A new Europol-led project, funded by the European Union, has been launched, focused on strengthening the capacity of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine to fight organised crime more effectively. The project will contribute to reducing crime and creating a safer living space for citizens in the region.
Through this four-year initiative, Europol will support cooperation between law enforcement authorities, both on a strategic and operational level. Special funding will enable the Eastern Partner countries to participate in operational activities against some of the ten most significant threats to EU security listed under the EU Policy Cycle. Existing networks for information sharing and operational cooperation may be further extended into joint investigations to improve the effectiveness in fighting transnational organised crime.
“This initiative is an important step in developing strong operational cooperation and trust between the law enforcement authorities of the EU Member States and our Eastern partners,” said Catherine De Bolle, Executive Director of Europol. “Our aligned efforts will bring a stronger response to the common challenges and cross-border threats we face.”
Lawrence Meredith, Director for Neighbourhood East at the European Commission, stated: “Organised crime networks operate across national borders and destabilise the entire region. Tackling serious and organised crime is a shared challenge by the European Union and its partner countries. By strengthening the strategic and operational cooperation between Europol and partner countries, we are proud to contribute to joint investigation successes.”
Located along the Black Sea and forming part of the ‘heroin route’ from the Middle East to Europe, all six Eastern Partner countries are threatened by organised criminal groups active in the area. These groups are involved in migrant smuggling, organised property crime, trafficking in human beings, firearms and drug trafficking, money laundering, and other related crimes such as document fraud. These criminal syndicates threaten not only the safety and security of people, but also the stability of the Eastern Partnership region and of the whole EU. More cooperation between law enforcement authorities of EU Member States and the Eastern Neighbourhood countries is crucial to improving the effectiveness of the common response to organised crime across borders.
As part of a larger €10 million EU cooperation initiative, the EU has dedicated €2.5 million to support the project that will run for the next four years. Two other components are focused on law enforcement training and threat assessment (a project led by Cepol with the participation of Europol) and on criminal asset recovery (managed by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute - UNICRI).
With support from the European Union, the two UN sister agencies will work with government bodies and civil society partners in six countries to challenge deeply ingrained gender stereotypes, increase men’s involvement in domestic work and childcare, and engage with potential perpetrators to prevent gender-based violence.
UN Women and UNFPA, together with the European Union (EU), have launched a three-year regional programme to tackle gender stereotypes and gender-based violence in six countries of the Eastern Partnership: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
The programme, entitled “EU 4 Gender Equality: Together Against Gender Stereotypes and Gender-Based Violence,” ultimately seeks to strengthen equal rights and opportunities for women and men by challenging perceptions about men’s and women’s roles in the family and in society and working to eliminate gender-based violence.
“This is our first regional programme covering gender equality in the Eastern Partnership region and we are intensely proud of it,” said Lawrence Meredith, Director for Neighbourhood East in the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations at the European Commission. “We can and we will do more to develop this underused economic and social potential with our Eastern neighbours. As we emerge from the pandemic, we will propose that the future Eastern Partnership be more inclusive.”
A first of its kind, the programme has been informed by an in-depth situation analysis and intergovernmental consultations with the six countries. It is designed to engage a wide range of government bodies, civil society organizations, and individuals.
“We will work closely with governments and civil society organisations in the six countries to ensure the success of the programme,” says Alia El-Yassir, UN Women Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. “This work is even more crucial now as the COVID-19 crisis has put into stark relief the imbalanced distribution of responsibilities based on traditional gender stereotypes.”
The programme aims at achieving real behavioural change. It relies on strategies designed to challenge structural gender barriers and norms, with particular emphasis on transforming gender-stereotyped behaviour, strengthening men’s involvement in parenting and domestic responsibilities, increasing men’s access to parental leave, and reducing the number of people affected by gender-based violence through prevention interventions with potential perpetrators.
“During the COVID-19 crisis, we have unfortunately seen an increase in women’s unpaid care workload and in cases of gender-based violence across the six countries,” says Alanna Armitage, UNFPA Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “Our programme comes at the right time to fight these trends. We all have to work hand-in-hand to build a more just, equal, safe and secure world for all.”
