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5th Feb 2023

EU aid to post-Soviet states has 'limited' impact

The EU's aid to Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus to help fight corruption, human trafficking and smuggling has made little impact, a report issued on Thursday (15 January) by the European Court of Auditors shows.

With only €166 million for 2000-2005 covering all three of the neighbouring countries, the EU projects in the area of freedom, security and justice had "limited scope", the auditors found.

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  • The EU mission on the Ukrainian-Moldovan border cannot solve the frozen conflict of Tranistria, auditors say (Photo: European Commission)

Most of the funding went to Ukraine and Moldova. Aid to Belarus – which was once dubbed the last European dictatorship by Washington – has been limited due to its lack of respect for democracy and human rights.

The only clear improvement seen by the EU projects was for border management. This was also where most of the money was spent. However, the long term goal of a modern system of border management "approximating European good practice" is still a long way off, the report concludes.

In addition, the projects seemed to be used more for self-publicity by local politicians than for public benefit. "The visibility of the projects seemed to be designed for the own prestige of the officials, not for the citizens", Jacek Uczkiewicz, member of the Court of auditors, said at a press conference on Thursday.

Asylum and migration projects were the worst off, with projects facing huge delays, especially in Ukraine, Mr Uczkiewicz added.

He singled out two former military sites which the Ukrainian authorities were supposed to refurbish and equip as migrant accommodation centres for 1260 persons, with an EU contribution of €3.8 million. By the end of 2006, nothing had been done, although the planned finish date was September 2006.

In its response to the report, the European Commission explained that the delays were due to "political instability" after the 2004 Orange Revolution.

It also pointed out that in 2007, "substantial progress" was made in refurbishment works and that both migrant custody centres have started operating in accordance with European practices.

In the area of judiciary and good governance, the achievements were modest, especially in fighting corruption and adopting reformist legislation. "The Court considers that a fundamental, long term change in political will, mentalities, behaviour and attitudes is required to achieve a significant reduction in this high level of corruption," the report states.

EUBAM cannot solve frozen conflict in Moldova

The European Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM), set up in September 2005 to help the authorities in Chisinau and Kiev to manage their 1222 km long common border was successful "from a technical point of view", the auditors said.

However, EUBAM was not a peacekeeping mission and could not solve the problem of the frozen conflict in Moldova's separatist region Transnistria, Stefan Arens, senior auditor for this report told the press conference.

EUBAM found that Transnistria was a safe haven for smugglers, human traffickers and tax evasion. Vehicles, fruit, vegetables and poultry meat were among those products hit by evasion of tax and customs duties.

For poultry meat alone, EUBAM calculated losses of up to €43 million for the Ukrainian state budget and up to €18 million for the Moldovan state budget in the period October 2005 to May 2006.

Lack of proper legislation as well as poor communication channels between customs guards, tax police and security services hindered efforts to tackle smugglers.

In addition, most cases were not prosecuted as criminal infringements, but only as administrative infringements meaning the goods involved were not confiscated.

The EU mission also noted that due to the level of corruption in the prosecutors' offices and judiciary, smugglers are released and able to go back to smuggling.

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