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"
- 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"
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.
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.
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"
1. Why should my company become greener?
An eco-friendly approach to production shows responsible entrepreneurship and brings important practical benefits for businesses. First, it reduces general production costs and brings transparency into material and energy flows. Secondly, it increases productivity, giving enterprises an opportunity to further expand their production with minimum risk and environmental impact. Moreover, by improving compliance and performance in line with environmental standards and market requirements, it contributes to new and better relationships with customers and stakeholders. Altogether, these benefits provide companies with a better competitive position in the national, as well as international markets.
For example, thanks to the support provided by the European Union, approximately 2,000 Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production measures were identified for 357 SMEs and organisations in the Eastern partner countries, with a payback period of less than 5 years, which could annually save companies up to €10 million, as well as:
- 158 GWh of energy – equivalent to the energy consumption of 43,000 average European Union households of 2-3 members
- 1,394,490 m3 of water – equivalent to the water consumption by 12,563 average European households
- 44,210 t of raw materials
Those measures also help to avoid 81,115 t of CO2 emissions (approximately 17,644 average cars removed from the streets) and 22,694 t of solid waste (equivalent to the amount of waste produced by 4,364 average European Union inhabitants) per annum.
In a nutshell, resource efficiency helps to stimulate technological innovation, create green jobs, benefit consumers through more sustainable products, and opens new export markets and business opportunities for local companies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many businesses. Several sectors have been brought to a standstill, impacting the economy on an unprecedented scale. In this context, there is no place for wastages of any kind. Optimising workflows, materials, energy, and water usage to reduce costs and improve quality are essential to enable a rapid recovery of industries. Resource efficient and cleaner production can become an important tool for economic recovery, as it implies a thoughtful use of limited resources to achieve maximum production benefits. Better process control, improvement of working conditions, safe chemical management, upgrading to best available technology, energy efficiency, reduction and revalorisation of waste, innovation for green products, among others, are Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production strategies that contribute to businesses pursuing recovery strategies.
Efficient and Cleaner Production practices, technologies, and industrial symbiosis are part of the first steps. See more about EU4Environment activities piloting Eco-Industrial Parks here.
2. Why should I choose the Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production methodology to become greener?
The Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production methodology has various applications ranging from product modification to better manufacturing process control and technology improvement. All of these integrated actions increase on-site reusability, product efficiency, and recyclability.
Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production analysis helps the enterprise to identify the opportunities that make it more sustainable:
- Careful selection of raw materials and energy sources (prioritising renewable energy);
- Improvement of production processes through responsible management, efficient operation, and innovative and environmentally sound technologies;
- Elimination or reduction of toxic and hazardous materials;
- Reduction of waste, wastewater, and emissions;
- Valorising residues and waste and promoting synergies among companies.
Experience shows that more than 60% of Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production options require low implementation cost or relatively short payback periods that range between a few months and up to three years, thus facilitating a quick return and generation of savings that companies achieve using existing financial resources.
Apart from the economic benefits, the results of these practices improve companies’ environmental and social performance, enhancing their business image on the market. They also ensure compliance, and facilitate access to green credits available through national and international financial institutions to implement high-cost options. Including the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions among the key performance indicators, Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production connects Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to financial mechanisms which promote climate change mitigation in order to encourage companies to improve energy efficiency and use renewable energy.
3. How Resource Efficient and Cleaner Productionhelps to reduce costs?
Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production has been internationally recognised as a tool for optimising resources in all types of facilities:
- In manufacturing processes, Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production focuses on conserving raw materials, water, and energy, while eliminating toxic and dangerous materials and reducing emissions and waste directly at their generation source.
- For products, Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production analyses resource demand along the value chain and lifecycle of the product. It promotes eco-design principles that increase product lifespan, durability, and/or recyclability to reduce negative impacts during the lifecycle.
- For service facilities, Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production introduces management practices and technology to reduce energy demand in buildings and transportation. The improvement of management, technology, and logistics in order to introduce responsible purchasing, minimise waste generation and promote recycling programmes is a way to engage service businesses and promote innovation on circular practices (repairing, reuse).
For example, by mapping waste sources and determining hidden causes, a food company identified losses equivalent to a non-conforming product rate of 15% in its wafer production line. Through adjustment of the product formulation, improved operational control and the installation of a new creamer section, the company not only achieved a better quality of their wafers, but also reduced non-conformity rates to 5%.
4. What are the concrete steps of Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production implementation?
Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production is implemented as follows: Plan – Do – Check – Act
- Plan – the commitment: It starts with a strong commitment from the management of the company focusing on areas such as product design, procurement, production, sale, and maintenance. The Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production company team is then established to lead an evaluation process that identifies inefficiencies and losses at the source level. Using tools such as process flow charts, waste mapping, and benchmarking research, a pre-assessment is developed to establish the relevant priorities.
- Do – the assessment: The detailed material and energy balances are used to audit the most relevant resource flows in terms of costs and environmental impacts. Eco-design principles and root-cause analysis are then applied to identify improvement options. This is followed by the application of the Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production options hierarchy (selection of materials, good housekeeping, improved control, appropriate technology, internal recycling, external recycling). The Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production options are then evaluated for the technical, economic, and environmental feasibility to design an action plan to be implemented by the company.
