New Austrian Development Cooperation office in Tbilisi
The South Caucasus region acts as a bridge between Europe and Asia and is gaining increasing importance for Europe. Austria supports the region in its transition to democracy under the rule of law and in its development of social market economy. Georgia and Armenia have been priority countries of the Austrian Development Cooperation since 2011. The new Austrian Development Cooperation office that is being opened in Tbilisi today is Austria's first representative office in Georgia and will also be responsible for Armenia and act as a point of contact for Austrian enterprises.
Vienna/Tbilisi, 24 October 2013 – "We are increasingly focusing on the Caucasus region in the strategic expansion of our successful work in the Western Balkans and in the Danube region. Georgia plays the role of a bridge here", Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said on the opening of the office of the Austrian Development Cooperation in Tbilisi. "We hope that Georgia will continue to play a pioneering role in the framework of the EU Eastern Partnership also in future", Spindelegger continued.
The perspective of intensified cooperation with the European Union is the driving force behind the reform efforts of the South Caucasian countries. It is planned to initial the EU association agreement with Georgia at the upcoming EU Eastern Partnership summit. "Both Georgia and Armenia have made significant progress over the past few years. We are intending to initial the association agreement with Georgia and Moldavia at the summit meeting in Vilnius, and we should sound out options of further cooperation with Armenia as well", Spindelegger said.
Austria's development cooperation support for Georgia and Armenia focuses mainly on good governance and on strengthening the countries' democratic structures. "The office in Tbilisi will certainly contribute to intensifying contacts on site – to government bodies, the civil society and international organisations – and it will also be a point of contact for Austrian enterprises", Spindelegger said.
Agriculture and forestry are priority areas of Austrian Development Cooperation in the Southern Caucasus region. The majority of the people in the region work in agriculture. The income from the typical small-scale farms is in most cases scarcely adequate to cover the subsistence of the extended families operating the farms. Austrian Development Cooperation helps to improve the living conditions of the people who depend on viable agriculture and supports projects such as recultivation after floods, the construction of shelter belts, measures against erosion, as well as a cross-border veterinary programme.
The 2013 Austrian Development Cooperation budget for Georgia and Armenia is approximately 6.6 million euros. Austria's commitment in the region dates back to the nineteen-eighties when it provided humanitarian aid to the Armenian people after the region had been struck by a severe earthquake.