Georgia visa waiver approved by Parliament
Georgian citizens will be able to enter the Schengen area without a visa for short stays, under a new law passed by Parliament on Thursday.
The legislation still needs to be formally approved by the Council and will only enter into force once the visa suspension mechanism, which allows the temporary reintroduction of visas in the event of migration surges or risks to public security, is in place.
Parliament´s rapporteur for the proposal, Mariya Gabriel (EPP, BG), acknowledged the “broad and complex reforms” carried out by Georgia in order to get the visa waiver and thanked the country's authorities and citizens for their consistency and patience. She also congratulated them on the strength of their democratic conviction and noted that the visa exemption brings the country closer to the EU.
Under the visa exemption, endorsed in plenary by 553 votes to 66, with 28 abstentions, Georgians who hold a biometric passport will have the right to enter the EU visa-free for 90 days in any 180-day period, for business, tourist or family purposes, but not to work.
Tbilisi has complied with all the benchmarks of its visa liberalisation plan, the text notes, underlining that “continuous fulfilment by Georgia of such criteria, especially on the fight against organised crime, will be duly monitored by the Commission”.
The visa waivers apply to the Schengen area, which includes 22 EU member states (all except Ireland, the UK, Croatia, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria), plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The legal change transferring Georgia from the list of countries whose nationals need a visa to enter the EU (the “negative” list) to the list of countries exempted from this requirement (the “positive” list) will have now to be approved by the Council of Ministers. Following its formal signature, the text will be published in the EU Official Journal.
The visa waiver for Georgia will enter into force on the same date as the revised visa suspension mechanism, approved by Parliament on 15 December but still pending finalisation of the official translation of the legal texts.
The Embassy of Switzerland welcomes the adoption of the constitutional amendments
The Embassy of Switzerland in Georgia welcomes the adoption of the constitutional amendments and trusts that the new electoral system will increase the representation of the different layers of society, including the minorities, within the new Parliament. Switzerland will assist Georgia to set up a fair and transparent electoral campaign, based on mutual respect and constructive compromise, and calls on all political actors and media to refrain from personal attacks, including against the members of the diplomatic corps.
EU supports information campaign in Georgia for EU Sustainable Energy Week 2020
On 22 June, the EU Delegation to Georgia launched the EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) campaign. The campaign consists of tips for citizens on saving energy and money, caring about the environment and making their homes more energy efficient.
This year, the EUSEW will run from 22 to 26 June. The event will be held virtually, and the topic will be Beyond the crisis: Clean energy for green recovery and growth.
The EUSEW is the biggest event dedicated to renewables and efficient energy use in Europe. It is organised by the European Commission and brings together public authorities, private companies, non-government organisations and consumers to promote initiatives to save energy and move towards renewables for clean, secure and efficient power.
Find out more
New opinion polls in the Eastern partner countries show high trust in the EU
The EU is the most trusted international institution, and the only one trusted by the majority (60%) of respondents in the Eastern Neighbourhood. Two-thirds (70%) of all citizens in the region believe that the relations between the EU and their country are ‘good’. A total of 57% of Eastern Neighbourhood citizens are aware of the EU’s financial support, and 53% of them believe that the support is effective. More than half of the respondents (53%) can also identify at least one specific programme financed by the EU.
These are just some of the findings of the 2020 opinion polls carried out in the six Eastern partner countries by the ‘EU NEIGHBOURS east’ project earlier this year.
Conducted between February and March 2020 in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, the surveys assess general perceptions of the EU, the values with which it is associated, relations between the EU and the Eastern partner countries, and awareness of the EU’s financial support and its effectiveness. They also look at citizens’ preferred sources of information, how they feel about the situation in their country and their future expectations.
The field work for the survey took place between February and March 2020 (before COVID-19 crisis) and was based on face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 people in each country.
This is the fifth edition of the annual surveys, with the first wave carried out in 2016. The results from the six countries are presented in national reports and a consolidated regional overview report.
Part of the EU-funded OPEN Neighbourhood programme, the ‘EU NEIGHBOURS east’ project aims to contribute to a better understanding of the European Union and its partnership with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine.
Find out more
EU NEIGHBOURS east – opinion polls
EU NEIGHBOURS east – website
Why the environment matters and how the EU helps the Eastern partner countries to protect it
Why the environment matters and how the EU helps the Eastern partner countries to protect it?
- 1. Why should we care about the environment?
We depend on nature for our very existence: we eat the food which grows in its soil, drink its fresh water and breathe its clean air. Housing, clothing, technology and recreation all depend on natural resources. All human activities impact on a fragile ecological balance. Disturbing this balance affects our wellbeing and prosperity.
The next ten years are decisive in making our societies more resilient in the context of major climate and environmental challenges. Together we have to overcome a heavy legacy of past environmental failures, such as loss of natural habitats and biodiversity, erosion of the soil, illegal logging, poor air quality, polluted rivers, deficient waste management, and many others.
