David Zalkaliani and Olivér Várhelyi have discussed the EU investment plan for 2022
On 7 July 2021, the Georgian Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Zalkaliani held a meeting with the European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi. Discussing important dimensions of EU-Georgian relations, the sides expressed their commitment to further deepen cooperation.
Particular attention was paid to the EU investment plan for 2022, which determines goals of the Eastern Partnership beyond 2020. The sides highly appraised the economic and investment plan envisaging mobilization of assistance for partner countries in their efforts to eliminate negative consequences of the pandemic and achieve economic recovery. The sides also discussed Georgia-initiated flagship initiatives, including those on Black Sea energy, transport and digital connectivity, fully reflecting the priorities of the Georgian government.
Talking points also included expectations for Eastern Partnership Summit scheduled for December 2021, where EaP goals beyond 2021 will be approved and Joint Declaration will be adopted.
The sides also spoke about the need to maintain security and stability in the region and Georgia’s important role in this context. Special attention was paid to the situation in Georgia’s occupied territories and the EU’s role in the peaceful resolution of the Russia-Georgia conflict.
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"
Heads of foreign affairs agencies of Turkmenistan and the FRG discussed the issues of bilateral collaboration
Today, on September 14, a telephone conversation took place between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov and Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Germany Heiko Maas.
Minister on behalf of the Government of Germany expressed deep gratitude to Turkmenistan for cooperation in the issues of ensuring the flights of aircrafts with the aim of evacuating citizens from Afghanistan. At the same time, it was emphasized that the immediate granting of permission by Turkmenistan to use its airspace has become a decisive factor in the effective evacuation of people.
In the course of the talk, the heads of foreign affairs agencies exchanged views on the issues of bilateral collaboration in political-diplomatic, trade-economic and cultural-humanitarian spheres.
In particular, it was noted the close interaction of Turkmenistan and Germany in the process of “Green Central Asia”, as well as bilateral cooperation in the field of education between the governments of the two countries.
The parties also exchanged views on significant issues of international and regional agenda. Mutual readiness for continuation of active dialogue on Afghan issues had been expressed.
The Ministers agreed to continue on a systematic basis regular consultations between the Foreign Ministries of Turkmenistan and Germany with the participation of diplomatic missions.
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"
David Zalkaliani has held a farewell meeting with the Bulgarian Ambassador to Georgia
On 23 July 2021, the Vice Prime-Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, David Zalkaliani held a farewell meeting with the Bulgarian Ambassador to Georgia, Desislava Ivanova.
The Minister highlighted the Bulgarian Ambassador’s outstanding contribution towards strengtyhening traditionally friendly relations between Georgia and Bulgaria. Talking points included the increasing dynamics of high-level visits and successful sectoral cooperation. Special focus was placed on trade-economic links, cooperation in the sectors of transport and communications, education and culture.
Desislava Ivanova, for her part, expressed her gratitude to the Minister for the fruitful cooperation between the two countris in bilateral and multilateral formats. The Ambassador reaffirmed Bulgaria’s firm support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as European and Euro-Atlantic integration.
At the end of the meeting, the Minister thanked the Ambassador for her active work during the past five years and wished her success in her future career.
European Union and WHO support Georgia’s efforts to prepare for the mass COVID-19 vaccination process
72 high quality laptops, 20 tablets, 200 vaccine carriers with 800 icepacks, 300 medical refrigerators with accessories, 300 thermometers, a specialized vaccine-carrier vehicle – this is just short list of the equipment that EU and WHO are donating to the government of Georgia to support the mass COVID-19 vaccination process to be launched in summer.
Today, Mr. Catalin Gherman, Deputy Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to Georgia and Dr. Silviu Domente, WHO Representative and Head of the WHO Country Office in Georgia visited the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health to hand over part of the equipment and discuss further needs in support for a successful vaccination process.
This donation is just part of the assistance provided by EU and WHO to the Government of Georgia. Since the onset of the pandemic, EU and WHO have worked to ensure effective response to the current COVID-19 crisis and strengthen overall preparedness capacities of health sector in Georgia. Now the EU-WHO action to support deployment of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccination in Eastern partnership countries, supports the Government of Georgia with provision of necessary supplies, development of software and mobile applications, training of key personnel involved in vaccinations, monitoring of vaccine efficacy and safety, and development and implementation of a nationwide communication campaign to promote vaccinations and to address vaccines hesitancy.
“Vaccines and their roll-out are crucial to overcome the pandemic. In recent days Georgia has received vaccines from Austria and today the EU is proud to hand over equipment as part of our large scale support to Georgia via WHO to ensure that vaccines are used as effectively as possible for maximum impact. The EU and Team Europe continue to stand by Georgia in the pandemic,” – said Catalin Gherman, Deputy Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Georgia.
“We expect a real mass vaccination to be initiated in Georgia in July, and we hope the provided equipment will be very useful for the vaccination teams all over the country, along with other support provided under the current EU-WHO action,” – said Silviu Domente, WHO Representative and Head of Georgia Office.
This assistance is part of a wider support package provided by the EU and Team Europe consisting of GEL 1.5 billion of new and reallocated assistance to help Georgia deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, including support to vulnerable groups and economic recovery. That is one of the highest levels of EU assistance per capita to any country in the world and demonstrates the EU’s strong solidarity with Georgia at this time of unprecedented crisis.
In addition, the EU and Team Europe – including the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and Member States – are some of the strongest supporters of the COVAX, through which Georgia receives part of its vaccines. The EU and Team Europe have so far announced contributions of more than €870 million to the facility.