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Condoleezza Rice and Mikheil Saakashvili. Photo: unknown

Suggested readings

On Georgia's perpetual revolution, see Till Bruckner's essay Decision Making and Georgia's Perpetual Revolution: the case of IDP Housing (2009):

"Observers tend to enthuse about Georgia's leadership or damn it, but such black-and-white views do little to explain what is really going on in the country. Examining the government's recent efforts to provide housing to those internally displaced by the August 2008 conflict with Russia sheds light not only on the housing program itself, but on contemporary Georgian politics in general. In particular, four traits characteristic of the ruling United National Movement's revolutionary governance are brought into focus: informal decision-making, fluid roles, heroic action, and vanguard politics."

Regarding police reform, there are a number of sources.

The reform of the previously highly corrupt road police has been recognized as one of the most popular measures taken by the Georgian government. In her 2005 article, Caucasus correspondent Lili di Puppo describes the reform as a "visible success":

The purge in the corrupt police, where 15.000 officers were fired, was another drastic step of the government and has been so far the most visible success in the government's new policy. Car-drivers are no longer stopped and asked to pay bribes by policemen at improvised road check points and the disappearance of the corrupt traffic police is said to be the factor behind the surge in the number of Armenian tourists this summer.

The bigger question posed by di Puppo, however, is whether Georgia would be able to go beyond dramatic radical measures and commit to long-term institutional development:

"The biggest challenge for the Georgian state, as stated at different occasions by Georgian officials, is to eliminate the dependence on individuals and move towards a more predictable system based on institutions."

Alexander Kupatadze, Giorgi Siradze, and Giorgi Mitagvaria, "Policing and police reform in Georgia", in Organized Crime and Corruption in Georgia, eds. Louise Shelley, Erik R. Scott and Anthony Latta (Routledge, 2007). In this chapter, the authors describe Georgia's legacy of being an over-policed society prior to the reforms:

"When the Soviet Union collapsed, Georgia had a population of 5,400,800, with 25,000 employees in the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and 900 in the KGB (Committee on State Security), a ratio of one law enforcement official per 208 citizens. Georgia, therefore, remained a heavily policed society. Despite reforms in other parts of government, the Ministry of Interior maintained a dysfunctional structure with 28 departments, two branches in autonomous republics, and nine regional units. Additional unnecessary departments were created before the revolution, and personnel in the ministry more than doubled to 56,000 at a time that the population decreased by nearly one million. At the time of the Rose Revolution, the police-citizen ratio was 1:78" (pp. 93-94).

In its report "Reform of Law Enforcement Bodies in Georgia: The Ministry of Internal Affairs" (Dec. 19, 2005), Transparency International Georgia also describes the rigid, unreformed interior ministry left over from the Soviet times:

"Prior to the new government's coming to power in 2003, the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs had seen very little change and effectively remained a Soviet-style police structure with a significant degree of militarization. The former authorities had failed to demonstrate the political will to transform the ministry in accordance with the needs of a democratic state. Rampant corruption had resulted in extremely low public confidence in the police structures."

In June 2004, the Ministry of Internal Affairs presented its strategic vision of reform at the Donors' Conference for Georgia in Brussels. The vision had been elaborated based on the materials of the Democratic Policing conference funded by the EU. These include the May 2004 statement from the European Commission, which stresses the importance of a purely civilian character for the reformed MIA:

"a very clear message was sent to the Ministry of the Interior by the EU and ISAB experts present that any capacity to undertake independent military operations must be removed from the Ministry of Internal Affairs or disbanded. This includes the removal of military doctrines, structures, terminology and ranks and is essential in achieving policing standards." (p. 15).

The key objectives for the structural reforms in the Ministry of Internal Affairs were summarized in the MIA's document entitled Strategic Vision and Development Priorities in 2004-2006.

  • Reorganization of the ministry into the body responsible for the internal policy of the country, with duties including the execution and coordination of police activities;
  • Professionalization of the police force to make it completely non-political, including the bolstering of public confidence in the police by increasing its effectiveness in fighting crime, ensuring civilian security, and combating the system's existing corruption;
  • Creation of appropriate work conditions, suitable remuneration, and job stability for the employees of the Ministry system and protection against the hiring of unqualified persons;
  • Gradual execution of the reform process, ensuring that the necessary material, technical and human resources are determined and their sources are defined before components of the reform are implemented." (p. 6).

To access all Democratic Policing conference materials and for an overview of the European Commission activities with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, go to the website of the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia. Here you will find a brief historic background, key events and key documents of relevance to cooperation between the European Commission and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. A selection of those documents can be found here:

Report on the current situation with the recommendations for the reform

  1. GE - MOI Reform - Strategic Vision & Priorities 2004–2006;
  2. GE - MOI Reform - Strategic Vision & Priorities 2004–2006;
  3. GE - MOI Reform - Strategic Vision & Priorities 2004–2006;
  4. GE - PA - MOI Reform - Outline of Structural Reform of MOIA – 28.

An assessment of the situation in the Ministry of Internal Affairs was provided in January 2005 by two EU-funded experts, Zoran Krunić and George Siradze ("The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia - Report on the Current Situation with the Recommendations for the Reform"). The experts identified a number of aspects where improvement was needed. In particular, they noted the absence of a clear, well-thought out reform strategy and the excessive influence of the Minister on the reform process:

At the moment it seems that the reform which is going on without a real plan/strategy and depends too much on the Minister of IA. It seems that reform could go in different direction (better or worst) and with different speed (slower or faster) if there would be another Minister of IA. This kind of reform should be done according to plan/strategy which is adopted/approved by higher authority (President, Parliament). Also, it seems that reform of IA is not well coordinated with the overall reform in Georgia. The reform is elaborated on the high level without taking into consideration the views of the Georgian police officers (and practical consequences), but on the other hand it involves some people who have no or not enough knowledge on policing. Police officers who actually provide police services are not fully informed of changes. Also, it seems that the reform is too much attached to American advices and often non-critically transfers US law-enforcement system and practice to Georgian conditions (p. 56).

For another assessment of the reforms, see the chapter written by Jozsef Boda and Kornely Kakachia, entitled "The Current Status of Police Reform in Georgia", in DCAF (Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces). Philipp H. Fluri & Eden Cole, eds. From Revolution to Reform: Georgia's Struggle with Democratic Institution Building and Security Sector Reform. LaVac, 2005.

For an official view of the police reform, see a recent (March 2010) interview (also available in English) given by Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili (in office since December 2004) to Kommersant – Vlast. Merabishvili describes his ministry as a service agency designed to make people's lives easier: "the police is not just a state institution, it's a service which helps people solve their problems."  He is also an advocate of radical changes: "When you are changing from the Soviet way of life to a Western one, you cannot stop at half-measures. You need non-ordinary methods." He does not deny the importance of the personal factor in driving the reform.

A source for material on corruption is the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC), Caucasus Office. In reviewing their publications, you can find papers on everything from Corruption in the Pharmaceutical Industry (2006) to Corruption in the Ongoing Process of Privatization in Georgia (2006) to Corruption in Illegal Construction in Urban Territories (2006).

See also: International Crisis Group (ICG), Georgia: Sliding towards Authoritarianism? Europe Report N°189 (2007).

April 2010

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