Statement by the Spokesperson on the appointments of Supreme Court judges
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.
Public Defender’s Statement on Mikheil Saakashvili's Detention Conditions
The Public Defender's Office has visited the third President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, who is placed in Penitentiary Establishment No. 12, several times. We have been observing in detail the state of his health and conditions in the penitentiary establishment. We have intensive communication with the administration of the penitentiary system, as well as medical personnel, regarding Saakashvili’s health condition, with the consent of the latter.
It should be noted that no breaches have been reported so far in terms of provision of living conditions for the third President; adequate attention is paid to him by the medical staff of the penitentiary facility.
At the same time, the Public Defender of Georgia would like to respond to the information spread by the Special Penitentiary Service about Mikheil Saakashvili's health condition (blood pressure, pulse, saturation, glucose) and other personal data (items purchased by him). While it is clear that there is a high public interest in the health condition of the third President of the country, the agency has an obligation to inform the public only within reasonable limits. Health-related information belongs to special category data and its disclosure in detail, without the permission of the person concerned, poses a risk of violation of the law on the one hand and may contribute to the prisoner’s distrust towards the penitentiary system on the other hand, including towards the medical personnel.
The issuance of such statements by the Penitentiary Service or high political officials poses an additional risk that the prisoner, who is on a hunger strike, may also refuse to receive medical care. Therefore, we negatively evaluate any statement that pushes the prisoner to resort to a more severe form of hunger strike and further aggravates his health condition.
The Public Defender's Office will continue to monitor the rights situation of the third President of Georgia and will periodically provide information to the public.
Statement of EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell to mark World Car Free Day
In the midst of everything else that is going on these days, I would like to remind you that today is Car Free Day – an annual event organised in numerous cities all around Europe!
The idea of this day is to take a moment and reflect on the future of our cities and towns, and how to make them greener, calmer and more healthy places to live in.
In Georgia, 70% of air pollution is caused by cars and trucks. Here in Tbilisi, the number is even higher, making up for some 90% of total pollution.
Air pollution has a negative impact on health, increasing the risk of respiratory infections, fatigue, and heart and lung diseases.
To clean up the air is a key objective of the European Union, both within the EU itself and here in Georgia. We have been working in Georgia for many years to this end and our ambition remains high, including plans to invest in further equipment to better control air pollution.
We will also continue to invest in more sustainable transport alternatives, all with a view to allow all of us to breathe cleaner air and lead healthier lives.
I hope you will join us!
And with that let me wish you all a carefree Car Free Day.
See video at: https://bit.ly/2XD20pg
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"