DCFTA Implementation: Partnerships, Push-backs and Potential

on 13 May : 16:56

Final ConferenceOn May 8th, 2019 the implementers of the European Union funded project “Georgia on the European Way: Creation of Effective Model for DCFTA and SME Strategy Implementation” hosted the project’s closing conference - “DCFTA Implementation: Partnerships, Push-backs and Potential” - in Tbilisi.

Welcome remarks were delivered by the main supporters of the project: H.E. Carl Hartzell, Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia, who stated that “The EU is keen to see more Georgian companies taking advantage of the opportunities contained in the EU-Georgia DCFTA. We are working hard to this end together with the Georgian government and other stakeholders, including in the domains of information sharing, financing, training, and market access prioritization. Through this project, a distinct contribution has been made to these efforts, not least thanks to its regional outreach and systematic involvement of civil society”. H.E. Giedrius Puodžiūnas, Ambassador of Lithuania to Georgia, gave an overview of Georgia’s export to the EU, based on the 2019 first-quarter report of Georgia-EU trade. Both H.E. Puodžiūnas and Ambassador of Slovakia Pavel Vizdal, continued voicing their countries’ support to Georgia’s ambition to increase the trade turnover with the EU. The Slovak Ambassador informed that Georgia has become a program country of the SlovakAid, according to the newly adopted mid-term strategy of the Slovak development assistance. The keynote speech was delivered by Khatia Tsilosani, the Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Agriculture. In her remarks, Ms. Tsilosani updated the participants on the most current development in case of DCFTA implementation from the point of view of her sector. She noted that “healthy food and a healthy environment are important for all Georgia”. She brought attention to the fact that DCFTA is not only about the export, but also about providing high-quality products to Georgian consumers. The conference panels discussed DCFTA implementation from three different angles: civil society engagement, development of SMEs and the challenges they face; and the regional perspective of the three DCFTAs in Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. The program was based on recommendations for policy reforms developed during the two-year consultation process in all 10 Georgia’s regions – including the proposals of the local and central councils, and the good experiences of Lithuania and Slovakia. Conference speakers continuously stressed the importance of civil society actors to advocate for reforms and improvements to the DCFTA implementation process. According to Ukrainian civil society actor Maksym Koriavets, “In the context of SMEs development, the civil society can be not only a messenger between the government and local businesses – it can provide consultations, learning and experience exchange for making small and medium-sized enterprises stronger and adaptable to new conditions created by DCFTA.” Project results, when partnered civil society organizations hosted over 500 events in all Georgian regions and reached more than 1 million of Georgian citizens, stands as a proof. It was agreed that the results of DCFTA implementation will be more visible in the years to come. “DCFTA is an instrument for country’s transformation, which we will certainly work to achieve,” - re-assured Mariam Gabunia, Head of the Foreign Trade Policy Department at the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development. “We should synchronize our efforts with other civil society organizations and across sectors because DCFTA is everybody’s business”, noted Rusudan Kalichava, Executive director of Association ATINATI, Zugdidi, Georgia. From their side, the project implementers were encouraging the continuation of local and central DCFTA advisory councils, which were established and regularly held during the duration of the project. The local councils in every Georgian region provide a platform for civil society representatives, local businesses and public administration to discuss major challenges of DCFTA implementation. Findings of local councils are then being presented at the central council, which additionally includes representatives of Ministries directly responsible for DCFTA implementation. Such format ensures the exchange of information, increases the central government’s awareness about local issues and leads to addressing existing challenges with a joint effort.   

The Press Release from the Conference can be accessed here.

