IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Recommendations for the seventh meeting of the Eastern Partnership Platform 1
Anti-corruption subgroup of EaP CSF WG 1
While national governments and European institutions discuss fight against corruption in EaP region, there is a tendency to overlook the problem of political corruption, particularly the issue of financing of political parties, including public financing, financing election campaigns and bribery during elections.
We suggest that this issue has to be prioritized in anti-corruption reforms agendas in our region both by national governments and international organizations. Without cutting links between politicians and oligarchs (or, at least, weakening them), it is impossible to create functional democratic political system. Fight against political corruption is a key direction in this regard.
Problem of corruption in energy sector is another priority for anti-corruption policy we suggest to focus on. Corruption in this sector causes losses not only to public finance and public integrity, but also to the energy security of the countries of the region. There is a need to develop capacities of the CSOs to monitor corruption in energy sector as well as to pursue coherent policies for more transparent energy sector in the region. Focus of international organizations on this issue is also needed.
Cases, where EU funds may be misused and contribute to corruption in EaP region should be closer monitored and prevented. In this regard the subgroups also want to draw attention of the EaP national governments and international institutions to the need for sound monitoring system in order to prevent misuse of public funds during the preparation for events like UEFA EURO 2012. For example, all procurements for the preparation of the UEFA EURO 2012 in Ukraine were made disregarding the public procurement law.
Anti-corruption institutions with controlling and monitoring functions should be more open to the CSOs and parliamentary opposition participation. They should have secured sources of funding and representative membership. When discussing parliamentarian bodies and committees, they need to be chaired by representatives of opposition parties and have a proportional representation.
Subgroup on Local Government and Public Administration Reform
Creating real local self government is not possible without decentralization – fiscal decentralization is one of the most important aspects in such decentralization.
Issues that could be included in the initiative:
Visa Facilitation Sub-group
Position on the Schengen visa issuance, visa facilitation and liberalization processes
Strict visa regimes remain visible and sensitive obstacle for regular people-to-people contacts in the entire Europe.
CSF Visa subgroup welcomes continuing efforts by the EU and EaP countries with regards to visa facilitations and visa liberalization processes. We encourage progress in the Visa dialogue with Ukraine and Moldova and support their progress towards the 2nd phase of Visa Liberalization Action Plans as soon as relevant benchmarks are met. No additional political requirements should be introduced. Georgia is to follow this path in the close future. Visa Facilitation Agreements with Armenia and Azerbaijan should be signed opening the way towards next steps of visa liberalization process.
We encourage de-facto facilitated visa policy by the most of the EU Member State towards the citizens of Belarus. At the same time, all relevant visa liberalization option based on the unified criteria should be open for Belarus as soon as the government in Minsk is ready to start implementing them.
While the visa free travel is considered as a visible political perspective, fulfillment of existing rules and obligations remain in a focus of civil society actors. We stress on the need to ensure proper implementation of the EU Visa Code with EaP countries especially those aimed at providing wider access to long validity multiple entry visas for bona fide travelers. Independent monitoring detects the variety of problems; legitimate traveler often faces during visa application procedures, including ever-growing list of documents required and non-clear criteria of visa granting/refusal.
Harmonization of the visa requirements and procedures remains a key priority. While the EU Visa Code introduces certain level of harmonization, further steps are needed to ensure unification of the criteria and procedures.
The appeal procedure should be available for all applicants refused providing transparent and fair reconsideration of the visa application within the reasonable period of time.
We call the EU to provide more information on visas and legitimate travels to the EU by introducing a specific web-page accumulating all relevant information regarding the legal basis, general requirement and standard procedures of visa obtaining, question-answers page etc.
We are concerned by the enormously high visa refusal rate by the EU consulates in Georgia (15.3% in 2011, while average EU visa refusal rate in the world is 5%). This figure is obviously not relevant to the actual quality/integrity of visa applications submitted by Georgian citizens.
Human Rights Sub-group
In the context of recent incidents in Azerbaijan as well as in Georgia and Armenia connected with the attacks on human rights activists, journalists and active members of civil society, we propose that the EU insist on fulfilling of international human rights obligations by governments of EaP countries and that EU (especially through its delegations and member state embassies in third countries) pay more attention to the implementation of EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders.
We also suggest EU to consider introduction of appropriate sanctions in case of extensive and systematic human rights violations in these countries.