Wrapping-Up the Georgia Parliamentary Programme

In September and November 2013 CESS and GRASS organised their last events in Georgia in the framework of their “Strengthening Parliamentary Oversight of the Security Sector in Georgia” programme. 

On Thursday 26 September CESS and GRASS organised their third seminar on “Parliamentary Oversight Powers over Military Employments Abroad”. The event was organised at the NATO Liaison Office in Tbilisi. The third seminar dealt with the specific topical policy issue of sending troops abroad and the role of parliament in that process.

During the fourth and final seminar at the NATO Liaison Office in Tbilisi on 8 November, CESS and GRASS focused on the role of parliaments in reviewing, assessing and evaluating security and defence policy-making.

Third seminar and training course (Sept. 2013)

The third seminar dealt with the specific topical policy issue of sending troops abroad and the role of parliament in that process. The role of parliament is widely acknowledged in budgetary matters and legislation, but on policy questions, such as the deployment of troops abroad, practice varies between control ex ante and ex post. Participation in peace support operations is not automatic, but discretionary and subject to often varying considerations. In collective defence there was little debate, but in a peace support mission, questions relating to its purpose, chance of success, risks of casualties, duration, cost and participation by others, play a great role. In the past, for a parliamentarian, there were few votes in being spokesman for defence, but today, the public takes a much keener interest. This provides for a more challenging environment for parliamentarians.

 

During the seminar and the training course we debated about the role of parliaments in sending troops abroad. Also during this debate the need for well-informed and skilful members of the Defence Committee was stressed, without which in-depth scrutiny is not possible. The fact that many models exist in Europe when it comes to overseeing a proposed deployment of troops was stressed several times. In Germany parliamentary oversight is far-reaching, official ex ante approval from parliament is necessary. Parliament also needs to approve the mandate, duration and the budget of the mission and even has a decisive say in the operational issues of missions. In France no official approval is necessary. The mandate, duration, budget and operational issues of missions are all the responsibility of the executive powers. The clear division of powers between the executive and the legislature is retained: the government executes policy; the parliament controls this policy ex post. Between the practices in Germany and France many variations are possible.

The power of the purse clearly lies with parliament, which is enough as far as parliamentary influence goes, according to some participants. Most participants seemed to support a model where parliament controls troop deployments ex post, with the exception of the budget of missions. A lot of debate at the seminar furthermore focussed on the new constitution which will certainly have an influence on the Georgian modus operandi. Public debate about peace support operations, instigated by civil society, is unfortunately largely lacking in Georgia.

During the two-day training course in Bazaleti we dealt with the deployment of troops on the first day by conducting a simulation game where the group was divided in two (MOD representatives versus parliamentarians) and had to make a decision about a proposed mission to a fictitious country. Yearlong practice has shown us it is much more effective to let the trainees experience in realistic simulations how to deal with certain dilemmas then to teach them this in regular sessions. On the second day we dealt with the technicalities, amendments and consultations of the legislative process. We undertook a practical step by step analysis of how a draft law (or bill) becomes an actual law in Georgia. We focussed on which stakeholders should be involved as legislative experts to provide for substantial guidance on the law. And finally, we looked at the political side of the process. The importance of finding political support in the opposition and the engagement of all stakeholders in an early stage was stressed by the trainers.

 

Fourth seminar and training course (Nov. 2013)

The goals of modern defence and security policy-making have become much wider than the traditional tasks of protecting independence and territorial integrity and increasingly focus on multilateral action in support of crisis management, the promotion of stability, combating terrorism and organised crime, non-proliferation issues and cyber warfare. Security and defence are part of foreign policy and need to be grounded in a comprehensive strategic concept that defines interests, threats and risks; determines the international position of the country; and outlines globally the size and composition of the defence establishment. Such a concept needs to be reviewed periodically because the international environment is subject to fundamental change. Parliament has a fundamental role to play in this reviewing process.

During the seminar participants speculated about which set up parliamentary oversight will have when the new constitution comes into force. Participants were furthermore very interested to discuss about the changing set-up of the National Security Council and what its mandate under the new constitution will look like. At the seminar a few speakers from Parliament indicated that much of these questions will stay unanswered for now because there is still a lot of uncertainty, also within government and parliamentary circles. Participants raised doubts about this adoption process and some of them wondered why civil society organisations were not involved at all. Others were afraid that the mandate of the NSC would be restrained under the new constitution, which would be problematic because of Georgia’s complex security context.

When it comes to parliamentary oversight of defence policy-making a systemic matter was exposed by one of the participants. It will be very difficult for parliamentarians to exercise effective oversight in the current set-up because the oversight mechanisms are not embedded in the Georgian political structure. One of the fundamental imperfections is the fact that there are no specialised subcommittees in Parliament, which means that defence oversight exercised by the Defence and Security Committee will stay superficial. Another structural issue is the serious lack of resources (both in terms of personnel and budget) in the different committees. There is no professional, independent and accountable system of recruitment, evaluation, promotion and career development for parliamentary staffers. An institutional development process is asked for to reverse this situation.

During the subsequent training course in Tbilisi we spoke about the existing processes within the Georgian Parliament and how we could help optimising these processes. One of the issues we debated in more detail was the issue of lawmaking. In Georgia it is common for ministries to invite parliamentary staffers to help in the very early stages with the drafting of bills. In most countries of Western Europe this is done differently. The initiative usually lies with the government (in parliamentary systems at least), so they have to do their work first. In a later stage, when the law is drafted, it is possible to ask parliamentarians to submit a bill together with the government. The actual drafting process is usually done by the executive, after which the bill is reviewed in parliament.



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