Discussion and presentation of project results “Georgia on EUropean Way”

On July 4th, Eastern Europe Studies Center held a discussion “Georgia on EUropean Way”, which featured EESC Policy Analyst Dovilė Šukytė and Georgian expert Dr. Bidzina Lebanidze who is a Senior Analyst at the Georgian Institute of Politics and Research Associate at the University of Bremen. Ruslanas Iržikevičius, Editor in Chief of the Lithuania Tribune and EN15min, was moderating. The aim of the discussion was concluding the results for the EESC-led project “Georgia on European Way: Creation of Effective Model for DCFTA and SME Strategy Implementation”.

The first half of the meeting started off by examining and understanding the protesting situation in Tbilisi, Georgia in which Dr. Lebanidze provided a brief overview of the protesting strategies and tactics. It was concluded that this situation would not create extensive harm to Georgia’s pro-European reforms. The second half focused on the EESC-led project “Georgia on European Way […]”. Ms Šukytė presented the final project study titled “Increased Capacities of Georgian Civil Society and Identified Challenges for Georgian Small and Medium Enterprises to Access the EU Single Market”. The study includes project findings and provides recommendations for further action.

The project, which covered all ten regions of Georgia, engaged and provided lacking skills to work on DCFTA-related issues for more than 150 regional civil society organizations (CSOs), out of which 60 received re-granting. Via regranting over 500 events were organized to inform and educate the local population about the benefits provided by the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area Agreement (DCFTA). Also, local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) were consulted about steps to be undertaken in order to access the EU single market. In addition to public events, TV and radio programs, as well as various articles and informational publications were developed. Project implementers estimate that the project reached over 1 million of Georgians, which is more than ¼ of the Georgian population. In addition to raising the competence of regional CSOs and a nation-wide DCFTA communication campaign, the project established the Local Advisory Councils (LACs) in all Georgian regions. LACs united representatives of public administration, SMEs and CSOs and enabled to record the concerns and challenges of local SMEs towards taking advantage of the DCFTA. Their advice and recommendations were further discussed during the Central Advisory Councils in Tbilisi with representatives of Georgian Ministries directly involved in DCFTA implementation.

Among the project findings are that the local governments in Georgian regions and municipalities need more information and deeper understanding of the DCFTA and what ways can they support local businesses. In order to establish a better understanding, cooperation with civil society organizations, which help to bridge the gap between DCFTA and SME’s, is crucial. Due to the project activities, regional CSOs increased their level of work related to DCFTA and providing assistance to SMEs and they remain motivated to continue working with them. At the moment only 23% of Georgian SMEs are exporting, and only a few sell their product on the EU single market. It will take time for Georgian producers and the rest of the population to feel the full impact of the DCFTA. The final study includes surveys of Georgian SMEs and CSOs and in detail explains main challenges that SMEs are facing, as well as capacities of CSOs to assist them in their attempts to enter the EU single market. The study “Increased Capacities of Georgian Civil Society and Identified Challenges for Georgian Small and Medium Enterprises to Access the EU Single Market” is available for download here. The project is funded by the European Union and co-funded by Lithuanian Development Cooperation and Democracy Promotion Programme, the SlovakAid and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. The project is implemented by the Eastern Europe Studies Center (EESC, Lithuania) together with the Association of Business Consulting Organizations (ABCO Georgia), the Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP, Georgia), GLOBSEC Policy Institute (GPI, Slovakia), Young Scientists Union “Intellect” (Georgia), ATINATI (Georgia) and Association Caucasus Genetics (Georgia).