EU and UNDP launch new project – EU for Improving Environmental Monitoring in the Black Sea (EU4EMBLAS)
On 24 June, the European Union and UNDP launched a new project – EU for Improving Environmental Monitoring in the Black Sea (EU4EMBLAS) – to further boost the efforts to improve protection of the Black Sea environment.
EU4EMBLAS builds on the results of previous phases of the project, which have tackled the deficiencies and limitations in marine data availability, supported development of the Black Sea Water Quality Databases, assessment and classification schemes, as well as addressed public involvement in marine litter reduction and environmental protection through local small-scale actions, campaigns and events.
EU4EMBLAS will primarily help to establish modern systems and facilities to support marine environmental monitoring in Georgia and Ukraine and strengthen national capacities for application of modern analytical methods, data management and assessment related to marine environmental monitoring. Increased public awareness on Black Sea environmental issues and education of the young generation will continue to be an integral part of the programme.
Key actors include national institutions involved in the Black Sea monitoring, as well as national authorities, research / scientific / educational organisations, and civil society organisations.
The material is prepared within the project "EU NEIGHBOURS east"
Meeting of the 3rd thematic group of the Georgia-EU Association Subcommittee on Economic Cooperation
On 13 October, the 3rd thematic group (Energy, Environment, Climate, Transport and Civil Protection) of the Georgia-EU Association Subcommittee on Economic and Sectoral Cooperation convened its 7th Session - chaired from the Georgian side by Davit Bujiashvili, Director of the EU Assistance Coordination and Sectoral Integration Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and from the EU side – by Dorota Dlouchy-Suliga, Deputy Head of Division, EaP Bilateral relations, EEAS.
The sides discussed the progress in implementing the obligations in the fields of transport, energy, environment, climate and civil protection undertaken by Georgia under the Association Agreement.
Representatives of the relevant EU institutions praised the reforms carried out by the Government of Georgia in the aforesaid areas, both in terms of legislative and institutional rapprochement.
Georgia: pre-election report shows mounting tensions across all media
Deep partisan divisions have defined the electoral media environment in Georgia throughout all recent elections. Findings of the media monitoring research, released today by the European Union (EU) and UNDP, show that tensions between media camps have only increased between the parliamentary elections in 2020 and the local elections in 2021.
In the pre-election monitoring period (July through September 2021), polarization was pronounced across all sectors of the national and, to a lesser degree, regional and local media. Some of the media outlets, which were relatively balanced last year, are now showing clear signs of political preference.
Political divisions on television were most evident in July when homophobic pogroms and violent attacks on journalists dominated the media agenda. Although all national televisions closely followed the events, most of them manipulated their audiences by spreading political bias and negatively portraying political forces they did not favour. Facebook pages of the national televisions mirrored this trend by backing certain political forces and demeaning others.
Regional and local televisions were more focused on covering national news than local developments but failed to provide their audiences with high-quality information. News programmes were irregular and, in some cases, had to be suspended for several weeks for technical reasons.
Polarization and political bias have increased on national radios, a traditionally balanced and neutral media sector. Regional radios, though less biased in their reporting, did not provide critical analysis of the events and often used unverified information. Both national and regional radios tried to follow journalistic standards and refrained from discriminatory or abusive language.
As in previous years, unverified sources of information and offensive language remained an issue in national print media. In contrast to that, regional and local newspapers offered a relatively impartial account of events and a diversity of opinions.
The situation was different in the digital media sector. National publications were less polarized and more informative and balanced, while regional and local digital media outlets lent to political favouritism and used untrustworthy information sources. However, compared to television, political pressures and polarization were notably less evident across the entire digital media sector.
Compared to the 2020 electoral cycle, fewer cases of gender-discriminatory language were registered during the monitoring period across all media sectors.
The EU and UNDP media monitoring also studied how political players communicate with their constituencies on social media. The research focused on the contents of Facebook pages of political parties, politicians, mayors’ offices and public agencies, as well as open Facebook groups. Over 500 social media resources were monitored in total. Findings show that in the pre-election period, Facebook pages of the municipalities and mayors’ offices refrained from unethical political propaganda and electoral confrontations. Politicians and political parties used their Facebook pages to spread critical information about political opponents but, in most cases, stayed within the ethical frames of an election campaign. Although electoral news reached open Facebook groups and social media pages of the state agencies, their traction on these channels was relatively low.