The programme has a budget of €7,875,000 and is anchored in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework, launched by the United Nations in 2015, and the EU Action Plan 2016-2020 on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Transforming the Lives of Girls and Women Through EU External Relations. It provides a unique opportunity for the EU and the six participating countries to affect social discourse, perceptions, and practices related to gender equality with the ultimate goal of achieving gender equality and related SDGs.
For more information, please visit: https://europa.eu/european-union/
On 29 June, a five-day water monitoring survey started in Batumi, Georgia, organised by the EU-funded project ‘European Union Water Initiative Plus for the Eastern Partnership’ (EUWI+).
The survey is carried out by Georgian experts from the National Environmental Agency. It aims to assess the quality of coastal and transitional water ecosystems to help identify appropriate measures to protect water resources.
Apart from the survey, the EU also supports the upgrade of Batumi’s laboratory by organising training courses for experts and providing new state-of-the-art analysis equipment. This aims to improve Georgia’s capacities to manage its water resources.
Two similar surveys were held in September and November 2019. The surveys allowed the National Environmental Agency to determine the ecological status of coastal waters in the Chorokhi-Adjaristskali River Basin District.
The EUWI+ project helps Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine to bring their legislation closer to EU water management policies, with a main focus on managing transboundary river basins.
On 22 June, the EU Delegation to Georgia launched the EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) campaign. The campaign consists of tips for citizens on saving energy and money, caring about the environment and making their homes more energy efficient.
This year, the EUSEW will run from 22 to 26 June. The event will be held virtually, and the topic will be Beyond the crisis: Clean energy for green recovery and growth.
The EUSEW is the biggest event dedicated to renewables and efficient energy use in Europe. It is organised by the European Commission and brings together public authorities, private companies, non-government organisations and consumers to promote initiatives to save energy and move towards renewables for clean, secure and efficient power.
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The EU is the most trusted international institution, and the only one trusted by the majority (60%) of respondents in the Eastern Neighbourhood. Two-thirds (70%) of all citizens in the region believe that the relations between the EU and their country are ‘good’. A total of 57% of Eastern Neighbourhood citizens are aware of the EU’s financial support, and 53% of them believe that the support is effective. More than half of the respondents (53%) can also identify at least one specific programme financed by the EU.
These are just some of the findings of the 2020 opinion polls carried out in the six Eastern partner countries by the ‘EU NEIGHBOURS east’ project earlier this year.
Conducted between February and March 2020 in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, the surveys assess general perceptions of the EU, the values with which it is associated, relations between the EU and the Eastern partner countries, and awareness of the EU’s financial support and its effectiveness. They also look at citizens’ preferred sources of information, how they feel about the situation in their country and their future expectations.
The field work for the survey took place between February and March 2020 (before COVID-19 crisis) and was based on face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 people in each country.
This is the fifth edition of the annual surveys, with the first wave carried out in 2016. The results from the six countries are presented in national reports and a consolidated regional overview report.
Part of the EU-funded OPEN Neighbourhood programme, the ‘EU NEIGHBOURS east’ project aims to contribute to a better understanding of the European Union and its partnership with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine.
Find out more
EU NEIGHBOURS east – opinion polls
EU NEIGHBOURS east – website
Why the environment matters and how the EU helps the Eastern partner countries to protect it?
- 1. Why should we care about the environment?
We depend on nature for our very existence: we eat the food which grows in its soil, drink its fresh water and breathe its clean air. Housing, clothing, technology and recreation all depend on natural resources. All human activities impact on a fragile ecological balance. Disturbing this balance affects our wellbeing and prosperity.
The next ten years are decisive in making our societies more resilient in the context of major climate and environmental challenges. Together we have to overcome a heavy legacy of past environmental failures, such as loss of natural habitats and biodiversity, erosion of the soil, illegal logging, poor air quality, polluted rivers, deficient waste management, and many others.
