EU reacts to recent developments in Georgia: “We urge all sides to remain calm”
On 21 June, the EU Delegation to Georgia and the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi made a statement following recent developments in the country.
“We are following very closely events at the Georgian Parliament in Tbilisi this evening,” the statement said. “We recognise the hurt that many people feel today.”
“We urge all sides to remain calm, show restraint and act within the framework of the Constitution at all times,” concluded the statement.
Georgian project to preserve Mutso village settlement is among this year’s Europa Nostra Awards on cultural heritage
In May, Europe’s most prestigious award in cultural heritage – Europa Nostra Awards -announced this year’s winners. Among them were artists and projects from Armenia and Georgia.
The Georgian ‘Fortified Settlement of Mutso’ project is among the winners. It aimed to rehabilitate the settlement around the mountainous village of Mutso in Khevsureti province, which was on the brink of extinction.
The harsh climate, lack of arable land, poor infrastructure together with water shortages led to the depopulation of the village by the middle of the 20th century. Through deterioration and lack of maintenance, this unique village was set to be lost.
Thanks to the efforts of Georgia’s National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation under the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports, the project addresses the depopulation of this community – a challenge that is throughout Europe.
“The restoration of this heritage has created an awareness among the local community of their intangible heritage and the history of the people of the Caucasus, in turn encouraging their re-engagement with this heritage”, the award jury noted.
“The continuation of traditional craftsmanship has been prioritised, ensuring its future maintenance. The overcoming of many challenges to the rehabilitation, including the difficult terrain and lack of infrastructure, is commendable.”
The village of Mutso is a remarkable fortified settlement. For centuries, it was the strongest outpost in northern Georgia, controlling the roads and protecting the state border. The village – strikingly integrated in the surrounding landscape from the harmonious use of materials – was inhabited from the 10th century onwards.
The European Heritage Awards/Europa Nostra Awards is funded by the EU’s Creative Europe programme. This year, 25 laureates from 16 countries are recognised for their impressive accomplishments in conservation, research, dedicated service and education, training and raising awareness.
The winners will be honoured at the high-profile European Heritage Awards Ceremony on 29 October in Paris, during the European Heritage Congress.
EU Monitoring Mission illustrates its mandate to local Armenian community
On 9 August, Head of the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia Erik Høeg visited Akhaltsikhe in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of the country.
During the visit, Høeg met with representatives of local authorities as well as with civil society, and delivered a public lecture on the 11 years of continued EUMM presence in Georgia.
In his lecture, the Head of Monitoring Mission gave an overview of EUMM objectives and activities, highlighting the role of the Mission in promoting stability and confidence building. The Head of Monitoring Mission stressed the unbiased nature of EUMM reporting, based on the principle of impartiality.
The visit is part of an outreach strategy to increase understanding of the mandate and activities throughout Georgia, including in regions with considerable presence of ethnic minorities.
The visit coincided with EUMM Georgia launching an Armenian and Azeri language version of its homepage – eumm.eu.
The EUMM mandate – defined by EU Member States – covers the whole of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders. As part of its normal monitoring activities, EUMM patrols also regularly visit the Samtskhe-Javakheti region.
The EUMM was started in September 2008, following the EU-brokered Six-Point Agreement that ended the August war between Russia and Georgia.
It contributes to the stabilisation, normalisation and confidence building between the conflict parties. The mission provides civilian monitoring of parties' actions, including full compliance with the Six-Point Agreement and subsequent implementing measures throughout Georgia. It also informs European policy – in support of a durable political solution for Georgia.
EU reaffirms support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity on 11-year anniversary of conflict between Russia and Georgia
On 7 August, the EU Delegation to Georgia issued a statement in agreement with the EU Heads of Mission in Georgia to mark the 11-year anniversary of the conflict between Russia and Georgia.
“Eleven years have passed since the August 2008 conflict between the Russian Federation and Georgia,” started the statement. “During this time the Russian Federation has not only maintained but increased its military presence in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in violation of international law and its commitments under the 12 August 2008 agreement.”
The EU added that fundamental human rights of the conflict-affected population “continue to be violated, including through restrictions on freedom of movement by so-called ’borderisation’, temporary closures of crossing points and illegal detentions and through the violation of the right to safe and dignified return of internally displaced persons and refugees”.
“The conflicts in Georgia have caused displacement and trauma to the lives of thousands of people and that legacy now affects generations,” the statement highlighted. “The EU welcomes and supports sincere and apolitical efforts on all sides to address humanitarian and security issues.”
The EU reminded that, since the 1990s, it has striven to help find a peaceful resolution to the conflicts in Georgia, adding that these efforts were substantially stepped up 11 years ago and continue to this day.
In conclusion, the EU said it will continue to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders.
EU-supported study finds regional cooperation vital for protecting Black Sea ecosystem
Protecting the delicate Black Sea ecosystem was in focus on 5 August in the Port of Batumi in Georgia, as scientists on board the international research ship “Mare Nigrum” presented the results of their regular surveys on water quality and the state of marine biodiversity.
The survey’s latest iteration showed positive trends in biodiversity along the Georgian coast, especially at Sarpi, Mtsvane Kontskhi and Tsikhisdziri.
