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The prospect of closer cooperation with the European Union is seen as the driving force for reform efforts in the countries of the South Caucasus and Black Sea Regions. Today, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, but also Moldova, are in the midst of sweeping economic changes. Most of the population is still struggling with severe poverty and high unemployment. Poor infrastructure, idle branches of industry, extremely small-scale farming, barriers in transport and business, corruption and political and territorial conflicts pose general problems that need to be solved.
In keeping with the EU Neighbourhood Policy, linking the Black Sea Region with the Danube Region is a major concern of Austrian foreign policy. Cooperation between Austria and South Caucasus began as long ago as 1988 with relief measures after the earthquake in Armenia. Since 2004, the Republic of Moldova has been a priority country of Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) and South Caucasus numbers among the key regions of ADC as of 2006.
Beginning in 2011, Austria has been realigning its engagement in South Caucasus. Based on bilateral programmes for Armenia and Georgia, Austrian Development Cooperation concentrates on promoting agroforestry in the border regions. Austrian operations in Moldova attach priority to water supply and sanitation and economic development and employment promotion with a focus on vocational training. Improving the climate for business investment, transferring know-how for modernising and raising agricultural production and promoting modern and efficient administrative capacities and competitive enterprises will contribute to higher local creation of value, create new jobs and in turn improve the standard of living of the population.