The 3rd DCFTA Central Advisory Council, Tbilisi

on 22 Mar : 14:15

On March 7, the third meeting of the DCFTA advisory council took place in Tbilisi. The participants of the meeting were the CSOs from different regions, representatives of EU delegation, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Education and Sustainable Development and Agriculture and the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development. The meeting was organized under the framework of the project 'Georgia on European Way: Creation of Effective Model for DCFTA and SME Strategy Implementation'. This meeting gave the business operators and the regional civil society organizations an opportunity to provide cross-sectoral recommendations before the state representatives and donor and discuss the problems together.
There were discussed the following intersectoral issues: 
- Education and awareness raising of the population through the mass media 
- Informational-consultations and extension system for agriculture 
- State control on the system of realization of plant protection means and food products 
- Insurance and financing sector and instrument for accessing finance 


The first specific discussion topic was vocational education which was raised by one of the representatives of the regional CSOs who drew the attention of the audience on the existing educational gaps and lack of educational funds in Kvemo Kartli. The representative of the Ministry of Education mentioned that one of the main priorities of the ministry is to develop professional education in Marneuli. Simultaneously, she clarified that ministry actively cooperates with the private business operators and tries to find a solution together with them in order to retrain the locals and involve private providers in these processes. 

The recommendations regarding the regional consultancy centers were proposed by the CSO representatives from Imereti and Kakheti regions. Everybody agreed that establishing the consultancy centers was quite a good idea, but he simultaneously mentioned that in some cases, they are not flexible and helpful. They suggested supporting consultancy services, which will be established on the basis of the private sector. “Maybe the outsourcing is not profitable in some high mountainous regions, but in general it will be more effective if the private sector representatives are also involved”- said one of the sub-grantees.  Generally, there was a consensus between the attendees regarding the matter of creation of the private consultancy services in the regions. 

In response to the recommendations and complaints of the regional CSOs representative of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia said that “All people employed in the consultancy services are qualified and they have adequate knowledge”. It was interesting for the audience to hear that there is no being created the non-governmental nonprofit legal entity which will function as the consulting service centers, so they will not depend on the state funds. 

The next discussion topic was about information dissemination. One of the sub-grantees proposed the idea to create internet TV at first and after its development start running the pilot TV program on TV2 under the umbrella of the First Channel (Georgian Public Broadcaster). The guest from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture promised to raise the question at the ministry regarding the TV broadcaster about agriculture and test how profitable will it be. 

The fourth discussion topic had been proposed by one of the SME representatives who emphasized on the fact that the quality of the plant protection means are not in compliance with the official standards. The attendees also complained that nobody controls what the local sell. Moreover, the attendees stressed on the need for doing the land analysis and they proposed to partly subsidies this process. In response to this, the representative of the Ministry of Agriculture said that there exists such program “Seed Your Future” under the framework of which it is possible to conduct the land analysis. The second ministry representative stressed that there already exists the monitoring mechanism, which results are statistically recorded and there is a clear sign of improvement in terms of the quality of the plant protection means. He mentioned that this process goes slowly and they physically do not have so many veterinarians. 

The final topic of discussion was the insurance system. Both CSOs and SMEs attending the meeting supported the idea to develop the insurance services in cooperation with the private sector.  In response to which recommendations, the representative of the Ministry of Agriculture explained that the state initiated this, but it is about the private insurance and not the Public-Private partnership model. He hereby mentioned that if the business is not profitable, then there is no point in providing insurance at all and directly said the such kind of business is not worth to run because the dependence of insurance is not the solution. As a positive example, he mentioned that the state financed the insurance of berry plants with 100% because it is very profitable especially in the Western part of Georgia. 

Finally, the representatives of the EU delegation, implementing partners and the state representatives made the concluding remarks and all three sides expressed their readiness for the future cooperation in terms of solving the existing problems collectively in a working group formats.

