Tbilisi Strategic Discussions
June 2, 2017
Constitutional Amendments in Georgia:
The Process and Potential Impact on Resilience of Georgia's National Security System and
On December 15, 2016, the Georgian Parliament decided to establish the State Constitutional Commission in order to amend the Constitution. On May 5, the draft law on Constitutional amendments was proposed for nationwide public discussion.
The fundamental changes to the architecture of country’s defense and security have not been discussed at any stage neither with local and international experts, nor with the representatives of strategic allies and international organizations; These issues were not considered during the nationwide public discussions either.
By the initiative of the President of Georgia, the Office of the National Security Council of Georgia, within the "Tbilisi Strategic Discussions" format, held consultation meetings with local and international experts in the security area to discuss the potential impact of the proposed amendments on Georgia's national security and defensibility.
The series of discussions revealed that the NGOs and experts working on Georgia's defense and security issues are deeply concerned with the initiated draft law on Constitutional amendments.
The initiative of the President of Georgia "the Constitution Belongs to Everybody" also demonstrated that the draft law requires further elaboration and wide public consensus.
Common vision of the "Tbilisi Strategic Discussions" participants:
- If the proposed amendments are adopted, instead of improving of current situation which is already characterized by the significant shortcomings, the situation in the national security area will rather become more vulnerable and less efficient as the proposed draft fails to clearly formulate a comprehensive and appropriate legal and institutionalized system of defining, planning, implementation and its oversight of the security policy. Moreover, it also ignores the fundamental principles of civilian and democratic control over the security sector. As a result, if adopted, these changes will have a negative impact on country's defensibility, efficiency and sustainability of the national security system and weaken civil-democratic control.
- Elimination from the Constitution of the National Security Council - the permanent coordinating body on defense and security issues, abolishes the possibility of discussing and deciding/recommending at the national level on security issues with participation of key senior officials, including the Commander-in-Chief in real time and continuously. Therefore, the body that is crucial instrument to prevent threats, alongside other functions, is being abolished.
Recommendations on Approaches:
In order to eradicate abovementioned threats, and on the contrary to achieve a more sustainable, resilience and efficient national security system, the following essential approaches shall be upheld:
- The Constitution should define clearly and unequivocally the permanent institutional system for the elaboration of security policy, its enforcement and oversight as well as the foundations of legal and institutional framework of emergency and crisis situation management.
- The Constitutional norms related to security and defense should be formulated in light of the country's existing national security system and analysis of shortcomings, current challenges, best international practices, Georgia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations and in compatibility with the NATO principles;
- Efficient civilian and democratic control over the security system (military forces, police, special services) should be ensured;
- The national security system shall be in conformity with the hybrid threats and challenges, responding to the threats arising from occupation and militarization of country’s territories, which require continuous and permanent coordination of the security system;
- Formation of national security, defense management, military buildup policies and strategic planning should involve and engage all branches of government, at the highest political level; at the institutional level, this is best achieved through the permanent Constitutional body – the National Security Council, and its functions and activities should be defined by the organic law; It should ensure the principle of collaboration for elaboration, implementation, coordination and enforcement of the security policy, in times of peace, crises and state of emergency.
- The type of military forces designated for country's defense should be unequivocally defined. Civilian and democratic control over the military forces should be guaranteed. The country should have one and united armed forces and its functions and procedures should be clearly stipulated in the country's supreme law in full compliance with the principles of democratic control.
- The Constitutional mechanisms for responsibilities and accountability in the area of security should be clearly defined; parallelism and duplication of functions should be ruled out;
- The history of Georgia's statehood development demonstrated the need for the neutral Presidency that stands above party politics and enjoys high democratic legitimacy, which, alongside other functions, should ensure sustainability of the national security system and process.
Recommendations Regarding Next Actions:
Considering the fact that if the process is carried out appropriately, the Constitutional amendments provide unique opportunity to bring the country’s Constitutional model of defense and security sector management and control into absolute conformity with our national objective – to become a fully-pledged member of the NATO and EU – it is essential:
- Revision of the dates assigned for the fundamental Constitutional changes and achieve wide public-political consensus to create a highly legitimate sustainable security system;
- In contrast to theforced process of amendments, the process should carried out with immediate and personal engagement of local and international experts, with consideration andanalysis of threats and modern challenges and in line with the long-term national interests on interoperability with NATO security system.