On 23 February 2017, GLOBSEC, in cooperation with the Information Center on NATO and EU and the ELVA-Georgia, organised the expert Workshop on Agriculture, Food Safety and Georgia’s DCFTA implementation entitled “Agriculture – European Experience”. The workshop took place in Tbilisi within the framework of the project “Georgia on EUropean Way” supported by the SlovakAid and by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Georgia. The aim of the workshop was to present the current state of the transition in the agricultural sector and food safety in the context of the Georgia’s implementation of the DCFTA. Welcoming remarks were presented by Ms. Veka Modebadze, Deputy Head of Strategic Communications Department, Office of the State Minister of Georgia on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Mr. Mark van Embden Andres, Director of Elva, and Mr. Jan Cingel, Acting Head of the European Neighbourhood Programme at the GLOBSEC Policy Institute.
The workshop consisted of two panel discussions. The first discussion panel focused on Transition of Agricultural Policy with two distinguished speakers, Ms. Mária Kadlečíková, the representative of the Slovak University of Agriculture, Faculty of Economics and Management, who also formerly served as the UN FAO Representative for Georgia and Mr. Lasha Inauri, Head of EU Integration Department at the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia. The panel discussion focused on the challenges Georgia is facing with the implementation of the DCFTA in context of the policies connected to the agricultural sector and Slovakia’s experience with the harmonisation of its agricultural sector with the standards of the EU prior to becoming a member state.
The second panel discussion was on European Common Market and Food Safety led by two speakers, Mr. Milan Kováč, former Slovak Representative to FAO, former Director of the Slovak Food Research Institute and Mr. Lasha Zivzivadze, Head of Policy and Strategy Division at the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia. The discussion revolved around the benefits for Slovakia joining the EU in regard to food safety and Georgia’s progress in increasing food safety controls and food quality.
The workshop was closed with a presentation of Mr. Zurab Modebadze, Researcher at the Journalism Research and Advocacy Center titled “Implementation of the DCFTA regulation and norms in Georgia”. Mr. Modebadze presented about the methods and means of informatisation and the current state of the DCFTA implementation. During the panel discussions, all speakers emphasised the importance of education. People need to be educated and well informed about the new upcoming rules or regulations, possibilities for grants used for modernisation or development. In Georgia, more than 80% of entities operating in the agricultural sector are small- and medium-sized enterprises located in the countryside. Centralised infocentres therefore cannot spread the news and opportunities among those affected efficiently enough, as it would create asymmetry of informatisation. Newsletters, user-friendly websites, educative videos and on-spot presentations are great tools and investing in it is worth the effort. At the end of the event, short information videos were presented to the public, these information videos will serve for informing the broad public on the issues related to the implementation of the DCFTA in Georgia.
On 24 February 2017, the Slovak representatives Ms. Mária Kadlečíková and Mr. Milan Kováč were welcomed at the Free University of Tbilisi and Agricultural University of Georgia by Mr. Vakhtang Lejava, Rector of the Agricultural University, Ms. Natia Samushia, Vice-Rector of the Agricultural University, Ms. Margaret Shakarashvili, Head of the International Relations Division of the Agricultural University for the sake of discussing the possibilities of cooperation in the future. They agreed to process a memorandum of understanding between the Slovak University of Agriculture and the Agricultural University of Georgia regarding students’ and researchers’ mobility. Both sides are looking forward to deepening the cooperation.
Later that day, the Slovak experts were also welcomed by Mr. Nodar Kereselidze, First Deputy Minister of Agriculture of Georgia. Mr. Kereselidze expressed that the adoption of legislation is not that challenging as its implementation. In addition, he sees education as the biggest challenge—the lack of interest in agriculture on vocational level but also university level. Increasing the opportunities for students’ mobility would increase also the interest of young people in the subject. “All the AA or DCFTA have sense only if people feel welcomed in EU.” With student mobility programmes, this welcome could be warmer.