On 13 December 2016, GLOBSEC organised the expert workshop entitled “EU’s Eastern Partnership Review” within the framework of its project “Georgia on EUropean way” supported by the SlovakAid. The event took place in Brussels and was organised in cooperation with the “Information Center on NATO and EU” from Georgia and the “Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum” – Brussels Office. The aim of the workshop was to present the findings of the project regarding the Association Agreement (AA) and the Agreement on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) implementation by Georgia to the Brussels’ based think-tanks and EU institutions. The assessment was done by three distinguished speakers: Archil Karaulashvili, First Deputy State Minister of Georgia on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Pierre Deusy from the European External Action Service, Ketevan Chachava, Director of the Information Center on NATO and EU, and the panel was chaired by Ján Cingel, Research Fellow of GLOBSEC Policy Institute.
Among the project outcomes, the status review including further policy recommendations on the implementation of the AA and DCFTA in Georgia was presented at the workshop. The progress report was conducted by First Deputy State Minister of Georgia Mr. Karaulashvili. The progress of Georgia was then praised by Mr. Deusy from the EEAS claiming that “Georgia is the best pupil in the class”. The support for the EU and also NATO integration of the country maintains solid 75% of the population. Intensive reforms implemented in the country helped Georgia to fight corruption, improve conditions within the justice sector, strengthened the links between public education and the private sector. The fitness of the health care has been also improving due to the expanded budget implemented since 2010. The whole country will be covered by high-speed optical internet networks and infrastructure, innovation centres and technological parks are being established. Regarding the energy sector, the Georgian government is also making steps towards securing and diversifying its supplies with great emphasis on clean renewable energy. The aim is to export energy to the EU via Turkey in the near future. The transportation is also improving, soon train infrastructure will interconnect the Eastern and the Western borders of the country with better train connection to Turkey and then possibly further to Europe. This transportation infrastructure project called “the New Silk Road” is meant to connect China with Europe by railway through so-called Southern corridor, that will speed-up the cargo delivery as well as decrease the transportation costs.
Apart from many positive changes and reforms, the implementation of the AA and the DCFTA has certain limitations. The immediate results are less visible to the people and reforms, and investments bring more fruits only in mid-term to long-term future, whereas citizens are expecting results as soon as possible. This is when the civil society steps in the information process. Their NATO and EU advocacy efforts bring the knowledge to the people, help them benefit from the changes already, as they are implemented and make them more resistant to foreign propaganda. The base for implementing DCFTA is not only to be closer to the EU market but to help its own – home market. You can have the best cheese in the world, but without laboratory testing it cannot enter the EU market which is clearly a loss of its export potential. Georgia is implementing both agreements for the sake of improvement of its own economy, safer state, more stable democracy and more freedom. “We need partners and partnerships that are making us stronger,” said First Deputy State Minister of Georgia Mr. Karaulashvili, as closing his speech at the event.
In Georgia, the cooperation between the government and the NGOs is beneficial, as the latter is usefully monitoring the implementation process, preparing assessment and giving feedback on the implementation. The cooperation of the government and the civil society is therefore not only welcomed but crucial.
Apart from the domestic actors, GLOBSEC is also among the top EU-based NGOs which are advising and helping the reform processes via various projects focusing on the civil society empowerment in Georgia. The platform between the international and national civil society community and the governmental officials is inevitable in the implementation of the AA and the DCFTA in Georgia. Georgia clearly manifests that this kind of “tripartite cooperation” between the government, the business and the civil society is beneficial and useful.
The Information Center on NATO and EU through its regional offices brings the information to the people as much and as close as possible. Presenting the success stories related to the AA and DCFTA implementation and helping the people to achieve easier access to information about these processes are the main reasons why the Center as such was established. To reach these goals, the Center is active on social media and uses modern communication tools. It also fights against foreign propaganda by training school teachers, religious leaders and other opinion shapers.
Georgia is clearly performing on the implementation of the AA and DCFTA. Nevertheless, the EU as a partner should also fulfill some of Georgia’s expectations. Visa-free regime with the EU countries foremost is very wished among the people, and there are high expectations that the EU will soon grant the visa waiver to Georgian citizens. This would also help Georgia continue on its EUropean Way.