Krynica Economic Forum: 'Removing the Economic and Political Blocks to Investment in the Eastern Partnership Countries'

Sep 04, 2013, 06:49 ET from EU- Ukraine Business Council

KRYNICA, Poland, September 4, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Today's panel taking place at the well renowned 23rd Economic Forum in Krynica, Poland entitled 'Removing the Economic and Political Blocks to Investment in the Eastern Partnership Countries' came as another step ahead of the Vilnius Summit taking place in November.

The panel addressed the numerous challenges that are still facing the ENP member countries and the region itself, especially in terms of economic obstacles, with a focus on countries such as Ukraine and Moldova which are struggling to cope with European Union rules and regulations.

Opening the panel, Antonio Somma, Head of the Eurasia Competitiveness Programme at the OECD, highlighted the issues and key challenges regarding competitiveness in the region. With a focus on Ukraine, Somma outlined "a lack of openness and remaining closed to private investment" as some of the main roadblocks for foreign investors.

In addition, further reiterating the problems facing the ENP, Hrant Bagratyan, member of the Armenian National Assembly emphasized the three main problems namely, merging of property and power, lack of competition and corruption.

Discussing what can be expected from the Vilnius Summit, was Doug Henderson, Former Chair ESDA Defence Committee and Former UK Defence Minister, who emphasized the macroeconomic issues and the impact these will have on the Eastern Neighbourhood as a whole. Again, corruption came to light as being a key issue for countries such as Ukraine, which is seeking to sign the Association Agreement in November. Alongside corruption, Henderson also raised the issue of former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko stating that,

"the question of Yulia Tymoshenko angers people in a big way, in the European Union and beyond. It has to be demonstrated to the public that either she is or is not a political criminal. That is something that is not clear and something that Ukraine has not properly indicated which comes as part of a wider human rights issue in the country.

In Britain and in Europe, it is clear and there is no doubt that Tymoshenko is a political prisoner; Ukrainian authorities need to decide whether she is to be prosecuted as such or as a criminal."

Referencing a recent report published by CIS - EMO, a Poland based international monitoring organization, James Wilson, moderator of the panel and managing director of the EU - Ukraine Business Council, made the point that the report indicates an intentional delay on the part of the Ukrainian authorities in commencing comprehensive work to overhaul electoral legislation. This would not relieve the political and social tensions in Ukrainian society, but rather aggravate the already complicated situation that has arisen as the result of the enormous number of both clear failures and deep methodological and organisational errors, which have occurred subsequent to the October 2012 parliamentary elections.

Both Paul Keetch, former UK MP and Marek Swiecicki, Member of the Polish Parliament, ultimately maintained the need for ENP countries to address the clear lack of capable structures to implement the relevant regulations and prevent obstacles such as property of rights, corruption and rule of law which all still remain as key issues to be addressed. Keetch also highlighted the fact that Europe does not have a realistic reflection on the current view of the general public.

Keetch said "it is time for the political class of Europe to take a grip on what people really want.  My question is, what has the 2 billion Euros spent in ENP countries actually achieved and given back to us? Countries need to take their own pace and there need to be barriers set up by the EU if we are to expand the breadth of Europe."

Focussing on his own country, Grigory Petrenko Moldovan MP, commented that "the ENP has turned out to be a bubble for the people of Moldova and the concept of integration is a failure. 5 years ago 24% of the people supported this initiative, now only 15% are in favour. We are not expecting much from Vilnius as Moldova is torn on the issue and the Summit will only expand this division. We are not ready."

Speaking last and emphasizing the lack of consensus amongst the Ukrainian government to adopt all the EU's rules was Dmitry Dzhangirov, a Ukrainian journalist and political commentator who added, "from an economic perspective, what are the benefits for investors to actually invest in Ukraine?" summarizing much of what was said throughout the panel, which was a clear lack of reforms and readiness amongst ENP member states and a desperate need for the EU to implement stricter structures to ensure these countries adhere to the relevant regulations expected of them.

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