Investing into greener development will bring benefits for health, as well as new employment and economic growth opportunities. Working together on the environment and climate resilience is therefore vital.
- 2. How can climate change impact our daily life?
The significant and accelerated climate change caused by greenhouse gases as a result of human activities is increasing and creates severe consequences for our economies and societies.
The European Union and its Eastern neighbours are witnessing extreme rainfall events and flooding, as well as fires caused by heatwaves, soil erosion, fertility and biodiversity loss, and water resource scarcity, which are affecting industry, agriculture and households.
Only recently, wildfires fanned by abnormally hot, dry and windy weather in Ukraine raged through the Chernobyl exclusion zone for over two weeks, destroying more than 11,000 hectares of forest – a stark example of the impact of climate change.
Throughout the region, the countries are facing larger consequences of both droughts (Moldova ranks as the most climate vulnerable country in Europe and its total water availability will fall below total demand within a couple of decades), and floods (Azerbaijan is one of the most flood-prone areas in the world), as well as deteriorating water quality and risks to water supply (melting glaciers in Georgia threaten the country’s water security).
Collective action against climate change will bring many benefits for the environment, for our health, and for the economy. Rethinking and shifting our development paradigm will be an opportunity for a more efficient use of natural resources, cost savings, growth and jobs.
And if you think that climate action is expensive, think of the cost of doing nothing: Georgia estimates that climate-induced hazards could mean $10-12 billion in economic losses for the country over the next 10 years – ten times more than the cost of adapting to climate change over the same time period.
- 3. What is the Paris Agreement about?
The Paris Agreement is the first-ever legally binding global climate change commitment, adopted at the Paris climate conference in December 2015. The EU and its Member States, as well as the countries of the Eastern Partnership, are among the nearly 190 signatories.
The Agreement sets out a global framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit it further to 1.5°C. It also aims to strengthen countries’ ability to deal with the impact of climate change and support them in their efforts.
The agreement stresses the need for global emissions to start coming down as soon as possible and to achieve climate neutrality in the second half of this century.
The centrepiece of the European Union’s effort to meet its targets is the European Green Deal that aims to make Europe climate neutral by 2050, making the EU’s economy sustainable by decoupling economic growth from resource use.
The Green Deal makes it clear that environmental and climate challenges require urgent action by the EU and its partner countries. The EU therefore supports its Eastern partners in their commitments under the Paris Agreement , including the implementation of national climate plans (nationally determined contributions, NDCs), the development of long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies (LEDS), as well as the modernisation of their economies by moving towards climate neutrality.
Meeting these commitments will require a transition to a low carbon, resource-efficient economy, which means a fundamental shift in technology, energy, economics, finance and ultimately society as a whole.
- How does the EU contribute towards protecting the environment in the six Eastern partner countries?
EU support to the Eastern partner countries has been increasing lately. A quarter of grants provided through the Neighbourhood Investment Platform (NIP) in 2018-2019 went to ‘green’ investments. EU blending contributions to such investments increased by more than 50% between 2014-15 and 2018-19, from approximately €67 million to €107 million. In 2018-19 alone, NIP grants unlocked €1.3 billion in overall green investments in the region.
The EU has also contributed €60 million to implement regional programmes that help to improve policies and institutions in the Eastern Partnership in line with the European Green Deal. Support for municipalities amounts to some €24 million, while the partner countries also receive support through the TAIEX and Twinning programmes.
EU-funded regional programmes include :
EU4Environment (€19.5 million in EU funding) aims at helping the Eastern partner countries to preserve their natural capital and increase people’s well-being. The programme supports policy and legislative changes, makes planning and investment greener, stimulates innovative technologies and the adoption of new business models, as well as the creation of green jobs. It also promotes better environmental governance, improved management of protected areas and forests, and sustainable trade.
EU4Climate (€8 million in EU funding) is designed to support the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement and to improve climate policies and legislation, contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and development towards a low-emissions and climate-resilient economy.
