By Hillevi Engström, Sweden’s Minister for International Development Cooperation
This is an important time for Europe. In several countries in Eastern Europe there is a momentum for change – a momentum that is under serious threat from external forces. The Swedish government has recently decided on a long-term commitment for continued support in the EU´s neighbourhood via a strategy for Swedish development assistance to Eastern Europe for the period 2014-2020.
Since the end of the 1990’s, Sweden has given extensive assistance to the countries of Eastern Europe to support them in their efforts to integrate with the EU and to better respect our common European values. Sweden is currently one of the biggest donors to the region. Over the next seven years, Sweden will donate approximately 500 million euro with the aim of helping the countries of the Eastern Partnership (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) to move closer to the EU.
Sweden is a firm supporter of democracy and we are deeply convinced about the benefits of democratic governance. In less than a century, Sweden itself went from being relatively poor to being in the forefront when it comes to economic growth, welfare and prosperity.
We believe that a similar path is possible for Georgia. The road to EU integration requires extensive and sometimes tough reforms such as better rule of law and strengthened democratic systems. Sweden will maintain its support for Georgia in its efforts to continue on the path towards the EU. The greater the effort, the more support Sweden and the EU can lend.
Today, Sweden is one of the largest donors in Georgia. Swedish assistance has already contributed to strengthening civil society in Georgia, as well as increased capacity in public administration, twinning projectsand support through trust funds.
Through the new strategy, the Government of Sweden makes a long-term commitment to continue to provide substantial support to Georgia. Sweden is ready to continue working side by side with Georgiato support Georgia’s European choice.
The desire to integrate with the EU is shared by most people in the countries of the EU’s eastern neighbourhood. Sweden has long been one of the strongest advocates of continued EU enlargement. The EU must continue to support Georgia, both politically and economically. This is a desirable development, both for Georgia and for the EU.