On 20-21 October 2021, Lawrence Meredith, Director of Neighbourhood East and Institution Building, European Commission, and Carl Hartzell, Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia, visited Imereti and Adjara to highlight EU support to the regions. The visit was centered around the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan for Georgia and focused particularly on connectivity issues in and around the Black Sea.
During his visit, Director Lawrence Meredith said, “I am delighted to be back in Georgia to promote the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan. In the coming years, we will work together with our partners to help Georgian citizens gain access to high quality internet connections, create stronger connections in the Black Sea, support businesses in their recovery after COVID-19 and ensure that people in the country can breathe cleaner air.”
As a first stop on 20 October, Director Lawrence Meredith and Ambassador Hartzell visited “Baia’s Wine” owned by a young woman entrepreneur named Baia Abuladze in the village Obcha, Imereti. The guests visited the vineyard and family cellar and learned about traditional methods of wine making. Baia had received entrepreneurial support in the areas of informal education, improvement of contacts, sales and the promotion of her products. With the help of the EU’s EU4Business initiative, Baia received trainings in skills development, and was involved in conferences, expos, as well as networking and export promotion opportunities in Europe and worldwide. At present, “Baia’s Wine” produces 18,000 bottles of wine per year and exports to various EU countries, including Austria, Germany, Netherlands, France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, others.
The visit continued in Zeniti, a small village in Kobuleti municipality. Under the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan and in cooperation with EIB, the EU will help 1,000 rural communities like Zeniti gain access to a high-speed internet connection. Director Meredith and Ambassador Hartzell met with representatives of the municipality as well as the project promotor to discuss the impact of upcoming activities.
The first day concluded in Tsikhisdziri, Kobuleti municipality. Ambassador Hartzell and Director Meredith visited “Shukura”, a local restaurant run by Adjara group. The restaurant has recently employed five young deaf people, who had found this opportunity through Batumi Job Fair, which had been organized within the EU’s Skills4Jobs programme.
The second day of the visit, 21 October, was spent in Batumi. In the morning, Director Lawrence Meredith and Ambassador Carl Hartzell visited the site of the building, which tragically collapsed on 8 October.
The visit continued in Batumi Port, where Tamar Ioseliani, Director of the Maritime Transport Agency, presented the country’s first ever Maritime Transport Strategy, which had been developed with the support of the European Union. During a tour around the port facilities, Director Meredith and Ambassador Hartzell highlighted the potential impact of the Economic and Investment Plan on transport connections through the Black Sea.
The delegation furthermore visited the local company “Nova”, a successful construction company, which has expanded production thanks to the EU4Business-EBRD Credit Line. Joint EU and EBRD support helped the company increase its production capacity, increasing factory area and installing new equipment compliant with EU standards regarding both environment and health and safety. The company also benefitted from the EBRD advisory services, funded by the EU to launch management information system, improve logistics and international procurement practices. During the meeting, Director Meredith and Ambassador referred back to the EU’s continued support for Georgian SMEs recovering from the impact of COVID-19. The EU’s Economic and Investment Plan foresees strengthened support for small and medium-sized companies so that they can take full advantage of the DCFTA.
Finally, the two-day programme concluded with a special event, the first ever “Black Sea Connectivity Talks”. In a plenary discussion, Director Meredith and Carl Hartzell as well as representatives of the EIB, EBRD and the World Bank discussed their vision of the future of the Black Sea together with local youth and entrepreneurs. The discussion was based on the EU’s Economic and Investment Plan for Georgia, revolving around transport, digital and environment related issues. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the event was held in a hybrid format with limited number of participants attending the event in Batumi, the recorded livestream can be found at the EU Delegation’s Facebook page.
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