Delegation of the European Union to Georgia

Ambassador Carl Hartzell on teaching and learning the European Union

21/10/2021 - 14:55
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To celebrate Erasmus+ Days, Ambassador Carl Hartzell delivered a keynote speech on the importance and relevance of the study of the European Union at Caucasus University on 15 October, 2021.

“How to teach EU in formal and informal environment”

Keynote Speech by EU Ambassador Hartzell


Let me start by thanking Professor Shengelia, and the Caucasus University, for hosting today’s event, as well as our close and very energetic partner Dr. Glonti. As well as professors, teachers and students who have come here today.

There is a saying that you need to know thy enemy, which is wise. But let’s not forget the importance of knowing thy friends – especially when you have such a complex and complicated friend as the European Union!

I was myself once a so-called “distinguished visiting professor” in European studies at the University of Wyoming, USA.

  • To me, as an EU diplomat, this was a fascinating experience, which got me to understand, from an academic angle, what I had been doing in practise for more than a decade before that. How it works, and why it works?
  • Moreover, it gave me an opportunity to bring a bit of this knowledge also to Georgia as – by chance – it turned out that one of my students was a young man from Georgia. A student who later returned to Georgia to pursue – among other things – a successful tenure as a Member of the Georgian Parliament.


Why is the study of the European Union an important topic?


First, as mentioned, it is good to know your friends.

The EU is a sui generis construction. Not like the UN, OSCE etc. It is vastly more complex, and vastly more important to anyone of its Member States.

It is multilateral, but only to an extent – with ever-growing powers given to the institutions to handle or to lead the way in key policy areas.

Not knowing who exactly does what between the institutions, and how they interact with Member States, means you will be much less efficient in your diplomatic or other interactions with the European Union.


Second, understanding the history and evolution of the European project, not only gives insights into a path – that could be replicated elsewhere – towards peace and prosperity, but also a deep insight into the psyche of the European mind – whether applied to policy-making in the EU itself or in its approach to external relations.

From an inspired, but defensive, leading thought of creating a coal and steel union to avoid future wars, to a step-by-step approach towards pooling resources and voluntarily handing over competencies that most other states in the world would consider as sovereign – starting with trade, borders, agricultural policy and a common currency – the EU is a unique project.

But even as a practitioner within the EU system, you rarely stop to ask yourself how this evolutionary process has come about, and why the evolution continues. It gave me great pleasure to study theories such as neo-functionalism, when in Wyoming, as I could testify from my own experience to its explanatory merits.


Third, it gives you confidence and an understanding of what the EU wishes for a partner such as Georgia.

One of the important – even crucial – conclusions that EU Member States have drawn from the European project is that evolution takes patience. We have learned the virtues of negotiation, and that one way of being successful in negotiations is to never stop negotiating. We have learned to admire a compromise, and the possibility of creating win-win situations, which are usually more lasting than win-lose scenarios.

Along these lines, EU Member States learned early that having stable and prosperous neighbours is better than to have weak and poor ones. The EU internal market builds on the notion that trade is a two-way win, that both outgoing and incoming investments bring benefits, that having partners to advance research and technology stands a better chance than trying to do it alone, etc.

In Georgia, the EU is looking for such a partner. We want Georgia to succeed. We want it to be stable and prosperous, and we are convinced that democracy, the rule of law, and a market economy are among the key ingredients to achieving this.

Robert Cooper, a good friend of mine and a European scholar, once made a comparison between EU and US foreign policy, where he took the quote of former US President Roosevelt as the starting-point. Roosevelt once famously said that good diplomacy is about “speaking softly and carry a big stick”. Robert Cooper argued that EU diplomacy was about “speaking softly and carry a big carrot”. It might be overly simplified, but it makes an important point.

So what is this carrot here in Georgia?

First, we have a very ambitious Association Agreement between the EU and Georgia, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area that has opened up the whole EU market to Georgian exports. Because we know that this is a win-win policy.

Now, it has to be said that we want much more Georgian exports to the EU than what currently is the case. Sure, the EU is Georgia’s biggest trading partner, but export growth remains sluggish, principally because of the high quality and quantity standards it takes to reach the EU market. However, we are working side by side with Georgia also on this – getting the right legislation in place, helping Georgian companies to get started and apply EU standards, work together, and find partners in Europe – the whole value chain. Slowly but surely we are getting there. In this context, another piece of good news is that once you have a product that is fit for the EU market, it is fit everywhere in the world – because the EU sets the golden standard for global trade!

The EU is also Georgia’s biggest donor here, where my Delegation has been spending some 120M EURO annually, roughly divided into 40% for economic and business development, 20% for institution-building and good governance, 15% for the environment and connectivity, 10% for people-to-people contacts and mobility, and another 15% divided into a plethora of areas such as support to civil society, participation to EU programmes and communication.

We have also invested a lot of efforts into Georgia’s European integration agenda, through the visa-free regime, which both sides cherish and keep working on to make sure it functions properly. In addition, there will be more efforts invested into Georgia’s connectivity agenda in the future, where the EU - together with the EIB and EBRD - will endeavour to leverage new, strategic investments across the Black Sea – and turn it from waters of division to a bridge for cooperation and integration.

Does our assistance come without strings attached? Of course it doesn’t! However, these conditions are not coming in terms of asks for preferential treatments, contracts, personal favours or anything of the like. It comes principally with demands for reforms. It comes with demands on the government and parliament to continue leading the country on its way towards modernization, based on the lessons-learned and the best examples and practises we can offer in the European Union.


Fourth, and finally on my list of arguments, I would make the case that studies of the European Union can also serve as a mirror to hold up before a country like Georgia; for politicians, civil servants, academics, as well as ordinary citizens.

I spoke earlier about the EU tradition of negotiations, about the virtues of making compromises, and of the need to identify and fight for win-win situations. I believe many in this room would agree that there might be lessons here for Georgia, starting from the situation of a very polarized political environment, where – arguably – the virtue of compromise is not held in high enough esteem. And where the notion of finding win-win solutions, tend to be thrown under the bus, for more maximalist objectives.

I will not elaborate further on this point. It is just to say, that everyone can profit from learning from others and considering what might be worth importing in terms of ideas.

If what I have just presented might be taken as arguments for why studies of the European Union is important, let me stress that the EU is also very much engaged in developing such possibilities here in Georgia.

Erasmus+ has been a tremendous success here in Georgia. Georgia is in fact ranked amongst the top-10 countries globally when it comes to Erasmus+ student exchanges, which demonstrates both the keen interest of Georgian students to study in the EU, and the attraction that Georgian universities have for students in Europe.

Jean Monnet actions, for which today’s discussion serves as an example, is another important area to bring about greater knowledge about the European Union. We have currently 16 Jean Monnet projects being implemented by Georgian universities and NGO’s, which is not bad, but arguably, a cooperation that still has a lot of untapped growth potential.


With these words, I would like to wrap up my presentation here today and wish you all good discussions this afternoon.


To all Georgian institutions, professors, teachers and students, who are devoted to studies of the European Union, and to advancing the EU-Georgia agenda, I salute you!


Didi madloba!

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