The European Union published today the key conclusions of an evaluation of its cooperation with Georgia between 2014 and 2020. The overall portfolio of evaluated projects was EUR 939 million. The comprehensive evaluation of exercise has been commissioned by the EU Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR) and took place between March 2021 and September 2022. Nine evaluation questions guided the data collection and analysis which included the review of over 2000 documents and interviews with over 95 stakeholders.
The objective of the evaluation was to “better understand what has worked, what did not work and under what conditions, so that lessons could be learned and inform future EU strategies, programmes and actions in Georgia.”
As a result, several of the conclusions deal with internal matters, commending the strong institutional setup, a strategic manner in which the available funding instruments were deployed, as well as the efficiency of implementation and learning from results. The report notes insufficient visibility of the EU contribution, but says the EU Delegation took steps to address this shortfall.
Impact on reforms
Some of the most relevant conclusions real with the achievement of results in all sectors.
- Agriculture and rural development: the evaluation notes that impacts on yield production and productivity are difficult to document, but EU support helped Georgia improve sanitary and phytosanitary measures and food safety.
- Public Administration Reform and Public Finance Management: The evaluation says public confidence in government institutions declined and their capacity remains law, with citizens experiencing public administration as “deficient”. Unspecified progress is noted in accountability and transparency.
- Justice and the Rule of Law: Noting “significant progress” in gender based violence, juvenile justice, legal aid and access to justice, the evaluators say “limited progress” has been made in ensuring the independence of the judiciary and highlight “clear instances of backsliding” on democracy and human rights.
- Economic Development: Noting that the policy and institutional framework for small-and-medium enterprises and vocational training have improved, the two areas aren’t sufficiently linked. The evaluation says good progress with EU approximation, which led to increase of exports, but they mostly haven’t moved higher on the value chain.
- Connectivity: In terms of promoting energy, infrastructure and transport linkages with the EU, “foundations” were laid to approximate with the EU acquis, says the report, but “projects are slow to identify results.”
- People-to-people contacts and mobility: The report is most complimentary to the results of visa liberalization and Erasmus+ projects. However, it notes that there has been little impact on labour mobility.
When assessing the implementation context, the evaluation report notes “decline in trust of public institutions and democracy”, while pointing out to the continued high popular support towards Europe. It notes the resilience of the Georgian civil society, and its proactive efforts towards supporting the European path, “despite increasingly tense relations with state authorities.”
In line with its objective, the evaluators gave the EU a range of recommendations, some of them related to technical aspects of assistance delivery. It recommends more “critical approach” in areas of capacity-building and support to justice, rule of law and democratic governance. Enhancement of conditionality approach – meaning linking the disbursement of financial assistance, such as budget support, to concrete results in reforms – is proposed as desirable in judiciary reform, and public administration reform. Also in the area of justice, rule of law and democratic governance, the evaluation proposes “identifying areas of backsliding and modifying the cooperation programme accordingly”. The report also recommends maximizing “synergies between political and economic cooperation – each of which leverages the other.”