The European Union published today the main conclusions of an assessment of its cooperation with Georgia between 2014 and 2020. The total portfolio of evaluated projects amounted to EUR 939 million. The comprehensive assessment of the exercise was commissioned by the EU Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) and took place between March 2021 and September 2022. Nine assessment questions guided the data collection and analysis, which included review of over 2000 documents and interviews with over 95 stakeholders.
The aim of the evaluation was “to better understand what worked, what did not work and under what conditions, in order to learn lessons and influence future EU policies, programs and actions in Georgia”.
As a result, several of the conclusions address internal issues and commend the strong institutional set-up, a strategic way in which available funding instruments have been used, and the efficiency of implementation and learning from results. The report finds insufficient visibility of the EU contribution, but says the EU delegation has taken steps to address this deficiency.
Impact on Reforms
Some of the most relevant conclusions are real with the achievement of results in all sectors.
- Agriculture and Rural Development: The assessment notes that the impact on crop production and productivity is difficult to document, but EU support helped Georgia improve sanitary and phytosanitary measures and food safety.
- Public administration reform and public finance management: The assessment states that public trust in government institutions has declined and their effectiveness remains law, with citizens experiencing public administration as “deficit”. Unspecified progress is noted in relation to accountability and transparency.
- justice and rule of law: The evaluators note “significant progress” on gender-based violence, juvenile justice, legal aid and access to justice, and say “limited progress” has been made in ensuring judicial independence, and highlight “clear cases of backsliding” in relation to democracy and humanity forth rights.
- Economic development: If one finds that the political and institutional framework for small and medium-sized enterprises and vocational training has improved, the two areas are not sufficiently linked. The assessment shows good progress in EU convergence, which has led to an increase in exports, but they have mostly not moved further up the value chain.
- connectivity: In terms of boosting energy, infrastructure and transport links with the EU, “groundwork” has been laid for approximation to the EU acquis, says the report, but “projects are slow to deliver”.
- Interpersonal contacts and mobility: The report best complements the results of visa liberalization and Erasmus+ projects. However, it notes that there has been little impact on labor mobility.
In assessing the implementation context, the evaluation report notes a “loss of trust in public institutions and democracy” and points to the continuing high level of popular support for Europe. He emphasizes the resilience of Georgian civil society and its proactive efforts to support the European path, “despite increasingly strained relations with the state authorities”.
In line with their objective, the evaluators made a number of recommendations to the EU, some of which related to technical aspects of the assistance. It recommends a “more critical approach” in areas of capacity building and support for the judiciary, rule of law and democratic governance. In judiciary reform and public administration reform, an improvement in the conditionality approach is suggested as desirable – ie linking the disbursement of financial support, e.g. Also in the field of justice, rule of law and democratic governance, the assessment suggests “identifying areas of regression and adjusting the cooperation program accordingly”. The report also recommends maximizing “synergies between political and economic cooperation – which are mutually supportive”.