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Ahead Of Vilnius Summit: Experts Question Signing Of Association Agreement

VILNIUS, Lithuania, July 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Just as Lithuania has taken over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union and ahead of the Eastern Partnership Summit scheduled for November in Vilnius, yesterday's conference entitled 'European Neighborhood Policy- Eastern Dimension: Progress and Benefits' taking place in the capital itself, aimed to address and analyze many of the areas of difficulty of the six Eastern Neighborhood countries.

Hosted by the EU- Belarus Business Council and chaired by the former Minister for Europe, Denis Macshane, much of the discussion centered on what priorities still needed to be put in place and raised several questions specifically in regards to the impact of the signature of the agreements may have on the EU and the countries involved, focusing on Moldova and Ukraine given the extensive challenges they face alongside the scale of problems.

Macshane made reference to the US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee which recently passed a resolution, authored by Senator Dick Durbin, urging the Ukrainian government to release former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in light of the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights from April 30, 2013. Kubilius commented that "this is a symbol of selective justice and lack of a proper justice system in Ukraine. Her release could be done in many ways, but it is clear President Yanukovich is afraid of her standing as a candidate in the next elections."

Ambassador Algirdas Kumza, Director of International Relations and Communications at ARVI Group, added "Yulia in neither the problem nor solution - she is also to be blamed for the situation in Ukraine." He also highlighted the bad business climate in Ukraine alongside issues with protection of property and the taxation policy.

Making the opening remarks, Lithuanian Vice-Minister of Economy, Kestutis Treciokas, pointed out that trade and economic cooperation was the foundation for the partnership's development. Andrius Kubilius, Lithuanian former Prime Minister added that "free trade agreements are of key value to Eastern Partnership countries and it is a matter of geo-political importance."

However, presenting his views on Ukraine, Mikhail Pogrebinsky, Director of the Kyiv Centre for Political and Conflict Studies argued that " Ukraine does not view the programme euphorically, nor would signing the Association Agreement with the EU resolve Ukraine's problems." In fact, he said "they would create more problems for the country specifically in regards to the economy."

Eduard Musuc, MP from Moldova, highlighted a similar situation in his own country and expressed his doubt on whether the Eastern Partnership would help with progress and changes economically, socially and democratically given that 80% of Moldovans believe they are headed in the wrong direction. He also disagreed with the statement made by the EU that Moldova was a 'success story' of the ENP, but rather emphasized the high level of inflation and corruption still present.

Member of the Citizens Congress for Moldova, Igor Caldare added that "the majority of 600,000 million Euros given to Moldova over the last three years by the EU have either been stolen or extorted."

In his notes, Spanish MP and member of the Foreign Affairs Commission, Jose Lopez Garrid called for stricter budget control by the EU especially during the current uncertain economic climate and emphasized a need for funding policies such as the ENP to be strictly monitored.

Concluding the conference, Macshane raised the question of whether all six ENP countries should be treated in the same manner or whether a more constructive approach would be considering the singing of the Assocation Agreements with each country at a time when they are ready.

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