Investing into greener development will bring benefits for health, as well as new employment and economic growth opportunities. Working together on the environment and climate resilience is therefore vital.
- 2. How can climate change impact our daily life?
The significant and accelerated climate change caused by greenhouse gases as a result of human activities is increasing and creates severe consequences for our economies and societies.
The European Union and its Eastern neighbours are witnessing extreme rainfall events and flooding, as well as fires caused by heatwaves, soil erosion, fertility and biodiversity loss, and water resource scarcity, which are affecting industry, agriculture and households.
Only recently, wildfires fanned by abnormally hot, dry and windy weather in Ukraine raged through the Chernobyl exclusion zone for over two weeks, destroying more than 11,000 hectares of forest – a stark example of the impact of climate change.
Throughout the region, the countries are facing larger consequences of both droughts (Moldova ranks as the most climate vulnerable country in Europe and its total water availability will fall below total demand within a couple of decades), and floods (Azerbaijan is one of the most flood-prone areas in the world), as well as deteriorating water quality and risks to water supply (melting glaciers in Georgia threaten the country’s water security).
Collective action against climate change will bring many benefits for the environment, for our health, and for the economy. Rethinking and shifting our development paradigm will be an opportunity for a more efficient use of natural resources, cost savings, growth and jobs.
And if you think that climate action is expensive, think of the cost of doing nothing: Georgia estimates that climate-induced hazards could mean $10-12 billion in economic losses for the country over the next 10 years – ten times more than the cost of adapting to climate change over the same time period.
- 3. What is the Paris Agreement about?
The Paris Agreement is the first-ever legally binding global climate change commitment, adopted at the Paris climate conference in December 2015. The EU and its Member States, as well as the countries of the Eastern Partnership, are among the nearly 190 signatories.
The Agreement sets out a global framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit it further to 1.5°C. It also aims to strengthen countries’ ability to deal with the impact of climate change and support them in their efforts.
The agreement stresses the need for global emissions to start coming down as soon as possible and to achieve climate neutrality in the second half of this century.
The centrepiece of the European Union’s effort to meet its targets is the European Green Deal that aims to make Europe climate neutral by 2050, making the EU’s economy sustainable by decoupling economic growth from resource use.
The Green Deal makes it clear that environmental and climate challenges require urgent action by the EU and its partner countries. The EU therefore supports its Eastern partners in their commitments under the Paris Agreement , including the implementation of national climate plans (nationally determined contributions, NDCs), the development of long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies (LEDS), as well as the modernisation of their economies by moving towards climate neutrality.
Meeting these commitments will require a transition to a low carbon, resource-efficient economy, which means a fundamental shift in technology, energy, economics, finance and ultimately society as a whole.
- How does the EU contribute towards protecting the environment in the six Eastern partner countries?
EU support to the Eastern partner countries has been increasing lately. A quarter of grants provided through the Neighbourhood Investment Platform (NIP) in 2018-2019 went to ‘green’ investments. EU blending contributions to such investments increased by more than 50% between 2014-15 and 2018-19, from approximately €67 million to €107 million. In 2018-19 alone, NIP grants unlocked €1.3 billion in overall green investments in the region.
The EU has also contributed €60 million to implement regional programmes that help to improve policies and institutions in the Eastern Partnership in line with the European Green Deal. Support for municipalities amounts to some €24 million, while the partner countries also receive support through the TAIEX and Twinning programmes.
EU-funded regional programmes include :
EU4Environment (€19.5 million in EU funding) aims at helping the Eastern partner countries to preserve their natural capital and increase people’s well-being. The programme supports policy and legislative changes, makes planning and investment greener, stimulates innovative technologies and the adoption of new business models, as well as the creation of green jobs. It also promotes better environmental governance, improved management of protected areas and forests, and sustainable trade.
EU4Climate (€8 million in EU funding) is designed to support the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement and to improve climate policies and legislation, contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and development towards a low-emissions and climate-resilient economy.
The EU Water Initiative for the Eastern Partnership(EUWI+ 4 EaP – €23.5 million in EU funding)helps partner countries bring their legislation closer to EU policy in the field of water management, developing tools to improve the quality of water and its availability for all.
Environment is also high on the priorities at country level, with actions focusing on areas such as air quality, water management and marine pollution, energy efficiency, waste management, tackling pesticides and industrial pollution, and sustainable forest management.
In addition, to the European Union’s cooperation programmes, European Financial Institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) provide significant support for transition to the green economy by supporting low carbon and climate resilient growth, as well as investing in green infrastructures. The Eastern Europe Environment and Energy Efficiency Partnership (E5P) – a multi-donor trust fund of which the EU is the major donor – facilitates investments for municipal projects that improve energy efficiency and environmental protection. The EU-funded Municipal Project Support Facility (MPSF) provides technical assistance for the preparation of energy efficiency projects that can later be implemented through loans. The EU also significantly contributes to the Green for Growth Fund (GGF).