The EU Water Initiative for the Eastern Partnership(EUWI+ 4 EaP – €23.5 million in EU funding)helps partner countries bring their legislation closer to EU policy in the field of water management, developing tools to improve the quality of water and its availability for all.
Environment is also high on the priorities at country level, with actions focusing on areas such as air quality, water management and marine pollution, energy efficiency, waste management, tackling pesticides and industrial pollution, and sustainable forest management.
In addition, to the European Union’s cooperation programmes, European Financial Institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) provide significant support for transition to the green economy by supporting low carbon and climate resilient growth, as well as investing in green infrastructures. The Eastern Europe Environment and Energy Efficiency Partnership (E5P) – a multi-donor trust fund of which the EU is the major donor – facilitates investments for municipal projects that improve energy efficiency and environmental protection. The EU-funded Municipal Project Support Facility (MPSF) provides technical assistance for the preparation of energy efficiency projects that can later be implemented through loans. The EU also significantly contributes to the Green for Growth Fund (GGF).
- 5. What do these programmes actually do? Are there any success stories?
Certainly, beyond the stated objectives and the headline budget figures lie some real success stories, protecting the environment, acting on climate change and promoting resilience and sustainability on the ground.
For example, EU is helping to enable modern water policy at basin level for a vast territory covering 500,000 km², setting a clear path towards cleaner water for more than 30 million people in the six Eastern partner countries.
With the EU’s support, Belarus, Moldova and Georgia launched the development of national green economy strategies. Ukraine is already in the top 20 countries in the world for organics farming, exporting €59 million worth of organic products in 2016, the majority certified to EU standards.
More than 100 pilot SMEs in the region received EU support to carry out resource efficiency and cleaner production programmes, resulting in savings of €9.4 million (with an average of between €2,000 and €20,000 saved per enterprise, reaching up to €100,000 in some cases). Activities continue with the support of the EU4Environment programme.
Environmental data is being aligned with EU and best international practice in all six partner countries, with data being available via an Internet-based tracking tool hosted by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
To protect and connect natural areas and biodiversity, the six Eastern partners have identified nearly 700 Emerald Network sites with an area of 12.8 million hectares, more than four times the size of Belgium.
EU support actions reach every level of society, from government policy all the way to raising awareness among primary school children, as you can see from the examples below:
In Armenia, the Connecting Nature project supports the search for new, environmentally friendly ideas and solutions to environmental problems in Yerevan – for instance, to determine the types of plants and trees that are most suitable for a given environmental situation for different areas of the city.
In Azerbaijan, EU experts from Finland, Austria and Latvia trained more than 200 employees of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources to monitor air quality; the Twinning project developed a detailed plan to modernise air quality monitoring systems, including the acquisition of 25 new air quality stations.
In Belarus, schoolchildren have been taking part in a cross-border river cleanliness project on the Styr River that runs between Belarus and Ukraine, testing water quality and learning to detect nitrates, phosphates, and organic pollutants.
In the Batumi region of Georgia, a €6.1 million project has ensured the rehabilitation of the water supply and sewage systems, as well as the construction of waste treatment plants, leading to uninterrupted clean water for the population, and reduced marine pollution.
In Moldova, the burning of agricultural waste used to be a source of environmental pollution. Now, with EU support, the waste is in great demand to produce biofuel, which is used to heat 206 schools, kindergartens and public institutions.
In Ukraine, more than 7,000 people took part in the 2019 #EUBeachCleanup challenge with 234 clean-ups in every oblast in the country, as part of International Clean Beach Day, when citizens around the world gather to clean river banks and beaches. More than 35.7 tonnes of waste were collected and removed to prevent them from polluting the waters.
And across the region, officials from all countries received guidance on the environmental management of plastic waste, marine plastic litter and energy recovery from plastic waste during a TAIEX workshop on EU plastics strategy and single use plastic.
