Visa-free regime carries a strong political message of the EU’s trust and support to Georgia – Vakhtang Makharoblishvili
Strasbourg – Speaking before the EU-Georgia Parliamentary Association Committee (PAC) in Strasbourg, the Georgian First Deputy Foreign Minister, Vakhtang Makharoblishvili said that visa liberalization with the EU is not only a tangible result for our citizens, but mostly a great responsibility for the Georgian Government to ensure the sustained good track record of visa free travel.
According to Makharoblishvili, since the inception of the visa-free travel, more than 1 million visa-free visits have been conducted to the EU/Schengen countries from Georgia, thereby demonstrating that the absolute majority of the population abides by the rules of the visa-free regime.
“We continue to be actively engaged with the EU and Member States on addressing the challenges related to the visa-free regime. the Government of Georgia implemented as an immediate response to the first signs of visa-free misuse, - such as the launch of the 3rd wave of intensive target-oriented information campaign, creation of the Schengen mobile application, introduction of legislative amendments and deployment of police attachés to the Member States” – Makharoblishvili said.
He highlighted that the official recognition of Georgia as a safe country of origin and, most importantly, the reduction of asylum procedures contributed to decrease of the number of asylum seekers. Already 16 EU/Schengen states recognize Georgia as a safe country of origin.
On a final note, the First Deputy Foreign Minister reaffirmed Georgia’s strong commitment to its obligations and responsibilities under the visa liberalization. “We will pursue all the necessary steps to overcome the difficulties and will remain in close cooperation with the EU institutions and Member States on the matter” – he said.
The EU is launching three new projects in the sectors of environmental protection and climate change in Georgia. The projects come in addition to the numerous actions already supported by the EU in Georgia and focus on issues such as the rehabilitation of water supply and sanitation systems, construction of modern landfills, the fight against industrial pollution, protection of forests, and health.
The launch of these three environmental projects is testament to the EU's leading role in the protection of the environment and the fight against climate change.
These new initiatives will help Georgia fulfil its international commitments in the sectors of the environment and climate change and will help to better protect the environment and the health of citizens.
On 22 April, Georgia joined the new EU-funded regional initiative “EU4Climate”. This new project is bringing together Georgia and other countries of the Eastern Partnership to tackle climate change. It will help Georgia lower its greenhouse gas emissions and fulfil its commitments under the Paris Agreement. It will also help mitigate climate change and limit its negative impacts on the environment and people’s lives.
On 24 April, another new regional EU-funded action, “EU4Environment”, was then presented in the country’s capital of Tbilisi. The project will help Georgia and other countries in the Eastern Neighbourhood preserve natural capital and increase environmental well-being by supporting environment-related action, unlocking opportunities for greener growth and setting mechanisms to better manage environmental risks and impacts.
The country will further benefit from another EU project entitled “Support to implementation of the environmental provisions of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement”. This new project will help Georgia implement environmental commitments included in the EU-Georgia Association Agreement and will help better protect Georgian nature, decrease pollution and improve air quality.
The European Union is working together with Georgian authorities to improve the environment and tackle the issue of climate change – both at national and local levels.
This week, the Parliament of Georgia presented an Action Plan that outlines key parliamentary activities for 2019-2020 designed to support the implementation of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement.
Organised with the assistance of the EU and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the presentation event brought together Georgian law-makers and representatives of civil society, diplomatic missions and international organizations.
Carl Hartzell, Ambassador of the EU to Georgia, noted the increased role of the parliament in the implementation of the Association Agreement.
“The EU acknowledges Georgia’s good progress in the implementation of the country’s commitments under the Association Agreement,” Ambassador Hartzell said. “The Parliament of Georgia, as a key institution in this parliamentary democracy, plays an indispensable role in overseeing the implementation process and ensuring further democratic and other reforms.”
The Action Plan has been developed based on the findings of a baseline study supported by the EU and UNDP in 2017.
The Action Plan was adopted by the Parliament Bureau on 19 March 2019. It aims to streamline parliamentary activities and foster a strategic and uniform approach to the process across all involved committees. Three strategic goals described in the Action Plan refer to law-making and legislative approximation, oversight of the implementation of the Association Agreement, and effective public outreach and communication.
On 30 January, the EU presented the “2019 Association Implementation Report on Georgia”. In line with the revised European Neighbourhood Policy, the report sets out the state of play of Georgia’s commitments under the EU-Georgia Association Agreement (AA) since the meeting of the EU-Georgia Association Council of 5 February 2018 and ahead of its next meeting of 5 March 2019.
