Experts Continue to Raise Concern Over EU Spending on ENP Countries

Apr 10, 2013, 09:21 ET from EU-Ukraine Business Council

BRUSSELS, April 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Today's seminar, entitled "The European Neighbourhood Policy- Eastern Dimension: Progress with Reforms" taking place at the European Parliament, aimed to provide an analysis and debate on the reforms made by the six ENP countries in the run up to the Eastern Partnership Summit scheduled for November in Vilnius. The seminar, hosted by Bela Kovacs MEP and supported by the EU- Ukraine Business Council, heard much of the similar concerns expressed at the European Parliament's Budgetary Committee hearing on "Financing of the Eastern Partnership" which took place March 20th.

An opening statement from Reinhold Brender, the Deputy Head of Division Eastern Partnership- Bilateral of the European External Action Service, presented the view that the road to democracy is neither smooth nor short and that it was essential for the European Parliament to continue close cooperation with member states to monitor the progress as a key objective ahead of Vilnius.

He also emphasized that all the Eastern Partnership countries are, to varying degrees, carrying out political, social and economic reforms and continue their advancement to the EU.

Much of the seminar focused on two front running countries in particular, Ukraine and Moldova. The event presented two very clear different camps of thought. Moldova, described as the most corrupt European country by Transparency International, was highly criticized by several of the participants. Alexei Tulbure, former representative of Moldova to the Council of Europe and one of the founders of the Democratic Party, questioned the Moldovan government's efforts thus far to produce any viable reforms or political stability. He also focused on the country's lack of economic development which in turn has had a negative impact on foreign investment. In 2012 alone, direct investment into Moldovan economy reduced by 40%.

He also commented that there has been a clear absence of reforms in Moldova between the 2009-2013 period despite continued generous EU Funding (in 2012, the EU provided 152m Euros). On the other hand, Andrea Matteo Fontana, representative of the European Commission, insisted that the EU is committed to ensuring that the indicators provided to these countries are fulfilled in accordance with any funds provided.

Alessandro Musolino, member of the PDL international office and honorary member of European Democrat Students, argued that the EU needs to demand clear actions from Ukraine and Moldova in areas such as reforms, fighting corruption, and reforms to the justice system, which would allow for legitimate signs of progress.

One of the questions raised was how could the EU reassess its funds distribution towards the Eastern Partnerships 6 countries, and whether perhaps, a temporary freeze spending until a detailed report of allocated funds is produced could be considered.

This suggestion was firmly rejected by the European Commission.

In concluding the conference the Moderator James Wilson urged that flexibility be applied and that signature of an Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine would provide a framework within which the EU could monitor the progress of the Ukrainian Government with reforms. This would deliver a clear signal to business that would encourage FDI, and enhance the role of business in catalysing societal change.

Other panellists included Andrew Wilson, Senior Policy Fellow at ECFR, and Jurie Muntean, Member of Parliament of the Republic of Moldova.

The EU-Ukraine Business Council is an independent CEO-level forum for European and Ukrainian business leaders that is set up as a non-profit making organisation in order to promote trade and investment between the EU and Ukraine, to assist companies to develop business opportunities, to promote dialogue between governments and companies to help solve market access difficulties and overcome regulatory obstacles both for Ukrainian businesses in the EU and EU businesses in Ukraine.

SOURCE EU-Ukraine Business Council