The 2nd DCFTA Central Advisory Council convened in Tbilisi

on 28 Jan : 13:06

On October 30, 2018, implementers of the European Union - funded project Georgia on the European Way: Creation of Effective Model for DCFTA and SME Strategy Implementation – co-funded by the Lithuanian Development Cooperation and Democracy Promotion Program and the Slovak Aid — convened the second DCFTA Central Advisory Council (CAC) to convey problems identified at regional Local Advisory Councils (LACs) to national decision-makers, and present their recommendations.  
The CAC includes 20 delegates from the Local Advisory Councils, established as part of the project, with one representative of civil society and one of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) coming from each of Georgia’s ten regions. In addition, the CAC gathered representatives of Georgian ministries and agencies responsible for DCFTA implementation: the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure, Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA), Enterprise Georgia. Project donors and partners from other EU-funded consortia working on DCFTA in Georgia also attended the meeting.  
The second Central Advisory Council meeting consisted of two sessions. The first part of the event was dedicated to presenting the findings of each of the ten regional LACs held in May 2018, agree on priority issues and recommendations to be presented to the government agencies. In particular, the LACs identified challenges and recommendations for separate sectors: 

Viticulture-Viniculture Apiculture (Beekeeping) ·    
- Handicrafts – suggestion to have a separate website
- Livestock Farming
- Aquaculture/Fish-Farming
- Vegetable Growing   

as well as intersectorial (cross-cutting) issues: 

- Vocational Education,
- Education and Awareness Rising of Population through the Mass Media,
- Informational-Consultations and Extension System for Agriculture, 
- State Control on the system of Realization of Plant Protection Means and Food Products, 
- Insurance and Financing Sectors and Instrument for Accessing Finance                                                                                                                           

During the second session, local representatives raised their suggestions and recommendations to the government officials, and discussed the possibilities for future initiatives.  The CAC meeting concluded in agreement that SME and CSO representatives will further develop recommendations and present it to the government in separate meetings with relevant ministries. The meetings are planned to take place by the end of January, 2019.  

Seminar of Democracy House of Georgia

on 13 Dec : 19:59

“Democracy House of Georgia” organized a seminar in Khoni, on December 12, 2018 under the framework of the sub-granted project “Informing SMEs and Local Self Government about DCFTA”. Local members of the municipality, local SMEs, business operators and other stakeholders attended the event.  
Seminar was generally about EU-Georgia Association Agreements with the special focus on DCFTA. Seminar concretely covered the issues like exporting the goods on EU market without customs tax. There was also discussed the exceptional cases such as quotes on garlic and its prices to enter the market. Apart from this, the attendees drew attention on anti-counterfeiting mechanisms, phyto sanitary norms and trade barriers in general.   Participants discussed what type of product could be considered as exclusively Georgian. Moreover, they also had some comments of SME Development Strategy 2016-2020. 
Organizes distributed project brochures, calendars and pens to the seminar participants. Overall 55 people attended the seminar, out of which 23 were women.  

Youth Training in Gori

on 04 Dec : 17:57

On November 26, NGO ''Step to Future'' conducted an info-training about DCFTA in Gori, which was organized under the framework of the EU funded project ''Georgia on European Way: Creation of Effective Model for DCFTA and SME Strategy Implementation”. The target groups of this training were university and school students. Trainer mostly covered the topics such as the general obligations for the SMEs for sending their product on export, the potential strategies which are success guarantors at the EU market, the investment opportunities as well as the ways how to find partners in EU Member states.


DCFTA Information Meeting in Guria

on 04 Dec : 17:45

On November 21, Guria Youth Resource Center organized an information meeting about DCFTA in Guria. Up to 30 participants from different sectors attended this meeting, which took place at the local municipal building. The aim of the meeting was raising awareness of locals regarding the Deep and Comprehensivbe Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). In particular, the organizers presented the main benefits of this agreement, explained the role of the state institutions in this process as well as importance of supporting the small and medium enterprises (SMEs). 
After the presentation, participants from local administration, NGOs and farmers discussed the the developments in this region with regards to the DCFTA agreement. They also proposed new initiatives concerning future steps in service of positive economic development in the region. 

