Mamuka Bakhtadze, Prime Minister of Georgia
"Let me greet and welcome Cecilia Malmström, EU Trade Commissioner in Georgia. I wish to express my sincere gratitude to her for this visit. We enjoy close cooperation with EU Trade Commissioner and her team, which is very important for further deepening the EU-Georgia relations and especially in trade.
EU-Georgia relations are at all times high and naturally our milestone meeting held on November 21st of the last year has gained a special place in these trending relations. On that very day EU created a format solely for Georgia and we had an opportunity to discuss additional opportunities of EU-Georgia relations with our friends and partners, EU Commissioners in Brussels.
We have been benefiting from the Free Trade Agreement with EU for several years and already have very specific and commendable outcome. Primarily, I wish to focus your attention on the trend in recent years. EU is the largest trade partner of Georgia. It is particularly gratifying that our export is annually increasing to the EU market and we are also extending the list of products exported. It is a welcoming fact that almost 800 companies from Georgia are represented at the EU market. Their label says Made in Georgia, which is of great pride to us and I wish to thank every such company.
Our entrepreneurs have increased incentives to produce high quality safe and environmentally clean products. Georgian honey and fish from the Black sea meet the high quality standards of EU and can already be exported to the European market. In addition, we are working with our European partners on a new list of products to be exported to the European market in future.
With support of the European Commission, we have developed an Export Development Strategy of Georgia, which includes an Action Plan for placing specific products from Georgia at the EU market. I believe that this is a right approach to have not only a general strategy for the development of export, but an action plan also for individual products.
On behalf of the Georgian people, I wish to thank the EU for the support enjoyed by our country in the process of implementation of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area and Association Agreement, along with the support provided by the EU to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which is directly translated into the employment of people and economic growth of the country.
I wish to single own the Financing Agreement for Capacity Building and Support towards this end, within the scope of which Georgia will receive almost 50 million Euros from the EU. Employment of our citizens is a key goal of our Government, while vocational education is the short-cut road to overcoming this challenge. Hence, this project directly correlates with our reform of national significance, which we announced in the education sector and which positions the vocational education at a central place. We will mobilize all our resources to turn education into a dominant sector of our economy.
I wish to single out another Financing Agreement on Economic Development and Market Support in Georgia, within the scope of which 48 million Euros are committed for Georgia. This program aims to facilitate the socio-economic development in Georgia and its regions. Special focus is made on three directions: much quicker resolution of commercial disputes, modernization of financial infrastructure and support in the establishment of market-oriented and innovative business models. Support towards these directions will help us in achieving one of the key goals of our strategy to shape Georgia into an economic hub of the region.
Also, I wish to refer to the DCFTA Facility, an EU program helping our entrepreneurs in gaining access to concessional finance.
At the meeting held today we shared information with EU Trade Commissioner on the Government initiatives towards improving the business environment in the country, economic modernization, human capital development and reform of vocational education, along with our support towards SMEs. We are creating inclusive and sustainable economy, which will be built on the rules of game fit to the interests of our citizens and we have full support of EU towards this end.
We stand ready and it is our motivation to be more integrated within the European family. It is our civilization choice. I believe that a Road Map presented by us on 5th of March in Brussels is a very important step towards this end to make Georgia more approximated with EU structures. Naturally, trade has a decisive role in this realm and I wish to once again thank our European colleagues for this support.
An Informal Ministerial for Trade of EU and Association Partners - Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine was created last year. EU Trade Commissioner was the author of this idea and I wish to once again support this format and thank her for this initiative.
You may well be aware that a wide-scale international conference will be held in Batumi on July 11-12 this year. It will be dedicated to the 10th Anniversary of Eastern Partnership. We will hold a wide-scale investment forum within the scope of it and businesses will be represented there to once again network and discuss what else needs to be done jointly to make sure that trade between EU and Georgia gets further incentivized and advanced to a new level.
And lastly, let me once again express my sincere gratitude to EU Trade Commissioner for visiting Georgia and for the tremendous contribution made by her personally for our integration into the EU. Further deepening of trade relations between Georgia and EU, along with the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, will play a crucial role in the greater integration of Georgia into the European family."
Cecilia Malmström, EU Trade Commissioner
"Thank you very much Prime Minister. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to be in Tbilisi again. It was a pleasure here to take stock of our deepening relations. As the Prime Minister said, there has been a lot of contact last year for instance for the Commission with the Government, meeting Mr. Kobulia who has been several times in Brussels. It was a very successful Association Council Meeting a couple of weeks ago. So, our relations are frequent and tight. As Prime Minister said, EU is Georgia's biggest export market and DCFTA - now five years old - is a success. However, it could work even better and that's why I am here to discuss with the Minister, business, Prime Minister of course and civil society what we can do even more to ensure that the Georgian companies know about the benefits of the Agreement and feel that they have the courage, strength and knowledge to try and access the big EU market. So, together with the Minister of Economy we'll try to identify and we hope that we will have a more strategic view over this very soon of what are the areas where there is potential for Georgia to export to Europe, are there obstacles there that we can identify and overcome these hurdles so that we open up for these possibilities.
Related to this of course is the Government's important work to improve the business climate. Impressive achievements have been done and Government should be congratulated for this. Of course this still needs to be translated into serious growth and to more concrete foreign direct investment here. We see that some is already coming from the European Union firms, but we want this figure to increase even further in the coming years. Of course there is work that still needs to be done to further strengthen and consolidate the business and investment climate in order to boost the Georgian companies' productivity, help to diversify the economy here and then create jobs and growth.
We see that many products are already finding their markets in Europe, but there should be more as well. We are providing loans to Georgian small businesses and farmers. We have lent over 880 million Euros to a total of 37 000 firms, created 10 000 new jobs here in Georgia and supported more than 30 000 existing jobs. So, the DCFTA is on track. It is working, but it needs constant care of course. Ongoing reforms are important and we hope that democratic and institution building reforms continue and are on track. Tremendous goodwill that Georgia enjoys in the world and in the European Union rests on your embrace of our common values of course. So, this is an asset that needs to be nurtured by addressing all the shortcomings for instance that were identified in the last year's presidential elections and continued progress of the judicial reforms and making sure that there is full trust in those reforms by the population and by investors.
We also want to see Georgia thrive so that your young population is eager to work here and to build its future together. That is why economic and social reforms envisaged by the Government is very welcome and best opportunity towards closer economic integration as well.
Improved mobility remains an important pillar of our relationship. The visa-liberalization scheme has enabled 300 000 Georgians to enjoy short-term visa-free travel to Schengen area, which is of course important. Right after this meeting, Prime Minister, I will discuss further with businesses and Business Association at the Business Forum of the EU-Georgia Business Council.
So, thank you very much for your hospitality and thank you for the good cooperation that we have here."