New program provides financial and technical support to women in the Marneuli and Lagodekhi MunicipalitiesWednesday, 17 August 2022 14:55
The Rural Development Agency is launching a new program, providing financial and technical support to women, who are willing to set up a greenhouse in the Marneuli and Lagodekhi Municipalities.
According to the administration of the Rural Development Agency, the program aims to integrate economically inactive women from Marneuli and Lagodekhi municipalities and help them to become full-fledged members of society, improve their socio-economic status and stimulate women's involvement in agricultural activities.
The pilot program was developed within the framework of the UN Women project " Women’s Economic Empowerment in the South Caucasus". The Swiss and Austrian Development and Cooperation Agencies funded the project.
The total budget of the program amounts to USD 300,000, out of which USD 240,000 is donor financial resources, and USD 60,000 – is the participation of the Rural Development Agency.
According to the program, female beneficiaries will have the opportunity to set up a greenhouse on a small plot of land and produce agricultural products throughout the year for further sale.
The financing of the Agency shall be not more than 90%, not more than GEL 25,000 per beneficiary for setting up a greenhouse. Under the program, the plot of at least 200 square meters will be financed for the arrangement/building of a greenhouse.
The potential beneficiary can be an adult woman, not more than 60 years old, who owns or co-owns a plot of land not exceeding 5,000 square meters.
Within the program, technical assistance will be provided to the beneficiaries - a theoretical course on greenhouse management and maintenance of specific crops, also practical training for specific crops.
The priority will be given to those women who have the status of socially vulnerable or have a minor child(ren)while reviewing applications of the potential beneficiaries.
The European Union has called for an immediate cessation of the hostilities which have broken out between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces around the Lachin corridor and other places along the Line of Contact. “Regrettably, these clashes already led to loss of life and injuries,” said a statement issued on 3 August.
“It is essential to de-escalate, fully respect the ceasefire and return to the negotiating table to seek negotiated solutions,” the statement added.
“The European Union remains committed to help overcome tensions and continue its engagement towards sustainable peace and stability in the South Caucasus,” it concluded.
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European Commission is drawing closer to presenting its opinion on candidate status to Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova – members of the Association Trio. Meanwhile, questions and suggestions are mounting how to proceed in this way to find a “golden mean” amidst the war in Ukraine and highly unpredictable geostrategic context.
The stakes are high and considering all circumstances the European Union (EU) faces a difficult but historical decision. While, it is premature to talk in which direction the scales will swing, it’s evident that either negative or some intermediary decision about on any of the applicant state, will significantly affect their geopolitical future in the short and mid-term perspective. What about Georgia – the sole strategic ally of the West in the South Caucasus, the situation with regard to the status, still remains unclear. While we watch Ukraine as arena of a brutal geopolitical competition between the West and Russia on the European theater, Georgia remains another arena of geopolitical rivalry between Russia and the West. The absence of war nowadays, doesn’t mean it will not be unleashed tomorrow, if Russia finds Georgia alienated by the West. Thus, it's safe to say that EU candidate status for Georgia is highly likely to strengthen the EU foothold in the region and have a far-reaching influence on the other states of the region.
Before the pendant conclusion of the European Commission about candidate status for Georgia some opinions are present both in Georgia and outside calling the EU on either refraining from granting the status to Georgia, or suggesting something transitional. These suggestions are largely generated by ongoing domestic political infighting in the country.
The benefits from granting candidate status to Georgia, which considerably outstrips other members of the Association Trio by the pace of fulfillment of the components of the EU Association Agreement appeared to be far more tangible, than conditional gains in case of refusal.
Let's put the questions specifically and directly. Whether it’s a prudent step to hold Georgia back from the candidate status, as some groups argue, and detach it somehow from the Association Trio in this truly extraordinary situation?
What will the EU gain and what will it lose if decides to grant candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova, and say "NO" to Georgia, or give it something different? Hardly this “cold shower” from the EU would contribute to political stability in Georgia, which is apparently important for the EU in this turbulent geopolitical environment. Georgia’s opposition groups and their supporters are highly likely to use this “NO” to embark on mass anti-governmental protests and Georgia is expected to plunge into another cycle of confrontation, turbulence, and uncertainty, with the ensuing consequences. It’s hard to imagine that the EU would be satisfied with such state of affairs in its key partner in the region.