Study visits of Georgian entrepreneurs, civil society and public officials to Lithuania and Slovakia

on 04 Dec : 13:47

In October and November 2018, altogether 30 representatives of Georgian small and medium enterprises, civil society organizations and public officials were provided with opportunity to visit and learn about Lithuanian and Slovak practices of integrating into the EU single market. Each visit consisted of 15 Georgian representatives coming from different Georgian regions. Accordingly to professional interests of study trip participants, local partners the Eastern Europe Studies Centre (EESC) in Vilnius and the GLOBSEC Policy Institute  in Bratislava with the support of Georgian project implementers – the Georgian Institute of Politics, ATINATI, the Young Scientist Union “Intellect”, the Caucasus Genetics and the  Association of the Business Consulting Organizations of Georgia – built the agenda and set up meetings with government officials, local entrepreneurs and other relevant parties. The first study visit took place in Lithuania on October 14-21, 2018 and was shortly followed by the one in Slovakia on November 12-16, 2018. 

The program of the study trips included official visits to the state institutions and universities, information meetings to the business associations and chambers of commerce and trade, as well as site visits to the local farms and factories. In both cases, the beginning of the visit included an official opening part. In Vilnius, the very first meeting was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, during which representatives of the Eastern Neighborhood Policy Department and the Development Cooperation Department presented greeted the Georgian delegation, presented Lithuania’s objectives of the EU’s Eastern Neighborhood Policy, particularly issues related to the external economic relations and economic security policy. Furthermore, discussion included presentation of Lithuania’s Development Cooperation and Support for Democracy Programme, which in addition to the EU supported organization of the study visit. At the moment of the study visit, the Programme had the call for project proposals, which was of particular interest for the Georgian delegation. 

In Bratislava, Georgian delegation met with Ambassador Michal Slivovič, Director of the Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia Department at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic. Discussion with Ambassador Slivovič was especially important to get first-source information about the EU accession experience of Slovakia and about how the general EU requirements were met during the different phases of the integration process. Apart from this, the participants discussed tourism as one of the top priorities for economic development of Georgia, barriers for the integration process, such as conflicts. During the meeting, special attention was drawn on the intensity of Slovak - Georgian cooperation, including different agreements signed between Slovakia and Georgia among which is ambition to launch direct flights between Bratislava and Tbilisi. 

The second part of official meetings continued with visits to the Ministries directly linked to economic and agricultural issues. In Lithuania, EESC together with other project partners organized a meeting at the Ministry of Economy, where Georgian participants learned about existing support mechanisms for small and medium enterprises, investment and export policy and the EU assistance coordination.  In addition to this, a very fruitful meeting was conducted at the Enterprise Lithuania, an agency supporting export of local businesses. As for the Slovak trip, Georgian delegates had their second meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture and Regional Development, where the field specialists shared the Slovak experience of breeding and plant growing, rural development, food safety and risk analysis. Moreover, they provided information about national programs in support of agricultural products and food Label of Quality SK. 

In both countries, the study trip covered several information meetings with the business associations, donor organizations, research institutions and civil society representatives. For example, in Vilnius, Georgian delegation met with the Head of the European Commission Representation Mr Arnoldas Pranckevičius, while in Bratislava they had meetings at the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Crafts (CCIC) and SlovakAid. The latter, in addition to the EU, supported Georgian delegation’s visit to Slovakia. The aim of these meetings was to share experience in terms of business support projects, attending the international business expos and attracting the foreign direct investments (FDI) and technical assistance for start-up initiatives and small and medium businesses, particularly when it comes to registering, administering, taxation and other related matters. Moreover, the study trip participants together with representatives of Lithuanian and Slovak business discussed the long-term funding strategies, micro grants, as well as exchange and joint educational programs in the field of agriculture.

