EAR-AER did a fact finding mission to Georgia from 18 till 22 of June 2017 with the financial support of Government of Flanders.
Georgia is a country of 3,6 million inhabitants located at the east side of the Black Sea and boarders the south flanks of the Caucasus. In the capital Tbilisi, located in the centre of the country, live 1,4 million persons, or 40% of the Georgian population. Although small in size and with a limited population, the country can be considered as an interesting trade and production destination because it has free trade agreements with the EU and with China and negotiates one with India. Since the soviet period it housed manufacturing industries, that have maybe obsolete equipment, but there is an important knowhow in the country which makes it therefore an opportunity for production and trade. Moreover, free trade zones make it also a hub for logistics towards the Caucasian countries Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the south of Russia and the east of Turkey as well as to Iran. Georgia decided since 2 years to apply a form of decentralisation and now contains 9 regions and 1 autonomous republic, and at the local level 64 municipalities.
These were the reasons why the board of EAR-AER decided to put its services at the disposal to the regional and local authorities in the country. EAR-AER has developed since last year an increasingly deep relationship with EAFG, the European Alliance for Georgia, an organisation that supports and promotes cooperation and partnership between communities, business and organisations in Georgia and Europe. Members of EAFG prepared the Georgian part of EAR-AER’s fact finding mission. It was decided during this mission EAFG would become the representative of EAR-AER for Georgia.
Booth camp on entrepreneurship as first output of EAR’s fact finding mission to Georgia
On June 19th board members MM. Nelu Neacsu and Louis Delcart had a first meeting with Mr. Giorgi Kacharava, projects director of the EU-Georgia Business Council in Tbilisi. This organisation founded by the large oil companies BP-Total and Standard, brings the international companies and internationally oriented Georgian companies together. It has been invited to be member of the Georgian Prime Minister investment council. Mr. Neacsu presented the goals of the academy and insisted upon the financial and moral support of the Government of Flanders that enabled this fact finding mission. Mr. Kacharava insisted on the lack of flexibility from the EU administration not allowing Georgian citizens to work in the EU, although an association agreement including free trade agreement has been signed. He suggested to work with the principal of circular migration allowing skilled workers such as nurses with a temporary work permit of 3 years to acquire an update of their knowhow, improving the capacity of the services afterwards in Georgia. He also insisted on the multiple initiatives and funds from the EU towards Georgia but pointed out the lack of coordination between them and the lack of global overview and planning of all the opportunities. Information can be found on www.dcfta.gov.ge, but not everything is present.
The EAR-AER delegation was then received by the dean of the law faculty of the State University of Tbilisi, Dr. Irakli Burduli. The State University of Tbilisi is the oldest and largest university of the Caucasus region. Its law faculty is also the largest in the area with 800 active students among which 300 undergraduates. Georgia’s legislation is mainly based upon the German legislation.
The Law school has strong links with similar institutes in Cologne and Speyer. After the meeting with the dean Mr. Delcart gave a lecture about the Regional approach to an attentive public of professors of the law school. A lively discussion and Q&A closed this lecture session of more than an hour. A visit to professors of the Chemistry Faculty, among which prof. Ramaz Gakhokidze, director of the department of Bioorganic chemistry -also composer- ended this visit.
At the end of the day, the two board members visited Tbilisi’s Techno Park, an initiative of the Georgian Government enabling students and starters to familiarise with 3D applications and laser applications. The Techno Park has been recognised by M.I.T. Boston as a FabLab and is active in that context. They were guided by Ms. Ana Gugushvili of the GITA agency. Gradually started the idea of a joint venture training between TechnoPark and EAR-AER in the summer of 2018. Joined in a further meeting by Ms. Mariam Lashikhil, head of International Relations Department, it was decided to organise a booth camp on Entrepreneurship and SMEs in a regional environment. The booth camp will take place in the Techno Park’s premises in Zugdedi, near Kutaisi. Candidates will be offered not only lectures during 5 days about the various aspects of entrepreneurship by Belgian serial entrepreneurs and Georgian experts, but will also have the facility to develop and even produce their idea and fabricate it as a prototype. The end of the training will be organised as a pitching session in the presence of potential investors.