Investment in green infrastructure is also very significant, with the support of the EBRD, the EIB and the E5P alongside other investment partners. In Ukraine, this has enabled investment in clean public transport, with new trolleybus fleets in Kherson, Mariupol and Lviv, as well as €35 million in support for waste management in Lviv. In Moldova, residents of Balti, have benefited from EBRD investment in energy efficient heating and new electric buses. In the Armenian capital Yerevan, EIB funding has contributed to the upgrade of the metro and improving energy efficiency in public buildings such as kindergartens. In Azerbaijan, the EBRD has provided financing for the purchase of 35 new eco-efficient buses, leading to an annual reduction of 2,853 tonnes of CO2. In Belarus, 300,000 people are benefiting from improved water quality thanks to an EBRD loan and an E5P grant for wastewater treatment facilities in seven municipalities. In Georgia, the EIB provided a long-term loan to Tbilisi’s water utility company to support its water and wastewater infrastructure development programme, while the EBRD is to invest €75 million in the modernisation of Tbilisi metro.
- 6. How can I become more environment-friendly?
As a citizen, you have the right, the capacity and the duty to take action for the environment.
Your everyday life choices as a voter and a consumer have the power to drive change in government policies, as well as companies’ decisions and innovations.
Consider the environmental footprint of all your purchases and reduce them, choose local products, avoid polluting substances and single-use plastic, reuse, recycle, separate, compact and dispose of waste correctly.
Adopt simple energy saving habits such as switching off lights and appliances, and closing and opening windows and shutters to keep ideal room temperature.
To save water, take a shower instead of bath, and keep it short. Don’t leave taps running, and look out for any leaks (a leaking toilet can waste 200 litres of water per day). Water your plants in the late evening or early morning, when less water is lost through evaporation.
Share your vehicle, unused objects or excess food with other people in your community, and opt for more sustainable transport and energy from renewable sources.
If you can, keep your own fruit and vegetable garden (you can even use pots on a balcony or urban orchards), eat less meat and prefer plant-based meals, buy more diverse and less processed food, and bring your own bags and containers when shopping.
Check out the EU’s climate tips for easy environmental advice for home, work, shopping and transport.
On 14 May, the EU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) delivered 7,500 protective face shields to the Emergency Situations Coordination and Urgent Assistance Centre of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia.
Manufactured by a Georgian company with support from the EU and the UNDP, the adjustable and reusable face shields will help ensure that emergency crews in Tbilisi and other regions are able to do their job safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The face shields are made from recycled plastic bottles.
This assistance is part of a larger programme whose aim is to support healthcare staff, civil servants and other at-risk personnel across Georgia, and provide people with essential healthcare and other services.
The EU-supported Akhalkalki Local Action Group (LAG) in Georgia recently started a bilingual online campaign to raise awareness among the non-Georgian speaking population about the COVID-19 outbreak. The aim of the campaign is to inform non-Georgian speakers about the current state of emergency and the health protection measures available.
LAG has disseminated over 10 videos in both Georgian and Armenian through social media. In addition, over 15 bilingual posters have been circulated, containing information from the World Health Organization, the National Centre of Disease Control and Prevention, and the Georgian Government.
Locals are systematically informed about the lockdown and self-isolation rules, protocols for going out, healthcare measures and focal contact points.
The campaign is part of the project ‘Promoting a new rural development approach in Akhalkalaki’. It is implemented under the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD).
High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell and EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Olivér Várhelyi
In this challenging time, marked by the coronavirus outbreak, we can see how important international cooperation is. Over the last decade, the Eastern Partnership has brought concrete benefits for people in Georgia and across the European Union’s eastern neighbourhood. In particular:
- Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Georgia’s economy, and since 2009, EU support has helped over 40,000 Georgian SMEs and microenterprises access loans on better terms to develop their activities, increase incomes and create jobs;
- Since 2013, EU assistance to link Georgia’s education programmes to market needs have helped over 30,000 Georgians find employment through more relevant vocation education courses and labour market tools such as Worknet.ge;
- Over 90,000 Georgians living in smaller towns and villages have easier access to 200 public and banking services as well as free internet and libraries through the EU’s support to the establishment of 76 Government Community Centres throughout the country
- Under Erasmus+, almost 7,500 students and academic staff exchanges have taken place between Georgia and the EU. Over 9,300 young people and youth workers from Georgia have been involved in joint exchanges, training and volunteering projects.
