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.
As part of the global response to the coronavirus outbreak, the European Commission stands by Eastern partner countries and has reallocated €140 million for the most immediate needs in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine. In addition, the Commission will also redirect the use of existing instruments worth up to €700 million to help mitigate the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.
Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi said: “These are very difficult times not only for the EU, but for our partner countries as well. We are doing all we can to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on human lives and livelihoods. We are responding both to the immediate needs of the health systems, as well as longer term needs to the most vulnerable groups in society and small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the backbone of the economies in the six countries”.
Responding to immediate needs
At the request of the partner countries, the Commission will respond to immediate needs by supporting the supply of medical devices and personal equipment, such as ventilators, laboratory kits, masks, goggles, gowns, and safety suits. The European Commission is working with the World Health Organisation (WHO), and is deploying €30 million to ensure these necessary supplies are jointly purchased and effectively distributed to the health systems of the six countries in the coming weeks. In addition, the funds will support national health administrations to train medical and laboratory staff and carry out awareness raising measures to the wider population.
The Commission has also made available more than €11.3 million in small grants to civil society organisations. These funds are already responding to immediate needs, through the ongoing regional “Rapid Response Mechanism”, such as supporting local schools with distance learning. By the summer, and as part of this package, the Commission will launch the “Eastern Partnership Solidarity Programme” which will target the most affected parts of the populations through civil society support and notably sub-grants to smaller, local organisations.
Mitigating the socio-economic impact of the outbreak
The Commission is working closely with International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and relevant financing institutions from EU Member States as TEAM EUROPE providing a coordinated European response for the real economy, including SMEs, in particular through:
- Launching of a new support programme of €100 million to help SMEs, including self-employed and others to easily access credit and boost their businesses after the crisis;
- Facilitating, simplifying, accelerating, and reinforcing €200 million worth of existing credit lines and grants to SMEs in local currency including through its EU4Business Initiative;
- In addition, in the current crisis the EU has mobilised its major de-risking instrument the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD), worth a total of €1.55 billion, with €500 million being made available for the EU’s neighbourhood. This will rapidly provide liquidity in the EU’s neighbourhood, including through working capital, trade finance, or moratoria on debt service. This support is in addition to the ongoing macro financial assistance support to partners, including Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
The Commission also stands ready to provide assistance through TAIEX, its peer to peer instrument, by using EU Member States expertise, experience and examples of good practices on assessing emergency preparedness response scheme and health systems.
The outbreak of coronavirus has accelerated the spread of myths and disinformation around it, coming from various sources both within and outside of the European Union. Learn more in the report on Disinformation on the coronavirus.
More information on the European Commission’s coordination of a common European response to the coronavirus outbreak click here.
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.
On 11 June, Chief Veterinary Officers and experts from the Republic of Moldova and Georgia will join their counterparts from some of the EU’s other Neighbourhood countries at a seminar in Bucharest, Romania, to discuss animal welfare during transportation by sea.
This multi-country workshop aims to identify good practices and facilitate exchanges of experience between experts in the field of animal welfare during transportation by sea of live animals from the EU to third countries.
The workshop is being organised by the European Commission’s Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Instrument (TAIEX), in cooperation with the National Sanitary Veterinary and Food Safety Authority in Romania.
According to TAIEX, the communication of standards on animal welfare during transportation are relevant to international trade and cooperation with partners across the world, who play a significant role in promoting and implementing them. Such standards are included in the provisions of the Terrestrial Animal Health Code of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
In 2004, the EU adopted a regulation through which harmonised rules were set for animal welfare during transport in and between the Member States. Moreover, in 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that, for the transportation of animals involving a long journey starting from EU territory and continuing outside of it, the organiser of the transport from the EU is responsible for the welfare of animals for the entire journey, up to the final point in the third country.
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.
100 Young European Ambassadors from the European Union and its six Eastern partner countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine) are gathering this week in Brussels to celebrate the achievements of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) in the past decade.
"Young people are at the heart of our cooperation with our partners. The Young European Ambassadors is a unique initiative providing a platform to listen to and discuss ideas, which have a direct impact on the lives of young people across the region," said Lawrence Meredith, Director Neighbourhood East, European Commission.