Refusal to grant Georgia candidate status under any plausible pretext, can significantly increase not only Euro-skepticism but outright anti-Western sentiments in a sizeable part of Georgian society, providing anti-Western forces with an excellent opportunity to increase their influence and strengthen their stance. Nowadays, they are quite industrious in creating an anti-European atmosphere in society. Will the EU be satisfied with this perspective?
Pinning hope that the refusal to give a candidate’s status will force Georgia’s ruling party to become more malleable to the EU demands looks unconvinced. Quite the contrary, the care for its own political future, will make the current government far more dutybound to implement the EU-recommended reforms. The idea cultivated by some Georgian and foreign pundits and politicians that Georgia will better meet EU standards under the new government after the pre-term elections, looks rather emotional than well-calculated. If consider the balance of political powers in Georgia, as well as composition of the current political landscape, this scenario looks unrealistic.
And, last but not least,the status of the candidate for EU membership is not an act of mercy for Georgia. It will give the country a strong and unequivocal signal from the EU to take the road to justice, peace and security, or be faced, even more than before, with tension and confrontation that would not be in the interests of any party. It’s time for making extraordinary but geopolitically far-sighted decisions.
Zaal Anjaparidze, political analyst, Tbilisi, Georgia
On 19 May 2022, H.E. Heidi Grau, Ambassador of Switzerland to Georgia, and Danielle Meuwly, Regional Director of Cooperation, presented a new Swiss Cooperation Programme for the South Caucasus 2022-2025. The Programme is a flagship document which defines the key priority areas of Swiss engagement for the period of 2022-2025. The event brought together the representatives of the Government, international and national partners and implementing agencies.
Switzerland, through its Cooperation Office in the South Caucasus with the regional office in Tbilisi, will implement the regional Cooperation Programme in the course of four years, 2022-2025. The focus of the Swiss engagement will be on four key areas: 1) promoting civic engagement and cooperation in the region, 2) strengthening democracy and public institutions, 3) improving economic development and creation of decent jobs, and 4) strengthening climate resilience and sustainable resource management. Gender equality and good governance will be considered in all relevant projects.
Switzerland is currently supporting more than 20 projects most of which kicked off within the framework of the previous Swiss Cooperation Strategy 2017-2021. At the end of 2021, as a result of Swiss-funded projects, more than 150’000 beneficiaries received additional incomes from agriculture, which amounted to about USD 34 million. Digital infrastructure was created in 63 municipalities, making digital public services available for about 1.5 million residents. Important analytical work on gender impact assessments and gender pay gap was undertaken to promote gender equality, for example.
The new Cooperation Programme 2022-2025 will build on past achievements and continue to make an effective contribution to the country's development pathways by initiating new projects in priority areas. In Georgia, Switzerland will continue strengthening the country’s economy by providing support to the agriculture sector, focusing on rural SMEs, women’s economic development in rural areas and vocational education and training related to agriculture. Governance, including migration, and local economic development will remain key areas of Swiss intervention. The Programme will also continue to pursue better climate adaptation and natural resource management focusing on forestry. Apart from these thematic focuses, Switzerland will further engage in conflict prevention, peace promotion, and strengthen human rights. It will also finance small initiatives by local NGOs on topics such as gender equality, environment and climate change, inclusiveness and digitalization. Moreover, Switzerland will support the local Georgian art scene by financing cultural projects, as part of a regional art and culture program. The overall budget for Georgia amounts to CHF 34 million.
Swiss engagement in the South Caucasus dates back to 1988 and has expanded ever since through strong bilateral interventions in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The regional Cooperation Office in Tbilisi was opened in 1996. The overall Swiss investment in development cooperation in the region has so far amounted to CHF 200 million.
Embassy of Switzerland in Georgia
European Council President Charles Michel yesterday hosted the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, for a continuation of their discussions on the situation in the South Caucasus region and the development of EU relations with both countries.
President Michel reiterated the EU’s commitment to deepen its cooperation with Armenia and Azerbaijan to work closely in overcoming tensions and promote a South Caucasus that is secure, stable, peaceful and prosperous for the benefit of all people living in the region.
The leaders took stock of developments since their last meeting in Brussels in December 2021 and their videoconference, together with President Macron, in February 2022. They reviewed progress on the implementation of undertaken commitments and discussed recent tensions.
