First Winners of Cross Border Projects

During the next year eight organizations from Georgia and Armenia will implement their project for social, economic and cultural development in border regions in the framework of the Eastern Partnership Territorial Cooperation (EaPTC) Program. The official announcement of awarded projects took place during a grand contracts signing ceremony in Dilijan, Armenia, on September 25.

Organizations from Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe Javakheti regions of Georgia and Lori, Shirak and Tavush Marzes of Armenia established partnerships for developing joint solutions to common social and economic development challenges in their border regions. In total, 40 project proposals were submitted in response to the EU call for proposals in the framework of the Armenia Georgia Territorial Cooperation Program for grants offered in order to implement joint cross border projects.

Giorgi Tsakadze, Head of the Department for Self-Governance and Regional Policy at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Regional Development, emphasized that the program has big potential, and the relations development with Armenia can be useful in several ways.

One of them is improving sports, education and cultural relationships. Irma Zurabashvili, representative of Bolnisi Language House with her partner from Armenia Ashot Mirzoyan, plans to establish cultural relations amongst young people through legends. Throughout the year, children from Armenia and Georgia will tell each other tales of their nations, participate in various trainings and at the end of the year will meet in Bolnisi and Gyumri camps to create theatrical performances based on these cultural legends.

“Our main goal is dialogue. We want to talk to and get to know each other through this project. And tales are a very effective element because they are part of each of us, so I think that the children will find it a fascinating journey,” said Ashot Mirzoyan, Armenian coordinator of the project.

The ecological situation in both countries is in a rather serious condition. One of the winning organizations offered to look for alternative ways to stop deforestation. “We are going to improve living conditions via energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, proposing technologies that reduce the amount of firewood needed by local households. Then people will have no reason to cut down the forest, and they will stop doing it,” said Nugzar Tatashvili, the Head of the Society Development Center of Akhaltsikhe.

Another important issue relevant to the Georgia-Armenia relationship is economic development. It seems that Armenian participation in the Eurasian Economic Union and Georgia’s signing of the European Union Association Agreement will create many problems. Zviad Devdariani, Executive Director of CIDA, with the help of the Armenia Georgia Territorial Cooperation Program, will try to make it clear what real problems and benefits these processes create.

“We will conduct studies, consult stakeholders, cooperate with the business sector and ministries, and give an opportunity to representatives of both countries to get to know each other’s economic situations better,” said Devdariani. “Unlike other winning organizations, we have already been cooperating with Armenian side for seven years. We were involved in this process but the Association Agreement and Eurasian Economic Union made certain changes, so we want to make this situation clear and provide the business sector with all the necessary information to develop economically in our countries,” he added.

Prior to the award ceremony a two-day introductory training was delivered to the successful applicants in Dilijan. The trainees got practical tips on grant contracts and methods for project implementation, financial and procurement rules, visibility and communication issues, reporting and monitoring requirements, as well as specific national requirements of the two countries. The training also provided grantees with individual consultations on grant management issues.

“It is a very important program for us; we considered it as a big step and it could open doors for larger scale projects. We hope that more and more people choose this route and believe it will help to strengthen relations in the border regions,” said Tsakadze.

The Armenia Georgia Territorial Cooperation Program is the first of four programs in the Eastern Partnership. The next, the Azerbaijan-Georgia Territorial Cooperation Program, is already running. The organizers will provide two info-days for interested parties in Telavi, Georgia on October 1 and in Rustavi, Georgia on October 2. Info-days will provide detailed information about specific features and technicalities of the Program, application forms, eligibility and selection criteria, specific requirements and other useful information.

Eka Karsaulidze

01 October 2015 20:10