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On 12-13 October, EU Ambassador to Georgia, Carl Hartzell, visited Guria region, during which he met with local government and civil society, visited EU project sites, and opened Europe Day in Ozurgeti.
“The EU-Georgia relationship is closer than ever, and Georgians, including Gurians, are benefiting from it with visa free travel, access to the EU single market, education exchanges and through a range of EU support programmes.
During my two days in Guria I visited 6 successful EU projects that are helping to create local jobs, support vulnerable people, and launching great initiatives such as Guria’s Tourism Strategy and the Tea Road.
I also found a vibrant civil society and engaged local government, and a lot of aspirations as well as determination. And I got to experience Guria’s wonderful tea fields and nature.
Guria will benefit from increased EU support in the future, as one of four pilot regions for focused EU assistance. I look forward to achieving more together in the years to come.” noted Ambassador Hartzell at the end of his trip.
The trip started with a visit to tea cooperative Nagromari, which is one of 17 cooperatives to receive support through the EU ENPARD programme in Guria. EU support was used to purchase equipment and rehabilitate unused tea fields, and it has been a success: Nagomari has doubled its land and expanded its factory in the last three years.
The Ambassador then met with Gurian civil society organisations to local discuss issues and challenges.
The EU has supported four Gurian municipalities (Ozurgeti, Chokhatauri, Lanchkhuti municipalities and Ozurgeti City Hall) and two civil society organizations (Civil Society Institute and the Young Scientists' Club of Ozurgeti) to create a tourism development strategy for the region. The strategy was elaborated through a participatory approach in order to consider local needs and obtain more benefits for the local population from the region’s natural resources. Ambassador Hartzell met with the parties involved in this process.
The day ended with a concert by Bani, to mark Europe Day in Ozurgeti the next day.
The next morning started with a visit to Redo social enterprise. Supported by the EU through a project with ASB, Redo produces concrete tiles and employs probationers to help them reintegrate into society. It is part of a wider EU support to modernisation of the Georgian penitentiary system.
The next meeting was at Trade House 1, a Ozurgeti supermarket that has benefitted from EU and EBRD “Advice to Small Business” and “Creditline” programmes. N Advice on merchandising and the introduction of a financial accounting and management system have resulted in increase of sales. Recently, TradeHouse 1 became the beneficiary of the CreditLine to acquire modern equipment for starting a bakery.
Ambassador Hartzell then visited a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities in Ozurgeti. The centre receives support from the EU and ASB to expand their services to early intervention, covering children of up to 7 years of age.
Ambassador then visited a guest house in Shemokmendi that received support to expand its tea plantation and develop traditional, old varieties of Georgian teas.
The visit to Guria ended with the official opening of Europe Day in Ozurgeti together with Mayor Konstantine Sharashidze.