On 13-14 June 2019, Bolnisi Municipality hosted 1st Bolnisi International Forum, an event bringing together rural development actors from Georgia and other countries of the Eastern Partnership. The event, which aspires to become an annual forum for relevant discussions and partnership building, was conceived in the framework of the EU-funded project “Establishing a Platform for Efficient Flow of Business Activities in Bolnisi”. The Forum was co-organised by the Bolnisi Municipality and the Mayors for Economic Growth (M4EG) Secretariat.
The Mayor of Bolnisi municipality Mr. David Sherazadishvili greeted the participants of the event, noting that the municipality strives for access to the best international expertise and approaches, which would help Bolnisi develop its main economic sectors, which are agriculture and tourism. “We hope that with the support of our international partners we will achieve this goal, and we are planning to hold the Bolnisi Forum annually as a platform for growth and exchange”.
Mr. Catalin Gherman, Deputy Head of Cooperation Section at the EU Delegation to Georgia, also stressed the high significance of the Forum for all the actors concerned. “This event shows the awareness of the municipalities of their need to develop local capacity in stimulating economy, and their demand for new solutions and approaches”, - he said. “No national policy, however great it is, is enough to produce real change on the ground, without the local authorities taking the lead”.
Around 150 representatives of the national government and the EU Delegation to Georgia, local governments, civil society, business sector, microfinance organisations and other development from Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as international development organizations, such as the UNDP, EBRD, and USAID, attended the Forum and shared their perspectives and experience on a range of issues covering challenges and opportunities for a local rural economy development, with major focus on the role of local administrations in supporting local agri-businesses.
Two special thematic panels of the Forum were held by the M4EG Secretariat, with the aim to present best practices of agribusiness development from the Eastern Partnership countries, and discuss challenges along the way. These discussions were the result of work conducted within the M4EG thematic group on Agriculture. The members of the thematic group are the M4EG Signatory municipalities across the region, whose Local Economic Development Plans have agricultural business development as one of the high priorities for the local economy.
In addition to discussions and networking opportunities, the participants of the Forum were presented with a solid overview of business opportunities in Bolnisi municipality, and got acquainted with the support provided by the Bolnisi municipal administration. The Forum was concluded with the ceremonial vine planting, wine tasting, and a concert of national music and dance.
Note: Bolnisi Municipality has been a very active member of the M4EG Initiative since June 2017. It successfully competed for grant funding from the EU in 2017 during the first Call for Proposals under the Mayors for Economic Growth Initiative, and their Local Economic Development Plan has been very positively assessed by the technical experts of the World Bank. Bolnisi municipality has been awarded the status of Acting M4EG member “with excellence”.
 The Project “Establishing a platform for efficient flow of business activities in Bolnisi” is one of the 16 Pioneer Projects developed and supported under the umbrella of the EU Initiative for the Eastern Partnership countries “Mayors for Economic Growth” (https://www.m4eg.eu/en/)