According to the report, the implementation of commitments stemming from the AA, including its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), has overall continued within the agreed timelines. The revised Association Agenda (2017-2020) sets jointly agreed priorities for the further implementation of the AA.
The EU is supporting the AA implementation process through several programmes and projects. The EU-funded Facility for the Implementation of the Association Agreement is one of the agreement’s flagship projects.
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Between 26 February and 2 March, 27 ‘Young European Ambassadors’ (YEAs) from Georgia and the EU are participating in a series of activities aimed at engaging with the country’s youth on the EU’s partnership with Georgia.
Organised in cooperation with the Delegation of European Union to Georgia, the activities will include a visit to a school in the Tserovani Internally Displaced People (IDP) settlement and Tbilisi State University to discuss issues relevant to young people such as EU-Georgia partnership and cooperation, shared values, culture and opportunities offered by the European Union to Georgian youth.
YEAs will share personal experiences with high school pupils and university students to better understand the European Union, its history, shared values and structures and the opportunities it offers to young people in Georgia. As many of the YEAs are themselves beneficiaries of EU-funded programmes, including Erasmus+ and EVS, students will get the chance to ask them questions and exchange views directly in a friendly and informal setting in English and Georgian. Each presentation is followed by a short EU quiz during which pupils and students get to test their knowledge.
The YEAs are also to meet with officials from the Delegation of the European Union to Georgia, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations and the European External Action Service to exchange information on the EU-Georgia partnership and promote young people’s engagement in outreach and civic actions.
Being a Young European Ambassador from Georgia is a huge opportunity,” said YEA Geno Kutashvili. “Sharing information about the EU and its amazing programmes is important and valuable, especially in Tserovani IDP settlement, because the EU is the key to freedom and a chance for development.”
The YEAs will also meet with local youth partners including the Erasmus+ National Office, the Erasmus Student Network, the Young Diplomats’ Club of Georgia, the Europe-Georgia Institute and the Caucasus Youth Nexus to exchange ideas and best practices on youth activities in Georgia.
The ‘Young European Ambassadors’ have engaged in similar dialogue driven activities in Moldova in November 2016 and 2017, Armenia in May 2017 and Azerbaijan in September 2017 where they had the opportunity to conduct interactive learning sessions about the EU and its relations with the Eastern Partner countries aimed at high school pupils, university students and youth organisations. This is the first of many such dialogue-driven activities to be organised in Georgia.
The ‘Young European Neighbours’ youth network was launched in June 2016 by the ‘EU NEIGHBOURS east’ project. It focuses on strengthening cooperation between young people aged 15-25 and youth organisations from the EU and Eastern Partner countries. The network serves as a communication platform to facilitate the mutual exchange of ideas, information and experience related to the EU, as well as to promote youth engagement in social actions. Following two open calls for applications, over 200 young people from the EU Member States and the Eastern Partner countries have been selected to act as ‘Young European Ambassadors’. A new wave of applications will open in summer 2018.
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The first meeting of the EU-Georgia Mobility Partnership Local Cooperation Platform took place on 9 June 2017 in Tbilisi. Representatives of EU Institutions, EU Member States, Georgian authorities and international organisations discussed the mechanisms for dialogue and for monitoring projects under the Joint Declaration on a Mobility Partnership between the European Union and Georgia. The meeting highlighted ongoing projects on legal migration and mobility, fighting irregular migration, reintegration and asylum.
Janos Herman, Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia, tackled the importance of the Mobility Partnership, which remains the key framework for the EU and Georgia in steering migration and mobility issues. He also referred to the need to ensure a reliable structure and mechanisms for the dialogue under the Mobility Partnership and for the monitoring of projects. The latter should ideally involve an online monitoring tool which is also available to the public.
A kick-off meeting launching a new EU-funded project under the Mobility Partnership “High Fidelity – Exercising for Asylum Procedures", a joint initiative of Georgia and Estonia, also took place after the meeting.
Today, more than ever, Georgia is close to Europe, EU Ambassador to Georgia Janos Herman stated at the opening of the EU-Georgia Awareness Campaign attended by the Prime Minister of Georgia.
Giorgi Kvirikashvili addressed the event’s participants and emphasized the beginning of a very important campaign seeking to draw Georgia and the Georgians closer to Europe.
“Today our country, with its ancient history, culture, and rich traditions, has an opportunity to draw closer to the democratic European family, to make its contribution to diverse and rich European culture and to the honorable cause of ensuring peace and security. Very soon, we are expecting an official approval for visa-free travel, yet another tangible result of our European integration,” the Prime Minister stated.
