Seventh St. Petersburg International Economic Forum
(St. Petersburg, 18-20 June 2003)
Statement by Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerová,
Allow me at this point, in my capacity as Executive Secretary of the UNECE, to share with you some findings of the Commission that could be of relevance for the discussion at this Forum.
On the basis of the assessment of the progress in reforms in the CIS in all key areas such as: liberalization, taxation, privatization, restructuring, legal reforms, it can be concluded that the CIS countries are faced with numerous reform challenges, which differ from country to country depending upon their achievements. Some CIS countries are very slow reformers with a lack of commitment to basic reforms. In most other CIS countries there is a general need for a more consistent approach and for a consolidation of reform. The most advanced reformers face important challenges in implementing the reforms as mentioned by Mr. Lemierre, President of the EBRD. The most advanced reformers could serve as an engine for the progress of reform in other CIS countries. Clearly there is a need for convergence in reforms that is necessary for the sustainability of economic and fiscal development and the deepening of economic integration in the CIS.
The Secretary-General in his message to you made reference to the history of EU-enlargement and the need to avoid new divides between the enlarged EU and the non-acceding countries. In our analyses we assume that when macroeconomic and liberalization effects are taken into account, the net aggregate impact of EU enlargement on non-acceding countries is likely to be positive. There are some areas where the impact could be significantly negative and areas - such as energy - where prospects to find solutions to outstanding issues are relatively good. Much will be dependent on the supply responses in the non-acceding countries, including climate for new investments, particularly FDI, and progress in reforms.
To minimize likely negative shorter-term impacts of EU enlargement on the non-acceding countries, the EU has developed a project "Wider Europe", focused on a new neighbourhood policy. We strongly believe that this project should include not only new neighbouring countries (Belarus, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Ukraine) but should also be open to other CIS countries if interested. The EU should take one step forward. It is important that the progress is accelerated and takes into consideration the legitimate interests of all parties.
The above process might transform an enhanced "Wider Europe" into a free-trade area. The development of trade arrangements in the CIS could be a start and a vehicle to a wider Europe free-trade area from which all members could benefit. This process cannot be separated from the preparation of CIS countries which are not members of the WTO, for their accession to WTO. Most of the CIS Governments are more concerned with the terms of WTO accession than with the speed of accession. At the same time, it should be considered that making progress towards WTO accession is consistent with the development of Regional Trade Agreements in the CIS and a condition for economic cooperation in wider Europe, as already mentioned.
Finally, the economic situation in the world economy 2003 is not encouraging and there are considerable downside risks to global growth. The CIS economies in recent years have been the fastest growing economies in the UNECE region which includes 55 countries. For them to continue to play some role as growth engine will depend very much on decision-makers and the ability of their policies to respond adequately to challenges. I hope that this Forum will provide some impetus to the proper decision-making of all key players.
Thank you for your attention.