EU Should Take a Stronger Position on ENP Policies

May 13, 2013, 08:11 ET from EU- Ukraine Business Council

BUDAPEST, Hungary, May 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Yesterday's panel entitled "The European Neighborhood Policy- Eastern Dimension: Progress with Reforms" taking place at the 6th Europe- Ukraine Forum in Budapest, constitutes an integral part of the Economic Forum agenda. Hosted by The Eastern Institute, the forum aims to deepen the problems touched upon during the debates at Krynica (Economic Forum) by organizing conferences devoted to particular topics, with attendance of key politicians and renown experts.

Speakers on the panel included Andras Racz, Senior Research Fellow of the Hungarian Institute, Douglas Henderson, Former Chair ESDA Defence Committee and Former UK Defence Minister, John Lloyd, FT Contributing Editor, Srdja Trifkovic, Foreign affairs editor for Chronicles Magazine, Alexei Tulbure, former representative of the Republic of Moldova to the Council of Europe and UN and Jordi Xucla I Costa, Member of the Spanish Congress of Deputies.

The panel addressed the current status and achievements of the Eastern Neigborhood Policy as well as the political conditions facing Ukraine ahead of the Vilnius Summit in November during which the country would wish to see the signing of the Association Agreement- brokering a free trade deal with the EU. However, some of the discussion also centered around the ENP's shortcomings and recurring concerns in the country participants, which have recently been voiced by EU officials, MEP's and political experts.

Andras Racz voiced his uncertainty of what may happen and the belief that ''Ukraine faces a choice of either joining the Eurasian Customs Union or the Free Trade Agreement'’.

The issue of ENP funding was on the forefront of the agenda of Alexei Tulbure, who maintained that ''the four years of cooperation within Eastern Partnership have brought neither economic development, nor democracy to Moldova, nor they have enhanced love to Europe among the Moldovans. According to the World Bank, Transparency International  and other international organizations, Moldova today is still the poorest and the most corrupt country in Europe.'’

Foreign Affairs Editor for Chronicles Magazine, made reference to the European Parliament's Committee on Budgets hearing on EaP (Financing of the Eastern Partnership) in Brussels on March 20 during which member states were criticized for having failed to implement structural reforms and to develop civil society institutions. Most of them still suffer from alarming levels of corruption and inadequate judicial authority, while the social and economic problems of the population remain unresolved.

Moderator of the panel Gabor Brodi, European Neighborhood Policy coordinator and the Ambassador at Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hungary agreed that the EU has failed to provide appropriate control systems in this regard. However, he maintained that the direction of development of these countries was essential and it is important not to derail from this perspective.

Jordi Xucla i Costa said that ''Ukraine has obligations such as fighting corruption and human rights, and more importantly needs to make changes to its electoral law. However, these obligations would vary from country to country'’, he added.

Speaking after the workshop, former UK Minister for Europe, said "the larger EU member states are looking for more returns for the high levels of expenditure in the Eastern Neighbourhood. But in the longer term it is in everyone's interest that the EU and these countries in the Eastern Neighbourhood guarantee each other's security and build economic development by working together in genuine partnership."

Commenting on the panel, Pablo Casado, member of the Spanish Congress of Deputies said that ''over the last four years the EU has spent over 2.8bln Euros and the focus needs to be on accountability. We need to know what has been done (policy change) and we should reinforce control over issues such as human trafficking and change of the electoral law system.'’

There was a consent amongst speakers that the EU must take a more desicive stance on key issues such as democratic reforms, corruption and rule of law. Financial Time's Associate Editor, made the point that '’Europe is now turned inwards: it's own problems are more serious then anything outside of the Union. So self confidence and sense that it is on the crest of the wave of history which it had in 1989 and the years after is gone. It makes it hard for it to do good to its east, especially since the countries in the ENP have little chance of being admitted to the EU for many years.'’

Summarizing the discussion, Brodi maintained that the ENP could a be tool which could facilitate change and help progression in the ENP countries and he hoped that the conditions would allow for Ukraine's (and other ENP members) continual progression without the pressure of strict deadlines.

SOURCE EU- Ukraine Business Council