According to Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the implementation of the Association Agreement Action Plan is well underway, and every reform carried out by the Government of Georgia in the process of the country’s European integration, first of all, aims to benefit Georgia’s citizens.
The Prime Minister emphasized the significant support from the EU, both expert and financial assistance, in the fulfilment of Georgia’s obligations under the Association Agreement. The Prime Minister singled out the project “Supporting the Implementation of the Association Agreement” as its clear example, and thanked EU member states on behalf of the Government and Georgian people.
“As anti-Western propaganda keeps growing, our citizens should receive as much information as possible on the measures taken toward European integration. This is why the engagement of the Office of the State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration and the Information Center on NATO and the EU in the awareness campaign is so vital. Our citizens must be maximally informed on the political and economic relations between the EU and Georgia. Our citizens should be aware of the concrete benefits the Association Agreement, the DCFTA component, and ultimate visa-liberalization with the EU, offers each of us. Our history is a history of aspiring for freedom. Now we are approaching the goal set by our ancestors centuries ago, the goal pursued by our generation. Life in the large European family will offer the best opportunities to ensure our country’s progress and development,” the Prime Minister stated and once again thanked the European friends for their support and solidarity.
Giorgi Kvirikashvili stressed that European and Euro-Atlantic integration is much more than the country’s foreign policy trajectory.
“This trajectory defines our domestic reforms agenda, its structure and directions. This strategy serve the purpose of bettering the living conditions of our citizens and the introduction in our everyday lives of the values that have historically distinguished our nation,” the Prime Minister said.
The event’s participants were also addressed by Georgia’s State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Victor Dolidze, EU Ambassador to Georgia Janos Herman, Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze, Justice Minister Thea Tzulukiani, and Director of the Information Center on NATO and the EU Ketevan Chachava.
The event was attended by representatives of state institutions, the Georgian Orthodox Christian Church, NGOs, and the diplomatic corps.
The EU-Georgia Awareness Campaign is implemented under the project “Supporting the Implementation of the Association Agreement”.
“Let me tell you how glad I am, first of all about what we just signed, but also about your visit here today,” EU High Representative Federica Mogherini said yesterday during her meeting with Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze in Brussels, where a Security of Information Agreement between the EU and Georgia was signed. “We know that you also have important elections coming up in October and we hope that our cooperation before and after that will be as excellent as it has been so far. So I would like to welcome you very warmly and thank you very much,” she added.
The agreement is expected to enter into force towards the end of 2016. According to the EU, upon entry into force, it will enable the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the General Secretariat of the Council, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the European External Action Service and the European Commission to exchange classified information with relevant parties in Georgia. Such an agreement does not oblige either the EU or Georgia to exchange classified information, but ensures that any that is exchanged is given a level of protection equal with its security classification, the EU press release added. (EU Neighbourhood Info).
The Georgian private sector will soon be able to benefit from lending recently approved by the European Investment Bank (EIB). The EIB loan will be used to provide access to finance for investment and working capital needs for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and midcaps, particularly in the areas of trade and commerce. This opportunity is highly relevant in the context of the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, which includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (AA/DCFTA), the EIB said on 27 May.
The EIB will be lending EUR 22.5 million – the first tranche of an approved loan of EUR 45 million – to a Georgia-based bank to finance SMEs and midcaps.
According to the EIB, its total lending commitments in Georgia amount to some EUR 820 million, including projects supporting urban reconstruction following last year’s devastating floods and for improving the country’s critical infrastructure. The EU Bank has also financed projects in Georgia in the transport, water and energy sectors. (EU Neighbourhood Info)
To mark the end of the European Days in Georgia, which lasted from 9 to 24 May, the European Union has released seven personal video stories showing the benefits of EU assistance in the country. “The personal stories presented in these videos give a look at the positive impact EU-Georgia cooperation is bringing to individual people, and are a fitting way to end our first European Days in Georgia," EU Head of Delegation to Georgia, Ambassador Janos Herman, said.
In the videos, Dato, Lia, Rezi, Kamran, Tamara, staff of the MINA glass factory and women living in the Pankisi Gorge, all tell their stories. Dato, who wants to be an entrepreneur, can now easily register his chicken farm as a company in his own village through new Government services established with EU support.
Other videos focus on how the EU opens up new study opportunities for Georgian students, how the new EU trade agreement brings benefits to Georgian businesses, and how EU aid helps Georgian citizens increase their income.
Two further clips show the EU's commitment to improving security in Georgia, and its work to create a more equal and fair society.
The videos were shown on several Georgian news sites during the European Days and are shown on national TV as well as local TV channels across the country.