Viewpoint: José Manuel Barroso
Over the centuries, Mongolia and Europe have been much closer than you would think from looking at a map. Our destinies were tied together in the 13th and 14th centuries when the Pax Mongolica enabled East and West to meet for the first time in history and to travel freely along the silk route which the Khan dynasty secured as a free trade route. Despite the historic divisions of the 20th century, this distance is once again rapidly reducing as the imperatives of the 21st century bring us together. In this, I do not simply mean our common global issues such as climate change and the need to ensure sustainable development, I also refer to the path that Mongolia has chosen in democratisation and economic modernisation.
The values that the country has adopted as its own, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, are the values which also underpin the EU. While Mongolia is establishing its democratic credentials and its voice in the region, as well as the world at large, the EU wishes to support the country during this process. I am happy that the EU and Mongolia have signed the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which is wide and extensive, and covers political relations, economic exchanges and people-to-people initiatives. We are also bringing our experience and support to Mongolia to improve its legal and judicial system in addition to promoting human rights. Furthermore, through the EC’s Development Cooperation Instrument we are helping to strengthen public administration.
The EC will be supporting Mongolia over the next seven years with a cooperation budget of around €60m that will allow us to continue our close cooperation at different levels, not just between administrations, but also directly between our civil societies. Mongolia will also benefit from the international strand of Erasmus+, the EU’s university student exchange programme. Since 2004, 200 students and scholars have participated in the programme. We want to have more Mongolian students, researchers and doctorates benefitting from our scholarships and coming to Europe. Science is another field where both sides would benefit from closer cooperation and, again, Mongolia can participate in our new research programme called Horizon 2020.
The efforts made by Mongolia to undertake its democratic transformation have been matched by its current economic reform agenda and strong growth rates. Attracting foreign investment is vital to continue this trend. This is not simply about bringing financial resources to Mongolia, but also about gaining know-how and expertise, and chiefly, building links to the global economy. This is why the PCA is also important, as it will strengthen cooperation on economic issues and allow us to work towards establishing EU standards in Mongolia, the key to accessing the EU’s Single Market, which is the largest market by value in the world.
In support of this we have put in place an EU-Mongolia project to encourage the modernisation of the country’s standardisation system, and to bring its regulatory framework closer to EU standards. This is key to creating a predictable environment for global investors and Mongolia’s economic development. The more European firms become active in the Mongolian economy, the more they can bring their expertise, which can be spread out across the country’s economy.
The adoption of the new investment law in late 2013 is both an important signal to investors and a sign of Mongolia’s commitment to economic development. We support initiatives that create the best business environment for domestic and foreign stakeholders alike.
It is crucial that transparency and accountability are ensured at all times. Natural resources are a wealth of the country and need to benefit all of the population, thus in cooperation with the government we are developing a project on the good governance of revenues from the mining sector. However, having access to a market is one thing, benefitting from that access is something else. Ultimately, the right economic conditions need to be in place, not just the raw materials but also infrastructure, a skilled workforce, a sense of entrepreneurship and a culture of building businesses.
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