To ensure our partnership continues to deliver in the fast changing world of today, we need to do even more and better. To shape our priorities, we consulted last year with people, businesses, organisations and governments of 33 countries from across our shared region. While there was an appreciation for the results achieved, there was also a clear expectation that we enhance our cooperation when it comes to jobs and prosperity, investments, connectivity, good governance and common challenges such as climate change and the digital transformation.
And now we presented our response to these consultations with long-term objectives for our policy beyond 2020. Our continued engagement with the Eastern Partnership countries remains a key priority for the European Union. Our proposals for the future are ambitious yet achievable. They build on existing cooperation but also identify areas where we need to go further. They are built on fundamental values as the heart of the EU project, such as the rule of law, protection of human rights and fight against corruption.
Concretely, we are proposing to our partners to work together on the following objectives:
- Together for resilient, sustainable and integrated economies: Strengthening the economy is key to meeting citizens’ expectations and reducing inequality and for making our partnership a success. We will focus on job creation and economic opportunities, through increased trade, investments, stronger connectivity, in particular in transport and energy, and linking education, research and innovation better with private sector needs.
- Together for accountable institutions, the rule of law and security: Good governance and democratic institutions, the rule of law, successful anti-corruption policies and security are essential for sustainable development and the consolidation of democracy. They are the backbone of resilient states and societies as well as strong economies.
- Together for environmental and climate resilience: To protect our world for generations to come, we all need to take responsibility. The EU will work with its partners to improve the resource-efficiency of economies, develop new green jobs and promote local and renewable sources of energy.
- Together for a resilient digital transformation: The EU will further invest in the digital transformation of our partners, aiming to extend the benefits of the Digital Single Market to partner countries. Our joint work will also focus on strengthening e-Governance, scaling up digital start-ups and supporting the cyber resilience of partner countries.
- Together for resilient, fair and inclusive societies: Free and fair elections together with transparent, citizen-centred and accountable public administrations are essential for democracy. The EU will continue to focus on these key areas, engaging with civil society, which needs to be given sufficient space, and supporting free, plural and independent media and human rights, as well as ensuring mobility and people-to-people contacts, all particularly important also due to growing disinformation against EU values.
Over the past decade, trade between the EU and its eastern partners has nearly doubled. Over 125,000 small and medium-sized businesses have directly benefitted from EU funding, creating or sustaining more than 250,000 jobs. We are better connected thanks to improved transport links and easier access to high capacity broadband. And according to recent surveys, the EU is the most trusted international institution among Eastern Partnership citizens. We will keep this results-oriented approach and look to do much more together in the face of today’s challenges, including when it comes to crises such as COVID-19 pandemic.
And through this we will build an even more ambitious Eastern Partnership that delivers for all and continues to bring our shared continent closer together.
The current reform and remaining challenges in Georgia’s water sector were the focus of the 7th steering committee meeting of the National Policy Dialogue on Integrated Water Resource Management on 5 March.
Delegates from national authorities, local stakeholders, non-governmental organisations and international experts from EU Member States shared practical experiences of the water reform journey and discussed the next steps in ensuring environmentally-sound management of water resources.
The EU Water Directives provided a framework to set up policy objectives for Georgia’s water sector. The National Policy Dialogue supports water reform by strengthening water governance and enhancing stakeholder involvement in the decision-making process.
The meeting discussed the progress made on legal and regulatory reforms, the development of pilot river basin management plans for the Alazani-Lori and Khrami-Debeda basins and emerging needs associated with implementing the EU Association Agreement.
The meeting was facilitated by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia with support from the European Union through the ‘European Union Water Initiative plus for the Eastern Partnership Countries’ (EUWI+) programme.