"Rough neighbor" of Brussels

Mongolia has two big neighbors: Russia and China. Since the democratic revolution, we have been calling the United States, Japan, the European Union, the Republic of Korea, India, Turkey and many other countries our “third neighbors”. Mongolia established bilateral agreements with most of its “third neighbors” to develop partnerships further and expand cooperation, and regularly holds high-level meetings with them.
Our government has been repeating the discussion on attracting more investment into our economy and has explained that the concept of “third neighbors” is more political rather than geographical, which is fairly obvious. Due to the lack of implementation of what has been agreed upon with “third neighbors,” Mongolians have been unable to seize the opportunity to fully realize the advantages of fostering cooperation with them to learn as much as possible.
Mongolia’s foreign policy must continuously bring substantial contributions to our economy as well as the livelihood of our people. It is apparent from our experiences of past years that our “third neighbor” policy is not as productive as it may sound unless democratic values are fully reflected in our social life, public governance is improved, and the market economy is enhanced by creating free and fair competition in the private sector.
Every single one of our third neighbors has been advising us to strengthen the rule of law, improve public governance, ensure transparent operations of government institutions and improve their efficiency, hire public workers based on merit instead of political connections, and combat corruption throughout the country.
Our politicians and high ranking officials always accept these advisements and promise to implement them, but seemingly forget about them as soon as their meeting or visit has concluded. If at least half of what was discussed in high-level meetings held by our government came true, Mongolia would not be ranked 94 out of 174 countries on the 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index, and our mining industry would be benefitting the majority of Mongolian people rather than a privileged few.
Nevertheless, our third neighbors have not lost their faith in Mongolia and continue to remind our leaders about the changes that need to be made every time they get the chance. What they are recommending benefits Mongolians more than it benefits them.
Let us expand on the case of the European Union to look more closely at how our third neighbor policy is working. The European Union, which has 28 member countries, is based in Brussels, Belgium. It helps developing countries implement policy aimed at reducing and eventually eradicating poverty. In 2011, the European Union provided 53 billion EUR (more than 72 billion USD) in assistance to developing countries, almost twice the amount of financial support granted by the United States.
The European Union has been providing development assistance to Mongolia since 1993. It spent 30 million EUR on reducing poverty in rural areas and the prevention of and recovery from natural disasters like drought and dzud, from 2007 through 2013. They revisited their policy of cooperation with Mongolia in 2011 and started putting more emphasis on providing technical vocational education training in rural areas and supporting the economic management of the mining industry.
This year, the European Union has started working out its strategy of cooperation with Mongolia for 2014-2020. Mongolia and the European Union signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in April 2013, which creates an opportunity for us to make quality improvements in our politics, economy, culture, human security, civil society and other spheres. When the European Parliament ratifies the PCA, and Mongolians strictly adhere to it, a great chance to see substantial results from our “third neighbors policy” is open to us.
At the moment, the parties to the agreement are discussing how to implement their project with increased focus on strengthening the rule of law, improving standardization, fostering cooperation on research and innovation, and increasing food safety. In order to achieve these objectives, Mongolia will need to learn from and work together with European Union member countries.
If Mongolia manages to take on the task wisely, and directly introduce European standards in some of our industries, our country will be able to take one giant step towards development. For example, if we accept all specifications of medical drugs and other medical substances licensed and sold in all EU member countries, Mongolia could decrease a lot of administrative costs related to import permission and cut wasteful corruption spending . Moreover, if we immediately introduce European standards in building and road construction and materials, industry efficiency will improve greatly and Mongolians could enjoy world class quality. When widespread corruption is gone, the only administrative costs will be valid ones to monitor and evaluate the implementation of those standards.
In the political sphere, lessons learned from the European Union might help us reduce costs and prevent unnecessary disputes nationwide. For example, we could ban political parties from constructing fancy palaces for themselves with public money, recover the Independent Palace of the Mongolian People’s Party and allocate the building’s space to political parties represented in the parliament.
If we could only implement the government performance monitoring and evaluation systems used in European countries, the unfair acts and level of corruption in Mongolian government would decrease significantly. Public property would be properly registered and overseen. It would lead to many government employees leaving public service on their own.
Adapting European experience to our media sector will allow the press that makes up the “Fourth Power” in a democracy to fulfill its most important role: monitoring good governance and justice in Mongolia.
Our media must adhere to the ethics of journalism and become truly independent and competitive. To achieve this, we should learn from the European Union and develop good regulations that closely tie the media sector with ever-growing trends in digitalization.
Currently, the ever-disappearing differences between television and the online world, content creation and transmission, and communication and broadcasting, are limiting the proper implementation of media regulation. Regulations to prevent dominant players from monopolizing a market and having media content reach all parts of the country without discrimination is needed.
In order to maximize the benefits of our third neighbor policy, Mongolia has another option in addition to introducing European quality to improve our economy, governance and the livelihood of people. Mongolia could also become a member of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Admission to this organization was a very significant part of the rapid economic development seen in Japan, Korea, Chile and many other countries. OECD member countries vastly cooperate with one another in economic and social spheres, including collaboration between hospitals and schools. For instance, an education institution in an OECD member country acknowledges a university degree acquired from any other OECD member country.
However, people are more interested in the substantial outcomes of cooperation rather than just becoming a member of another international organization.
Striving to witness concrete improvements in their lives and strengthen their country’s competitiveness, Mongolians are demanding that the government work more efficiently to produce actual results from its “third neighbor” policy.

- See more at: http://jargaldefacto.com/rough-neighbor-of-brussels/#sthash.QsIBMBvE.dpuf



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