In 2018, Georgia confirmed its strong commitment to political association to and economic integration with the EU, as highlighted by its government’s high-level meeting with European Commissioners in November, and substantial progress in delivering on its Association Agreement commitments.
Today, the 3rd Association Implementation Report on Georgia was released. This report sets out the state-of-play of Georgia’s implementation of its commitments under the EU-Georgia Association Agreement over the past year, ahead of the EU-Georgia Association Council, to be held in Brussels on 5 March 2019. The report highlights that continued legislative reform and steady implementation of rules and standards in line with the Association Agreement are crucial to allow Georgian citizens to fully reap the benefits of this close relationship between the EU and Georgia.
“The European Union and Georgia have excellent relations that we further intensified over the past year. Since March 2017, more than 300,000 Georgian citizens have been able to travel visa-free to the Schengen area for short stays, and since 2009, more than 63,000 businesses and farmers have received loans. The European Union will continue to accompany and support the Georgian authorities in implementing important reforms under the Association Agenda, which provides priorities for our joint work until 2020 – reforms that are bringing more and more benefits to Georgian and EU’s citizens alike”, said the High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini.
“The implementation of the Association Agreement continues to bring positive results to Georgian and EU citizens. The implementation of the agreed actions of our High-level Meeting back in November will provide further momentum to our relationship. The EU is Georgia’s largest trade partner and we will cooperate to further develop Georgia’s export potential. In September 2018, the first European School outside the EU was launched in Tbilisi, and Georgia is stepping up its participation in programmes such as Erasmus+, encouraging student and youth exchanges”, said the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn.
This 3rd Report takes stock of Georgia’s implementation of the Association Agreement and in particular the Association Agenda since the last EU-Georgia Association Council of 5 February 2018. Overall, Association Agreement commitments, including as regards its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, have been implemented in line with agreed timelines. Over the past year, Georgia has made progress in strengthening its democratic institutions, in the framework of the constitutional reform process and public administration reform. The Presidential elections were held in an overall competitive environment but also raised some shortcomings. Modest progress was made in reforming the justice sector, but challenges remain to consolidate the results achieved and to make further progress in this area. In that regard, it is noteworthy that the 4th wave of legislative reform was initiated upon establishment of the Parliament-led platform for judiciary reforms. Going forward it is important for the Georgian government to continue fostering an open dialogue with all political actors and civil society. In the past reporting period, Georgian authorities also continued their efforts to tackle the issues regarding irregular migration.
The report underlines the benefits for Georgian citizens of the country’s economic integration with the EU though the implementation of its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area commitments. With the progressive approximation of technical regulations and standards with those of the EU, Georgia has been increasingly able to strengthen its participation in international value chains. Regarding external trade, the EU continued to be the most important partner of Georgia, with a 27% share in the country’s overall trade in 2017. Preliminary data for 2018 suggests a continuation of this trend. The opening of the EU market to new animal-origin products from Georgia was an important milestone in this regard.
Last year marked the 10 year anniversary of the conflict between Russia and Georgia. The European Union continues to firmly support Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders. The European Union’s commitment to peaceful conflict-resolution remains as strong as ever, through the work of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia and the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia. In June 2018, the Georgian Parliament adopted a legislative package “A Step for a Better Future” to promote peace and opportunities for the people in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia also continues to be an important partner of the EU in the area of security, the fight against terrorism and transnational organised crime. Georgia also participates in the EU-led missions and operations, which contribute to increasing the resilience of countries worldwide and strengthening the EU’s role as a global security provider.
Post-COVID-19, regaining citizen’s trust should be a priority for governments
The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated governments’ ability to respond to a major global crisis with extraordinary flexibility, innovation and determination. However, emerging evidence suggests that much more could have been done in advance to bolster resilience and many actions may have undermined trust and transparency between governments and their citizens, according to a new OECD report.
Government at a Glance 2021 says that one of the biggest lessons of the pandemic is that governments will need to respond to future crises at speed and scale while safeguarding trust and transparency. “Looking forward, we must focus simultaneously on promoting the economic recovery and avoiding democratic decline” said OECD Director of Public Governance Elsa Pilichowski. “Reinforcing democracy should be one of our highest priorities.”
Countries have introduced thousands of emergency regulations, often on a fast track. Some alleviation of standards is inevitable in an emergency, but must be limited in scope and time to avoid damaging citizen perceptions of the competence, openness, transparency, and fairness of government.
Governments should step up their efforts in three areas to boost trust and transparency and reinforce democracy:
Tackling misinformation is key. Even with a boost in trust in government sparked by the pandemic in 2020, on average only 51% of people in OECD countries for which data is available trusted their government. There is a risk that some people and groups may be dissociating themselves from traditional democratic processes.
It is crucial to enhance representation and participation in a fair and transparent manner. Governments must seek to promote inclusion and diversity, support the representation of young people, women and other under-represented groups in public life and policy consultation. Fine-tuning consultation and engagement practices could improve transparency and trust in public institutions, says the report. Governments must also level the playing field in lobbying. Less than half of countries have transparency requirements covering most of the actors that regularly engage in lobbying.
Strengthening governance must be prioritised to tackle global challenges while harnessing the potential of new technologies. In 2018, only half of OECD countries had a specific government institution tasked with identifying novel, unforeseen or complex crises. To be fit for the future, and secure the foundations of democracy, governments must be ready to act at speed and scale while safeguarding trust and transparency.
