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
Statement by President Salome Zourabichvili
I welcome the plan to transfer the former President to the Gori Military Hospital as a place that meets all medical and security standards.
This decision fully responds to the request of the European Court of Human Rights, to which the former President agreed to end his hunger strike if transferred to a multidisciplinary clinic.
I also welcome Elene Khoshtaria's decision to end her hunger strike.
The readiness of the opposition to not hold protests in the vicinity of the clinic is important and the right thing to do, as is the decision of some parties to end their parliamentary boycott.
Today's decisions are steps forward that will ensure the peace of society and the stability of the country.
Ambassador Carl Hartzell visits EU Projects in Kakheti
On 11-12 October, Carl Hartzell, Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia travelled to Kakheti to highlight the EU’s support to the region. He visited various sites in Kvareli, Telavi and Pankisi valley, and met with diverse groups of people. The visit focused on energy efficiency, support for businesses, and outreach to Georgia’s youth.
As a first stop, Ambassador Hartzell visited Kvareli Lake Resort, which has been renovated and refurnished according to EU standards in energy efficiency, health and safety within the EU4Business-EBRD Credit Line. The Resort spreads over 300 hectares of natural landscape in Kvareli. The support of the European Union and EBRD helped the company gain full compliance with Georgian regulation and with the applicable EU Directives.
The visit continued with EuroClub Kvareli, where Ambassador Hartzell opened the Club’s second anniversary event. EuroClub Kvareli was established within the EU’s Young European Ambassadors initiative in November 2019. Its main goal is to promote education and development among young people in Kvareli, and to provide access to non-formal education. Over the past two years, EuroClub Kvareli reached 1200 people through 100 activities, like film clubs, English lessons and other events.
On the same day, Ambassador Hartzell visited two other companies, which had received support through the EU4Business EBRD Credit Line. The winery and distillery Askaneli Brothers exports products internationally, including to EU countries like Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, and Poland, making full use of the DCFTA. Thanks to the EU’s and EBRD’s support, the company invested in state-of-the-art production facilities and equipment, improved food safety management, as well as energy efficiency, waste management and health safety, making both products and the workplace safer for people.
The first day concluded in the Holiday Inn in Telavi, which has been made more energy efficient through the EU4Business-EBRD Credit Line. Besides a substantial loan, the company also received technical support from a team of international experts, helping the hotel upgrade its business practices as well as energy use.
In the morning of the second day, Ambassador Carl Hartzell visited Ikalto village in Telavi municipality and officially opened a local Kindergarten, which has been renovated and thermo-rehabilitated within an EU-funded project, implemented by Energy Efficiency Centre Georgia. Thanks to biomass energy technology created from vineyard waste products, the kindergarten will now be fully heated in winter, while also saving 60% of electricity costs. The opening event took take place within the EU’s ongoing campaign on energy efficiency “Doing More with Less”(link is external).
Ambassador Hartzell then visited the Learning and Employment Support Center in Telavi, observed entrepreneurial skills training and met with local youth. The Center is part of the EU’s Skills4Jobs programme and run by the Center for Strategic Research and Development of Georgia (CSRDG) in partnership with the Young Pedagogues’ Union and Georgian Civil Development Association. Through the project, young people in Kakheti, Guria and Kvemo Kartli can increase their potential through formal and informal education. Up until now, 6 Learning and Employment Support Centres have been established in Georgia, including the one in Telavi. To date, over 1,000 job seekers have received support.
The visit continued in Pankisi valley, where the Ambassador opened a workshop for teachers on media literacy, organised and conducted by the Communications Commission with support from the European Union. Part of the audience were teachers from Pankisi, who had travelled to Brussels on a study trip a few years ago. The workshop is part of a longer training programme, designed to help teachers fight disinformation and teach students how to read and evaluate media.
Finally, Ambassador Hartzell met with the Women’s Council of Pankisi and the Local Action Group Akhmeta (LAG), which has been established within the EU’s ENPARD programme. The Women’s Council includes 15 local women of Pankisi Gorge and assists local women in resolving disputes, provides them with access to legal and social aid, and works on women’s rights. Over the past three years, the Akhmeta LAG has helped the Pankisi community through a variety of local development initiatives, including direct support to the Women’s Council.