Perspectives on a Summer School for Regional Development in Georgia
The second day of EAR-AER’s fact finding mission to Georgia from 19 till 22 of June started with a very interesting meeting with staff members of the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure, Mrs. Ekaterine Galdava, head of department of Infrastructure Policy and Relations with Development Partners and Mrs. Matsatso Tepnadze, head of the division in the same department. Georgia decided since 2 years to apply a form of decentralisation and now contains 9 regions and 1 autonomous republic, and at the local level 64 municipalities. This requires a shift in authority and a transfer of budget to lower authorities. It requires also a training effort to regional and local level of many economic, social and political matters. The Ministry contains also 4 agencies:
– United water supply
– Solid waste management
– Road department
– Municipal development fund
The idea came then to organise a summer class for regional development, for lower administrations in order to stimulate skills and creativity in collaboration with EAR-AER. In the coming months to concrete output in a collaboration between the Ministry and EAR should take place.
The next visit was to the deputy-mayor of Tbilisi, Mr. Irakli Ledkvinadze and his staff member Mr. Kakhaberi Gvantseladze, head of the office. Tbilisi is member of Eurocities as well as of Energy cities and of Resilient cities. This last one provided them with a grant from the Rockefeller fund. They also are part of a brownfield fund. Mr. Neacsu presented the goals of the academy and insisted upon the financial and moral support of the Government of Flanders that enabled this fact finding mission. It has been agreed that EAR-AER will send an invitation to Tbilisi city to become member and to provide them with information about waste recycling and other climat change issues.
A visit to the Ministry of Energy with deputy minister of Energy took place with the colleagues of the EAR-AER Energy department.
At the invitation of prof.dr. Zurab Gasitashvili, vice-rector, Mr. Delcart gave then a brief lecture on Regional approach and especially the transformation and innovation aspects to engineers of the Technical University of Georgia after which the professor presented him their research, especially on waste treatment, that was already applied by several municipalities in Georgia.
The day ended by a very promising meeting with the scientists from Delta, a state-military scientific research organisation located at the outskirts of Tbilisi. This research center groups specialists in many disciplines. In fact there are 6 research institutes: metallurgy and materials, optica, mining, energy, nanotechnology, military applications. It was agreed that EAR-AER will try to present several projects that have been handed over, to Belgian or German counterparts in order to examine common introductions for European grants.
Needs of regions at different level.
The 3rd day brought both board members to 2 municipalities of the Kakheti region: Telavi and Gurjaani.
At the town hall of the self-governing community of Telavi the visitors were received by the deputy-mayor, Mr. Davit Napirieli. Mr. Neacsu presented the goals of the academy and insisted upon the financial and moral support of the Government of Flanders that enabled this fact finding mission. EAR-AER and Telavi detected possibilities of cooperation. The community was interested in the organisation of evening classes in existing high schools. It was agreed that M.Delcart will make suggestions for programs. The mayor insisted on integrating training in the agricultural domain enabling farmers to catch up with the newest methods and technology.
Moreover the subject of toxic waste appeared, more clearly the remains of asbestos. All regions of Georgia face the problem of buildings from the former Soviet times where roofs and other parts contain asbestos. Accidents such as explosions disseminate the toxic waste in the air but also in the soil and the ground water. Regions face the problem but do not find answers. There are no tools of treating untouched asbestos and certainly not to treat destroyed asbestos plates. M.Delcart committed to find out in Brussels and also to check for potential funds to clean up the rubbish and reduce the risk.
After Telavi, the visitors were hosted by Mr. Giorgi Zakalashvili, director of the Chandary Wine Cellar ub Willaje Chandaryn where they discovered the typical Georgian wine production techniques. Afterwards they were invited by the Mayor of Gurjaani in the Kakheti region. The Kakheti region is, as is Telavi, entirely rural with small villages and obsolete labour material. Although the region has a rich nature and can produce for the citizens’ consumption in the capital, it would be well off with better knowhow and equipment.
EAR-AER board members want to thank Government of Flanders for the financial support for this fact finding mission.