As in 2020, the EU and UNDP commissioned specialised research on media coverage of the role of foreign actors in Georgian elections. In the pre-election monitoring period, the EU, Russian Federation (RF) and the United States of America (USA) were mentioned most frequently with the EU and the USA portrayed in a positive light across all media sectors. The media agenda was dominated by political developments, including a so-called ‘Charles Michel agreement,’ situation in Afghanistan and Georgia’s bilateral relations with Belarus and Ukraine. Depending on their editorial preferences, media outlets would either interpret these developments as examples of Georgia’s foreign policy success or, on the contrary, as proofs of the government’s anti-Western stance.
“The media landscape mirrors polarization in the Georgian society which becomes especially evident at a time of elections,” said Evija Kotan, Deputy Head of Political Section at the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia. “Media research serves as a critical tool for journalists, politicians and the public in fulfilling their civic duties during elections.”
“Voters place their trust in the media to make an informed choice at the ballot boxes,” said Anna Chernyshova, UNDP Deputy Head in Georgia. “The Georgian media can be praised for featuring a wide range of opinions and party options. However, political bias, unethical reporting and unverified sources of information remain a problem in many parts of the media.”
The EU-funded monitoring of media coverage of local elections in Georgia is implemented by UNDP in partnership with three Georgian civil society organizations: the Georgian Charter of Journalistic Ethics, Internews Georgia and CRRC-Georgia. This year, it covers 54 media outlets (27 national and 27 regional).
Media research will continue throughout the electoral cycle, covering an election campaign, election day and a post-election period (from July 2021 through March 2022). All reports are available on the website: mediamonitor.ge
MIA BORDER POLICE COAST GUARD DEPARTMENT IS HOSTING 5 NATO SHIPS IN GEORGIA (Video)NATO ships have arrived in Georgian territorial waters. The MIA Border Police Coast Guard Department is hosting the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) in the Georgian territorial waters. The unit consists of Spanish (Flagship), Italian, Bulgarian, Romanian and Turkish naval vessels. The unit is commanded by CAPT Javier Nunez de Prado.The Director of the MIA Border Police Cost Guard Department, CAPT Ramaz Papidze, Chairman of the Government of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, Tornike Rijvadze, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Poland to Georgia, Mariusz Maszkiewicz and the NATO Military Liaison Officer, COL Rusen Abidinoglu met with NATO ships in Batumi Port.The visit of Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 2 (SNMCMG2) is a confirmation of the Alliance’s support to Georgia's NATO membership course. Georgia's close cooperation with NATO strengthens the security of the Black Sea and promotes stability in the region.Within the framework of the visit, the Georgian Coast Guard Department and NATO Naval Unit ships will conduct joint exercises in the Black Sea. The purpose of the exercise is to increase the interoperability of the Georgian and NATO naval forces and strengthen our country's defence capabilities. The Coast Guard Department Boarding Teams will also undergo the second stage of the Second Level Assessment [NEL-2], the final phase of the 4-year assessment process.NATO Naval Units regularly visit Georgian Ports, which is one of the tangible results of NATO-Georgia cooperation in terms of strengthening the Black Sea security. It is the second time NATO ships have visited Georgia in 2021.
New EU Blue Card rules for highly qualified immigrants wishing to work in Europe
MEPs adopted the reform of the EU Blue Card to facilitate the employment of highly qualified non-EU nationals and help alleviate labour shortages in key sectors
The Blue Card Directive, in place since late 2009, defines the conditions of entry and residence that third country nationals (and their family members) must meet to take up highly qualified employment in the member states. However, the scheme has not attracted enough of these much-needed workers, with only 36 806 Blue Cards issued in the EU in 2019 (and Germany issuing most of them).
