Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance
Delivered in Plenary - 10 December 2013
The path to EU accession is difficult, both politically and economically and, with the exception of Iceland and Turkey, all of the accession countries that have recently joined emerged from Communist systems that severely limited access to the market economy and, therefore, prosperity and which institutionalised authoritarian government. It is therefore unreasonable to expect them all to attain all of the standards set by the EU in the accession criteria, without any outside financial help.
In my Group, the ECR, we are clear that the EU single market, for instance, benefits both the candidates or neighbourhood countries and the EU itself, and therefore we must devote ourselves to deploying the necessary instruments and resources in a cost-efficient way in order to realise some of these ambitions.
On a recent visit to Montenegro, which I am the standing rapporteur for and which is an EU accession country/candidate, I saw how EU EPA money is being used to fund important civil society projects designed to improve the transparency and accountability of government and the judiciary in particular. Clearly, this represents an important step towards realising the reforms necessary for that country’s eventual accession. Certainly, in the light of the debacle before Vilnius now being over, and with first Armenia pulling out and then, far more seriously, Ukraine, we must pay closer attention to the political as well as financial aspects of the external instruments. Russia is happy to bully, intimidate and bribe its former Soviet satellites into rejecting EU trade agreements and therefore there must be a real debate now about what kind of hardball strategy could be deployed to counter this unacceptable behaviour. Nobody is advocating a return to the Cold War, but we must be prepared to offer countries such as Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia sensible and generous packages, within the current budgetary constraints of course, including access to IMF soft loans, to enable them to implement the necessary reforms.
As the unrest in Kiev demonstrates, people in the former Eastern Bloc countries are calling for stronger Euro-Atlantic partnerships and we in the EU must do all that we can, and can afford to do, to help achieve this objective.