3.2 Overall description of the system
Georgia is a democratic republic divided into 9 regions, 65 territories, 2 autonomous republics – Abkhazia and Ajaria, and 5 cities. The official language is Georgian, except in the territory of Abkhazia where both Georgian and Abkhazian languages are official. The capital city of Georgia is Tbilisi with a population of 1 253 000.
On 15 October 2010, the new Constitution of Georgia was adopted, which changes the system from a presidential state model to a mixed parliamentary-presidential model. Consequently, the powers of the prime minister and the Parliament are strengthened and the presidential functions are diminished. The Constitution takes effect step by step: the section regarding judicial power has been put into force already, while the section regarding the functions of the prime minister, parliament and president will take effect after the next parliamentary and presidential elections.
The system of administration includes the following branches of authority:
Parliament – holding legislative powers; the parliamentary committee for education, science, culture and sports is responsible for legislation and supervision of the executive power (the Ministry of Culture, Monument Protection and Sport of Georgia).
President of Georgia – the head of the state; holds the central place in the hierarchy of the executive power. The President's Administration includes the Internal Policy Service. The Service for Culture, Science and Youth Affairs which existed at the State Chancellery before the Rose Revolution has been dismantled; only one unit in the newly formed Internal Policy Service represents Culture, Science, Social and Religious Affairs.
On the 5th September 2006, the Council for Culture and the Fund for Culture were established by the President of Georgia. The goal of the Council for Culture is to determine the cultural policy and the Presidential initiatives in this sphere; the purpose of the Fund for Culture is to finance cultural activities and international and local festivals country-wide.
Nevertheless, these structures remain superficial and do not influence the national cultural policy (for this reason, the Board for Culture is not reflected in the organigram of chapter 3.1).
Cabinet of Ministers and its head – the Prime Minister – forms the executive power. In line with the amendments made to the Constitution since 2004, the role of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers has been strengthened.
The institutional division of authority among various levels of power in culture is as follows:
National government: the Ministry of Culture, Monument Protection and Sports was changed in 2010 into two separate ministries – the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection and Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs.
A new structure, the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia (http://heritagesites.ge/) was created in 2008 at the Ministry of Culture, Monument Protection and Sport.
There are Reserve Funds of the President of Georgia and Government of Georgia that finance emergency programmes, including those in the cultural sphere (see chapter 5.1.2). Such programmes are implemented together with the Ministry of Culture, Monument Protection and Sport and promote more centralisation of the state policy for culture (see chapter 3.4.2).
National institutions and organisations of culture are subordinate to the Agency for Administration at the Ministry of Economic Development. The Ministry of Culture, Monument Protection and Sport of Georgia is responsible for the development of cultural policy.
Advisory bodies or councils: In the Georgian system of cultural administration there is no institute or independent arts council. Advisory bodies – branch committees – were established at the Ministry of Culture, Monument Protection and Sport. These committees are composed of freelance experts but remain largely inactive. Small grants are made available to ensure public participation in the implementation of cultural policy.
There are no special bodies such as councils, committees or working groups which facilitate the representation and participation of national and cultural minorities or groups of immigrants in the cultural processes. The only authority which indirectly addresses these issues (in the context of the protection of the general rights of minorities) is the Centre for Tolerance at the Office of the Ombudsman of Georgia.
Following parliamentary elections (21.05.2008), a new position was created – the State Minister for Georgian Diasporas - with a budget of 888 400 GEL.
Local authorities: In line with Georgian legislation, the governments of Abkhazia and Ajaria Autonomous Republics have their own Ministries of Culture which are responsible for programmes within their respective administrative borders.
The local authorities of administration (municipalities) and self-government (sakrebulo – city or village councils) bear responsibility for cultural activity in the regions.
The structural units of local authorities are the departments of culture, cultural heritage and protection of monuments at the local governmental level.
Most of the institutions of culture (theatres, clubs, museums, libraries, centers and house of culture, art and music schools) responsible to the local bodies of administration and self-government have no legal status although they receive state-municipal financing.
Presidential power in the regions is realised through the institute of presidential "rtsmunebuli" (the governor / president's attorney). There are 10 rtsmunebulis throughout Georgia. The Governor's Office includes the committee for culture (institutions and programmes of regional importance. The Rtsmunebuli Office is financed from the central budget (the role of the rtsmunebuli - governor (the president's confidant in each region) is defined in the new Constitution of Georgia of 15 October 2010).
In many respects, the President's institutes -"rtsmunebuli"- duplicate the functions of the bodies of local administration and self-government and due to a trend of centralisation in recent years the powers of the rtsmunebuli have been further reinforced.
In some cases there are conflicting priorities and approaches taken by the national cultural policy and by the policies of local self-government which can result in the lack of a coherent system for cultural support.
One example of these inconsistencies is in relation to the autonomous republics. Until 2004, the Ajaria Autonomous Republic was not accountable to the central government. The territory of the Abkhazia Autonomous Republic is controlled by a separatist government, which for 17 years has been in conflict with the official Georgian authorities and has pursued a policy directed against the indigenous Georgian culture. The Tskhinvali Region, also known as South Ossetia, is a similar case in point.
Due to the political and economic interests of the central authorities listed above, as well as demands from both local authorities and the public, the problems of delimitation of powers and reinforcement of centralisation have become very acute.