representative at the meeting, Nikoloz Samkharadze told The Messenger, 'the program is ongoing and will function for one year. It was launched in 2010, between Georgia and Armenia and Azerbaijan and consists of several modules: a pilot module, equipment module, technologies module and so on. We are holding different seminars and trainings regarding the border rulings and try to use the best European practices in this field.“

Samkharadze also explained the reason Georgia has managed to create an action plan earlier than the other two neighboring states in the project. According to him, Georgia had an obligation to the EU as part of the neighborhood policy therefore created the strategy in 2008 and the action plan was drafted in 2009. However, the action plan has since been renewed, as after 2008, there was a new situation and soon the president will confirm this action plan. As for the most difficult points of the action plan, Samkharadze named infrastructure, “there are a lot of sectors on our borders, which need renewal and serious financing, the main problem in this regard is lack of finances.”

The importance of a common, united field of activities between the South Caucasus states in border administration and its control was frequently mentioned during the meeting, however, the current situation and especially the unresolved territorial issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan raises serious question marks about the success of such kinds of projects. Samkharadze also confirmed that the creation of a common system of border administration between Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan is unrealistic currently, “however, in case the conflict is solved, they would already have experience in how to monitor the borders based on best EU practices.“ The best aspects of these practices that Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani representatives mentioned during their visits to Europe in this field were the relations between different state structures, meaning that on their main targets different structures manage to collaborate harmoniously.

The Armenian representative Marina Solakhyan for The Messenger, also named the same problems as her counterparts. She mentioned that Armenia already has an action plan however implementing it might be quite difficult, “the main problem is infrastructure and the mentality still existing in this field, serious activities should be done in this field and state structures are actively involved in this issue. However, it should be mentioned that nearly USD 50 million should be allocated for this from the state budget, which seems very difficult.”

At a cost of EUR 6.3 million, the SCIBM initiative is being implemented with UNDP in co-operation with the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and a consortium of the EU Member States (Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, France, Czech Republic and Poland).