- 5. What do these programmes actually do? Are there any success stories?
Certainly, beyond the stated objectives and the headline budget figures lie some real success stories, protecting the environment, acting on climate change and promoting resilience and sustainability on the ground.
For example, EU is helping to enable modern water policy at basin level for a vast territory covering 500,000 km², setting a clear path towards cleaner water for more than 30 million people in the six Eastern partner countries.
With the EU’s support, Belarus, Moldova and Georgia launched the development of national green economy strategies. Ukraine is already in the top 20 countries in the world for organics farming, exporting €59 million worth of organic products in 2016, the majority certified to EU standards.
More than 100 pilot SMEs in the region received EU support to carry out resource efficiency and cleaner production programmes, resulting in savings of €9.4 million (with an average of between €2,000 and €20,000 saved per enterprise, reaching up to €100,000 in some cases). Activities continue with the support of the EU4Environment programme.
Environmental data is being aligned with EU and best international practice in all six partner countries, with data being available via an Internet-based tracking tool hosted by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
To protect and connect natural areas and biodiversity, the six Eastern partners have identified nearly 700 Emerald Network sites with an area of 12.8 million hectares, more than four times the size of Belgium.
EU support actions reach every level of society, from government policy all the way to raising awareness among primary school children, as you can see from the examples below:
In Armenia, the Connecting Nature project supports the search for new, environmentally friendly ideas and solutions to environmental problems in Yerevan – for instance, to determine the types of plants and trees that are most suitable for a given environmental situation for different areas of the city.
In Azerbaijan, EU experts from Finland, Austria and Latvia trained more than 200 employees of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources to monitor air quality; the Twinning project developed a detailed plan to modernise air quality monitoring systems, including the acquisition of 25 new air quality stations.
In Belarus, schoolchildren have been taking part in a cross-border river cleanliness project on the Styr River that runs between Belarus and Ukraine, testing water quality and learning to detect nitrates, phosphates, and organic pollutants.
In the Batumi region of Georgia, a €6.1 million project has ensured the rehabilitation of the water supply and sewage systems, as well as the construction of waste treatment plants, leading to uninterrupted clean water for the population, and reduced marine pollution.
In Moldova, the burning of agricultural waste used to be a source of environmental pollution. Now, with EU support, the waste is in great demand to produce biofuel, which is used to heat 206 schools, kindergartens and public institutions.
In Ukraine, more than 7,000 people took part in the 2019 #EUBeachCleanup challenge with 234 clean-ups in every oblast in the country, as part of International Clean Beach Day, when citizens around the world gather to clean river banks and beaches. More than 35.7 tonnes of waste were collected and removed to prevent them from polluting the waters.
And across the region, officials from all countries received guidance on the environmental management of plastic waste, marine plastic litter and energy recovery from plastic waste during a TAIEX workshop on EU plastics strategy and single use plastic.
Investment in green infrastructure is also very significant, with the support of the EBRD, the EIB and the E5P alongside other investment partners. In Ukraine, this has enabled investment in clean public transport, with new trolleybus fleets in Kherson, Mariupol and Lviv, as well as €35 million in support for waste management in Lviv. In Moldova, residents of Balti, have benefited from EBRD investment in energy efficient heating and new electric buses. In the Armenian capital Yerevan, EIB funding has contributed to the upgrade of the metro and improving energy efficiency in public buildings such as kindergartens. In Azerbaijan, the EBRD has provided financing for the purchase of 35 new eco-efficient buses, leading to an annual reduction of 2,853 tonnes of CO2. In Belarus, 300,000 people are benefiting from improved water quality thanks to an EBRD loan and an E5P grant for wastewater treatment facilities in seven municipalities. In Georgia, the EIB provided a long-term loan to Tbilisi’s water utility company to support its water and wastewater infrastructure development programme, while the EBRD is to invest €75 million in the modernisation of Tbilisi metro.
- 6. How can I become more environment-friendly?
As a citizen, you have the right, the capacity and the duty to take action for the environment.
Your everyday life choices as a voter and a consumer have the power to drive change in government policies, as well as companies’ decisions and innovations.
Consider the environmental footprint of all your purchases and reduce them, choose local products, avoid polluting substances and single-use plastic, reuse, recycle, separate, compact and dispose of waste correctly.
Adopt simple energy saving habits such as switching off lights and appliances, and closing and opening windows and shutters to keep ideal room temperature.
To save water, take a shower instead of bath, and keep it short. Don’t leave taps running, and look out for any leaks (a leaking toilet can waste 200 litres of water per day). Water your plants in the late evening or early morning, when less water is lost through evaporation.
