Presentation of the results of the project “Georgia on European Way” in Brussels

During June 26-27th, the EESC organized a presentation on the results of the project “Georgia on European Way: Creation of Effective Model for DCFTA and SME Strategy Implementation” in Brussels. During a special discussion-event and different meetings the final project study “Increased civil society capabilities and challenges for Georgia’s small and medium business to reach the EU single market” was presented by featuring policy recommendations for project’s sustainability and further DCFTA implementation.

On the first day of the visit, six Georgian representatives of non-governmental organizations, regional government and small and medium-sized businesses as well as experts from Moldova and Ukraine, participated in a discussion-event at the premises of the Permanent Representation of Lithuania to the EU. Discussions focused on the role of civil society in the implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) Agreement with the EU and what challenges are to be faced by the implementing countries - Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The second day was devoted to meetings with representatives of the EU institutions, including the European External Action Service, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations and the European Economic and Social Committee.

The event at the Permanent Representation of Lithuania to the EU was opened by Lithuanian Ambassador to the EU Jovita Neliupšienė together with Georgian Ambassador to the EU Natalie Sabanadze. In their speeches, both diplomats stressed the need to continue the implementation of the EU - Georgia Association Agreement, including DCFTA. The Lithuanian Ambassador once again expressed strong Lithuania’s support for pro-European reforms in Georgia. After Ambassadors’ remarks, the discussion was taken over by EESC policy analyst Dovilė Šukytė, who was responsible for the delegation’s visit to Brussels. Dovilė shared her impressions on implementing the EU-supported project in Georgia, which was also funded by the Lithuanian Development Cooperation and Democracy Support Program and the Slovak Development Cooperation Agency – SlovakAID.

Dovilė noticed that the aim of the visit to Brussels was not only to share the results of the project, but to be able to ensure the continuity of the activities of the project. The latter action requires the support of the European Union institutions, the Government of Georgia, and the EU member states. Dovilė was pleased that over 150 civil society organizations operating in all ten regions of Georgia had acquired skills needed to help the national ministries and local authorities to implement DCFTA. Not to mention, civil society organizations involved in the project activities have contributed to the nation-wide information campaign of the project and helped to inform regional residents and small and medium-sized entrepreneurs about the opportunities and benefits of DCFTA. It is estimated that the total information campaign of the project has reached approximately 1 million or more than a quarter of Georgia’s population. Agenda of the discussion-event is available here.

During the meetings with representatives of the EU institutions, representatives of Georgia shared their experience in participating in the EESC-led project “Georgia on European Way”. In turn, experts from Moldova and Ukraine compared the situation in their countries with the situation in Georgia and suggested actions for the future. The European External Action Service representative responsible for bilateral relations with the Eastern Partnership countries implementing the Association Agreements was interested in the capacity of local producers and the problems they face in reaching the EU single market. They were particularly fascinated by the activities of the organization ATINATI, which participated in one project of the EESC. With its other projects, this civil society organization in the region of Samegrelo has a radio station that was indispensable to share the experience of the most advanced local producers and, thus, encourage other manufacturers to adapt their products to EU standards and to export to the EU.

Representatives of the EU institutions were also interested in the ongoing protests in Tbilisi and the upcoming consequences for the country’s economy after Russia has stopped direct flights to Georgia and is threatening the embargo. A representative of the Georgian civil society organization from the Kazbegi region, which borders Russia, has noticed that, in fact, it is easier for local producers to export to Russia and other neighboring countries, but the EU market stands out for its trustworthiness.

The visit of Georgian representatives was financed by the Lithuanian Development Cooperation and Democracy Support Program.