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Georgia's European destiny

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On 18 June 2020 the Eastern Partnership Heads of State Summit was held in Brussels. The Eastern Partnership, which is linked to the European Neighbourhood Policy, is a joint initiative launched in 2009 between the European Union (EU), its member states and six countries of Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, writes Centre for Foreign Policy Analysis Director of Publication Analyst Didier Chaudet (www.capeurope.eu).

The aim is to support regional co-operation with the main priorities of security, prosperity, democracy and the rule of law. While the aim is to export the EU's values and promote trade relations with the countries in the area, it does not offer them a prospect of immediate accession. However, one country has made particularly great efforts in recent years to bring itself into line with European standards and it makes no secret of its pro-European intentions: Georgia.

In July 2019, the Republic of Georgia President Salome Zurabishvili (French-speaking, former French diplomat and a graduate of Sciences Po Paris) stated unequivocally that her country's objective was to one day become a member state of the EU. She even confided that Georgia "would be very happy to take the place left by [the United Kingdom]"! A country on the road to reform For several years the European Union and Georgia have been working to strengthen their bilateral relations. An Association Agreement and a comprehensive and deep free trade treaty entered into force on 1 July 2016.

Georgian citizens also benefit from the possibility of visa-free travel within the Schengen area since 28 March 2017. Through these treaties, Georgia reaffirms its commitment to the common values that determine the raison d'être of the European Union. On 29 June Georgia took another important step towards the EU, when the parliament adopted the amendments necessary for the electoral reform.

Without a doubt, this reform is a great victory for democracy in the country: it strengthens proportional representation, and makes sure no single party could obtain a disproportionate concentration of power. This way, it avoids the possibility for one single party to change the constitution single-handedly. On the economic front, the reforms undertaken by the Georgian government have already produced excellent results: the EU being its main trading partner, it continues to align its legislation with European norms and standards in order to facilitate trade. Georgia will of course be impacted by COVID-19, but it should nevertheless be noted that the country has enjoyed solid economic growth in recent years (GDP growth was +4.8% in 2018).

This success is due to the structural reforms that have been undertaken by the current Government and, in particular, thanks to the country's openness to foreign investment and trade. Strong administrative simplification measures have improved the business environment. According to the classification established by the World Bank in 2020, Georgia ranks 7th out of 190 countries in the "ease of doing business" index, whereas France, for example, only ranks 32nd. Of course, Europe is not limited to its economic dimensions. On issues of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, the Georgian Dream led government has also embarked on a reform process aimed at strengthening the independence of the judiciary, the functioning of institutions and the fight against corruption.

Last year Georgia adopted a fourth package of measures in the field of the judiciary. In its annual report on the implementation of the Association Agreement, the European Commission highlighted the improvements made on the issues of disciplinary violations, the rules of operation of the High Court of Justice and the reform of the latter, in particular as it is obliged to justify all its decisions. With regard to the procedures relating to judicial proceedings, the separation of the functions of investigator and prosecutor was enacted in 2019. While these points may seem technical, they prove the path taken by the Georgian government to ensure a more efficient justice system clearly separated from the executive and legislative branches.

The country is equally continuing to implement an anti-corruption strategy that is showing convincing results. In 2019, Transparency International ranks Georgia 44th in the Corruption Perceptions Index. The country ranks ahead of official candidate countries and countries in negotiations to join the EU (Serbia ranks 91st and Montenegro 66th). Above all, it does better than some EU member states (for example, Italy ranks 51st and Malta 50th). Georgia has acceded to the European Convention on Human Rights and for the first time in its history Georgia chaired the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from November 2019 to May 2020. The Georgian Foreign Minister, David Zalkaliani, made it clear that his country would work during these six months to strengthen human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

The country is continuing its efforts to ensure respect for fundamental rights. In May 2019, Georgia adopted a number of laws to eliminate, inter alia, all forms of discrimination and to protect the rights of the child. With regard to freedom of expression and the media, the index compiled by Reporters Without Borders ranked Georgia 60th out of 180 countries in 2019. Here again, it does much better than the EU candidate countries (Montenegro 105th and Serbia 93rd) or some EU member states (Bulgaria 111th, Greece 65th). Georgia already benefits from some European projects, such as the Erasmus + exchange programme. Last year they signed a cooperation agreement with the European judicial agency Eurojust. Georgia also works with Europol and the police services of the member states in the fight against organised crime. Finally, on the military front, despite being a non-EU country, Georgie has proved its solidarity as evidenced by the sending of 32 soldiers to the EU Military Training Mission in the Central African Republic. They also sent an officer to Mali.

