Over three days, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus shared Estonia’s reform experiences with the members of the Foreign Relations Committee, Committee on European Integration, and Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Committee in the Georgian parliament. She stressed the importance of the close cooperation between the two national parliaments. Estonia has a lot to share with Georgia.
“Georgia managed to carry out the necessary reforms to secure visa-free travel to the EU despite the complicated security situation, or the continuing Russian occupation of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia,” Pentus-Rosimannus said. “Support for the EU and NATO remains high in the society, and there is great thirst for the Western quality of life.”
Nevertheless, she was able to identify a number of fields that need reforming. She referred to the reforms in the defence sector and taxation launched at the start of this year, as well as the imminent extensive education reform. “A more competitive education is seen as an engine of economic growth in 10–15 years’ time,” Pentus-Rosimannus said.
She pointed out that explaining the need for change to the people is a massive task for the government as well as for individual MPs. “Members of the Georgian parliament, most of whom are serving their first ever term, could definitely use some support and advice in this matter,” she said. “The enthusiasm and will to carry out actual changes seem quite high. Estonia has loads of experiences in this field to share with Georgia.”
The Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Estonian parliament cites economic, social and environmental issues as the most complicated ones in Georgia next to the general security situation. “Unemployment figures are high and incomes low, while the Georgian public sees private entrepreneurship as too risky, and public service employment as the safer and more popular option. At the same time, critical NGOs see the size and general lack of transparency of the public sector as one of the major problems.”
Pentus-Rosimannus also shared Estonia’s experiences in general environmental protection and increasing environmental awareness with the members of the Georgian Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Committee. She sees an increased awareness of environmental problems and willingness to find solutions to these as one of the growing trends in the Georgian parliament, which was elected only last autumn. “A huge problem is massive motorisation. The fairly chaotic urban planning and traffic have brought along extremely serious urban air quality problems which inevitably affect the economy as well: a polluted environment does not attract investments or new jobs,” she said.
Over the next months, the focus will fall on the new draft Constitution discussed by the Georgian parliament; this will probably introduce significant amendments to the local election system, among other things. “The initial draft would strengthen the role of the Georgian parliament, but the public debate is only starting, and we hope to see it become passionate,” said Pentus-Rosimannus.
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