The Parliament passed on July 1 with its third and final reading package of government-proposed legislative amendments envisaging issuance of neutral travel documents and identification cards for those “legally” residing in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Amendments were made to eleven various laws regulating such areas like issuance of passports; state symbols; taxes; public registry fees; education; law on grants and entrepreneurship, as well as amendments to the law on occupied territories.
With these amendments residents of the breakaway regions will be able to obtain such documents that will allow them to travel abroad and enjoy various social services and benefits available in the rest of Georgia. Accepting such documents will not mean taking Georgian citizenship.
According to the approved proposal, “neutral documents” will be issued “until the full restoration of Georgia’s jurisdiction on the territories of Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region (former Autonomous District of South Ossetia).”
The travel document will cost GEL 35 (about USD 21.2) and neutral identification card – GEL 10 (about USD 6).
These documents will be printed and filled in a language other than Georgian. It will have a registration and individual numbers and will not have any Georgian state symbols.
As part of the package an amendment was also made into Georgia’s law on occupied territories in a part, which deals with rules of entry into the breakaway regions. The law on occupied territories specifies that in case of Abkhazia the entry should be carried out only from the Zugdidi district and in case of South Ossetia - from the Gori district. The law also lists those “special cases” in which entry into the breakaway regions will not be regarded as illegal. It says that “a special permit” on entry into the breakaway regions can be issued, if this trip there “serves Georgia’s state interests; peaceful resolution of the conflict; de-occupation or humanitarian purposes.”
According to the amendment such restrictions for holders of the neutral documents is removed; but holders of neutral documents should notify the Georgian authorities if they plan to cross the border from the points other than those regarded by Tbilisi as legal.
In April PM of breakaway Abkhazia, Sergey Shamba, dismissed Tbilisi’s intention to introduce such documents as “a populistic step, which will yield no results.” Tskhinvali said that it was now already “too late” to come up with this initiative; it also said the idea of neutral travel documents was first voiced in late 90s, but at the time it was declined by Tbilisi.