Symbolic gestures perhaps, but significant of an understanding of security issues for Europe. Giving Georgia a European perspective Georgia has thus clearly embarked on the European path and the government led by Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia is making every effort to do so. Of course, it wants to be realistic because it is well aware that European capitals are cautious when it comes to EU enlargement. The difficulties experienced by the western Balkan countries that are already candidates or potential candidates in obtaining a clear vision of their entry into the European club reflect the road still to be travelled by Georgia. And yet this country of 4 million inhabitants has its rightful place in Europe by virtue of its history and geography.

President Zurabishvili recalls Georgia's historically European and Christian roots, which go back to the fourth century. She also likes to point out that Georgian women were granted the right to vote as early as 1918, when the country became a democratic and parliamentary republic, before being invaded by Soviet Russia in 1921. Although the Caucasus region may seem remote to a Western European, it should be recalled that for General de Gaulle, Europe is defined "from the Atlantic to the mountain ranges of the Urals".

For him it was "nonsense and a bad policy to separate Eastern Europe from its Western part" when Europe would be in a position "to decide the fate of the world". Over and above geopolitical considerations, it was also a question of responding to the aspirations of a people, the vast majority of whom wanted to be part of the European family. The latest opinion polls indicate that almost 80% of the population wants to join the EU. The policies and reforms carried out by Mrs Zurabishvili and Mr Gakharia only reflect an entire people's desire for democracy, freedom and prosperity.

The European Union must therefore prepare itself so that it can one day welcome this country into its midst. If it wants to continue to carry weight on the world stage, Europe must review its geostrategic position, including redefining its borders, and it must, of course, reform itself internally in order to be able to take decisions effectively at more than 27. The EU should be able to think about its development in the longer term, and prepare itself to one day welcome countries such as Georgia into its midst, when history, and even more so the political choices made by these countries, make them natural candidates for entry into the Union. This will, of course, involve internal reform work so that decisions can be taken efficiently, by more than 27 countries.

Redefining the way it operates while at the same time deepening relations with Georgia is the way forward for the EU. We must seize the opportunity and support a government that has chosen the path to the European Union. The support must be firm and unequivocal, otherwise we will disappoint a people who are fully committed, for the time being, to the European cause.

Climate change

Big business seeks unified, market-based approaches ahead of climate summit

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Corporate executives and investors say they want world leaders at next week’s climate summit to embrace a unified and market-based approach to slashing their carbon emissions, write Ross Kerber and Simon Jessop.

The request reflects the business world’s growing acceptance that the world needs to sharply reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as its fear that doing so too quickly could lead governments to set heavy-handed or fragmented rules that choke international trade and hurt profits.

The United States is hoping to reclaim its leadership in combating climate change when it hosts the 22-23 April Leaders Summit on Climate.

Key to that effort will be pledging to cut US emissions by at least half by 2030, as well as securing agreements from allies to do the same.

“Climate change is a global problem, and what companies are looking to avoid is a fragmented approach where the US, China and the EU each does its own thing, and you wind up with a myriad of different methodologies,” said Tim Adams, chief executive of the Institute of International Finance, a Washington-based trade association.

He said he hopes U.S. President Joe Biden and the 40 other world leaders invited to the virtual summit will move toward adopting common, private-sector solutions to reaching their climate goals, such as setting up new carbon markets, or funding technologies like carbon-capture systems.

Private investors have increasingly been supportive of ambitious climate action, pouring record amounts of cash into funds that pick investments using environmental and social criteria.

That in turn has helped shift the rhetoric of industries that once minimized the risks of climate change.

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents oil companies, for example, said last month it supported steps to reduce emissions such as putting a price on carbon and accelerating the development of carbon capture and other technologies.

API Senior Vice President Frank Macchiarola said that in developing a new U.S. carbon cutting target, the United States should balance environmental goals with maintaining U.S. competitiveness.