President Michel emphasised the importance of humanitarian gestures by both sides to promote confidence and peaceful coexistence. He stressed the need for the full and speedy resolution of all outstanding humanitarian issues, including the release of remaining detainees and comprehensively addressing the issue of missing persons, and stated that the EU is ready to support this endeavour. The EU will likewise continue to support confidence building measures between Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as humanitarian de-mining efforts, including by continuing to provide expert advice and stepping up financial assistance, and assistance to conflict-affected populations, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
President Michel noted both President Aliyev’s and Prime Minister Pashinyan’s stated desire to move rapidly towards a peace agreement between their countries. To this end, it was agreed to instruct Ministers of Foreign Affairs to work on the preparation of a future peace treaty, which would address all necessary issues.
The delimitation and demarcation of their bilateral border will be essential; to this end, it was also agreed to convene a Joint Border Commission by the end of April, with a mandate to:
- delimit the bilateral border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and
- ensure a stable security situation along, and in the vicinity of, the borderline.
The leaders also discussed the restoration of communications/connectivity infrastructure between Armenia and Azerbaijan in particular and in the South Caucasus more broadly. President Michel welcomed the steps towards the restoration of railway lines, while encouraging Armenia and Azerbaijan to also find effective solutions for the restoration of road links. The EU is ready to support the development of connectivity links, including in line with its Economic and Investment Plan and by utilising the proposed economic advisory forum to identify common projects.
The leaders agreed to follow-up on outcomes of their meeting and to stay engaged.
EU does not recognise constitutional and legal framework of so-called parliamentary elections in AbkhaziaTuesday, 15 March 2022 17:26
The European Union does not recognise the constitutional and legal framework of the so-called parliamentary elections that took place in the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia on 12 March 2022, EU Ambassador to Georgia Carl Hartzell has said.
Hartzell reminded that the European Union supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia, as recognised by international law.
“The EU will continue to pursue its policy of non-recognition and engagement. The EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia remains fully mobilised in this regard,” said Hartzell.
Zaal Anjaparidze, International Center for Conflict and Negotiation (ICCN), South Caucasus Dialogue Program Coordinator
Georgia is one of the vivid examples of violent conflicts of various kinds and origins. After the restoration of independence, conflicts, including violent ones, have become an attribute of our recent history and have cost the country enormous, including human losses.
However, there are still unanswered questions. In particular, what conclusions did the state and society draw from this, and how correct were these conclusions? What was done to prevent conflict during the peace period? Were all resources used, including civil society resources and the experience of civil peace activists?
The development of effective tools for conflict prevention (prevention) and their constant updating is important, as evidenced even by the crisis in Ukraine, which is developing in a very dangerous way before our eyes. The question of whether it was possible to prevent escalation remains open.
The examples of both Ukraine and Georgia show that the escalation of violent conflicts, even after a temporary truce or ceasefire, is not uncommon.
Repetitive cycles of violence can be broken by addressing the root causes of the conflict and taking into account state-building factors. There is an expectation for our government in this regard to achieve good governance, the rule of law, inclusive decision-making and the protection of human rights and thus contribute to a constructive resolution of conflicts.
This is what creates "resilience" and "pliability" to conflict along with other components. Prevention of violent conflicts therefore aims to resolve social and political conflicts peacefully. Promoting peaceful, just, and inclusive societies is one way of doing this.
The problem starts there and then when the temptation to resolve conflicts by force arises, ignoring the above factors. Unfortunately, we can find many examples of this in Georgia, which have had tragic consequences for the country and the society, with the effect of long-term negative impact.
In general, violent conflicts are seen as an expression of tension and incompatibility between different, interdependent parties regarding their needs, interests, and values.
It is necessary to study, discuss, and reconcile the historical context of the conflict, at least because conflict resolution efforts can always be interpreted "at the right time" to remind different stakeholders (ethnic, religious, etc.) of some painful episodes in their history and other sensitive aspects for artificial cultivation of conflict.
Consequently, dealing with a painful past, no matter how long and difficult, is an essential component to creating the environment needed for conflict prevention, transformation of the existing conflict, and long-term peace.
