Georgia: The Missing Page in the Association Agreements

Georgia: The Missing Page in the Association Agreements

Photography credits: Silviu Ghetie
Photography credits: Silviu Ghetie

Article by Mirela Oprea and Giorgio Comai, jointly published by Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso , Eastbook.eu and  DF Watch.

It might be one page, one paragraph, or just two lines. But the importance of including child protection in EU’s Association Agreements cannot be overestimated.

On June 27, Georgia and Moldova will sign in Brussels the Association Agreements with the European Union that were initialled last year in Vilnius (Ukraine’s new authorities are expected to sign only the economic part of the Agreements on the same day). After a high level meeting that took place last month between president of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, both sides officially welcomed “the finalisation of the Association Agenda as a set of jointly agreed priorities for the period 2014-2016 that will help prepare Georgia for the successful implementation of the Agreement.”

The Association Agenda with Georgia and Moldova have not (yet) been made public. But if, as expected, they will reflect the contents of the Association Agreements, they will differ in at least one key aspect.

Looking inside the Agreements

The Association agreements signed last November in Vilnius by Moldova and Georgia are similar, almost identical in some parts, but not quite the same. After the summit, the coalition uniting child-focused NGOs in Moldova could welcome the presence of a whole chapter dedicated to child protection in the new Agreement with the EU. On the contrary, its Georgian counterpart had to point out in a press release the absence of a similar section in the Association Agreement signed by the Georgian government. At a recent press conference in Chișinău, an EU representative stated that the Agreement means “investments, trade, new businesses opportunities, development of the economy, but is also certainly good news for the children, because the European Union is a protector of the children.” He went ahead listing various forms of child vulnerability that EU-Moldova cooperation will tackle, adding that “this will not remain only on paper in the Agreement, but will turn into concrete actions.” EU officials in Tbilisi would not be in the position to make similar statements, since child rights have not been included in the EU-Georgia Agreement.

The chapter on “Cooperation in the protection and promotion of the rights of the child” is just one page in the 984-pages-long EU-Moldova agreement. Can it possibly be so important? The short answer is “yes”. As recent history shows, child protection is one of those fields where EU neighbourhood and enlargement policies can bring real change to the lives of thousands of people. Read more about Georgia: The Missing Page in the Association Agreements

Power and politics in child protection reforms. Or why we should think beyond ‘technical’ approaches.

Power and politics in child protection reforms. Or why we should think beyond ‘technical’ approaches.

There is (still) much talk about the child protection reforms in the former socialist countries, in particular in Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans and the South Caucasus, with deinstitutionalization at the core of the reform efforts. At the end of the communist / socialist rule all countries were running a system of ‘orphanages’ where a mere 2% (at maximum) of children were real orphans. These children were put in these ‘closed institutions’ (in the adult world this would be an euphemism for ‘prisons’) because they were coming from poor families, from the wrong ethnic group (think about the over-representation of the Roma children) or because they had a disability that was offending the carefully orchestrated ideas of state ideologues who wanted women to be full-time workers rather than concerned mothers of flawed child. After 25 years form the fall of communism hundreds of thousands of children in these countries (100.000 in Ukraine alone) are still living in ‘closed institutions’. Read more about Power and politics in child protection reforms. Or why we should think beyond ‘technical’ approaches.