“Over the long-term, the world is going to demand more energy, not less, and any target should reflect that reality and account for the significant technological advancements that will be required to accelerate the pace of emissions reductions,” Macchiarola said.

Labor groups like the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of U.S. labor unions, meanwhile, back steps to protect U.S. jobs like taxing goods made in countries that have less onerous emissions regulations.

AFL-CIO spokesman Tim Schlittner said the group hopes the summit will produce “a clear signal that carbon border adjustments are on the table to protect energy-intensive sectors”.

Industry wish lists

Automakers, whose vehicles make up a big chunk of global emissions, are under pressure to phase out petroleum-fueled internal combustion engines. Industry leaders General Motors Co and Volkswagen have already declared ambitious plans to move toward selling only electric vehicles.

But to ease the transition to electric vehicles, US and European automakers say they want subsidies to expand charging infrastructure and encourage sales.

The National Mining Association, the US industry trade group for miners, said it supports carbon capture technology to reduce the industry’s climate footprint. It also wants leaders to understand that lithium, copper and other metals are needed to manufacture electric vehicles.

“We hope that the summit brings new attention to the mineral supply chains that underpin the deployment of advanced energy technologies, such as electric vehicles,” said Ashley Burke, the NMA’s spokeswoman.

The agriculture industry, meanwhile, is looking for market-based programs to help it cut its emissions, which stack up to around 25% of the global total.

Industry giants such as Bayer AG and Cargill Inc have launched programs encouraging farming techniques that keep carbon in the soil.

Biden’s Department of Agriculture is looking to expand such programs, and has suggested creating a “carbon bank” that could pay farmers for carbon capture on their farms.

For their part, money managers and banks want policymakers to help standardize accounting rules for how companies report environmental and other sustainability-related risks, something that could help them avoid laggards on climate change.

“Our industry has an important role to play in supporting companies’ transition to a more sustainable future, but to do so it is vital we have clear and consistent data on the climate-related risks faced by companies,” said Chris Cummings, CEO of the Investment Association in London.

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Brexit

UK asks for more time to respond to EU Brexit legal action: RTE TV

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Britain has asked for more time to respond to legal action taken by the European Union over its unilateral decision to ease requirements of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Ireland’s RTE television reported on Wednesday (14 April), writes Conor Humphries.

“The request came in two letters from the UK’s chief Brexit minister David Frost,” RTE correspondent Tony Connelly said in a Twitter post.

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EU

Team Europe increased Official Development Assistance to €66.8 billion as the world's leading donor in 2020

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The EU and its 27 member states have significantly increased their Official Development Assistance (ODA) for partner countries to €66.8 billion in 2020. This is a 15% increase in nominal terms and equivalent to 0.50% of collective Gross National Income (GNI), up from 0.41% in 2019, according to preliminary figures published today by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC). The EU and its member states thereby confirm their position as the world's leading donor, providing 46% of global assistance from the EU and other DAC donors, and have taken a major leap forward towards meeting the commitment to provide at least 0.7% of collective GNI as ODA by 2030.

International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen said: “Team Europe has significantly increased its contribution of Official Development Assistance compared to last year. This is crucial at a time when so many people in our partner countries face significant health, economic and social challenges linked to the COVID-19 crisis. The latest figures show that 10 years ahead of the due date to deliver on our commitment to provide 0.7% of our collective GNI as ODA, we are more determined than ever to achieve this target.”

Overall, 17 Member States increased their ODA in nominal terms in 2020 compared to 2019, with the strongest nominal increases coming from Germany (+€3.310bn), France (+€1.499bn) and Sweden (+€921 million), and further increases coming from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. The EU institutions' ODA (meaning the European Commission and the EIB) increased by €3.7bn (27%) overall in 2020 in nominal terms. 15 member states improved their ODA relative to their GNI by at least 0.01 percentage points: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. In Cyprus and Greece, ODA as a share of GNI decreased by at least 0.01 percentage points.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the EU, its member states, and the European financial institutions, together with the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, have combined their financial resources as Team Europe, mobilising over €40bn in support to partner countries in 2020. 65% of this amount was already disbursed in 2020 in support of the immediate humanitarian needs; health, water, sanitation and nutrition systems, as well as tackling the social and economic consequences of the pandemic. The unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 crisis has put a huge stress on public finances and debt sustainability of many developing countries, affecting their ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This is why, in May 2020, President von der Leyen called for a Global Recovery Initiative, linking debt relief and investment to the SDGs to promote a green, digital, just and resilient recovery. The Global Recovery Initiative is about shifting to policy choices supporting green and digital transitions, social inclusiveness and human development while enhancing debt sustainability in partner countries.