The 10-year-old Partnership has resulted in over 30.000 young people participating in Erasmus+ volunteering, exchanges and youth mobility projects, and over 6.000 young people benefiting from the opportunities provided by the EU4Youth since 2018. Bright young students from the EaP region now also have the opportunity to attend the first European School outside of EU borders, which officially opened its doors in Tbilisi in September 2018.
The group of Young European Ambassadors, that are joined by a number of social media influencers from across the six countries, are meeting EU officials to discuss the achievements of the Partnership and its future goals. They are also participating in a large flash mob on Thursday 15 February at the heart of the EU quarter in Brussels which will feature national dances and costumes.
Geno Kutashvili, Young European Ambassador from Georgia stated “I can boldly say that the Eastern Partnership totally changed my life (not only mine, but that of every single Georgian). This joint initiative is the best project ever because it gives me and my country a lot of opportunities. I have a better life now than 10 years ago. We are stronger together!”
Close to five hundred young people from the EU and its eastern neighbourhood currently act as ‘Young European Ambassadors’ (YEAs). These Ambassadors regularly organise local community events in their countries and participate in international fora to spread the word about the initiative.
The event is organised by the EU Neighbours East project in collaboration with EU institutions. A series of other events are planned throughout the year to celebrate the Anniversary of the Eastern Partnership. Find out more on the dedicated website: www.eap10.eu
Launched in 2009 as a joint policy initiative, the Eastern Partnership aims to deepen and strengthen relations between the European Union, its Member States and its six Eastern neighbours: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. Over the past ten years, collective efforts have brought considerable benefits to the citizens of these countries including more trade, mobility, increased economic development and better quality of life.
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.
Find out more
A new report summarising a study on gender equality within creative industries in four Eastern Neighbourhood countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine) was recently presented by the British Council at the HeForShe conference in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
The study ‘Gender equality and empowerment of women and men in cultural and creative industries’ is the result of the work of a team of nine experts who organised focus groups, conducted online polls and interviewed opinion leaders in each of the four countries.
In total, around 500 men and women were interviewed to understand why women in some industries get lower salaries, why it is necessary to defy stereotypes even if they are not very noticeable and why men in some countries are fearful of taking up certain professions.
According to the report, creative industries make up 4% of Ukraine’s Gross Domestic Product. Similar findings were also demonstrated in the other countries of the study. The experts aimed to illustrate the situation in creative disciplines with respect to gender and to understand how this information could be used in future programmes that will work with creative industries in the region.
During her recent visit to Georgia, Katarina Mathernova –the Deputy Head of the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission – visited the Kakheti region, where one of the EU-supported Covenant of Mayors Demonstration Projects is being implemented.
In the framework of the project, two kindergartens – one in the city of Telavi and a second one in Ikalto village – will be retrofitted in order to become more energy efficient. The two institutions will also switch to green energy through biomass heating systems. These measures will create more comfortable conditions for children, but will also help the kindergartens to save money and energy.
“The European Union has been supporting Kakheti for many years already. And every time I come to Georgia, I meet people whose lives were changed for the better thanks to the EU. The local initiatives, which are supported by the EU, bring economic growth, social benefits and support the rights of and create new opportunities for the citizens,” - said Mathernova during her visit.
Covenant of Mayors Demonstration Projects are part of the EU4Energy Initiative. EU4Energy covers all EU support to improve energy supply, security and connectivity, as well as to promote energy efficiency and the use of renewables in the Eastern Partner countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine). It does this by financing projects and programmes that help to reform energy markets and to reduce national energy dependence and consumption. Over the long term, this makes energy supply more reliable, transparent and affordable, thus reducing energy poverty and energy bills for both citizens and the private sector.
Last week, representatives of the Georgian government and Kazbegi Local Action Group (LAG) gathered in the town of Stepantsminda to discuss rural development priorities for the region and the way forward.
The main topics of the meeting referred to the state programmes and initiatives designed to promote rural development through the diversification of local economies, improvement of social and public services, increasing of employment and sustainable use of natural resources.
The event in Stepantsminda was the second in a series of public discussions in the regions. Organised by the country’s Environment Protection and Agriculture Ministry, the event was supported by the EU in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and People in Need (PiN) mission in Georgia.
Kazbegi LAG was established with the support of the EU in the framework of the rural development project implemented by PiN Georgia within the second phase of the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD). It is one of eight LAGs created with EU support in several municipalities in Georgia.