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EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn pays a visit Georgia

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Tuesday, September 17
European Commissioner for Enlargement negotiations and European Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn is paying an official visit to Georgia. During his visit commissioner met with undergraduate students and laid the foundation of the very first fully-fledged European School outside EU. According to a press release issued by the EU Foreign Ministry, EU Commissioner Hahn had the opportunity to meet with Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, as well as with Georgian Foreign Minister, parliamentarians and the Chairman of the Georgian Dream to discuss developments in Georgia.

As the academic year started Georgia's Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport Mikheil Batiashvili and Hahn met with undergraduate students from Eastern Partnership countries in the “New School” opened in 2018, where students from Eastern Partnership member countries study under the European school system.

Within the framework of the large scale EU Cooperation project, within the first phase, 30 students will participate in a “new school” program. The European Commissioner visited the dormitory in the same area, after which he answered the students' questions. Commissioner noted that assisting youth is one of the key tasks of the Eastern Partnership.

A symbolic capsule was put in place at the construction site of the European School complex in Tbilisi. The ceremony was attended by Commissioner Hahn, PM Gakharia, Education Minister Batiashvili and Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze.

Georgian and EU officials have laid the foundation for the very first fully-fledged European School outside the EU borders at Lisi Lake in Tbilisi, the school will enroll students from all Eastern Partnership countries. The school will function under the Georgian law. According to the press release, the European School will follow a unique model based on European and international values - multiculturalism, peace, and tolerance.

“I am proud to announce that we are laying the foundation for an even larger and more ambitious construction. On this very site, at Lisi Lake, the Government of Georgia, with the support of the European Union, will establish the very first fully-fledged European School in the European Union’s Neighbourhood (In fact, the first-ever, outside EU borders!),” - Hahn stated at the construction site.

“As a European Commissioner, my priority is to help young people in the EU's neighboring countries to have more opportunities to acquire new skills that will help them to gain employment. To this end, we have doubled the funding of youth and education in the Eastern Partnership program and achieved significant results. Opening a European school is a great example of our condition that citizens should receive tangible benefits, ”- Hahn said.

He stated that with the EU support, many more generations of students from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine will have the opportunity to follow a “unique education model” based on the highest standards, inspired by the European and international values of multiculturalism, peace, and tolerance.

The initiative is based on a scholarship program launched in September 2018 that enables young people aged 17-18 from EaP countries to pursue an academic program inspired by the European School System.

Hahn assessed the beginning of the construction of the school as one more example of Georgia demonstrating its commitment to the European idea. He also noted that Georgia is a key partner of the European Union and their presence together with the PM is a symbol of this close partnership.

Georgian PM Giorgi Gakharia said that the school is a “new step in the Georgian education system and for the EU-Georgia relations.”

Opening the school is one of the “20 deliverables for 2020”, as per the EU’s Eastern Partnership Initiative. The school territory will be stretched on more than 26,000 square meters and it will have a campus for 100 students. Tbilisi City Hall has allocated land for the construction of a "European school" and dormitories near Lisi Lake. The European School will start accepting students in 2023 and will be recognized by all universities around the world.

PM Gakharia and EU Commissioner Hahn made joint statements after their meeting: “We discussed the Association Agreement, concrete steps of the Comprehensive Agreement, occupation and the continuation of the democratization process,” stated Gakharia. According to him, it was agreed at the meeting that the basic, basic functions of democracy in the country, their values will be preserved and deepened. PM also thanked Hahn for the initiative and actions that enable Georgia to have a European-level educational institution, which first of all promotes European values in our youth.

The EU and Georgia are very close partners and friends, said Hahn. He confirmed the issues discussed by the PM to deepen cooperation, especially by utilizing and materializing the potential that comes from a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement, and many opportunities that have not yet been put into action, it will further enhance cooperation and strategic direction.

He said that the EU remains a strong partner and supporter of successful efforts and reforms, especially in the area of the rule of law and the judicial system: “. The ongoing process, which is followed by the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court, is closely monitored in both Brussels and other European capitals, and it is important to ensure the independence and quality of the judiciary to further strengthen this institution,” said commissioner.

He also mentioned upcoming elections in Georgia:“ I mentioned to the PM how important it is that the current electoral reform responds to OSCE recommendations. In particular, the inclusion of a transparent and inclusive process ahead of the 2020 elections is essential, and in this context, ensuring a free and pluralistic media environment is extremely important for a healthy democracy”

For us, Georgia is a leading country in terms of development, especially in the area of justice, especially in the Eastern Partnership. We want this status to be maintained in the future.”

The current “border” situation with the occupied Tskhinvali region was also mentioned during joint statements: “The points on the administrative border with South Ossetia, which are becoming increasingly important for the brokerage, are unacceptable to us.” As the Commissioner noted, the EU will continue to support Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders: “Constructive engagement, especially with the participation of Russia in the format of the Geneva International Discussions, is important to us. Georgia must be strong and united.”

“I will always be obliged to come to Georgia in the future. At least once a year to see progress and the European school. In the future, as I work in the European Parliament and other institutions, I will be able to defend the needs and interests of this particular country. Thank you so much for this five-year, wonderful collaboration. You really are a trusted partner. The EU can be annoying at times, but it has the advantage. We are a reliable partner. People are changing, but the institution remains,” Hahn said.

It’s noteworthy that Johannes Hahn is to change his position – in the next European Commission he will be in charge of “Budget and Administration.”