Two years, 1,200 beneficiaries, and counting: Kvareli EuroClub marks second anniversary
The Kvareli EuroClub in Georgia marks its two-year anniversary today, with a special event attended by EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell, as well as the Ambassadors of the Netherlands, Austria, France, Turkey and Norway, and the Attaché of the Spanish Embassy in Georgia.
The Kvareli EuroClub was founded by Young European Ambassador Nika Gurini in November 2019, with the support of the EU NEIGHBOURS east regional communication programme. In the two years since then, more than 1,200 young people have benefited from the different projects and activities organised by the EuroClub.
The main mission of the EuroClub is to promote education and development among the general population and young people in particular, to raise civic awareness and to provide access to non-formal education and to spread European values.
As part of the activities organised by the EuroClub, local people have been able to take advantage of free English language courses, vocational training courses, and open libraries, among others.
In the long term, the EuroClub aims to expand and further develop its activities, reaching more people across the region and other parts of Georgia.
To take part and find out more about ongoing and upcoming activities, check out the document below or visit the Kvareli EuroClub Facebook page.
Remarks by EU Ambassador Carl Hartzell following the appointment of two members of the High Council of Justice
On 31 October, the Conference of Judges of Georgia elected two new judge members of the High Council of Justice. These appointments took place on the day after local elections and only four days after the publication of the Conference’s agenda. The appointees’ predecessors, two women, had unexpectedly resigned from their mandates whose terms had not expired. No announcement of candidates was made in advance of the appointments.
The appointments were hasty, non-transparent and non-competitive. They were therefore at odds with Georgia’s commitments aimed at increasing the independence, accountability, quality and trust in the Judiciary, in line with the EU-Georgia Association Agreement.
This is a fifth setback in the area of the judiciary and rule of law in Georgia, within only four months. It follows the further appointments to the Supreme Court on 12 July which lacked “integrity, objectivity and credibility” according to the OSCE/ODIHR, the failure to fulfil the necessary judicial conditions to receive an extra 75 million EUR in EU macro-financial assistance by September 2021, the non-adoption on 7 September of the constitutional amendments on the Prosecutor General’s appointment and the lack - so far - of credible investigation and prosecution of the organisers of the 5 July violence targeting over 50 journalists and activists.
These developments demonstrate yet again the urgent need to launch an ambitious judicial reform through a broad, inclusive and cross-party reform process, to which the Georgian political parties committed.
The European Union calls once more on the Georgian authorities to uphold their reform commitments, including in the justice sector, in the interest of Georgian citizens and of the future of EU-Georgia relations.
The European Union reiterates that, while it remains fully committed to support Georgia’s reforms in line with the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, the EU’s assistance to Georgia remains conditional on progress on key reforms.
U.S. Embassy Statement on Conference of Judges
On October 31, while the country was focused on the municipal elections, the Judiciary selected two new members to the High Council of Justice, replacing the previously unannounced early resignation of two sitting members. The process was neither competitive nor transparent. A single candidate was offered for each vacancy. There was little advance notice of the intent to fill the seats left open by the pre-term resignations. There was no opportunity for consultations or participation by a broad range of qualified candidates, nor for meaningful engagement by relevant interlocutors and civil society. It is disappointing that the Judiciary missed the opportunity to show transparency and failed again to elect its representatives through a competitive and democratic election process.
The United States has long sought to build the capacity of qualified and dedicated judges while calling for reforms that would allow for accountability for judges who undermine the legitimacy of the judicial system. This includes seeking legislative amendments to avoid corporatism and to safeguard the principles of democracy, equality, and adherence to the Rule of Law. Judiciary leaders maintain the judiciary is unfairly criticized for the lack of transparent and merit-based appointments, promotions, and transfers. Yet when the Conference of Judges rushes through important decisions without competition or transparency, it demonstrates unwillingness to embrace reforms that would increase transparency, accountability and public trust in the appointment process, the candidates, and in the High Council of Justice. The many qualified, professional members of the judiciary who are shut out by such a closed system deserve better.
An ethical Judiciary is the backbone of a country’s adherence to Rule of Law. An independent and professional judicial system that is trusted by and serves the people is essential to promoting equitable growth and attracting investment by Georgian and foreign businesses. The United States will continue to advocate for and support reforms that will increase accountability, professionalism, and transparency to help Georgia attain the system of justice its people deserve and that is fundamental for Georgia’s chosen path of Euro-Atlantic integration.