Sep 24, 2013

Crimean Tatars: EU Enlargement Commissioner Sees The Potential In Crimea

Speaking at a conference in Crimea, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle spoke on the EU’s plans for the economic development of the Crimea.

Below is an article by the EU Neighbourhood Info Centre:

Crimea is a region of pivotal importance for the EU's engagement in its Eastern Neighbourhood, but its great economic potential is still largely unrealized, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle said yesterday addressing the Conference on the Rights of Crimean Tatars in Simferopol, Crimea.

 Through the Joint Cooperation Initiative in Crimea, and also through the activities of UNDP, the EU and its member states “seek to contribute to making Crimea an economic success story and address the potential roots of conflict,” the Commissioner said, “including confrontation derived from ethnic strife.”

 Füle stressed the need to address “the consequences of a painful chapter in the history of Europe and Crimea” (the deportation by the Stalin regime of the Crimean Tatar population, along with other ethnic groups).

 Štefan Füle commended Ukraine’s efforts during the last twenty years to accommodate the many waves of returnees, including over a quarter of a million Crimean Tatars and thousands of other Formerly Deported Peoples (FDP), by assisting in the construction of houses, granting plots of land, building infrastructure and taking measures to improve their participation in public life.

 The EU has regular contacts with the Ukrainian authorities and with representatives of the Crimean Tatar Community on issues that affect Crimean Tatars, Füle said, but there is “a substantially diverging assessment of the situation on the ground.” He insisted that more work has to be done over a range of issues, including the legal aspects of return; the issue of land, housing and property; political participation; the socio-economic aspects of return and integration; the issue of language, culture and religion; and the issue of education.

 He said the recommendations of the OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities should be looked into very carefully, “bearing in mind its universally recognised authority and prestige in matters of conflict prevention.”

 The Commissioner called upon both authorities and representatives of the Crimean Tatar people to ensure that an open and inclusive political process is in place. “This means acknowledging both the importance of pluralism in the Crimean Tatar people, and the legitimacy and key role of such organisations as the Mezhlis of Crimean Tatars,” he said.

 Štefan Füle outlined “three deliverables that should be up in our agenda,” namely the establishment of a legal framework for FDPs, possibly through the adoption of the Law on the Restoration of Rights; the extension of the Bishkek Agreement to facilitate the process of return and the easing of migration rules of FDPs; and the re-establishment of a dedicated government agency with the appropriate competencies and know-how.

 The Commissioner cited the proposal made by the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar to hold an international forum in 2014 under the aegis of the OSCE High Commissioner, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the deportation, as an idea that “deserves to be discussed and hopefully also agreed” asit mayhelp Ukraine to address challenge inherited from the USSR.

  “While we cannot change our past, we can work together to avoid that it creates new and artificial division lines for our common future,” the Commissioner said.