Experts Concern Over Allocation of EU Funds

Apr 18, 2013, 10:29 ET from Croatia-EU Business Council

ZAGREB, Croatia, April 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Yesterday's seminar entitled "The European Neighbourhood Policy- Eastern Dimension: Progress with Reforms" taking place at the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Croatia in Zagreb aimed to analyse the comparative progress of the six Eastern Neighbourhood countries with reforms, discussing areas of difficulty and exploring what priorities need to be addressed in the run-up to the Eastern Partnership Summit scheduled for November in Vilnius.

Hosted by the Croatia-EU Business Council, the seminar reflected on the 20 March European Parliament's Budgetary Committee hearing on "Financing of the Eastern Partnership", during which the Commission presented an assessment of progress in relations with the countries in the European Union's neighbourhood, covering reforms and progress on trade relations - many of which were highly criticized by experts and MEPs.

Given Croatia's process of accession to the EU as the newest member of the EU family, Natko Vlahovic, founder of the Croatia-EU Business Council, emphasized that this was highly relevant for Croatia since the country is looking for an increase in funding to address some of the issues needed to provide for greater cohesion and development and it is absolutely vital that the Government should make good and proper use of the budget in a transparent way, delivering tangible and practical results that would enable the country to continue its democratic progress and integration with Europe.

Another key issue on the agenda was corruption as a roadblock for the majority of the ENP members. Olena Dyachenko, a political analyst from Ukraine, said that '"the billions of Euros being poured into the country are scarcely highlighted by the media. It is unclear how the EU is ensuring that Ukraine is adhering to the required steps towards integration given that the EAP instrument is intended to help promote transparency, however, there is a lack of knowledge about this programme amongst the Ukrainian expert community (which suggests that some of this funding may be directed towards political campaigns instead)."

Dr.Vladimir Krulj, Chairman of the Serbian Atlantic Council, assured that the new Government of Serbia has truly implemented concrete actions in order to advance the process of European integration - intensifying and specifying the fight against corruption and organized crime. However, he also made the point that Serbia "has been confronted with political conditions that no other member of the EU has had to face during the accession process. These political conditions have not been an issue for other Eastern European countries who became full members of the European Union several years ago, nor have these political conditions been placed before other countries that aspire to join the European Union, such as Moldova, which display similar problems, specifically in regards to the dispute with Kosovo."

A member of the Moldovan Parliament, Inna Supac, was highly critical of the country's current Government, quoting corruption as the primary issue (where the three top functioning ministers are involved in corruption cases), the absence of any rule of law, alongside a lack of any political opposition or freedom of speech, which was demonstrated by the closing of a Moldovan TV channel with an audience of 1 million viewers because of its openly critical view of the government.

She also said that '"86% of Moldovans believe that the country is headed in the wrong direction and there has been a 40% drop in EU integration support last year. "

Mr Zonislav Petrovic , Board member of Transparency International argued that '"without EU pressure, Croatia would not have progressed as much as it has. Though, there are several grey zones where corruption may appear."

James Wilson, Head of the EU- Ukraine Business Council, drew attention to the fact that it is essential for the EU to monitor the progress of the countries in the Eastern Partnership in carrying out
political, social and economic reforms and continue their advancement to economic integration with the EU.

It was also important to ensure that there is financial rigour and full transparency for the way EU budget is being spent, to make sure that the political objectives in allocating precious funds are actually being achieved.

In concluding the conference, Natko Vlahovic emphasized that there are many countries at different stages in their reform processes for which the EU is a significant engine. However, given that the EU intends to continue investing massive budget resources into these countries there must be a system in place to ensure public accountability as well as provide a comparative index to clearly illustrate where each of these countries are in relation to their progress with reforms.

Other panelists included Josip Kregar, Member of the Sabor.

The Croatia-EU Business Council was established in 2005 as an independent CEO level forum for EU and Croatian business leaders. It is a strategic partner in the Consortium led by Eurochambres that is executing the contract for the East Invest Project under the European Commission's Eastern Partnership Programme.

SOURCE Croatia-EU Business Council