- Check – the monitoring: A monitoring system is designed to measure key performance and operational indicators established during the assessment. A Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production monitoring system is designed to keep track of the use of resources (input/output analysis, process indicators, lifecycle indicators, management indicators, etc.) and the true value of waste and emissions to continuously seek new opportunities and communicate results to internal and external stakeholders.
- Act – the sustained integration with the management system: The last pillar is achieved by preparing an action plan, evaluation procedure, and communication strategy to keep a continued implementation of Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production options covering additional thematic areas of the company.
5: What support is available for companies?
The European Union supports countries in the Eastern Partnership region in their transition towards greener, more efficient and sustainable economies, while addressing environmental challenges and improving citizens’ environmental well-being. The European Union support addresses both technical and financing needs.
Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production is one of the priority areas of the EU4Environment programme. Under EU4Environment, and with the technical support of UNIDO, national Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production partners in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine promote the use of Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production among SMEs. The national partners provide advisory services and Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production audits for companies, train experts and raise awareness about Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production, as well as facilitate access to green finance.
The European Union also provides funding for green investments in partnership with international financial institutions such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, and the German Development Bank KfW, in the framework of the EU4Business initiative, as well as through the Green for Growth Fund and the FINTECC EU4Climate window. In 2020, the European Union provided a guarantee of up to €100 million to support EBRD investments of around €300 million and additional loans from private sector actors for cumulative total investments of over €500 million. Among other things, this support will address COVID-19 recovery through green investments, including in the Eastern Partnership countries.
You can find out more in the stakeholders’ guidebook for financing RECP by SMEs in the EaP.
6. How can I use ‘green’ technologies in Georgia?
You should get in touch with the Energy Efficiency Centre – a national partner of the EU4Environment Action in Georgia (https://recp.ge) for details about the Project’s activities in the country and the resources available to Georgian SMEs. These include the Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production (RECP) Clubs in the regions of Kakheti and Mtskheta, which provide practical support to SMEs, company assessments and mentoring, as well as information about Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production and Circular Economy during specialised events.
The Centre also supports Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production activities like trainings and events, the delivery of demonstration projects, preparation of thematic publications, and many more. It also offers leadership at national level and ensures the effective implementation of the Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production Project within the EU4Environment Action, providing advocacy and liaison with relevant national stakeholders in the government, the business sector, and with civil society.
To learn more about how SMEs can save resources and money by investing in Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production , read the story of the Georgian company EcOil on how it recovered its investment through Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production assessed savings in just one year. You can also find out more about green finance opportunities for small businesses by checking out the Q&A on green investments for SMEs in Georgia.
The material is prepared within the project "EU NEIGHBOURS east"
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili today announced that she pledges to pardon Giorgi Rurua if political actors sign the EU-backed compromise paper and enter the parliament.
"I am surprised by the statement made today by the ruling party that uses my name over and over again without my permission and consent and links it to one specific pardon. They have not understood that such a decision, especially in such a case but not only, should be made without expectations of criticism or praise and only if I deem it necessary. I think I have already shown this through my deeds.
I would like to remind everyone of one simple rule: the power of pardon is the discretion of the President and is not the subject of negotiations. I want to make it clear that the decision to pardon, as I have said more than once, is not subject to pressure, to instructions or demands, whether they may be from the opposition, the ruling party, or anyone else.
According to principle, the President does not speak about pardons and does not disclose motivation. However, because of some continuous appeals on this subject and because of the current situation, I am forced to violate this principle and state clearly my position to stop any speculation.
I think no one will be surprised to hear that for me and for the rest of society, someone with such a well-known past can be called many things, but not a political prisoner. That individual does not fit into any category of pardon by any means, be it righteousness, morality, or politics.
Nevertheless, as I once already took it upon myself, I believe here again that if what’s at stake is the country’s political stalemate, its stability, progress, and future, it is the President’s duty to put the country above her own views and principles.
With that in mind, I am ready to make a decision scandalous also for myself. But I make this decision only on my condition, that such a step must be the last step to end the crisis and pave the way for the country and for Parliament to enter a normal political life and deal with existing challenges without any other distractions.
This means that my decision will be implemented only when, on the one hand, the political parties sign the final document and enter Parliament, and on the other hand, the representatives of the European Union and the United States announce that an agreement has been reached. Once this announcement is done, I will sign the act of pardon within a week", - the President of Georgia Says.
Joint statement of the Spokespersons of the EU High Representative/Vice-President and of the US Department of State on the EU mediationMonday, 19 April 2021 11:42
After nearly six months of negotiations, the citizens of Georgia have made clear that they want the political crisis to end, and for all elected Members to work together in Parliament and address the serious challenges facing the country, including the regional challenges, COVID, and the economic crisis.
With this in mind, the European Union and the United States call on all Members of Georgia’s Parliament to sign the agreement that European Council President Michel will propose today. This is an agreement all Members can sign in good faith rather than a unilateral action that undermines the goal of a broad-based agreement.
The institutional reforms in the agreement represent important progress for Georgia’s democratic development and are of significant benefit for its citizens, helping to create a more independent judiciary, stronger electoral processes, and a Parliament that can better reflect the voices of all people of Georgia.
Accepting this compromise demonstrates courage and a commitment by all parties to put the needs of the citizens of Georgia first, ahead of the interests of any one political party.