Tbilisi, DFWatch – Illia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgian Orthodox Church, considers unacceptable to renew talks about adopting the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, Archdeacon Mikael Botkoveli, patriarch’s secretary, told journalists at the Tbilisi airport before patriarch’s departure for Helsinki, Finland, for medical treatment.
“Talks have been renewed about European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages which, in our opinion, is unacceptable because it will cause strengthening of separatist movements and will create new and very difficult problems for our country,” Mikael Botkoveli remarked.
He said ratification of the document is unacceptable until Georgia restores its territorial integrity, i.e. restores its authority over two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Twenty five states have ratified the charter so far, which came to force in 1998, that aims at ‘protection and promotion of the wealth and diversity of Europe’s cultural heritage.’
Quite interesting that about two weeks ago President Mikheil Saakashvili said to journalist interviewing him that he ‘first refused to ratify this document in earlier years.’
Those who speak about the importance of ratifying the document claim that if Georgia wont’ adopt the Charter, country might have difficulties on a way of signing agreement with EU about the visa liberalization. However, Davit Jalaghania, Deputy Foreign Minister, about a week ago explained that Georgia is yet on a very first level of negotiations about this agreement and he cannot see ‘a direct connection of ratifying the charter and signing visa liberalization agreement.’
Talks about ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages were followed to a statement made by Paata Zakareishvili, State Minister for Reintegration issues, who said that ‘sooner or later’ Georgia will have to ratify this document as a part of ‘country’s international commitments.’
This topic became subject of disputes two weeks ago as Akhalkalaki City Assembly appealed to the parliament with a request to ratify the charter and to grant Armenian regional language status.
Akhalkalaki is a central town of Javakheti region in Southern Georgia where majority of population, more than 90 per cent, are ethnic Armenians. Altogether, more than 90 thousand Armenians live there. Many locals don’t speak Georgian, the official language.
A minister of Reintegration also explained that the charter is ‘really flexible’ and it gives opportunity for the country to make decision to grant different status to different languages on different territories of Georgia.
“It all depends on the state. Only parliament can ratify the document and it is also possible that parliament may set up special commission, which will assess the risks and threats and then ratify this convention. In other case, we won’t get progress,” Zakareishvili said.