On the EU assistance for Georgia to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 crisis, protect democracy and continue reforms necessary to sustain the economic recovery2020-05-13 | Support to Georgia
Statement by Mr Andrius KUBILIUS, the Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly
The Eastern Partnership region is part of Europe and remains as a geostrategic priority for the European Union. The EU has rapidly taken numerous measures to support the Eastern Partnership countries to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and its social and economic consequences. Overall, the EU is securing in total more than 3 billion euros for the whole EU neighbourhood of which 962 million euros it will direct to the Eastern Partnership region, including Georgia.
As the Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, I would like to draw the attention to a huge support amounting to more than 500 million euros the EU and its international partners are giving on the ground to assist Georgia with implementation of reforms, fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing its social and economic consequences.
A key component of this support is bonded with commitments taken by Georgia, especially in the area of rule of law, fight against corruption, electoral reform, economic governance and transparency. We are here to help Georgia to have the highest standards of judicial system and a transparent electoral process, and we will do all what is necessary to help Georgia and its people to enjoy to the maximum the benefits of open democracy, protection of human rights, economic growth and prosperity.
Since the very beginning of the crisis in March 2020, the EU has been standing behind Georgia. It immediately started providing urgent healthcare assistance, supporting vulnerable groups, and boosting a liquidity of small and medium-sized enterprises, with a total amount of 90 million euros. The medical supplies for Georgia included ventilators, laboratory kits, masks, goggles, gowns, and safety suits to fight the virus in addition to training for medical and laboratory staff in cooperation with WHO. Targeted grants will support the socio-economic development in Georgia, civil society, in particular the most affected by the crisis, and social entrepreneurship, social services and protection of human rights.
In April 2020, the EU has launched a package for Georgia to support social and economic recovery and strengthen state finances with a second tranche of 183 million euros in grants.
Part of the funds will go to facilitate access for Georgian businesses to Lari credit lines and grants to boost and restart businesses. This support will be implemented together with our International Financial Institutions, working with local banks and credit institutions. Negotiations are ongoing with the World Bank, ADB, AFD, KfW and EIB on the increase of their policy-based loans.
Later in April, the EU has endorsed an additional support of 150 million euros in loans for macroeconomic stability of Georgia, which would help protecting citizens and mitigating negative socio-economic consequences. It is important to note that the part of budget support disbursements will be tied to specific conditions for Georgia, in particular to implementation of ongoing reforms in areas of rule of law, judicial and electoral reform. In addition to that, the IMF agreed to increase the current programme for Georgia by 345 million euros, of which more than 280 million are to be disbursed in 2020.
I see unprecedented forthcoming challenges in managing of COVID-19 crisis, which will have a huge impact on public and private sector of Georgia and other Eastern Partnership countries with negative social and economic consequences. Many people will be losing their jobs and businesses, so the public institutions will have to use all social and economic means to address it, which will bring a huge cost on public finances not only to Georgia, but also to a whole Eastern Partnership region.
It will be the EU responsibility to continue supporting Georgia and the other Eastern Partnership countries having chosen the path of European integration reforms. We should be looking into a longer-term support by the EU for economic recovery and reforms, and establish a detailed economic and investment plan for Georgia, in the same manner as it is proposed for the Western Balkans region.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemics, followed by the economic crisis is hitting us all as never before. The only way to overcome this huge unexpected challenge is the one of European solidarity. We remain confident the EU is doing a lot now and will be doing even more tomorrow to assist Georgia and its people.
I sincerely hope, one day Georgia with our joint efforts will be ready to become the member of the EU. As the EU associated country, Georgia I believe understands this responsibility. We know this will not be easy, but we must be ready to face the challenge. Especially today, when the whole Eastern Partnership region is going through the COVID-19 crisis, meddling and disinformation campaigns.
We have to work all together in an atmosphere of trust to protect democracy and achieve this objective. That trust can only build by making progress on fulfilment of commitments and promises made, including the ones reached on 8 March 2020 among all the main political parties in Georgia.