Another part of the study trips included sectoral site visits and masterclasses, where Georgian participants examined how Lithuanian and Slovak farms and factories operate. In both countries site visits covered guided tours in the farms of cattle breeding, beekeeping and factories of the bio organic production. In Lithuanian, participants visited “Valerijonas” pharmacy, where they learned about production of ecological cosmetic products; LLC “Mėta”, an organic enterprise producing canned vegetables and natural sweets; and LLC Švenčionių vaistažolės“, a herb processing plant. Apart from this, Georgian farmers had an honour to meet Dr Algirdas Amšiejus, Vice President of Lithuanian Beekeepers Union, Lecturer at the Faculty of Agronomy of Aleksandras Stulginskis University and professional beekeeper, who ran a masterclass on bee-friendly honey production.  Similarly in Slovakia, Georgian delegation had an opportunity to travel to different regions and visit the farm of Oponice for cattle breeding and milk production; Lunter production of tofu and soya-based spreads; Kozi vrsok producing goat milk and cheese; as well as, Včelárska paseka, the place for apiculture and honey production. Apart from this, Georgian delegation in Slovakia went to Dunajska Streda where they visited the Ambropek bakery and pastry production company. Georgian participants were especially impressed by the infrastructure and machines which are being used to produce bread. The last part of the study trip to Slovakia included a visit to Viniculture Matysak, where Georgian delegates had an excursion to the wine factory, tasted different flavors of wine and talked about the possibility of planning a joint wine expo in Kakheti region. 
All in all, participants of the both study trips assessed the visits positively and expressed their intention to, for example, conduct joint training programs and workshops with Lithuanian and Slovak counterparts or to organize business expos with newly acquainted foreign partners. They have also discussed possibilities for inviting Lithuania and Slovak experts to Georgia to re-train Georgian labor force and considered opportunities for launching new business partnerships.

Training of Kvemo Kartli Women's NGO "Unity"

on 30 Nov : 16:51

On November 3, 2018, Kvemo Kartli Women's NGO "Unity" organized a training for school students under the framework of EU funded project "Georgia on European Way:  Creation of Effective Model of DCFTA and SME Strategy Implementation". Training took place at the Kvemo Kartli public schools №1 and №2, which were attended by participants. 
The training covered three main topics: What is DCFTA? Information on advantages of the EU market as well as tariff and non-tariff barriers. Each presentation was followed by relevant thematic videos and school students were asked to reflect on them. Final discussions were held on the different phases of EU accession process, tariff quotas, mechanisms against counterfeiting and AA/DCFTA implementation deadlines. After ending the discussion, the excursion was held at the local enterprise.


The 2nd Meeting of the DCFTA Central Advisory Council

on 29 Oct : 10:40

On October 30, 2018 the 2nd meeting of the DCFTA Central Advisory Council will take place in Tbilisi, Georgia. For the second time representatives of regional SMEs and CSOs as well as local administration will meet to discuss the current steps in implementation of the DCFTA in Georgia together with experts from the Georgian State Institutions such as the Ministry of Enviromental Protection and AgricultureMinistry of Economy and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The meeting will take place from 10.00 am in premises of the NATO and EU Information center on Shalva Dadiani street 2/1, Tbilisi, Georgia. 

2nd phase of DCFTA Local Advisory Council in Mtskheta

on 02 Oct : 15:44

On September 25, 2018, Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP) organized a Local Advisory Council (LAC) in Mtskheta. Participants of the LAC included representatives of local civil society organizations (CSOs), SMEs and public officials of local Mayors’ offices and Sakrebulos’ of different municipalities from Mtskheta-Mtianeti region.    

The LAC was organized in two sessions. During the first session, meeting facilitator presented  identified challenges and recommendations from the sub-economic sectors for the region, which have the export potential to the EU single market (bee-keeping, producing of dry fruits and handi craft).  Within the second session, LAC participants discussed the major problems SMEs are facing in producing of Non-timber forest products and Fishing. SMEs shared experienced how they managed to get BIO certification and what are benefits of producing organic products. The identified challenges and recommendations will be presented in the Central Advisory Council to be held on October 30 in Tbilisi.   
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