Share your vehicle, unused objects or excess food with other people in your community, and opt for more sustainable transport and energy from renewable sources.
If you can, keep your own fruit and vegetable garden (you can even use pots on a balcony or urban orchards), eat less meat and prefer plant-based meals, buy more diverse and less processed food, and bring your own bags and containers when shopping.
Check out the EU’s climate tips for easy environmental advice for home, work, shopping and transport.
Azerbaijan celebrates Republic Day: Relying on the roots and confidently looking to the future
Republic Day is a significant date in the life of Azerbaijan. On May 28, 1918, the Declaration of Independence of Azerbaijan was proclaimed in the historical Viceroy’s Palace in that time Tiflis. Thus, the centuries-old tradition of statehood of the Azerbaijani people was revived in a new form of secular democratic republic. Becoming the first republic in the Muslim East, Azerbaijan affirmed the equal rights of all its citizens, regardless of gender, religious, ethnic or social affiliation. In the country, earlier than among many leading European nations, women's suffrage was guaranteed. All ethnic groups were represented in the Parliament of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR).
Noteworthy is such an important circumstance as – ADR closely coordinated its efforts in the foreign policy arena with the Georgian Democratic Republic. So, in 1919, our countries concluded a defensive pact against the common threat posed by Denikin’s troops. The independence of both states was de facto recognized by the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers under a decision of January 11, 1920. It is truly symbolic that the sketch of the ADR coat of arms, taken as the basis of the current coat of arms of the Republic of Azerbaijan, was proposed by Prince Alexander Shervashidze, who was then in Baku.
Alas, that time global political situation did not allow Azerbaijan to maintain its independence. In April 1920, Baku was occupied by the Red Army. And less than a year later, the Georgian Democratic Republic fell under the blows of the Bolsheviks. All this once again demonstrated that the destinies of our countries are intertwined with history. The successes of one lead to the good of the other. And vice versa, the trouble of one is reflected in the next.
Being a part of the USSR, Azerbaijan also strove to develop friendly contacts with Georgia; outstanding representatives of the intelligentsia of both countries were connected by warm and close relations. Our peoples continued to crave for each other. The crown of this cooperation was the friendship between the leaders of the republics – Heydar Aliyev and Eduard Shevardnadze, whose activities laid the foundations for the restoration of the countries’ independence.
Returning to the leadership in Azerbaijan after the collapse of the Soviet Union and taking the country away from the edge of the abyss in 1993, Heydar Aliyev began to systematically strengthen the foundations of statehood. He became a true architect of the today’s Republic of Azerbaijan, identifying key areas and a strategy for its development. It is no coincidence that the main export pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, the construction of which through the territory of Georgia became the triumph of Heydar Aliyev’s oil diplomacy, is inextricably linked with his name.
Relying on the strong foundation of modern effective statehood, the Republic of Azerbaijan, under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev, has developed successes in all areas: reducing poverty from almost 45% in 2003 to less than 5% by now, developing social infrastructure, technological modernization, stimulating the non-oil sector, ensuring dynamic stability within the country and strengthening its prestige in the international arena. In this connection, it’s enough to recall at least such momentous events as the election of Azerbaijan as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council from a group of Eastern European states for 2012-2013 and the country's chairmanship in the Non-Aligned Movement, uniting 120 states, which began in 2019.
Azerbaijan is successfully building up cooperation in all significant vectors: from the European Union to the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to the Council of Europe, from NATO to UNESCO, etc. Of course, the strengthening of strategic partnership with neighboring countries occupies a special place in the system of priorities, and among them Georgia traditionally plays the role of our closest good neighbor, whose brotherhood has passed the test of the long history and the collisions of the present stage.
Our countries, like a hundred years ago, continue to coordinate their activities, invariably provide mutual support to each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Like a hundred years ago, we have similar problems, we feel common pain. One fifth of the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan is under occupation. A fifth of Georgia’s territory has also been occupied.
The people and the state of Azerbaijan are determined to restore international law and justice, to ensure the violated rights of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons who have been subjected to ethnic cleansing in their own country and forcibly expelled from their homes. Strengthening the Azerbaijani state’s power significantly increased the ability to assert its rights and eliminate the consequences of the illegal use of force against it. And everyone can be sure that the success of Azerbaijan in this direction will create conditions for improving the situation in the region as a whole.
Today, celebrating Republic Day, the Azerbaijani people rely on their own strengths and actively use the potential of international cooperation. We are convinced that only by developing a mutually beneficial partnership it’s possible to confidently continue forwarding on the path of progress and prosperity. In its turn, the progress and prosperity of Azerbaijan will always benefit its good neighbors and Georgia, of course, in the first instance.
Press Service of the Embassy
of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Georgia