In the past, similar surveys have raised concerns about the impact of pollution on the Black Sea, which is surrounded by six countries – Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine – and serves as the discharge point for many major European rivers, including the Danube, Dniester, Don, Bug, Kuban and Rioni.
Ecological worries include plastic waste (currently measured at 90.5 items per sq. km), the presence of microplastics at depths of 2,000 metres, an influx of hazardous chemicals, and the arrival of invasive species.
Speakers at the event emphasised the importance of regional cooperation in preserving the Black Sea’s health.
The surveys have been conducted regularly since 2014 by the EU-funded Environmental Monitoring of the Black Sea (EMBLAS) project. Working in close cooperation with the governments of Georgia and Ukraine, EMBLAS conducts regular monitoring in the Black Sea basin. It also offers small grants for measures aimed at reducing pollution and makes recommendations to policymakers on how to reduce threats to the Black Sea ecosystem.
Baghdati Municipality has introduced a new concept for promoting the city as a tourist destination
Baghdati, Georgia, 2 August 2019 – The municipality of Baghdati in western Georgia welcomed colleagues from the Polish town of Kostrzyn for a 4-day Staff Exchange Programme aimed at strengthening opportunities for tourism to the Georgian municipality. This intense exchange, which involved international as well as local participants, resulted in the introduction of a new concept for promoting Baghdati as a tourist destination during a final workshop.
Launched within the framework of the EU’s ‘Mayors for Economic Growth’ (M4EG) initiative, Staff Exchange Programmes send experienced municipal staff from EU countries on week-long missions to selected signatories in order to share their experience and render assistance. To date, 50 signatories from the 6 Eastern Partnership countries have applied for such support; in Georgia, the municipalities of Baghdati and Kutaisi were among the beneficiaries selected for the first 9 missions to take place in 2019.
Baghdati seeks practical advice on how to organize annual festivals and fairs of locally made products in accordance with European standards, and on how to attract tourists from both Georgia and abroad. The municipality of Kostrzyn volunteered to share their experience with Baghdati, which provided significant co-financing for the mission.
The Polish delegation was led by Kostrzyn’s mayor, Mr Andrzej Ludwik Kunt, who was accompanied by the manager of the town’s European Integration and International Co-operation Office, Ms Agnieszka Żurawska-Tatała. The workshop also included representatives from the M4EG initiative, the Georgian National Tourism Administration, the government of Georgia’s Imereti region as well as local groups and small businesses from the towns of Kutaisi, Terjola, Zestaponi and other neighbouring areas.
After a series of welcoming speeches, the Polish delegation presented an international tourism growth case study from Kostrzyn, and familiarized their Georgian colleagues with international standards to help them overcome the challenges of ‘going global’. In turn, Baghdati municipality presented their new concept—‘Come to Baghdati: Promoting the city in new ways’. These presentations were followed by lively discussions during which all the participants made numerous recommendations.
Following the workshop, Mr Archil Gogsadze, the Mayor of Baghdati, noted that ‘Our work was very productive, and we held many discussions with our guests. The Polish experts gave us directions and advice for organizing festivals in Baghdati according to international quality standards. We are now more confident of being able to adopt European values and standards in our region. We have already planned to hold a wine and art festival in Baghdati this autumn, and we hope this event will attract many visitors thanks to the new approaches.’
For his part, Mr Andrzej Ludwik Kunt, the Mayor of Kostrzyn, declared that ‘We are glad to have been given the opportunity to support the municipality of Baghdati. In Kostrzyn, we organize a great number of festivals every year, which are attended by almost half a million people. Sixteen years of experience in this field have enabled us to advise Baghdati on how to arrange successful events. We are truly fascinated by the town’s great potential for tourism, which is due to its amazing natural surroundings and the hospitality of its people, who are hard-working and ready to be actively involved in the municipality’s growth and development.’
Mr Zviad Archuadze, the M4EG Country Coordinator for Georgia and Azerbaijan, highlighted the fact that ‘The M4EG Initiative’s Staff Exchange Programmes enable our signatories to learn about the best European practices and to benefit from advice in their fields of interest. Nine Georgian signatories applied to the programme this year, of which 2 municipalities, including Baghdati, were selected—but this is only the first year of the Staff Exchange Programme, and we might soon announce the next edition in order to give other municipalities the chance to learn from their European colleagues.’
In the meantime, a second staff exchange will see another team of EU experts visiting the Georgian municipality of Kutaisi this August.
About the ‘Mayors for Economic Growth’ (M4EG) Initiative:
The EU’s ‘Mayors for Economic Growth’ (M4EG) Initiative was launched in January 2017 in the 6 Eastern Partnership countries in order to increase the capacity of local administrations to stimulate economic growth and job creation in their area. By the summer of 2019, over 300 local authorities had already joined the Initiative, over half of which have already been promoted from Junior to Acting Members upon drafting and beginning to carry out their unique local economic development plans. In order to support the efforts of these Acting Members, the M4EG Secretariat launched a Staff Exchange Programme to send experienced municipal staff from EU countries on one-week missions to share their experience and render assistance.