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Covering a territory of some 70,000 km2, Georgia is somewhat smaller than Austria. On account of its access to the Black Sea in the West and its eastern neighbours, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Georgia now acts as a major transit country for petroleum and natural gas supplies from Central Asia to Europe. This is why stability and security in the whole region are also of key interest to the European Union.
Despite considerable economic development in recent years, a large part of the Georgian population, particularly in rural areas, suffers from poverty, underemployment and unemployment. More than half of all employees in Georgia work in agriculture, which, however, only generates nine per cent of gross national product. Most farming enterprises are small and engaged in subsistence agriculture. Increasing government investments in the neglected modernisation of agriculture will improve productivity.
Austrian cooperation with Georgia aims at supporting the country in economic transition and democratisation, convergence with European institutions, standards and values and improving the standard of living of the population, above all in rural areas. Since 2013, a field office of Austrian Development Cooperation located in Tbilisi conducts direct dialogue with local partners and fosters Austrian contacts with government authorities and local civil society in Georgia and Armenia. In agreement with the partner country, agroforestry (cross cutting: environmental protection, regional development and decentralisation) has been defined as a priority of Austrian Development Cooperation with Georgia.
Forty per cent of Georgian territory is forestland. Forests are not just an economic factor, they also perform important functions in erosion and climate protection and as water repositories. Owing to poor forest management and illegal clearance, most forestland is not in a good condition. With Austrian support, local, regional and national administrative capacity will be set up and expanded, to ascertain the quality and amount of actual standing timber (forest inventory), for example, and to be able to carry out regular forest inspections. Austrian programmes and projects also support the implementation of the Georgian Agriculture Ministry's development strategy 2012-2022. In addition, Austrian Development Cooperation promotes the participation of the local population in spatial planning to improve access to land, above all for women.