ODA is one of the sources of financing to deliver on the SDGs, although more transparency is needed on all sources of finance for sustainable development. As an important step in that direction, data on Total Official Support for Sustainable Development (TOSSD) has been collected and published for the first time, increasing transparency on all officially-supported resources for the SDGs, including South-South co-operation, support to global public goods such as vaccine research and climate mitigation as well as private finance mobilized by official interventions.

Background

The data published today is based on preliminary information reported by the EU Member States to the OECD pending detailed final data to be published by OECD by early 2022. EU collective ODA consists of the total ODA spending of EU member states and the ODA of the EU institutions not attributed to individual member states or the UK (notably own resources of the European Investment Bank and, for the first time in 2020, special macro-financial assistance loans on a grant equivalent basis).

Despite its withdrawal from the European Union taking effect on 1 February 2020, the United Kingdom still contributed funding in the form of ODA to the EU budget and the European Development Fund in 2020. This is included in the EU institutions' ODA. However, in order to avoid double-counting between the ODA reported as EU collective ODA and the ODA reported by the United Kingdom itself, the United Kingdom's contribution to EU institutions is not included in what is reported as EU collective ODA.

Four EU member states already exceeded the 0.7% target of ODA as a share of GNI in 2020: Sweden (1.14%), Luxembourg (1.02%), Denmark (0.73%) and Germany (0.73%).

When highlighting the member states which increased or decreased their ODA as a share of GNI, only cases where the change amounts to at least 0.01 percentage points (based on exact rather than rounded values) are taken into account, while member states for which the change is smaller than 0.01 percentage points in either direction are considered to have kept their ODA as a share of GNI stable.

The EU and its member states thereby perform significantly above the average of non-EU DAC donors in terms of their ODA as a share of GNI, standing at 0.50% compared to 0.26% by the aggregate of all non-EU DAC donors.

In May 2015, the European Council reaffirmed its commitment to increase collective ODA to 0.7% of EU collective GNI by 2030. Since 2015, on a flow basis, ODA by the EU and its current 27 member states has grown by 37% (€18.7bn) in nominal terms while the ODA/GNI ratio has increased by 0.1 percentage points. The year 2020 marks a turn in the previous trend of declining ODA since the 2016 climax when the EU and its then 28 member states' ODA reached 0.52% of GNI. This turn is due partly to an absolute increase in collective ODA in nominal terms, and partly to an absolute decrease in collective GNI in nominal terms. The EU is also committed to give collectively between 0.15% and 0.20% of the EU GNI in the short term to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and 0.20% by 2030. Since 2015, on a flow basis, ODA by the EU and its current 27 member states to LDCs has grown by 34% (€3.5bn) in nominal terms to reach €13.8bn (0.10% of GNI) in 2019, and the ODA to LDCs/GNI ratio has increased by 0.01 percentage points. Moreover, compared to 2018, the EU and its then 28 member states increased their aggregate ODA to Africa by 3.6% in nominal terms to €25.9bn in 2019. Data on ODA to LDCs, Africa and other specific recipients for 2020 are expected by early 2022.

Scaling up sustainable finance and private sector engagement in partner countries is essential, coupled with reforms to enhance business climates, as meeting the challenges of the Global Recovery Initiative cannot be achieved by ODA alone. The EU has been instrumental in bringing together aid, investment, trade, domestic resource mobilisation and policies designed to unlock the full potential of all financial flows. The European Fund for Sustainable Development guarantee in particular has played a key role in unlocking additional finance for partner countries. Over the last year alone, the EU signed €1.55bn worth of financial guarantees with our partner financial institutions, leveraging over €17bn of investments – also helping to ensure that recovery from the pandemic is green, digital, just and resilient.

More information

Q&A on preliminary figures on 2020 Official Development Assistance for the EU and its member states 

Annex Preliminary Figures on 2020 Official Development Assistance, Tables and Graphs for the EU and its member states

Commission's publication of figures on the global COVID-19 response

OECD press release

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