EU-Georgia relations date back to the early 1990s, shortly after Georgia declared its sovereignty following the break-up of the Soviet Union. Bilateral relations have further intensified since 2003, as consecutive governments have undertaken ambitious programmes of political and economic reforms.
Relations with Georgia are conducted within the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and its Eastern dimension under the Eastern Partnership (EaP). The ENP's recent review reconfirms a long-term engagement with partner countries – in particular with partners, such as Georgia, wishing to pursue deeper relations with the EU based on shared values. Differentiation and joint ownership being the hallmarks of the new ENP, the policy will continue to build ties and encourage Georgia’s objective of further approximation with European structures.
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Relations taken to a new level
By signing the Association Agreement (AA) in June 2014, relations between the EU and Georgia were brought to a new level. The AA with its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) foresees far reaching political and economic integration with the EU by significantly deepening mutual ties and bringing Georgia closer to Europe.
The provisional application of the DCFTA part of the agreement began on 1 September 2014. Based on recent Eurostat figures, the first 12 months of the DCFTA implementation indicate an increase of EU imports from Georgia by 15%. The EU and Georgia have also agreed an EU-Georgia Association Agenda, which defines a set of priorities for the period of 2014-2016. The Agenda will help Georgia fully enjoy the benefits of the agreement.
EU - the main trade partner for Georgia
The EU is the main trade partner for Georgia. 26.1% of its trade takes place with the EU, followed by Turkey (17.2%) and Azerbaijan (10.3%). For the EU, trade with Georgia accounts for 0.1% of its total trade with a total turnover of EUR 2.6 billion in 2014. EU exports to Georgia amounted in 2014 to EUR 1.91 billion. The key export products are mineral products, machinery and appliances, chemical products and transport equipment. The EU imports from Georgia focus on mineral products, agricultural products (such as hazelnuts), base metals and chemical products. In 2014, the EU imported from Georgia goods to the value of EUR 657 million.
Moving towards enhanced mobility
The EU-Georgia Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements have been in force since March 2011 and are being well implemented. The EU launched the visa liberalisation dialogue with Georgia in June 2012. Since then, the Commission has issued four progress reports on Georgia's implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan. In the last one, published on 18 December 2015, the Commission concluded that Georgia meets all the benchmarks set in the Plan. The Commission will present in early 2016 a legislative proposal to lift visa requirements for Georgian citizens holding a biometric passport - amending Regulation (EC) No 539/2001.
The Mobility Partnership launched in 2010 is the political framework for cooperation on migration and mobility issues between the EU and Georgia. About 15 projects are currently ongoing.
From 2014 to 2017: EU assistance increasing
The EU supports Georgia’s reform agenda through financial and technical cooperation. More than 100 projects are currently being carried out in Georgia. On 18 July 2014, Georgia signed a Memorandum of Understanding fixing the priorities for EU cooperation for the period of 2014-2017 with an indicative financial allocation in the range of €335–410 million.
This represents a significant increase in comparison to the previous programming period. Furthermore, additional “more for more” funds could be – and have been - made available under the incentive-based approach. The cooperation is focused on reforming public administration and justice sectors, as well as on agriculture and rural development, thus contributing to economic resilience and diversification, with complementary support being planned for capacity development in support of EU-Georgia agreements as well as for civil society.
Other forms of EU assistance to Georgia
The European Commission, jointly with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has recently put in place the DCFTA Facility for small and medium-sized enterprises to respond to their needs. The main objectives of this initiative are to help enterprises seize new trade opportunities with the EU as well as improve their access to finance.
Additionally, the Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF) is a financial mechanism where EU grants support investments from European Financial Institutions. The instrument is used in Georgia for infrastructure financing in different fields (such as water and sanitation, energy efficiency, and the environment) and for funding small enterprises and agriculture holdings.
Georgia is also benefiting from the EU macro-financial assistance (MFA) of EUR 46 million, half of which is in grants. The first tranche of EUR 23 million was disbursed in 2015 while the second tranche is expected to be disbursed in early 2016.
Georgia participates actively in the regional programmes, which are addressed to all Eastern Partner countries. This includes substantial regional programmes on transport safety and transport connectivity, on environment climate change and green economy, on energy security, renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as Cross-Border Cooperation, where Georgia is part of the sea-crossing Black Sea Programme. Under thematic cooperation, more than 50 projects amounting to more than €14 million have been funded in Georgia over the past four years, mainly benefitting the local civil society.
EU support for conflict resolution
The EU continues to support Georgia’s efforts to overcome the consequences of internal conflicts in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia dating back to the early 1990s as well as to stabilise the situation following the outbreak of hostilities in August 2008. It remains firmly committed to its policy of supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity within its internationally-recognised borders as well as engagement with the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in support of longer term conflict resolution. The EU appointed in July 2003 an EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus (EUSR) (since 2011 - EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia). This underpins the EU's commitment to actively contribute to the peaceful resolution of conflicts and to confidence-building efforts in the South Caucasus, while reaffirming Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty. The EUSR co-chairs together with the UN and OSCE the Geneva International Discussions, launched following the outbreak of hostilities in August 2008.
The EU also deployed a civilian mission in the immediate wake of the August 2008 hostilities, the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia, with a mandate to monitor parties' compliance with the ceasefire agreement. The most visible component of EUMM's work is patrolling the areas adjacent to the Administrative Boundary Lines with the breakaway regions.
Georgia's contribution to peacekeeping
A Framework Agreement on Georgia's participation in the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy operations entered into force in March 2014 and since then, Georgia has already made remarkable contributions to several operations. Their biggest contribution so far, a company of around 156 staff, was to the EUFOR RCA operation in the Central African Republic. Currently Georgia is involved in the EU Military Advisory Mission RCA, the EU Training Mission in Mali, and the EU Advisory Mission Ukraine operations. Since 2014 the EU and Georgia hold staff to staff talks on Common Security and Defence Policy.
Young people involved in EU programmes
In 2014, Georgia participated in the Tempus programme with 35 ongoing projects. 491 students and staff were selected for mobility within partnerships supported by Erasmus Mundus and two students were selected for joint master’s degree. 19 researchers and 132 staff members benefited from Marie Curie actions and two applications were selected for funding under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) under ‘Horizon 2020’. Georgia also participated in the eTwinning plus action with 68 schools. Young people and youth organisations benefited from Erasmus+, with 2,111 participants in mobility projects and 145 taking part in the action for young people and decision-makers in the field of youth.
 It should be noted that due to potential differences in the methodology of reporting trade statistics, the Georgian Statistical Office (Geostat) does not report such significant increase of EU imports from Georgia for the same period.
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