In this regard, within the framework of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) South Caucasus Dialogue, ICCN seeks to involve young people in the process of analyzing the conflicts in Georgia in the historical context. As is well known, young people are characterized by a new vision of how to assess conflicts and resolve them, which may differ in individual components from the visions of the older generation, or effectively complement them. In particular, the research of the Ilia University History Student Club was supported: "The instrumentalization of history and its role in the process of emergence and perpetuation of conflicts in Georgia." The ICCN believes that this approach promotes greater access for young people to a space for peace dialogue and advocacy for conflict prevention initiatives. This promotes meaningful involvement of the youth in the peace process.
Sincere and thorough analysis of the history of the conflict with the participation of all stakeholders is not intended to justify or rehabilitate one or all of the parties to the conflict. It explores the cause-and-effect relationships of the conflict with the involvement of all, directly or indirectly, stakeholders and contributes to the transformation of the conflict.
Solid peace can only be achieved through the tireless labor of all.
By Zaal Anjaparidze
While foreign policy identities so significantly diverge in the South Caucasus (SC), there is one key common denominator that ties the regional counties together – the interconnectedness of security risks. Those risks together with the opportunities have become more visible and tangible after the latest 44-day war in Karabakh, which entailed new geopolitical realities in the region. What is worth noting part of the risks and opportunities for SC countries largely emanate from the immediate neighborhood. On the other hand, the interconnected and interdependent nature of security in the SC goes beyond its neighborhood, because each country - Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan has its own complex and multilayered geopolitical identity.
In this context, the initiative of a six-nation cooperation platform comprising Turkey, Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia initiated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in December 2020, shortly after the end of the war over the disputed Karabakh created a window of opportunity for permanent peace, stability, and cooperation in the region. At the same time, the initiative has stumbled over the existing contradictions between some of the named member-states. The exemplary case was the statement by Georgia’s Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani that albeit Tbilisi finds it “very hard” to join the “3+3 platform,” the country should still seek ways to engage in the prospective infrastructure projects in the region. His statement was promptly disavowed by the other Georgian officials. They underlined that Georgia will not join “3+3 format” because of the presence of Russia with whom Georgia disrupted diplomatic relations after the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 and occupation of Georgia’s secessionist regions by Russia after recognition of their state independence. Georgian Foreign Ministry claimed that the engagement of Georgia in the major geopolitical projects should not be undertaken at the expense of national interests and concessions to the occupier country (Russia).
While Russia-leaning groups in Georgia support “3+3” platform arguing that Georgia must pursue pragmatic and realistic politics reckoning with its neighborhood and geopolitical environment, pro-western forces vehemently oppose it. They consider the engagement of Georgia, the sole ally of the West, in the “3+3” platform where the EU and USA are absent will definitely result in damaged relations with the western partners. Besides, opponents of “3+3” platform argue that Georgia and Armenia will be in this alliance rather as “junior partners” than equitable members as compared to more powerful Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Azerbaijan.
It’s worth noting that recently Russia has decided to revitalize “3+3 format.” Most likely Moscow did so either to pursue its own interests and gain more dominance in the region, or play along with Turkey in order to prevent attempts of the West to reclaim the ground in the region that it has lost after the second war in Karabakh.
However, it’s still unclear how and whether “3+3” format will be able to keep the mutually acceptable balance of political, military and economic interests. The attitude of Iran is exemplary in this context. If the geopolitical order in the South Caucasus before the second war in Karabakh has been relatively acceptable for Tehran, nowadays the situation is different. Iran is sending clear signals to Azerbaijan and Turkey about the unacceptability of the changed geopolitical reality in the region. Thus, Tehran is going to play a more proactive role in the formation of the new rules of the game in South Caucasus and not only politically. Iran has already has announced an agreement between Iran and Armenia for establishing a new alternative transit route for Iranian trucks bypassing the Azerbaijan-controlled 20-km section, where the trucks are required to pay tolls. The northern part of the route will go through Georgia. Like Tehran, Moscow is also not happy with the excessive strengthening of the role of Turkey and Azerbaijan in the region.
However, whatever the plans of the initiators of “3+3,” the initiative largely remains declarative, so far and there are no tangible indicators that it will be “fleshed out” in the near future. Geopolitical contradictions between the key players of the “3+3” format – Russia, Turkey, and Iran, the persisting confrontation between Azerbaijan and Armenia and standalone Georgia, with its pro-western stance, make materialization of “3+3” even more uncertain
Despite various speculations, today the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia seems more realistic because the second war in Karabakh has changed a lot from the geopolitical and geo-economical points of view. Presumably, reckoning with these new realities Armenia perceives the situation in the more realistic prism. Improvement of relations with Turkey, including the opening of borders and new transport communications are the tools that could relieve long-term bilateral confrontation and contribute to peace in the region.
