Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

The Genesis of the European Union's Relations with Ukraine and Belarus: Interview with Luis Moreno

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

The Genesis of the European Union's Relations with Ukraine and Belarus: Interview with Luis Moreno

Article excerpt

Luis Moreno, a Spanish diplomat, was the first European Community/European Union ambassador to Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. He served in the EC/EU Delegation in Kyiv from 1993 to 1998.

Demokratizatsiya: There is a feeling that there was a certain confusion in the European Community/European Union toward these new countries after the breakup of the USSR. I was just at the Ekonomiczne Forum in Poland where I participated in a panel on Belarus. Another panelist, Lars Poulsen-Hansen, criticized Brussels for leading an inconsistent and confused policy toward Belarus up until the EU's eastward expansion. What is your impression of those early years as the EU's first ambassador in Belarus?

Moreno: For the European Commission in Brussels, it took considerable manpower and resources to focus on all the problems in Eastern Europe in general. It was not until shortly before 1990 that it was decided to open a Delegation in Moscow, whose initial focus was on providing food aid and technical assistance on economic reform and democracy-building through the TACIS program, as well as the European Council's support through multilateral agencies--namely the IMF and the World Bank--to the USSR's development. After the breakup of the USSR, the European Council requested the European Commission to draw up a new program to help these newly independent states, focusing mainly on assisting these countries in their democratic reforms and implementing structural changes in their institutions, tax systems, social services, etc. The TACIS program began to work rather quickly in 1991, but it was directed from Moscow. From 1991 to 1993, Ukraine received 120 million euros and Belarus, 32 million. We need to keep in mind that the human resources of the European Commission are quite limited. They had then approximately 12,000 staff serving a total population in the European Community of over 300 million. They had to occupy themselves with opening embassies and other tasks. The first objective was to open a Delegation in Ukraine, because of its political importance, in the fall of 1992. This was after a series of negotiations with the Ukrainian government, which delayed the opening of the Delegation in Kyiv until the end of the summer of 1993. At that time an office of the Kyiv Delegation was also proposed to be opened in Minsk, but Brussels was receiving political pressure from the former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze to also open a Delegation in Tbilisi. This delayed our opening of a Delegation in Minsk, although a support office dependent on Kyiv was more expedient. It is important to underline that even though there was no physical Delegation of the EC in Minsk, there was a TACIS office, which was dependent on the Moscow office and attended to the primary needs of Belarus's economic and social transition. After 1993, when we began to become more independent from the diplomatic offices in Moscow and our relations with the NIS began to deepen, Belarus had new elections. Here, we were somewhat supportive of this opposition figure named Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who seemed like a reformer who was going to struggle against the nomenklatura, establish a more democratic society, and favor further reforms. But Lukashenka's behavior after his victory was a real shock to Brussels and the EC member-states as well. It was a shock to all the hopes we had for Belarus' development. Obviously, the European Council scaled back assistance to Minsk, as this assistance was based on two fundamental points: first, democratic development, and second, economic reforms. The European Commission was forced by the Council to reduce and reevaluate our assistance to Belarus. Another point is that our assistance to the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States was based on a partnership, which means that our assistance programs are negotiated with the host governments. We have to know, working together with the IMF and World Bank, the economic, political, and social situation of the host country, in order to establish a biannual program and budget, which comes from the European Commission directly. …

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