Message from Assistant Administrator 
Brock Bierman

This month our partners at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners ( NARUC ) held their annual Winter Policy Forum, where I was honored to deliver remarks on what I view to be among the most urgent issues facing our region: energy independence .

Europe and Eurasia is at a critical time in its history. It has been 30 years since the Wall fell. Many of the Eastern Block and former Soviet republics are still deciding which paths to take. These decisions will have consequences for global security for at least the next generation -- and energy plays an incredibly important part of that decision.

In the 1990s and early 2000s when USAID opened its first missions in the region, these nations faced a crumbling legacy that has taken nearly a generation to put back on track. Electric generation, transmission and distribution were in chaos from three generations of communist and Soviet rule. The transformation of the energy sectors in the region has been crucial to its collective success and is among our greatest achievements. Over the years, USAID’s leadership and the technical expertise of an astounding 4,000 regulatory and utility volunteers coordinated by NARUC and the U.S. Energy Association , have helped communities and entire nations lift themselves up.

But this transformation is far from complete, and today’s challenges are more urgent and complex from a generation ago. External malign influence -- perpetrated by the governments of Russia and China -- undermine the region’s future as energy independent, fully democratic nations. While USAID promotes self-reliance, the Kremlin and China seek to burden our partner countries with unmanageable debt and political dependency. The authoritarian approach to development these countries endorse is predatory, treating assistance as a tool to transform nations into dependents, drained of their own choices and resources.

This model of subservience runs counter to the democratic values of the United States and the free world. We are committed to ensuring these nations have the freedom to make their own choices -- and the successes I've seen to date give me confidence we have a winning strategy.

We hope you will follow this journey through our newsletter and by following me on Twitter @BBiermanUSAID and the Europe & Eurasia Bureau @USAIDEurope .
USAID Mission of the Month - Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan has made considerable progress in its development since regaining independence in 1991. USAID partnered with Azerbaijan when it began its journey as a new country, delivering urgent humanitarian relief in response to a conflict that displaced thousands in the early 1990s. Following the end of the active fighting, USAID shifted assistance to help the maturing country develop legislation, government systems, and modernize its health, banking, and agricultural sectors . Read More about Azerbaijan's Journey to Self-Reliance

-Jaidev Singh, USAID/Azerbaijan Mission Director
Private Sector Engagement - Enterprise Fund Catalyzes $200M Private Equity Fund in Ukraine
Although Ukraine has moved out of the economic doldrums that characterized the immediate post-Maidan period, local businesses and international surveys alike report that lack of access to finance and inadequate investment keep Ukraine from achieving sustainable, inclusive growth. The Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF) , an independent private equity fund established by USAID in 1994, understands the trials, tribulations, and opportunities of investing in Ukraine. After twenty years of successful contributions to Ukraine’s transforming economy, the Fund recently leveraged $30 million of USAID funding to raise $200 million , making it the single largest investment fund to open in Ukraine in over a decade.  Read more .
Innovation - Independent Media Outlet Leverages Digital Training to Reach New Audiences
Like many independent media in the Western Balkans, online news portal  Vijesti  has fought to keep up with new and emerging trends in the digital media market. Vijesti is one of 10 regional media partners in USAID's  Balkan Media Assistance Program , which is implemented in five Balkan countries. This USAID media partner is learning how to survive in this harsh digital media market—and it shows.   Find out more
Empowering Women - Women’s Property Rights in Kosovo — Claiming What Is Granted by Law
Only 17 percent of women in Kosovo own real property. W hile women make up half of Kosovo’s society, they lack the opportunity to become entrepreneurs and create new businesses, help the economy grow, and generate employment for others. Without property, they cannot gain access to loans. They simply are not participating in the development of the youngest nation in Europe. Luckily, this is beginning to change.
Investing in Youth - The New European Youth Democracy Network Gets to Work
Erin Mone-Marquez, Program officer from USAID/Albania, sat down for an interview with Juela Hamati — Albania's representative in the Bureau's new European Democracy Youth Network. Hamati shares her thoughts on the importance of working across the aisle and across borders to tackle issues of regional importance. Watch the video here!
Staff Reflections - Three Ways USAID Supports Georgia's Steady March Toward Inclusive, Representative Democracy
2018 was a big year for democracy in Georgia. Although progress has not marched along a straight line, the nation ticked off a number of important “firsts” as it works toward building political and governmental institutions that are accountable to the Georgian people. Yet, while there’s no question that Georgia has achieved remarkable progress to advance participatory government on the national level, more work remains to be done -- especially at the local-level -- to ensure this progress reaches all Georgians. As a stakeholder in Georgia's development journey, USAID programs support help Georgian citizens, organizations and government advance their reform agenda. Read how .

- Nathaniel Hojnacki, USAID/Georgia Desk Officer
News & Events -
If you wish to stop receiving this newsletter, you can unsubscribe below.