Georgia lacks official military-political allies in difference from Armenia and Azerbaijan. Strengthening the influence of Russia and Turkey around Georgia with the weakening influence of the West in the region leaves Georgia in a vulnerable position. This affects Georgia’s role as a transit country and may leave it on the margins of anticipated grand regional projects.
Russia and Turkey are highly likely to do their best to lure Georgia somehow into the “3+3” platform and persuade Armenia to join the platform despite persisting tensions with Azerbaijan.
It appears that Tbilisi and Yerevan must decide whether the benefits of joining “3+3” in any form will overweigh geopolitical risks. These risks are far greater for Georgia because joining “3+3” may significantly damage its relations with the West. These relations are already strained due to the latest political developments in the country highly criticized by the West.
Fragile peace after the armistice in Karabakh supported by Russian peacekeepers and the Turkish military observers revealed a tangle of problems waiting for settlement. Currently the most notable are the continued tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia manifested in the armed clashes at times and increasing tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran. The latter considers itself unfairly outflanked during the peace talks on the resolution of the latest Armenian-Azerbaijani armed conflict.
By repeated but still less successful attempts to act as a mediator in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict Georgia is highly likely aiming at finding its unique niche in the new geopolitical realities. However, subdued reactions from Baku and Yerevan indicate that none of them is in the mood to see Georgia as a key mediator given the Russian and Turkish factors. Georgia, which perhaps has more at stake in peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia than does any other third country, has ample reason for concerns over the actions of Turkey to say nothing about Russia. Ankara’s new geopolitical assertiveness is a wild card with unpredictable implications for Tbilisi. Possible Turkish-Armenian reconciliation will enhance Armenia’s regional role and will offer the latter a better bargaining position with Georgia with the attendant consequences.
The complex geopolitical theatre of the South Caucasus exerts significant influence on the foreign policy identities of the region’s countries. Intra-regional conflicts make the region highly exposed to the influences of its larger neighbors, which play a significant role in shaping the regional security dynamics.
At the same time, membership within or orientation towards the conflicting alliances strengthens intra-regional rifts, further decreasing the chances of peaceful conflict resolution in the region. To this end, “3+3” platform can be considered as one of the possible but not an ideal tool for keeping a relative balance of powers and interests of the key regional players. But the attempt to supplant the West as a non-regional player, is fraught with risks given the strategic interests of the latter in the regions.
Despite the strong divergence in foreign policy and alliance choices of the three South Caucasus states, strategic multilateral partnerships within the region and with the region’s immediate neighbors, appear to be the best possible option to transform fragile stability into a lasting cooperation framework, which in turn is a path to sustainable peace. However, existing tensions between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia on the delimitation and demarcation of state borders, as well as ownership of historical-cultural monuments in the disputed border areas, don’t contribute to the development of full-fledged partnership.
President Salome Zourabichvili held an audience with His Holiness Pope Francis as part of her official visit to the Holy See, during which the two sides emphasized that a new phase of bilateral cooperation began with this visit and highlighted the deepening and strengthening of bilateral relations in culture, education and science. The President discussed the situation in the South Caucasus and Georgia’s role in the mediation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, noting that without dialogue, it is impossible to overcome conflicts and deescalate the situation. The President also spoke about the dire humanitarian situation and human rights violations in the occupied territories of Georgia, including restrictions on the freedom of movement and kidnappings, as well as the difficult situation for Georgian Orthodox churches in the occupied territories.
The President also highlighted the importance of the opening of opportunities to develop cooperation in culture and education following this official visit. She also brought up pediatric oncology and the fact that the Bambino Gesu Children’s Hospital expressed readiness to cooperate with Georgia on this issue. The two sides emphasized the role of small countries in addressing climate change and environmental issues and the importance of strengthening that role, as small countries do not have the clout to voice their views on global challenges alone.
The President gifted to His Holiness a manuscript of the 12th century hymn “Thou Art a Vineyard” (written by King Demetrius I) dedicated to Pope Francis, a book on Georgian culture, a book on Georgian churches in the occupied territories, a selection of Georgian wines from all around the country, and handed over a gift from His Holiness Ilia II.
Press office President of Georgia