Public Information Session in Pankisi Gorge on Benefits and Challenges of Georgia’s European Integration
On October 22, EWMI ACCESS organized another public information session on Georgia’s European Integration in village of Duisi, Pankisi Gorge. After series of similar sessions held in 9 cities of Georgia in September and early October, EWMI ACCESS decided to hold an additional session in the Pankisi Gorge – an enclave in North-East Georgia that has been under media and political spotlight this year due to reports of several dozen local inhabitants, including teens, who were recruited by ISIS. In addition, the local residents, mainly represented by ethnic minority group of Kists, are isolated from the rest of Georgia, are less integrated into the society, and possess little or no information about benefits and opportunities stemming from Georgia’s European integration, and how this process would affect their lives.
The purpose of the meeting was to fill this gap and raise public awareness about benefits of Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration, as well as to debunk myths and negative attitudes towards this process by providing comprehensive and unbiased information to local communities, media and government representatives.
Invited CSO experts spoke about the specific benefits stemming from the EU-Georgia Association Agreement (EUAA), the requirements of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), prospects for Visa Free travel to the EU, and the implication of these factors on lives of ordinary citizens.
Questions broached at the event included: Why has Georgia chosen Europe? Is the EU market appealing to Georgia, compared to that of Russia? Can Georgian farmers and entrepreneurs actually comply with EU regulations and gain access to the EU market through DCFTA? Will Georgia lose other markets? Why do we need food safety standards? Does the EU assist Georgia’s agriculture and rural development, and how? When will visa-free regime with the EU enter into force and what rules will apply to Georgian citizens? Is the Western world imposing policies and values that are incompatible with Georgia’s values and traditions? How will the rights of ethnic and religious minorities be protected?
The Media Development Foundation (MDF), a watchdog CSO supported by EWMI ACCESS, presented the websitewww.eurocommunicator.ge that detects myths about Georgia’s European integration and presents facts that speak to the contrary.
Presentations were followed by Q&A sessions. Locals were particularly interested about regulations and prospects of exporting local produce on the European markets, and about the requirements of a visa-free travel regime and how will it help youth to pursue education abroad. Up to 40 representatives of local media, CSOs, government and the youth (students) attended the meeting.