Governments must also learn to spend better, according to Government at a Glance 2021. OECD countries are providing large amounts of support to citizens and businesses during this crisis: measures ongoing or announced as of March 2021 represented, roughly, 16.4% of GDP in additional spending or foregone revenues, and up to 10.5% of GDP via other means. Governments will need to review public spending to increase efficiency, ensure that spending priorities match people’s needs, and improve the quality of public services.
Sweden: Invest in skills and the digital economy to bolster the recovery from COVID-19
Sweden’s economy is on the road to recovery from the shock of the COVID-19 crisis, yet risks remain. Moving ahead with a labour reform to facilitate adaptation in a fast-changing economic environment, and investing in digital skills and infrastructure, will be crucial to revive employment and build a sustainable recovery, according to the latest OECD Economic Survey of Sweden.
The pandemic triggered a severe recession in Sweden, despite mild distancing measures and swift government action to protect people and businesses. GDP fell by less than in many other European economies in 2020, thanks to reinforced short-time work, compensation to firms for lost revenue and measures to prop up the financial system, but unemployment still rose sharply. Solid public finances provided room for further stimulus in 2021 to buttress the recovery.
The Survey recommends maintaining targeted support to people and firms until the pandemic subsides, then focusing on strengthening vocational training and skills and increasing investment in areas like high-speed internet and low-carbon transport. Addressing regional inequality, which is low but rising, should also be a priority as the recovery takes hold.
The Survey shows that Sweden has been among the most resilient OECD countries in the face of a historic shock. Yet, like other economies, it faces challenges from demographic changes and the shift to green, digital economies. Investments in education and training, and labour reforms along the lines negotiated by the social partners, will support job creation and strengthen economic resilience. Building on Sweden’s leadership in digital innovation and diffusion will also be key for driving productivity.
After a 3% contraction in 2020, interrupting several years of growth, the Survey projects a rebound in activity with 3.9% growth in 2021 and 3.4% in 2022 as industrial production resumes and exports recover. The recovery in world trade is bolstering the Swedish economy, however the country remains vulnerable to potential disruptions in global value chains.
|The pandemic has aggravated a mismatch in Sweden’s job market, with unfilled vacancies for highly qualified workers coinciding with high unemployment for low-skilled workers and immigrants. The public employment service needs strengthening to provide better support to jobseekers, including immigrants and women, and labour policies should strike the right balance between supporting businesses and workers and supporting transitions away from declining businesses towards growing sectors.|
A rising share of youths and older people in the population, especially in remote areas, is affecting the finances of local governments, which provide the bulk of welfare services. Strengthening local government budgets and ensuring equal welfare provision across the country will require providing tax income to poorer regions more efficiently and raising the economic growth potential across regions through investments in innovation. Improving coordination between government entities and reinforcing the role of universities in local economic networks would help achieve that aim.
Fewer women than men will regain work during COVID-19 recovery
Fewer women will regain jobs lost to the COVID-19 pandemic during the recovery period, than men, according to a new study released on Monday by the UN’s labour agency.
In Building Forward Fairer: Women’s rights to work and at work at the core of the COVID-19 recovery, the International Labour Organization (ILO) highlights that between 2019 and 2020, women’s employment declined by 4.2 per cent globally, representing 54 million jobs, while men suffered a three per cent decline, or 60 million jobs.
This means that there will be 13 million fewer women in employment this year compared to 2019, but the number of men in work will likely recover to levels seen two years ago.
This means that only 43 per cent of the world’s working-age women will be employed in 2021, compared to 69 per cent of their male counterparts.
The ILO paper suggests that women have seen disproportionate job and income losses because they are over-represented in the sectors hit hardest by lockdowns, such as accommodation, food services and manufacturing.
Not all regions have been affected in the same way. For example, the study revealed that women’s employment was hit hardest in the Americas, falling by more than nine per cent.
This was followed by the Arab States at just over four per cent, then Asia-Pacific at 3.8 per cent, Europe at 2.5 per cent and Central Asia at 1.9 per cent.
In Africa, men’s employment dropped by just 0.1 per cent between 2019 and 2020, while women’s employment decreased by 1.9 per cent.
Throughout the pandemic, women faired considerably better in countries that took measures to prevent them from losing their jobs and allowed them to get back into the workforce as early as possible.
In Chile and Colombia, for example, wage subsidies were applied to new hires, with higher subsidy rates for women.
And Colombia and Senegal were among those nations which created or strengthened support for women entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, in Mexico and Kenya quotas were established to guarantee that women benefited from public employment programmes.
To address these imbalances, gender-responsive strategies must be at the core of recovery efforts, says the agency.
It is essential to invest in the care economy because the health, social work and education sectors are important job generators, especially for women, according to ILO.
Moreover, care leave policies and flexible working arrangements can also encourage a more even division of work at home between women and men.
The current gender gap can also be tackled by working towards universal access to comprehensive, adequate and sustainable social protection.
Promoting equal pay for work of equal value is also a potentially decisive and important step.
Domestic violence and work-related gender-based violence and harassment has worsened during the pandemic – further undermining women’s ability to be in the workforce – and the report highlights the need to eliminate the scourge immediately.
Promoting women’s participation in decision-making bodies, and more effective social dialogue, would also make a major difference, said ILO.
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