In pursuit of the EU Neighbourhood Policy, connecting the Black Sea and Danube Regions is a major concern of Austrian foreign policy. Cooperation between Austria and South Caucasus started as early as 1988 with relief measures after the earthquake in Armenia.
Better conditions of life
Austrian engagement in South Caucasus took a new direction in 2011. In its cooperation with Armenia and Georgia, the Austrian Development Agency concentrates on agriculture and forestry to generate income, create jobs and raise local content. Austria’s engagement is primarily aimed at poverty reduction in the border regions between the two countries, where a major theme is also conflict prevention; the others are good governance and decentralisation. Cooperation in Moldova focuses on water supply & wastewater disposal and economic development & employment promotion. Improving the business climate, transferring know-how to modernise and step up agricultural production and promoting modern and efficient administrative capacities and competitive enterprises will contribute to higher local content, new jobs and better conditions of life as a result.
The motivation behind reform efforts in the countries of South Caucasus is the prospect of closer cooperation with the EU. The majority of the population is still struggling with severe poverty and high unemployment. Population groups in this multi-lingual and multi-ethnic region are frequently mutually distrustful and harbour deep-seated prejudices against each other. General problems that need addressing are poor infrastructure, untapped potential in industrial sectors, extremely small-scale agriculture, barriers in transport and business and industry, corruption and political and territorial conflicts.