Less stringent criteria for applicants and employers
Under the revised rules, applicants will need to present a work contract or a binding job offer of a minimum of six months as well as evidence of higher qualifications or professional skills. Currently, a 12-month contract or offer is required. The salary threshold for applicants has been reduced to at least 100 % and not more than 160 % of the average gross annual salary in the member state of employment (from the current 150 % minimum with no upper limit).
Beneficiaries of international protection -such as refugees- will also be able to apply for an EU Blue Card in members states other than the one where they received asylum or another protection status.
It will be possible to attest certain types of professional qualification, such as in the information and communication technology sector, through proof of relevant work experience.
More rights for beneficiaries and their families
Holders of an EU Blue Card will be able to move to another member state after an initial 12-month period in the country that first granted them the Blue Card. They will also benefit from being reunited with family members swiftly through faster reunification procedures and access to the labour market for accompanying family members.
After the plenary vote, the rapporteur Javier MORENO SÁNCHEZ (S&D, ES) said: “We must do everything we can to improve legal migration to Europe and, above all, facilitate the arrival of qualified workers who contribute to the development of our continent. A more attractive and viable scheme adds real value to the existing national schemes. In the future, we intend to go further so that workers in medium and low-paid jobs can contribute to our society in the same beneficial way that Blue Card holders can now.”
The informal agreement with the Council was backed by the Parliament with 556 votes to 105 and 31 abstentions. It will now have to be approved by the Council and published in the Official Journal before it can enter into force. Member states will then have a two-year period to bring their national legislation in line with the directive.
The material is prepared within the project "EU NEIGHBOURS east"
How to help your business recover after COVID
- 1. COVID hit my business badly. Where can I get some financing to recover?
The EU offers financing and guarantees to local financial institutions to unlock lending. This makes it possible for the local lender to provide more affordable financing to SMEs. For instance, you could benefit from lower-interest loans, longer repayment terms, lower collateral requirements, including some loans based in lari instead of foreign currencies. Check what these banks in Georgia have to offer under the EU4Business Initiative:Microfinance Organisation Crystal, Basisbank, Bank of Georgia, TBC Bank, TBC Leasing.
Here are some examples of SME owners who benefited:
Natia Khelaia, CFO at Food Alliance, a company offering high-quality frozen pastry, received a loan of through the EU4Business-EBRD Credit Line, which includes a 15% cash-back incentives funded under the EU4Business initiative. This enabled the company to add necessary inventory and equipment to its factory, expanding production while increasing efficiency by 50%.
Mikheil Melua expanded production capacity of his bay leaf production company Black Sea Laurus, acquired modern equipment, and established food safety standards in line with EU practice with support from the EU4Business-EBRD Credit Line. As a result, Black Sea Laurus generated 8 new permanent and some 100 seasonal local jobs, and launched exports to European markets, doubling production and income both.
- 2. How do I apply for a bank loan? What are the requirements?
The EU offers a wide range of options for different types of SMEs. For instance, the EU provides concessionary loans to underserved micro-enterprises and low-income households as well as SMEs in the agri-food sector, manufacturing, services, real estate. There are also attractive opportunities for the businesses seeking to boost trade with the EU and upgrade their businesses to the EU standards as well as for the women-led SMEs.
You can check the conditions for the EU partner banks on the EU4Business website and just call the bank directly. Remember to mention the programme. Very simple!
- 3. I’ve heard about loans, but are grants also available to small companies?
Yes, there are!
For instance, the most efficient and sustainable local solutions to improve food production and reduce rural poverty may get grants under the ENPARD III programme implemented by the UNDP.
- 4. The pandemic showed that there is sustainable demand for my business. How can I get knowledge, advice and skills needed to scale up my business?
To support SMEs like yours, the EU assists local business associations and agencies, leading to SME growth. Just check all available business development opportunities, pick the one that suits your needs, and get in touch directly with the organisation!
Under the project “EU Innovative Action for Private Sector Competitiveness in Georgia”, nursery owners can attend a series of trainings and workshops to receive practical knowledge on how to align the Georgian production of seedlings with the international standards and best practices of European countries.
The EU project “Green Economy: Sustainable Mountain Tourism and Organic Agriculture” (GRETA), offers support to local initiatives in sustainable gastronomic tourism and organic agriculture. Local businesses can get the relevant knowledge, find out about opportunities of cooperation and earning income, and make new contacts.
Under the ENPARD III project, farmers, rural households, cooperatives and other small and medium enterprises in rural areas can apply for access to better services and inputs. They can benefit from pilot activities for farmers including various types of demonstration, information dissemination, and training.
If you own a business in the construction, tourism or apparel sectors, the Clusters 4 Development – Better Business Sophistication in Georgia project implemented by the GIZ might be of interest to you. It helps increase SME competitiveness through the development of clusters.
If you want to improve your coding and tech entrepreneurship skills, the Development of youth coding and tech entrepreneurial club networks programme may be for you – during the next 3 years, tech clubs will appear in 100 locations across 8 regions of Georgia.
Women-led businesses can benefit from the EU4Business Women in Business Advisory Programme implemented by the EBRD to access know-how to transform their businesses. This covers a wide range of topics, from the technical knowledge to build a website, for example, or to introduce a quality management system that meets ISO standards, improve energy efficiency or improve Human Resources management. These usually involve working with qualified local consultants with a portion of the net costs reimbursed.
Alongside financial support, the following programmes provide consultancy and business development opportunities for SMEs to better utilise the free trade opportunities: DCFTA Initiative East by EIB supports SMEs in the agri-food sector, and the DCFTA Programme by EBRD may help you to resolve the challenges in utilising the opportunities offered by the DCFTA. The DCFTA SME Direct Finance Facility helps SMEs identify quality capital investment projects.
You can even make sure your voice is heard in the national reform process and help your government to better understand issues affecting SMEs like yours! Just check the business enabling environment activities in Georgia supported by the EU.
- 5. I think exporting to the EU could help my business recover. Where do I start?
Indeed, that’s a great way to scale up your business! And we have something interesting to offer.
The EU4Business: Connecting Companies project supports SMEs with export going to EU countries. You can apply for training, coaching and even matchmaking with businesses in the EU.
The EU4Business Eastern Partnership Trade Helpdesk will facilitate you in identifying trade obstacles and better understanding regulatory and procedural issues in trading goods and services. Soon, this one-stop-shop online platform will be available that will offer access to trade information (tariffs, non-tariff measures, taxes, trade statistics and procedures).
Alongside financial support, the following programmes provide consultancy and business development opportunities for SMEs to better utilise the free trade opportunities: the DCFTA Initiative East by EIB supports SMEs in agri-food sector, and the DCFTA Programme by EBRD may help you to resolve the challenges utilising the opportunities offered by the DCFTA. The DCFTA SME Direct Finance Facility helps SMEs identify quality capital investment projects.
1.6. Are there SMEs like me that got help?
There are more than you can imagine!
Between 2019-2020, 55,181 SMEs in Georgia received support through the EU4Business Initiative. Among those, a total of 5,621 entrepreneurs received loans for a total value of €307.25 million under EU programmes that support SMEs. Over 48,642 consultancy services were delivered to SMEs. The income of these supported SMEs rose by 9.4% in 2020 amounting to almost €69.86 million, and 10,055 new jobs were generated as a result of this support in 2020 alone.
Here are some success stories from SMEs like yours:
Gano Melitaurireceived EU4Business support to procure new sewing equipment in the middle of the pandemicso that her company Kombinezona did not have to halt production. Instead, they shifted their focus to making antibacterial face masks and protective gear, were able to employ more people, and distributed a good number of free masks.
Baia Saluqvadze and Levan Bolqvadze, co-founders of Agritrade,purchased a new calibration line, a vertical elevator, and conveyor with the support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the EU as part of its ENPARD and EU4Business Initiative. Agritrade’s Kakheti hazelnuts can now be directly exported to China, generating more export opportunities.
Click here for more success stories to learn about Georgian SMEs that are doing business in many different areas and have benefitted from EU support.
The material is prepared within the project "EU NEIGHBOURS east"